ROCHESTER STREETCARS No. 26 in a series

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All through the streetcar era, crew members would pose with their cars for photographers. Prints were sold to the carís crew members so they might show friends their occupation. Large prints would be made for display in albums or frames. In the early 1900s, contact prints were made on sensitized postcard paper. After 1930, railfans who were busily photo-documenting interurbans and streetcars before they disappeared entirely sometimes asked crew to pose in front of their car. Unfortunately, in nearly all of such views, the names of the crewmen are now lost.

Our present view is a very early car-and-crew view from,
Rochester City & Brighton RR Co. 46            NYMT collection

probably, the late 1880s. What really makes this scene unusual is that the name of the driver and a bit of information about him have survived. His name was Michael J. Eagan, and he served Rochester City & Brighton Railroad Co. and successor Rochester Railway Co. until his death in 1909. At that point, he was second in length of service of employment. Writes Mrs. Thomas L. (Joan) Cavanaugh, who provided this scene to NYMT, Eagan at one point "had some demerits but got to work on a bad snow day and they [the company] dismissed them all!"

We also know a lot about the scene itself. The oval holes on the wheel bearing pedestals are a giveaway that this car was produced by the John Stephenson Company of New York City. The car is posed on the turntable in Mt. Hope Avenue that was used to turn horsecars at the end of the line, and it is ready for a northbound run into Rochester. It looks like a cold winter day as Eagan is dressed to withstand any weather on his open front platform. Horsecar drivers, forced to control their horses with reins, had no alternative to working in such intolerable conditions, but within a decade of the appearance of electric streetcars in 1889, platforms were enclosed to provide humane working conditions for crew.

The days of horsecars on the streets of Rochester were numbered when this photograph was made. In 1890, Rochester City & Brighton Railroad was succeeded by Rochester Railway Company. This latter company proceeded to electrify Rochesterís streetcar system, beginning in 1890 with the important South and Lake line. An overhead trolley wire was built and new cars ordered during the summer of 1890. On October 28, a trial run over the Lake line was successfully conducted, and regular service with electric cars began the next day. On November 29, with overhead construction on the South line completed, horsecars were withdrawn over the entire Lake-South line in favor of the new electric cars.