ROCHESTER STREETCARS  No. 21 in a series

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by Charles R. Lowe

Rochester Transit Corp L-2    Charles R. Lowe Collection

It hauled freight cars but never carried any passengers. Its motive power was, horror of horrors, an 8-cylinder LeRoi gasoline engine, not electricity. It was painted a utilitarian black rather than the bright colors of Rochesterís streetcars. In spite of these "shortcomings", though, trolley fans always include Subway locomotive L-2 in Rochesterís streetcar history. Visiting railfans of the 1950s, intent on recording the Subway to the fullest extent possible, dutifully made at least one exposure of L-2 in its usual storage berth at the Subway car house. Our 1953 view of L-2 is one of these many photos.

Purchased new in 1937 from Plymouth Locomotive Works of Plymouth, Ohio, L-2 was used to move freight cars on non-electrified Subway sidings. These were for the General Motors plant at the Subwayís western end, and L-2 was usually stored on a siding at the nearby Subway car house. Subway passenger service ended in 1956, but Rochester Transit Corporation continued to provide railroad freight service on the Subway using its electric locomotives, 0205 and L-1, as well as gasoline-powered L-2. RTCís primary purpose was transporting city passengers; interchanging freight cars had been a sideline required by the City of Rochester, owner of the Subway. Accordingly, RTC ended its Subway freight operations on August 31, 1957. All RTC freight and work equipment, including L-2, was retired at this time, and the five diesel railroads in Rochester¹ took up freight operations in the Subway. Remaining RTC work and freight cars were scrapped in 1958, and L-2 wound up at Atkins Waste Materials in Rochester. Sitting outdoors as a hulk, L-2 weathered the 1960s in obscurity, never quite being broken up for its scrap content. After NYMT was formed in 1973, one of the early pieces of rolling stock acquired was the remains of L-2, donated to NYMT by Atkins. In July 1977, L-2 was trucked from Rochester to NYMT where an aggressive restoration program was launched.² Over the next few years, the locomotiveís running gear was entirely rehabilitated and a new LeRoi engine was obtained to replace the tired original. Sheet metal body work proceeded into the 1980s but the museumís emphasis shifted from restoration to track-laying and track car operations. Today, L-2 is stored inside the NYMT car house in its partially rebuilt form; most of the locomotiveís parts were moved to the NYMT store room when Northern Texas Traction car 409 was acquired in 1996. In spite of its disassembled state, L-2 is the last remaining part of Rochesterís once-great trolley freight operation and therefore occupies a unique spot in the NYMT collection.

1. Rochester's five diesel railroads in the late 1950s were New York Central, Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania RR, Erie RR and Lehigh Valley RR.
2. Rochester Times Union, July 14, 1977, pg. 1C