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by Charles R. Lowe

Real photo postcards showing a trolley car with its crew reflect the pride these men felt for their streetcars and their occupation. This particular view is the only known photograph of Rochester car 342, a somewhat mysterious car. A 1906 Rochester Railway roster tells us the car was in existence by that year but gives no other information. A 1912 roster indicates that two cars from the 300-343 series were missing, one of which is known to have been 341, scrapped in 1909. A 1916 roster is more specific. The 41 cars of the 300-340 group are listed, and car 343 is listed, but 341 and 342 are not listed. Thus, it is assumed that car 342 lasted for only the six years from 1906 to 1912.

    Rochester Railway Co. 342                    Author's Collection

From the distinctive lower tie bar on the front truck, we can see that this car rode onTaylor trucks, a fact not documented by any sources available today. We can see, with a magnifying glass, that the badge numbers are 878 for the motorman and 837 for the conductor. The train number, 711, indicates this is train 11 on route 7, the Clinton-Jefferson line. Car 342 appears to have just arrived at the south end of the Jefferson line; at the extreme left, a fuzzy image of a northbound car can barely be seen as the car leaves the short section of double track at the terminal. The backlit "Jefferson" sign is perforated along the perimeter of the letters so that the sign could be read at night. Most interesting is the postmark date of February 5, 1907. If we believe the car was built in 1906, then this snow-filled photo must date from December, 1906 or January 1907. Our postcard has suffered much over its nearly century of existence. Its corners are slightly rounded and a fingerprint covers the motormanís face. Most severe of all is the dull tone the photograph has acquired, probably a result of inadequate rinsing after its time in a fixing bath during its printing. We are fortunate, though, that it has survived at all since it is our best proof of the carís short existence. One wonders what happened to the car. Some speculation holds that it was destroyed in an accident in 1912, but further research will be necessary to answer that question. As to the postcard and its image, will it survive another century? Copy negatives and electronic storage may insure the image is preserved, and publication such as this venue can distribute the image further. With careful storage and sympathetic owners, though, the card itself might just survive as well.