The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
LAST TROLLEYS THROUGH FOUR CORNERS
We’ve said before that anniversaries are a great excuse for an event, and they’re also a good time to reflect on the past and see how much our world has changed. When we in the museum realized that it would be 60 years since the final demise of streetcar service in Rochester on March 31 of this year, the idea of commemorating the day with a "trolley tour" fell quickly into place.
Before we report on the tour, however, think back to that late winter night over a half-century ago and the events that led to it. With the growing popularity of the automobile, a balance was changing. In earlier years, horsecar and streetcar companies were responsible for much of the city street cleaning and plowing. This was done out of self-interest and as part of their franchise with the municipality. The general population rode the cars, walked, or stayed home, a select few rode in horse-drawn buggies or carriages, and that was that.
But automobiles brought a degree of personal mobility not heretofore generally available, and people began to take a little ownership of "their" streets. They didn’t like getting caught in the two icy grooves of rail in the winter, and tracks in the street made for a rough ride. Many of the streetcars abroad in the land were starting to show their many hard years of service. Also, as the technology of motorbuses advanced, their ability to pull to the curb for boarding, or even switch to another street in case of obstruction, came to be seen as a safety and service advantage. And they were shiny and new.
By the winter of 1940/1941, Rochester Transit Company was near the end of a wholesale conversion to buses that would soon make Rochester the largest city in America with no surface streetcars. By mid-March, RTC was down to one line—Lake-Main East—and the end of the month was set as the date for the change-over.
Does RTC 1208 have any idea what its role will be in the city’s streetcar history? Do you? NYMT Bulletin No. 3 will tell you.
Photo by Francis J. Goldsmith, Charles Lowe collection
The following excerpt from NYMT’s Bulletin No. 3, "The Last Day of Rochester Streetcars", begins just as the final streetcars are making their way south on State Street to Rochester’s Four Corners. The "Last Trolley Wake" was a buffet dinner given by Rochester Transit Corporation on the evening of March 31, 1941, the last full day of streetcar operation in Rochester:
With the last car about to approach, the "Last Trolley Wake" celebrants began to make their way to the nearby Four Corners some time just before midnight. A vast crowd that eventually numbered 6,000 had begun to assemble, much to RTC’s surprise. Before long, three green and cream colored "Submarine" cars came into sight as they worked their way south on State Street. Car 1220 led the group, followed by 1208 and 1249. Car 1249 had been selected as the last car since it was the highest numbered RTC streetcar then in service; the 3000’s and 1400’s had all been retired several years earlier. Specially cleaned, 1249 was for the use of officials and politicians in riding a last car. As 1220 and 1208 approached the Four Corners, [Rochester Street Railway Commissioner] Harold MacFarlin and some 20 other persons pushed their way into the crowded 1249 at a State Street stop just north of the Four Corners.
The enormity of the crowd at the Four Corners prevented much of a ceremony. Cars 1220 and 1208 inched through the assemblage and turned onto Main Street East. When 1249 finally reached the Four Corners, RTC General Manager John Uffert, MacFarlin, and motorman Roy Martin posed for photographers on 1249’s front platform. Many in the crowd were intent on riding this last car but no one was admitted. Car 1249 was then run through the Four Corners, turning onto Main Street East. Immediately, the first Lake Avenue bus, carrying an "XX" destination sign, turned left from Main Street East onto State Street. Councilman Harry C. Frank, a longtime bus advocate, had donned a bus driver’s uniform and drove the bus a short distance. A finality to these events was provided when RTC linemen lowered a section of copper trolley wire to the ground on State Street. With great bravado, Uffert and RTC President Benjamin E. Tilton wielded giant wire snippers and cut through the trolley wire. With that, the Lake Avenue streetcar line was in fact abandoned.
Meanwhile, trouble had erupted on Main Street East. Cars 1220 and 1208 had been engulfed by a destructive crowd. After years of hearing or seeing commands such as "Pay as you enter," "Watch your step" and "Step lively", it was as if the rebellious riders were determined to have a final say. Windows were smashed, interior light bulbs removed and boisterous riders were loudly declaring to the crowd that they were riding the last trolley car even though 1249 was following.
