The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation



July 25, 2002 marked the 75th anniversary of the first use of Centralized Traffic Control. Developed right here in Rochester by General Railway Signal Company, this first application was on New York Central Lines’ Toledo-Thurston, Ohio line, and covered the 40+ miles from Toledo to Berwick, Ohio. Since that auspicious day, C.T.C. has spread to almost universal application on mainline railroads throughout the world.

In the early days of railroading, red-painted balls were hoisted as stop signals and in some locations flagmen were required to walk ahead of trains to alert bystanders lest they get run over. As trains got faster and more frequent, the need for better rules and systems for controlling trains led to rudimentary signals. A host of companies manufactured a hodgepodge of apparatus to varying degrees of reliability and utility. By the turn of the twentieth century, electricity had entered this arena, and signal lights, electric switch actuating machines, hump yards, grade crossing protection, and many other aspects of the industry began to move from the manual world to that of engineering and technology.

Rochester’s General Railway Signal Company was formed by combining several smaller firms, and it soon moved to a leadership position in the railroad supply industry. Providing a vast array of products for control, communication and safety, the company was clearly in a position to combine its capabilities in a bold step toward automating control of
     An important part of CTC was the remotely actuated electric switch
     machine. This 1925 GRS ad illustrates the alternative.

trains. In fact, by 1927 GRS was routinely installing automated interlocking systems to control important junctions, and had many push-button control towers to their credit at large train stations. If there was anything holding back the extension of these elements to the control of a section or entire division of a railroad, it was probably the conservative railroads more than the lack of technology. Steeped in tradition and having succeeded through uniform adherence to standard methods, the rails approached new ideas cautiously and accepted them only after careful testing.

Well, the test in 1927 worked, and today CTC continues to be a success, keeping trains rolling safely and efficiently. What a system: The CSX mainline that goes right past the front door of the old GRS building on West Avenue in Rochester is controlled by people in Jacksonville, Florida.

(author unknown)

In 1963, your editor wrote to the New York Central for information about Centralized Traffic Control as part of a public speaking course assignment in college. Soon, an envelope with no return address arrived containing a typed description of a typical run from Cleveland to Buffalo. The unsigned document gives us a look at the benefits of C.T.C. forty years ago, and although a lot has changed over time the description is probably just as valid for today’s CSX operations.

At Cleveland Union Terminal, we board engine 4020 which is a 2250 horsepower diesel unit coupled to another 2000 horsepower unit on train 222, carrying mail, express and passenger cars.

After switching is completed and the train is fully assembled, an air test is made to see that the brakes on each car apply and release properly. At ten minutes before noon, two short whistle signals sound in the cab advising the engineman to proceed. This whistle signal was initiated by a member of the crew using the communicating signal line.

Our train moves at 15 miles per hour through the interlocking and speed is increased to 70 after passing a wayside signal displaying color lights green over staggered red, indicating the track is clear. Between Cleveland Union Terminal and Buffalo, there are two tracks, the southerly track being number 2 and assigned to trains moving in an eastward direction.

The next stop is at Collinwood fueling station where the Toledo Division engineman who handled the train from Toledo, Ohio gets off and another engineman takes his place to continue through to Buffalo.

    Forty years ago a fleet of passenger trains polished New York Central
     rails, powered by "lightning striped" E units like these.

Jim Dierks photo

Water is taken on for the steam heating boilers and the engineman again makes a test of the air brakes to see that they apply and release properly. The train then departs from the fueling station, moving eastward on No. 2 track. After reaching a speed of about 30 mph a running test is made of the air brakes to see that they function properly.

After passing the east end of Collinwood yard we enter Traffic Control territory (commonly known as CTC). The first signal encountered indicates clear. This is at Controlled Point "BR" and the signal is actuated by the train dispatcher at Erie, Pennsylvania moving a lever on his control machine. Speed of our train is increased to 80 mph, which is normal speed permitted, and shortly we overtake a train also moving eastward, on No. 1 track, at a speed of about 70 mph. This train consists of 50 cars of Flexi-vans, two on each car, plus ten multi-level automobile-carrying cars. Some of these cars have three tiers of new automobiles. This train is known as SV-2, for Super Van 2.

