ROCHESTER STREETCARSNo. 10 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Trolley abandonments always seemed to be a particularly painful social trauma, and the demise of the Rochester Subway was no exception. In the nearly two years between the announcement of the dreadful abandonment news and the last full day of passenger service on June 30, 1956, many last rides were taken and many last snapshots made.
For their own final great day on the line, trolley fans eagerly signed up to take part in an afternoon-long fan trip on May 12, 1956. John D. Wilkens of Wellsville, N.Y., who organized the event in conjunction with the Electric Railroaders’ Association, placed a mimeographed advertise-ment in the February, 1956 issue of ERA Headlights. To entice the fans, the trip was carefully described. It was to start at 1 p.m. and would last at least 2½ hours. "This will increase according to the size of the crowd we get. [The] car will leave General Motors and will proceed to Rowlands, thence to Main Street loop, to Winton Road loop and back to General Motors." So many "picture stops" were planned that it was hoped the fans would become "tired getting on and off the car." The fare was to be $1.50, payable on the car.
So popular did the excursion prove to be that the 50 fans Wilkens expected became nearly 100. Instead of car 62, as had been planned, Rochester Transit Corp. supplied two cars, 60 and 66, for the fan trip. May 12 turned out to be a gloriously sunny Saturday, and cars 60 and 66 were used to great advantage by the fans. Nearly every inch of the 8 mile line was explored, with many stops being made as promised.
The fondly recalled May 12, 1956 fan trip experiences of NYMT member Shelden King give us a feel for the day. Shelden rode a regular service car from downtown to General motors and boarded car 66. With car 60 leading car 66, the excursion made its way to the Court Street station near the Troup-Howell bridge (now part of Interstate 490.) Both fan trip cars stopped here. Subway locomotive 0205, a former Rochester & Eastern work car, was posed here for the fans, so this was an important photo stop. It seems that both fan trip cars then proceeded east toward Rowlands. Car 66 went onto a siding near East Ave. to let regular service car 46 pass. The other regular service car that day, car 48, was elsewhere on the line. After regaining the mainline, car 66 proceeded to Rowlands where car 60, having gone into the abandoned (since 1930) R. & E. connection track, was backing out onto the main. Car 46 had already passed car 60 and was waiting just ahead. Sparks flew freely as the screeching flanges of car 60’s wheels guided the car along the rusty connection track rails. This created a lineup of three Subway cars (in order, 46-60-66) at Rowlands. The fan trip cars then followed car 46 west nearly to the Troup-Howell bridge.
Since car 66 was to return directly to the Subway car house at General Motors, Shelden boarded car 60 so as to take in the loops at Main Street West near Oak Street and at East Avenue just east of Winton Road. Shelden recalls that some lucky fans were able to photograph car 60 on the Oak Street loop as New York Central’s "Empire State Express" passed by above the loop.
The final part of the fan trip ride took car 60 to the Winton Road loop. Here, Shelden used his trusty 616 Kodak Brownie camera to record the scene for our consideration. Car 60, standing guard on the loop track while the railfans scattered for their photos, remained ready for receiving its charges and proceeding to the next stop. Car 60 soon left the Winton Road loop and returned to the car house, making an unscheduled stop to photograph L-1 switching cars near Lyell Avenue at the request (Shelden wonders: demand?) of the fans. At the car house, the fans concluded a most pleasant event by inspecting and photographing the cars to be seen there. Shelden then rode car 48 back to the City Hall station after the fan trip to catch his bus to Geneseo.
By all reports, the day was a wildly successful event; it is warmly remembered even today. With fans such as Bill Gordon (Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society), Steve McGuire (Railroad magazine traction editor) and John Baxter (ERA Headlights Editor) aboard and a sunny day for the photographers, the May 12 trip proved to be THE Subway trip. One has to wonder whether it was mere coincidence a few months later when the Rochester Chapter chose car 60 for preservation. Could a few Rochester Chapter members have remembered a great day on car 60 during the May 12 fan trip? The fact remains that the Rochester Chapter continues to return the favor for the fine outing in 1956 by continuing work on restoring car 60 to its former glory.