Motorman Martin on 1249, at 73 a 49-year veteran of RTC and its predecessors, was also having a rough trip. As Martin turned 1249 onto Main Street East, someone in the crowd yanked on 1249’s trolley cord, firing the trolley pole skyward and off the wire. Police assisted in re-wiring the pole. At Graves Street, just a short block along Main Street East from the Four Corners, the trolley cord was again pulled, stalling 1249 for a second time. Either here or at the previous dewirement, most of the remaining dignitaries left 1249, leaving James C. Moore, RTC Division Superintendent, as the only passenger on 1249 serving in an official capacity. Thus freed of any restraint, the remaining passengers opened 1249’s windows, allowing a dozen or so on the street to climb in. Several youths climbed onto 1249’s roof and were forced down with difficulty. Souvenir hunters dismantled 1249’s headlight and removed other fittings. Others in the crowd took to smashing any remaining window glass. Seat cushions were tossed off the car and someone stole the car’s switch iron. As the Rochester Times-Union put it, "in short, the ancient vehicle had been stripped."
Our anniversary tour omitted all the rowdy vandalism of the last night of streetcar operations, but we managed to have a good time just the same. Betsy Overacker and other staff members at Regional Transit Service saw to it that tour goers were welcomed with refreshments in the Board Room, and after Charlie Lowe gave us an overview of the day’s events, we were off in articulated coach 325.
Driver Joe Bell kept us on schedule as we proceeded downtown on Main Street then headed north on State/Lake to Charlotte. Each of us had a handout produced by Charlie that included a montage of maps detailing the original streetcar track plans for a number of sites along the route. Charlie’s running commentaries over the bus’ PA system kept us all informed and easily carried us back to that last night of trolley operations.
John G. Woodbury photo; NRHS, Rochester Chapter Photo by Kathy Mielke
On the last afternoon of streetcar operations in Rochester, March 31, 1941, car 1208 traverses the NYC-RW&O bridge in Charlotte; 60 years later to the day, our chartered RTS bus 325 recreates the scene during a stop to view the Charlotte substation.
Several photo stops were made, including an unscheduled one to see a remaining steel pole at the Parselles loop, and before long we had retraced the entire last route and had returned to RTS headquarters on Main Street East. There, Dave Kester gave us a complete tour of the modern facilities in which the RTS fleet is maintained and repaired. We covered everything from the two-bay paint shop to the pristine engine rebuild facility and learned about the computerized stocking system, "wrapped" buses for advertising, tire leasing, and the fact that in 2000, RTS experienced its second year in a row of increased ridership.
The tour pauses at Blossom Road Loop for a group photo and some reflection on the trolley scrapping that occurred nearby.
Jim Dierks photo
Charlie Lowe did the planning for this event, assisted by Jim Dierks and Ted Strang, with several other museum volunteers helping with the details. Charlie and Shelden King served as tour guides. Thanks to all of these people and fine cooperation from Regional Transit Service, the tour was a great success. We hope you were along for the fun.
Bulletin No. 3, written by Charles R. Lowe, was made available to participants in the March 31, 2001 60th anniversary observance of the end of Rochester streetcars. Now on sale in the NYMT Gift Shop, Bulletin No. 3 is 20 pages long and contains six illustrations and one map.
WALLY BRADLEY REMEMBERED
Many of the people who helped preserve the images and lore of the local trolley era have handed over their transfer and departed on their last ride. Their names survive on the backs of photographs, in collections of artifacts, in books and in our memories. One of the special people in this category—Wally Bradley—left a special legacy. In drawings and water color paintings, he captured the feel of a bygone era. We are proud to exhibit in the Gallery at NYMT a retrospective of his work for the present generation to enjoy.
Among Wally’s many interests were photography, history and trolley cars, but most Rochesterians remember him for the warm, witty cartoons he produced during his forty-year career with the Rochester Times-Union. A sampling of his cartoon commentaries on local events, history and sports are included in the exhibit. Wally’s water color paintings accurately depict the streetcars and interurban trolleys that were once the primary means of local mobility. Trolleys that connected Rochester to such distant points as Manitou Beach, Sodus, Geneseo, Syracuse and Geneva are revealed by the artist’s talented hand and his accurate memories of days gone by. Other works in the show include an unusual U. S. Mail trolley from early Rochester, a mounted city policeman, and the old Red Wing Stadium.
This view of Fishers station on the original route of the New York Central is from the T-U’s 1972 "Whistle Stop" series.
We appreciate the generosity of museum friend Tom Kirn who has graciously loaned us a number of Wally Bradley works from his private collection. He also put in many hours designing the exhibit, writing the captions, and framing many of the paintings. Thanks go also to the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. About half of the exhibit consists of Bradley works from their collection, and we appreciate their generosity in loaning these great pictures. Finally, thanks go to local collector Howard Rowe for loaning a nice broadside painting of a Rochester Peter Witt car.