As we approach Controlled Point "SW" we observe a wayside signal displaying a yellow light over a staggered red light which instructs the engineman to at once reduce the train speed to 30 mph and approach the next signal ahead prepared to stop. At Controlled Point "SW" the controlled signal indicates red over red vertical and the train is brought to a stop west of this signal.

While stopped at this point the train SV-2 that we had overtaken on No. 1 track now overtakes us and switches from No. 1 track to No. 2 track to move ahead of us and to get out of the way of train 35, moving west on No. 1 track. Train 35 is "The Iroquois", a New York City to Chicago coach train, and it streaks past us at 12:24 p.m.

We stop at Painesville and after working mail and express and taking on passengers, we proceed east still on No. 2 track. We then stop at Geneva and while at this station a westward Flexi-van train passes us at 70 mph on No. 1 track.

Moving eastward on No. 2 track and approaching Controlled Point "W", we encounter a yellow sign to the right of and adjacent to the track, on which sign appears the black numerals "60", informing the engineman that approximately 7,000 feet from that point would be a Slow Speed Board at which point the speed of the train should not be exceeding 60 mph. The engineman takes action to reduce the speed of the train and when we approach the Slow Speed Board (a diamond shaped sign with yellow background and black letter "S") the speedometer indicates the train is moving at 60 mph. This is the maximum speed permitted until we reach a Resume Speed Board. We soon spot a small crew of track workers standing well clear of our train; their presence explains our slow order.

After leaving the station at Ashtabula, Ohio our train continues at 60 mph until we approach Controlled Point "WJ" where we encounter a square board with a green background on which appears a white letter ""R" indicating the end of the restricted speed area. After our entire train has passed this board, the speed is increased to 80 mph. We see a headlight in the distance and soon westbound mail and express train 3 passes us, moving at about 80 mph.

The next station stop is at Conneaut, Ohio and after leaving that station we approach a wayside signal two miles west of Controlled Point "SQ". This signal indicates a yellow light over a flashing green light which instructs the engineman to reduce the speed of the train to 60 mph and approach Controlled Point "SQ" not exceeding 50 mph. Soon, as we approach Controlled Point "SQ", the signal there displays a red light over flashing green, instructing the engineman to move at not exceeding 50 mph through the crossover track, diverting the train from No. 2 track to No. 1 track. After the entire train is through the crossover, the speed is again increased to 80 mph. Proceeding eastward, we meet freight train LS-3, heading west on No. 2 track which we just vacated. LS-3 is carrying cars for western U.S. lines connecting at Zearing, Illinois.

In combinations of red, yellow and green lights, these signals
require engineers to approach the next signal at Limited Speed.

NORAC Signal Aspects, 4/1/1993                                                 

As we approach the next Controlled Point, "GJ", we again receive signals that require reduction in speed to permit us to move from No. 1 track back to No. 2, (continued on page 3) to properly platform our train at Erie, Pennsylvania. After leaving Erie, we meet another westward train on No. 1 track, BF-1. This freight train’s five diesel units are hauling cars for Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. Now in New York State, we make stops at Westfield and Dunkirk, and do not meet any other trains. We arrive in Buffalo on time at 4:10 p.m.

All of the signals and switches at Controlled Points that we encountered during our trip were operated by the train dispatcher located at Erie. During the entire trip, at each signal that did not display a "clear" indication or which caused speed of the train to be reduced, the engineman moved a lever to his right in the cab as we approached the signal and received a whistle in the cab. Had he failed to take this action, the air brakes would have been automatically applied. This is known as Automatic Train Stop. It makes it impossible for the train to pass a restricting speed signal if anything were to happen to the engineman or if he was not alert.

Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) is known as Train Control System (TCS) on the New York Central System. In territories where this form of operation is in effect, as it is between Elkhart, Indiana and Syracuse, New York, trains may proceed in either direction on either track, and movements are governed by signal indication. When a signal is displayed for an eastward movement at a Controlled Point, no signal can be cleared for a westward movement between this Controlled Point and the next Controlled Point ahead. The train dispatcher actuates the signals at Controlled Points by operating a switch or button on his control machine in the office of the train dispatcher.

