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by Charles R. Lowe

Rochester Ry. Co. 31                                                 Charles R. Lowe Collection

Exhilarating is the only possible description of a ride on an open streetcar. With unobstructed sides permitting direct access to transverse bench seating, passengers could easily hop aboard. An open carís refreshing breezes were one of the few respites from sweltering summer heat available in a pre-air conditioning, pre-refrigerator era when an ice box was as cold as it got.

In the early years of streetcars, companies often maintained closed cars for winter and open cars for summer. Car 31 was one of twenty open cars (nos. 25 - 44) built in 1904 under shop order 240 by Kuhlman Car Co. of Cleveland, Ohio for the Rochester and Suburban Ry. Operating lines from Rochester to Summerville and to Sea Breeze, the Rochester and Suburban was purchased by Rochester Ry. Co. in 1905. As shown here, sometime between 1905 and 1910, car 31 is ready to head eastbound on the University-Lyell line. In 1910¹ seventeen cars of this lot were rebuilt to a partially closed configuration (closed below the belt rail, open above it) with a center entrance, center exit door. As such, these cars continued to be used in summer service until the expense of maintaining summer-only open cars failed to withstand the economic rigors just after World War I.

Three cars of the 25 - 44 series remained open cars until being rebuilt into closed cars in 1911 (car 43) and 1922 (cars 30 and 38). The other 17 cars were rebuilt into closed trailers in 1920 and renumbered 1400 - 1416. Trailers 1411 - 1416 (in order, ex-25, 29, 41, 27, 37 and 42) were immediately transferred to Syracuse upon completion of the 1920 rebuilding. Trailers 1400 - 1410, which included car 31, remained in Rochester and saw use until the early to mid-1930ís.

Most of the 1400ís appear to have been scrapped in the 1930ís, 1400 - 1410 at Blossom Road yard in Rochester and 1411 - 1416 at Eastwood yard in Syracuse. One, 1406, survived as a hopeless wreck for years, finally winding up at NYMT. Could this car have been car 31? While Syracuse renumberings are noted in the 1931 car history because the cars were transferred, the Rochester renumberings are not so noted. Today, we cannot be sure of 1406ís open car number although one source states it was car 26². A few pieces of 1406, the last survivor of Rochesterís once great open and trailer fleets, remain intact even today inside the Canadian National box car at NYMT to serve as patterns for future restorations.

1. Some controversy exists as to the rebuilding date of the seventeen cars into their partially closed configuration. Shelden King, in his Roster of the New York State Railways (pgs. 6, 7 and 16) indicates these cars were rebuilt in 1910, but the 1933 NYSR Equipment Chart (sh. 3845A) indicates that this occurred in 1914. Photos in William Gordon's 94 Years of Rochester Railways of cars 26 (vol. 1, pg. 168) and 43 (vol. 1, pg. 175) showing these cars as first rebuilt appear to have lettering of nearly the same vintage, and both King and the 1933 Equipment Chart do list car 43's rebuilding date as 1911.

2. Gordon, 94 Years of Rochester Railways, vol. 2, pg. 22

Sources: Except as noted, King's NYSR Roster, the 1933 NYSR Equipment Chart and the car history summary prepared by NYSR's receivers in 1931 are relied upon as sources. Gordon devotes pgs. 94 - 122 of vol. 2 of his 94 Years of Rochester Railways to the Rochester and Suburban lines, as does King on pgs. 16 - 17 of The New York State Railways.

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