To celebrate the opening of "Wally Bradley Remembered", we held a reception on Tuesday night, May 8. The fifty members and friends who attended had a great time, thanks to all the preparations by Bobbie Corzine, Kathy Mielke, Ruth Magraw and Jim Dierks.
Those of us who knew Wally remember a man who willingly shared his love for trolley history with a wonderful sense of humor and almost total recall. Evenings spent listening to him and former motorman the late George Reinagle as they spun their amusing tales from the "old days" are among the special memories of this writer. We hope museum members and visitors will avail themselves of this rare opportunity to enjoy Wally’s memories through his art work.
Edward M. VanLeer
Ed VanLeer passed away April 28, 2001, and our condolences go out to Grace and their family. Ed’s HO modeling skill is legendary. He was the second person to receive the prestigious NMRA Master Modeler award, and his work garnered a number of other awards over his many years in the hobby. Some two hundred examples of his beautiful handiwork are on display in the museum’s The Evolution of Rail Transportation exhibit, portraying 175 years of progress in the railroad industry. Ed donated these finely crafted models so that they might delight and educate future generations. They will also serve as a perpetual reminder of his generosity and of his model making skills.
RESTORATION PROGRESS REPORT
This continuing report is a round-up of progress reported by leaders of several key areas. Thanks to all who are supporting these important projects with their time and donations.
Philadelphia & Western interurban car 161: Larry Kastner has cut galvanized steel to make patches for the rust holes and water diverters for the window pillars. Paul Monte has finished removing the old paint and sanding the windows for the letter side of the car. Three windows need extensive repairs to correct water damage. Randy Bogucki has made repairs to the four ventilators for the roof. With warm dry weather approaching, we will soon be painting the roof canvas that Eric Norden completed tacking in place last fall. Jim Dierks/Paul Monte
Philadelphia & Western interurban car 168: New brake shoes (donated by our friends at Rockhill Trolley Museum) have been acquired and will soon be installed. Larry Kastner has installed piping and relocated the rear end whistle valve. Bob Miner has been overhauling the air compressor governor and has lubed a reluctant trolley catcher. John Corzine, Don Quant, and Jim Dierks have built a special platform to assist passenger loading at our trolley event June 30/July 1. Roger Harnaart has developed a design and mockups for a crew ladder at the rear vestibule. Paul Monte has added anti-skid treads to the static-display steps leading into 168. Bob Miner
Electrification: The overhead wire put up in 2000 was successfully used last fall, but the 3.2% grade at the present end-of-wire near pole 6 complicates reversing the trolley car at that point. An extension is therefore underway, adding about 500 feet to the line to a point near Giles Crossing where the grade is only about 1%. During 1996, bracket arms for poles 7 through 12 were built from parts at NYMT, but we have since learned that it is best to set poles first and then build up bracket arms to meet the conditions as built. Bob Miner has re-strung all six of these bracket arms. Since the Giles Crossing extension is entirely on a curve, backbones and downguys will be required throughout. Bob and others have been building up the required cables. Tony Mittiga has refinished enough wood strain insulators to keep ahead of the line crew. Neil Bellenger, Scott Gleason and the line crew have already attached several of the bracket arms, and the line exension is due for completion well before "Trolleys Return to Rochester" June 30 and July 1. Charles Lowe
Northern Texas Traction parlor trailer 409: Replica parts have been cast in Texas for wall sconce light fixtures to replace those missing from the observation end and in mid-car. The castings were made with the help of Lee Lavell, Trolley Restoration Supervisor for the Fort Worth transit company that is bringing sister car 411 back to life. Lee has used one of our existing fixtures to create replicas for 411. Charlie Robinson was treated to a nice tour by Lee and his staff while in Fort Worth in March. Charlie discussed control gear with 411 staff member Pat Cahill, and was able to take down dimensions of the original roof ventilators on the 411. We are piggybacking on work Lee is doing to produce the interior ceiling vent we need, and both parties look forward to continuing the dialogue as our respective car restoration projects proceed. Charles Robinson
We’re pleased that there are many out-of-towners among our 142 members, but we’re even more gratified when they volunteer to help from afar. Such was the case last winter when Larry Rine, who volunteered at NYMT when he was a student at RIT, contacted us from his home in suburban Chicago and offered himself up for any woodworking project we might have. The result was three much-needed new benches for the passenger loading platform which Larry and his wife, Lisa, delivered in April.
