New York Museum
of Transportation


The museums gallery features The Steel Wheel, a film about the Rochester Subway made in the months prior to the abandonment of passenger service on the line in 1956. The film takes the viewer on a ride from the northwest end through the city to Rowlands loop in Brighton, on the southeast side. The Steel Wheel runs 12 minutes and is shown continuously throughout the day.

“Miniatures by Donovan Shilling” Carefully crafted in HO-scale (approximately 1/8” to a foot), local historian Don Shilling’s 16 highly detailed “modules” represent scenes from another time.  Fairport, NY in the late 1800s; a typical Erie Canal lock 150 years ago; an early auto service garage; Victorian cityscapes….each features a wealth of creativity, and each tells a story.  Mounted on visitor-actuated lazy susans to reveal all the detail, two modules are exhibited at a time.

The Hojack Swing Bridge was constructed by the King Bridge Company in 1905 to carry trains of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad over the Genesee River in Rochester's lakeside community of Charlotte. The bridge was dismantled in 2012, but this museum exhibit recreates the control cabin housing the original Lidgerwood steam engine that rotated the bridge, along with photos and text that tell the story of the bridge and the company that built it.

Throughout the twentieth century, development of motor buses paralleled the growth of automobiles, eventually taking over urban transit from streetcars and providing short- and long-haul transportation in competition with railroads. "BUSES" takes a look into the museum's archives of photos and small artifacts to provide a sense of bus history and the major role buses still play in our area's public transportation picture.

Examples of buses from the 1920s, the 1950s, and the 1990s

Interpretive exhibits fill the spaces between the full-size trolley cars and other vehicles on display at the museum. Photo boards tell the tales of the Rochester Subway, Rochester & Eastern interurban car 157, and the city streetcar system. A recreated 1890s trolley repair shop and a display of the tools used by long-ago track workers (and todays museum volunteers!) honors the hard work and craftsmanship of another era. In the model railroad room, "The Evolution of Rail Technology" tells that tale in over a hundred scale model rail cars and engines, linked to a time line of world events. Throughout the museum, artifacts big and small such as street signs, baggage carts filled with vintage suitcases and hatboxes, trolley advertising cards and handcars further illuminate the world of transportation in days gone by.

And its all hands on. Several interactive exhibits invite visitors to test their knowledge, understand how a trolley works, and learn safe behavior around railroads. Just stepping into a 100-year-old trolley car or the cab of a steam locomotive brings history to life in a way unmatched in the world of virtual reality. The clang of a trolley gong and the heft of a link-and-pin train coupler are all part of fulfilling the museum's mission to enlighten our visitors as we preserve the history of transportation.

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The New York Museum of Transportation is chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) institution.

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