A track diagram on the control panel in front of the dispatcher has a small opal light at each signal location including the automatic block signals between all of the Controlled Points. These lights are displayed as the train passes each signal, which are placed approximately two miles apart, and they remain lighted until the entire train has passed the signal. In this manner the train dispatcher is aware of the movements of all trains at all times. The position of switches at Controlled Points is indicated on the control panel showing whether such switch is in normal or reversed position.

By use of the Traffic Control System, it was possible to reduce the number of tracks on the New York Central System mainline from four to two, with no assigned direction to either track. Also eliminated were several manned interlocking and signal stations. In many of the places where tracks were removed, the resulting space along the rail line furnished excellent driveway for off-track work equipment.


We were never able to find out who took the time to help an interested college student by typing out the above narrative. However, in 1994, an obituary in a railfan magazine marked the passing of Richard J. Cook. Cook was an accomplished rail photographer and had authored six books and many magazine articles. The obit noted that he had a career on the New York Central as an operator at Berea tower (just west of Cleveland where this article’s train trip begins), and eventually worked in public relations for the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers labor union. It could be that this description came from Richard Cook, a tower operator with a flair for writing and an interest in dealing with the public. We’ll never know for sure.


In the roaring 20’s, out in the farm country of northwest Illinois, the folks in Sterling enjoyed frequent train service on the Chicago and North Western System’s Chicago-Omaha mainline. They also had branch line service on the Burlington, including a gas doodlebug from Chicago by way of Paw Paw and Amboy. By the 1940’s, though, the Q’s service had been downgraded to a mixed train. And of all those beautiful new Union Pacific streamliners operated on the C&NW, only the City of Denver bothered to stop, the rest of them flying through in a cloud of ballast dust.

But something special happened in Sterling in the interim. Robert C. Nesbitt was born there on January 27, 1936 and began his long journey into the NYMT Volunteer Spotlight!

Bob grew up in Sterling to the wail of steam whistles and the piercing honk of diesel air horns. He lived in town and liked to ride his bike with his friends the 2 ½ blocks to the North Western’s mainline to see the show. Of special interest was a wayside signal that sometimes required a freight train to stop. Bob remembers all the smoke and noise when the big steamer’s drivers would lose traction and spin as the hogger tried to get the train started again. After attending public schools there and graduating from high school in 1954, he began a 5-year college career. He began at Carthage College in Carthage, Illinois and spent three years there. In September 1957, he moved on to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. The result was graduation two years later with both a BA degree in Chemistry from Carthage College and a BS in Chemical Engineering from IIT. When he enlisted in the Army in June 1959, he joined the Chemical Corps. He went through basic training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, and then went on to Fort McClellan in Alabama for the chemical school. The rest of his enlistment was spent at Fort Detrick, Maryland, center for the Army’s biological research work.

Bob met Peggy Mossburg while at Fort Detrick and they were married in 1961. With discharge from the Army due in June 1962, Bob began interviewing for an engineering position in private industry, and was hired by Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. They moved to Rochester that July and have been here ever since, raising their two children, Kathy Williamson and Rob Nesbitt. Bob and Peggy are blessed with four grandchildren, a boy and a girl from each family, and the whole clan lives in the Rochester area.

Bob worked for RG&E for 32 years, spending the entire time in the gas division. He started at East Station, near

    Two of Bob’s grandchildren, Joe Nesbitt and his sister Jordan,
    help maintain the museum’s HO model pike.

Ted Thomas photo Smith Street, working there for about 10 years.