In addition to providing a resting spot for Sunday visitors waiting for a track car ride, the benches will help in crowd control during weekday group tours. Made of pressure treated wood and sturdily built along clean, functional lines, the donated benches are a welcome addition to the platform, and we thank Larry and Lisa for a great effort on our behalf.
Larry and Lisa Rine took a vacation from their jobs at GM’s Electromotive Division to deliver the benches they built.
COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER (Part 1)
Once upon a time, your Editor was getting about as close to hands-on home improvement as he dared, pulling down the old water-damaged plaster ceiling in his den so it could be repaired with new drywall. Out tumbled debris from around the pipes in the floor of the upstairs bathroom, along with a page from the November 28, 1926 Democrat & Chronicle. An article headlined "Old Penstock Find Recalls Horsecar Day" in that yellowed sheet of newsprint led us on a search for information and produced the following story.
According to the article, three abandoned water pipes, or penstocks, each 96 feet long and 5 feet in diameter, had been discovered during remodeling at Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation’s Station No. 5, located near Driving Park Avenue at the Lower Falls on the Genesee River. The newspaper interviewed Thomas H. Yawger, RG&E’s superintendent of the electric department, who said that the penstock arrangement was part of a plan to compress air in the late 1880’s before electricity had been developed as a useful means for providing power.
Yawger went on to relate how a horsecar had been fitted with a compressed air motor and storage tank, pipes had been laid from the base of the falls to street level, and a test run made. "According to reports", Yawger is quoted, "the car started out briskly, and ran successfully from Driving Park avenue to the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company’s plant in St. Paul Street. It ran out of air there, and stopped". That’s a distance of a mile.
Fascinating. For thousands of years, mankind had only animals to provide power for land transportation until the steam engine was invented, and by the 1870’s the high water mark for mass transit in most cities was still just a horse-drawn car on rails set in the street. Meanwhile, industry in general had graduated from water power to steam in operating factories and mills, and with that came the advent of centralized facilities to produce compressed air.
Compressed air powers brakes on trains today and is familiar in industrial facilities and construction sites. The source is an electric or internal combustion powered device that compresses the air and stores it in a tank, and the air is distributed around the plant or site in a system of pipes, hoses, and nozzles for a wide variety of pneumatically actuated presses, reciprocators and control systems, as well as more mundane cleaning chores. Before electricity, the cost of steam or water powered air systems prevented most small companies from installing them in their factories. Where practical, central plants, much like the electrical generating facilities of today’s utility companies, piped compressed air underground to nearby users.
Imagine the state of technology in the post-Civil War era. Railroads and their steam locomotives had become prominent in domestic trade, and through standardization of track gauge, automatic couplers, and air brakes were making rapid improvements in speed and reliability of service. In manufacturing and commerce, the list of developments just kept growing: interchangeable parts, the telegraph and telephone, the chemical industry. And yet, the people and industry of the nation still ran on power provided for the most part by men, animals, and steam engines. The ability to transmit power by means of compressed air in pipes must have been viewed as a major step forward, and there were many who sought to take advantage of it.
At this time, Buffalo, situated on Lake Erie at the western end of the Erie Canal (and astride the New York Central railroad), blossomed as a center for industry and commerce. Proposals were soon put forth to harness the energy of nearby Niagara Falls. According to "The Day They Turned the Falls On: The Invention of the Universal Electrical Power System" by Jack Foran, there were many ideas heard, and the relatively new and undeveloped technology of electricity was just one of them. It may seem odd by today’s perspective, but systems were proposed to transmit air or water under pressure the 22 miles from the falls to Buffalo. Some even advocated mechanical means such as drive shafts, cables, and pulleys. Considering the development of cable street railways in some cities, this latter approach probably seemed pretty sensible at the time.
As late as 1890, George Westinghouse, inventor of the air brake but also founder of the Westinghouse Electric Company with 300 central generating stations by that time, still favored compressed air as the power transmission method from Niagara Falls. The technological war between Westinghouse and Edison, the former advocating alternating current and the latter having hitched his wagon to direct current, is a story beyond the scope of this article. It’s worth recognizing, though, that the technology of generators, motors, lighting systems, and the possible uses for electricity were all developing rapidly. AC could be transmitted at efficient, high voltage and stepped down in transformers to usable levels. But if you wanted a practical electric motor, you had to opt for a DC system. It’s little wonder that experiments and opinions during this time covered a wide range. It would be just a few short years before things sorted themselves out (Niagara Falls started sending electricity to Buffalo in 1896), but for the time being, every possibility was being pursued.
