ROCHESTER STREETCARSNo. 2 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Car 616 was about as lucky a streetcar as Rochester ever had. Built in 1906 by the G. C. Kuhlman Car Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, 616 was part of a series of 40 cars (600-639). Originally double ended cars, the 600ís were changed to single end during 1917-1919 as more and more car lines had loops built for turning cars at terminals. Starting in 1930, most if not all of the 600ís were rebuilt for one man operation. While 616 had not been one-manned by June, 1933¹, it probably went through that alteration shortly thereafter in, say, 1934. A 1936 photo shows 616 as a front entrance, front exit one man car. In the accompanying view, 616 has had its white stripe applied (in 1928 or later) but is still a rear entrance, front exit two man car. Since railfan photos such as our view of 616 were very rarely made in Rochester before 1933, this shot probably dates from the summer of that year. Note the narrow front door, totally unsuited for simultaneous use by both entering and exiting riders. Also of interest is the lack of a front end sunburst design. These were applied apparently as a safety feature when cars were shopped in the early 1930ís.
Car 616ís luck mostly came into play after its one-manning. 616 was in the 1936 grouping of three cars (859, 616, and 1234) at East Main Station, memorialized in a famous post card titled "Typical Rochester Rail Equipment". Throughout the 1930ís, lucky car 616 turned out to be the subject of numerous rail photographers. Early Rochester railfan John Woodbury reported in February, 1941² that the 600ís were railfan favorites as they were the last active cars having early style, deck roofs. Woodbury also mentions that ten 600ís were to be saved for continued operation of the Dewey surface-Subway service after the end of all other surface streetcar operations in Rochester. Indeed, ten 600ís were placed on an underground Subway siding, and our lucky 616 was one of them³. The Dewey surface-Subway route, however, was not saved, and 616 languished in the dark bowels of the Subway with the other nine 600ís throughout the 1940ís. Car 616ís luck finally ran out in 1950 when these last 600ís were scrapped, it finally becoming obvious there would be no further use for the stored cars.
The 600-class cars, including 616, proved to be remarkably durable and long lived, surviving in service longer (1906-1941, 35 years) than any other class of Rochester transit vehicle. Car 616, though, was somehow special. Even in its many photographs, 616 was lucky. In our photograph, the lost portion of negative emulsion at the lower right fortuitously covers only an adjacent siding track, leaving car 616 unblemished for all time.
1. N.Y.S. Rys. Equipment Chart (June 7, 1933), sheet 3844A
2. E.R.A. "Headlights", February, 1941, pg. 5
3. King, Roster of the New York State Railways, pg. 4