Anyone remember the big gas storage tanks located there and near Blossom Road? Bob explains that originally gas was manufactured by RG&E, extracting the gas from a coke operation across the Genesee River near Beebee Station. As consumption rose due to more and more people converting from coal for heating, natural gas pipelines became prevalent and local manufacture was no longer needed. Catalytic converters were used at first to reduce the BTU level of the pipeline gas to the lower, coke-gas level that customers’ facilities were designed for. One of Bob’s main responsibilities at RG&E was to direct the major effort to convert customer facilities to be able to utilize the higher BTU gas. A program was set up, converting customers one city segment at a time. Once that was completed, around 1975, the old gas storage tanks were dismantled. Bob says that at today’s usage of gas by RG&E customers, the total capacity of the storage tanks (14 million cubic feet) would be used up on a typical winter day in about an hour! Bob moved on to the Jefferson Road office for positions in the Gas Engineering and Gas Planning Departments, and retirement came in October 1994.

The Nesbitts are neighbors to our museum, living on Telephone Road a short distance away. They go to church in Geneseo, attending St. Timothy Lutheran Church where Bob has served as Treasurer and as a member of the Congregation Council since 1998.

Bob still has his 1948 Lionel train, set up and operating at home, along with an HO layout as well. He joined the ranks of NYMT volunteers in 1999 and the following year was certified for track car operations. Since then, however, he has spent more time in the model railroad room. His valuable help there includes debugging, rewiring, and operating the layout for visitors on Sundays. Bob has also been helpful with group tours and is currently learning the ropes in that area so he’ll be able to serve as a tour guide.

Thanks to Bob Nesbitt, our popular HO model railroad continues to thrive and perform. We’re glad he’s with us, and if we ever get a trolley that runs on natural gas, we know who to call!


By Donovan Shilling

A century ago, as electric trolley technology permitted bigger and faster cars, construction of interurban lines began to spread. The following is a "remembrance" by a fictional rider on the Rochester and Eastern’s first day of public operation between Geneva and Rochester.

Geneva, the "gem" that crowns Seneca Lake, is a thriving center for commerce and industry, a strategic and prominent site on the old Seneca Trail, the gateway to Seneca Lake and a distinguished college town. The origins of this pleasant lakeside city are closely mingled with the great Seneca Indian dynasty that made Kanadesaga, on the site of present Geneva, become known as "a place of consequence in the domain of the Senecas." Our tale however deals with more recent times. It’s the story of the interurban trolley line to this landmark community at the turn of the century.

Laborers in Geneva toiled throughout 1903 placing 70-pound rail on a route that would join Rochester, Victor, Canandaigua and Geneva with an interurban trolley line. By June 1904, the contractors had reached the western side of North Street. There, a new steel bridge was erected over the Naples branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

It was a balmy summer day on Wednesday, June 15, 1904, as my fiancé Emily and I watched two Rochester & Eastern Rapid Railway interurban trolley cars roll down Castle Street past the State Agricul-tural Station. A small cloud of dust arose from the cinders that paved the street at that time, making their awesome arrival look all the more splendid. Several horses pulling wagons were startled. We noticed that some rather unfriendly looks were directed at the new contraptions as the wagon drivers pulled on the reins to calm their frightened animals.

Slowing gradually, the interurban cars rumbled through the heart of our downtown and came to a halt at a small but adequate station on the north side of Castle Street near Exchange Street, opposite the venerable Kirkwood Hotel.

It looked like the whole city had gathered to witness this long awaited event. Our sister city in neighboring Canandaigua had been served by this trolley line since the fall of 1903. Both of our impressive trolley cars, some fifty-two feet in length and painted a gleaming orange with green trim along the belt rail, motored to a stop, again in a small swirl of dust. The morning tranquility was shattered once again as the electrically propelled vehicles were greeted with applause and a loud but ragged cheer from the onlookers. Somehow great numbers of school kids had gotten out of classes early to behold the milestone occasion in local transportation. They yelled, waved their hands in genuine approval, then threw a shower of shredded paper at the cars as they lumbered by.

The huge cars backed onto the wye at 40 Castle Street to turn around. The Orange Limited’s cars were then ready to receive a delegation including our mayor and a number of city leaders. The new terminal, officially designated the "Rochester & Eastern Waiting Room and Ticket Office," also handled freight, Rochester theater tickets and package express orders.