In the compressed air camp, which traced its ancestry to our own lungs and the bellows as limited means for moving and pressurizing air, there were some successes. Back in 1700, French scientist Denis Papin had developed a water wheel-powered system for compressing air and transmitting it through tubes (he also invented the pressure cooker 31 years earlier). And according to information supplied to us by Mark Brader of Toronto, Englishman George Medhurst in 1810 envisioned systems for moving messages, freight and even people by various air or vacuum powered devices. Although Medhurst failed to find backing for his ideas, starting in 1844—very early in the railway era—four "atmospheric" railways were constructed in Ireland, England and France. These lines used a rail car powered from an adjacent, parallel air pipe containing a lengthwise slit with a leather seal. The "piston" was in the pipe and connected to the car through the slit. Vacuum applied in the pipe sucked the piston and its attached car along the line. Today’s Zip Loc bag material technology would support this idea (and Brader tells us a Brazilian system began operation in Jakarta in 1989), but leather couldn’t stand the wear and tear, especially in freezing temperatures, and the last of these lines was converted to a conventional steam railway in 1860.
Brader also provides details about the use of rail vehicles actually inside larger tubes, pushed along by moderate air pressure. The English were the first to think outside of the box (or rather, inside the pipe), picking up on Medhurst’s ideas and building a 30" diameter demonstration tube in 1860. The Post Office in London used this line and another one until 1874. In 1864, a 1000 ft long tunnel was constructed to convey a full-sized, 35-passenger railway coach at 25 miles per hour. In 1870, American Alfred Ely Beach, publisher of Scientific American, built and for a short time operated a similar car under Broadway in New York City, using a circular cross-section tunnel, 312 feet long. City Hall failed to bless Beach with permission to extend his line, and it closed after a few months of service.
Incidentally, another Englishman, J. Latimer Clark, built the first dispatch tube system, in London, in 1853. It carried messages over a length of 675 feet. Such systems found utility in many areas of commerce (remember charging your purchase at Sibley’s?) and continue in use today.
But what about the Rochester experiment and similar attempts to employ compressed air to run a machine to move a streetcar? We’ll finish the saga in the Summer 2001 issue of HEADEND.
We thank a number of friends of the museum for taking the time to help us research this article: Mark Brader, Michael Wares, Shelden King, Tom McColloch, and David Minor. You can listen to David’s Time Traveler series each Saturday morning on WXXI-FM (91.5). Check out Mark Brader’s entertaining review of urban transit development on the web at www.davros.org/rail/atmospheric.html/.
Our star volunteer this issue doesn’t really need a spotlight, as he radiates enough energy and wit to rival anything we can provide. We think you’d like to get to know this active participant in both NYMT and RGVRRM: Donovan Shilling.
Don’s background is in education, and considering that we are chartered as an educational institution, his experience and training are appropriate and valuable. A local guy, Don was born in Fairport, NY in 1933, and earned masters degrees in Educational Administration and Science Education from Brockport State (now SUNY Brockport). He started out right in our backyard, teaching 4th and 6th grades in Rush-Henrietta. Moving to Brighton, he taught Junior High School science and later began exercising his administration degree, moving up the ranks to Vice Principal and Principal of the Elementary and Middle Schools at French Road School.
Don and Yolanda met in college and both graduated in 1954. Near the end of Don’s subsequent two years in military service at Fort Lee, Virginia, they were married and settled down. They have a son, Mark, and a daughter, Amanda, and there are now five in the next generation to keep the grandparents hopping.
Don’s many interests cover a wide spectrum. Over the years he has belonged to educational, social and historic groups. The historic area seems to be of particular interest with him, as he has taught numerous local history classes and led historic walks for over 20 years with the Gannett School of the Rochester Museum and Science Center on East Avenue. Don soaks up tidbits of local history like no one we’ve ever seen, and files everything away in a well-organized system. In a vast collection of folders and notebooks, he’s retained tickets, brochures, photos, and assorted ephemera covering everything from downtown businesses to lakeside amusement parks.
Don has a special skill, honed by years in teaching, for bringing to life these moldering relics, the people and the era from which they came. Most people would look at a souvenir program of a band concert at Genesee Valley Park 100 years ago and see a list of Sousa marches.
Some time back, our museum received a call from a lady in New Orleans who was doing family tree research. She had seen a restaurant her family owned years ago, in a photo attributed to us in a book. We mentioned the restaurant to Don, and…bam!…out came a menu(!) from the place. Don graciously let us make a color copy of the menu, and the lady was delighted.