After the appropriate inauguration proclamations from our mayor and John H. Pardee, superintendent of the new trolley line, the two cars, packed with dignitaries and other officials, took a trial run to Canandaigua. After their return the local VIPs would be joining officials from Canandaigua at a banquet prepared at the Nester House to celebrate the opening of the Rochester & Eastern Rapid Railway line to our city.

We weren’t worried about there not being enough room for us on the first run since it was understood that trips to the "Flower City" would be offered about every hour on the hour. On busy Saturdays they would run every half hour. Up to 21 interurban cars would rumble down to Geneva and return to Rochester each day. To brag a little, if we may, we were part of the fortunate first 290 people to buy tickets during that inaugural day. We clambered aboard the big interurban along with a crowd of excited friends and neighbors, filled all the 48 seats and began our 43 1/2 mile ride to Rochester on the aptly named Orange Limited.

Emily and I were lucky in obtaining two seats together, right next to one of the car’s fourteen big double windows. A plus in heading west from Geneva in the morning was that the sun would not be in our eyes on the trip out nor on our return later in the day. We also realized that the two hour and ten minute trip to the "big city" would provide ample time to inspect a lot of the countryside. A fancy railway ad in Rochester read, "scenery unrivaled, equipment unsurpassed, and service unequalled—no dust, no smoke, fast trains, frequent service, and the favorite route to Canandaigua and Geneva, situated on two of the Finger Lakes."

Well, we were taking the journey to find out if this was really so. Our first sight along Castle Street was of the neat fields and orchards operated by the State Experimental Farm. Opposite it, one could enjoy a view of the elaborate white Octagon House and then observe Dr. Brook’s famous observatory.

Motorman Clarence Tousey eased back on the controller as we slowed, entering the tiny village of Seneca Castle, just 6 ¾ miles out of town. A small gathering of farm folk, kids, chickens and dogs stood in the roadway watching us rattle by. Their expressions seemed to encompass both curiosity and resignation. We guess that they suspected that their tranquil farming community would never be quite the same anymore…

Ottley’s Stop, the next landmark on the line, was where the trolley cars utilized an underpass to clear the Pennsylvania Railroad’s tracks to Sodus Point. Here fields of ripening wheat and acres of cabbages bordered the tracks, and the rich smell of freshly plowed earth drifted into our car. We continued to accelerate, rushing up and down the rolling hills leading through Dunkel’s Corners. Next we were roaring through the woods and out of Van Gelder’s Swamp. We learned that Mr. Tousey always shuts down the power and allows the big interurban to coast down one hill and part way up another. By doing this, it eliminates the use of too much current and saves on the power bill.

In the distance the huge golden dome of Canandaigua’s county courthouse came into view. Once the "seat of justice" for all of western New York State, the community was still famous for its wealth, its popular lakeside pier, large stores and perhaps the widest main street in the entire nation. Speeding closer we saw the smoke stacks of the Lisk Manufacturing Company, noted for their anti-rust enameled ware, and also spotted McKechnie’s Brewery, makers of a particularly sudsy brew.

Entering the city we were told that the trolley was now utilizing the tracks of the Ontario Light and Traction Company, leased to the R&E on October 17, 1903. Two reasons surfaced that prevented the R&E from receiving permission to build independent lines. The first was that the citizenry didn’t want their beautiful elm trees cut down. The second centered on fears that the current from the rails might kill the trees!

As our trolley surged along, climbing the long two mile hill up Main Street, we marveled at the vitality of the commercial section, the beautiful residences, the institutional buildings such as the old Orphanage, now the Moose Club, and Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson’s Memorial Hospital which was under construction as we passed. Most of us took particular note of the Gideon Granger Homestead, designed by Thomas Jefferson. We were told that it was now the Young Ladies’ Academy, a very popular educational institution.

Four miles out of the city, the car arrived at Paddlefords, just a crossroads now, but in the mid-1800’s countless cords of firewood were shipped from there to fuel the steam engines on the New York Central and Hudson River Rail Road. Next, we were rushing through Mertensia. Here, the cedar ties seemed to blur into a solid mass as we reached a breakneck speed of almost 30 miles and hour. We were told that it took 2,640 ties to hold a mile of trolley track. It sure seemed like it!

For a while we studied the interior of our vehicle. It was very modern in appearance, divided into two sections, and even boasted the ultimate convenience—a toilet room. Most of us sat in the main passenger area where comfortable seats were upholstered with plush and the interior was trimmed with polished Mexican mahogany. The other section was the smoking compartment with rattan seating and a special ceiling vent to carry away the noxious fumes. The car also had a water cooler on board, and being electric featured wonderful illumination. 26 light bulbs of 16 candlepower each shone out from some very decorative brass fixtures.

Flank Lynch, the conductor, took great pride in telling us more about his shiny, new interurban. He bragged that it was never more than five minutes late. While we were passing through East Victor and its large creamery, he showed us the latest innovation in rapid rail communication, a Stromberg-Carlson telephone that was located on the wall of the motorman’s compartment. A 25-foot cord on a reel allowed him to plug the phone in at the nearest passing siding and talk directly to the dispatcher. It was a wonder…. He added that the car had been built in Elizabeth, New Jersey by the John Stephenson Company, weighed over 35 tons and had four General Electric 75 horsepower. We smiled and nodded, but weren’t overly impressed.

Conductor and Motorman pose proudly beside Rochester and Eastern
Rapid Railway 6.

Wallace Bradley Collection
NRHS Rochester Chapter

Feeling the continuous vibration and rumble of the wheels as we arrived at the Victor station, we questioned Mr. Lynch on the phenomenon. He replied that it was probably due to the wheels flaking. The wheels, he explained, are composed of oolitic hematite (a low grade iron ore), processed and cast into trolley car wheels. Since the wheels are not wrought iron or steel, they are often chipped on the tough cobblestones adjacent to the trolley rails in Rochester streets. Of course, he added, all the rail joints added to the sensations we were experiencing.

Our next stop, Victor station, was just ahead. Built of brick, the depot looked quite impressive. From there we could see Victor’s largest industry, the huge building complex that’s occupied by the Locke Insulator Company, its claim to fame being its "High Potential Electric Insulators." Traveling right through the center of the village, we heard the trolley whistle blowing repeatedly to warn kids playing too near the tracks to suit the motorman. The little tots waved to us, seemingly oblivious to the danger of being so close to the big orange car that raced along their adopted playground.

By the way, several years later, as concern over trespassers grew, the R&E arranged for motormen to throw a sealed red envelope out of the cab window when trespassers were spotted. The envelope had WARNING printed on the front in heavy black letters. Inside, the message read:

All persons are forbidden to use the tracks or any portion of this company’s right of way for footways or thoroughfares. The practice is dangerous and unlawful. All persons so doing are trespassers and will be subject to prosecution. The company is not liable for accidents or injury to passengers.

Three miles west of Victor, our speed slowed. Glancing out of our window we observed that the trolley was traveling across the long bridge that spanned the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s double tracks. A discussion ensued among nearby passengers as to whether the bridge was really 180 feet long. The friendly argument was resolved when all parties agreed that this was the longest bridge on the R&E. In addition, thanks to the knowledge of those around us, we learned that this bridge was just one of 28 that were engineered to cross gullies, railroads, streams and the Erie Canal.

Ahead was a tiny passenger station, no larger than eight by ten feet in dimension, that served the hamlet of Fishers. Two stores, a small cluster of homes and a sawmill also helped to identify the location. Passing this landmark we overheard some friends discussing how the trolley was powered. Of course we all knew that "trolley" referred to the little wheel on the pole atop the interurban, that conducted electricity to the car’s four electric motors. What we didn’t know was that the overhead transmission wires, draped on 30 to 50 foot cedar poles, carried some 40,000 volts of electricity and were insulated with glass insulators made in nearby Victor.

Nearly two hours had passed and we were now about ten miles west of Canandaigua and just nine miles from Rochester. Our location was where our trolley ran on the hillside near Crossman’s Pond. Many considered this pastoral location to be the most picturesque sight on the trip. Vast fields of potatoes, prosperous looking farm buildings and neatly kept homes marked our landscape at this point.