Of particular note are Don’s HO scale miniature modules, carefully hand crafted dioramas which replicate scenes from a bygone time. These richly detailed little models place trains, steamboats, carousels, and other familiar icons in realistic settings that tell a story. Someday we hope to figure out how to safely exhibit these beautiful and fascinating miniatures for our visitors. For now, those of us who serve on the joint committee that coordinates activities between the two museums are lucky to see Don’s miniatures, as we hold our meetings each month in Yolanda’s kitchen!
Don also shares his love of local history in books. He has contributed to "100 Years of Rochester Engineering" and authored several books such as "Rochester’s Lakeside Resorts and Amusement Parks". This book, Don’s latest, reveals in rare pictures those wonderful bygone days when the popularity of the resorts on Rochester’s lake and bay shores earned them the title "Coney Island of the West".
As a member of the New Society of the Genesee, a group of local history enthusiasts and writers, Don has organized many of the group’s outings and always records the interesting historic details of the visit in a subsequent issue of local history journal "The Crooked Lake Review". He has contributed articles to that publication as well as to numerous local magazines and newspapers.
As mentioned, Don can often be found at the museum serving as a guide at the RGVRRM Industry depot, usually for weekday group tours. He also schedules the depot guides that hold forth there every Sunday in the summer season. Each spring Don assembles a new exhibit for the lobby of the depot, and this year’s focuses on "The Evolution of the Steam Locomotive". He also provided much of the material for the Casey Jones centennial exhibit that adorned the NYMT Gallery this past year.
With his keen interest in the educational aspects of our museum work, Don is always thinking about ways to improve the visitor experience. Someday we hope to get the corridor between the two NYMT buildings re-roofed, so we can take him up on his offer to paint the walls and make it a much more pleasant passageway.
Meanwhile, we’re glad to have Donovan Shilling’s contributions of knowledge, experience and energy, bringing history to life for our visitors.
NYMT’s TROLLEY WIRE
Now that the museum has operated its first car under wire (October 24, 2000), a great deal of interest has been generated in the wire itself. For over 25 years, a large spool of copper trolley wire has been stored at NYMT in the hope that one day it would be placed over the museum railroad. How the wire came to NYMT is quite a story.
The very last small-city streetcar operation in the United States was Johnstown Traction Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. JTC abandoned its last streetcar lines in 1960 but kept its electric trolley bus routes in operation until 1963. For several years after the abandonment of electric operations, stores of overhead line materials including trolley wire remained in storage at the JTC car house. In 1969, Louisiana railfan Louis C. Hennick purchased trolley wire from JTC. Hennick wrote in 1973 that he "paid $1,782.00 for one reel of 2/0 grooved wire (1980 pounds), stored 1973 in J.T.C. carhouse". The wire apparently was intended for the Ark-La-Tex Street & Interurban Railway Museum, Inc., an organization Hennick was connected with.
By 1973, it was obvious that the Ark-La-Tex museum had no immediate use for the wire. Ed Blossom, a streetcar restoration expert connected with NYMT in its early years, arranged for NYMT developers Henry Hamlin and Bill Morris to purchase Hennick’s wire. Hamlin and Morris purchased the wire for an initial payment of $200 on May 5, 1973, and a final payment of $1,550 on September 17, 1973. The spool, with a total weight of 2,345 pounds, was moved for a $71.76 shipping cost from Johnstown to Riverton between November 7th and 13th, 1973. The spool of wire was then rolled into the milking parlor of the museum facility where it reposed for the next 25 years.
The spool of wire and its museum-made wire car are ready for further overhead line extension due this summer.
When interest in electrifying the museum railroad at NYMT re-awakened in 1995, it was assumed that the wire was indeed 2/0 wire and nearly a mile in length. Actual measurements indicate the wire actually is about 0.4" in diameter, or a larger 3/0 wire. The total length on the spool therefore was calculated to be about 3,900 feet, or ¾ mile in length. Deducting the 1,100 feet used during the 2000 construction season, a total of 2,800 feet of wire remains on the spool. This would be enough to extend the electrification nearly to Reid’s Crossing, near the halfway point between NYMT and R&GVRRM.
The wire left on the spool appears very smooth and kink-free, but two very rough wire splices will need replacement. All in all, though, the 1973 purchase of trolley wire was a very wise investment and played a pivotal role in bringing the first phase of our electrification to reality. Thanks to Henry Hamlin’s continuing generous support, extension of our electrification program has the green light to go ahead, and the realization of a long-held dream will be ours to celebrate.