We whizzed along, skirting a few low hills and, surprisingly, a series of sand dunes as we neared Bushnell’s Basin and its ancient canal tavern. The trolley slowed considerably here before cautiously crossing the Erie Canal on a 123-foot steel truss bridge. This allowed us to thunder along into Pittsford, just about seven miles from our final destination. The village’s handsome brick depot was quite grand, serving a large population of commuters who worked in Rochester. While making the Pittsford stop, the unmistakable sweet and tangy smell of vinegar drifted into our car. The mystery of the distinctive scent’s origin was soon solved as we powered our way out of the station and passed Grove Street, the location of the L. C. Foreman & Sons Pickle Works. The conductor, calling the cluster of gray buildings "Pickleville," told us that it was probably the largest pickle plant in New York State.

The route now angled toward the "big city", heading toward Brighton’s "Twelve Corners." We crossed another bridge that spanned the Erie Canal near the Rowland’s Farm. From here, there seemed to be orchards everywhere we looked. The perfume of peach, apple and cherry blossoms scented the air. We breathed deeply of the stimulating fragrance, unburdened by the smell of coal smoke as on a steam train, and decided this was one of the highlights of the trip.

By paralleling the edge of Monroe Avenue, the windows in our big interurban allowed a splendid view of Brighton’s busy intersections. Wagons were lined up at the numerous clay pits operated by the Rochester German Brick and Tile Company and Whitmore, Rauber and Vicinus. Customers crowded the local shops, and we heard cheers arise from a baseball game at nearby Sheehan’s Field. The city line was just ahead, at the corner where Highland Avenue crossed Monroe Avenue, and we saw Gideon Cobb’s fine brick, Italianate mansion, a local landmark at Cobb’s Hill.

Our journey was almost over. In the distance, the skyline seemed to be filled with smoke stacks and tall buildings. We couldn’t wait to get off. However, our car was slowed as it reached a tangle of carriages, bicycles and crossing pedestrians. The motorman resorted to ringing his trolley gong now and then in an attempt to assert right of way, but his efforts didn’t amount to much. At the sight of all the traffic, we knew we were not in Geneva anymore. Finally, the car swung off Monroe Avenue to Clinton Avenue. This took us past the armory and Washington Square with its graceful elm trees, beds of bright flowers and monument to Abraham Lincoln and our Civil War heroes. Our car took Court Street over to South Avenue and continued to Main Street East, whereupon it turned to the west. Emily inquired as to when we would cross the Genesee River, and I explained that we were crossing it right then. I told her that the large buildings on both sides of us at that point were built on the Main Street bridge and thus concealed the river from our view. Thinking it was another of my little jokes, she had none of this, and I suspect to this day wonders where the Genesee River disappears to in downtown Rochester!

Motorman Tousey eased back on the controller and applied the air brake and we rolled to a smooth stop at Exchange Street. Emily and I spilled out of the car, aided by our conductor who was all smiles and handshakes. It was evident that his shift had ended for the day. The rattle of street traffic, the noise of the exiting travelers and the bustle of activity around us worked like a tonic. We were off to explore the exciting sights of downtown. Later, we planned to attend the Lyceum Theatre to see a matinee performance of the latest play. The big marquee outside the Moorish style playhouse on Clinton Avenue South advertised the "Sixth Annual Tour" for Klaw & Erlanger who were presenting The Rogers Brothers, Gus and Max, in their latest show, "The Rogers Brothers in London." We could hardly wait to get started. It had been a bang-up morning journey from Geneva and now it promised to be a smashing afternoon… Our cheers for the Orange Limited!

ROCHESTER STREETCARS     No. 23 in a series

˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜

by Charles R. Lowe

Today’s Lake-Park bus line dates to the streetcar era. After the mass abandonments of August, 1936, the traditional Lake-Monroe streetcar line was broken so that Monroe could be through-routed with Clinton North. Clinton South, formerly through-routed with Clinton North, had been one of the August, 1936 casualties. Park was available for linking with Lake as the Park line had been looped in downtown Rochester for several years; Oak Street had been serving as Park’s downtown terminal. All through these years, though, Park’s outer terminal had been on the short section of East Avenue between Colby Street and
     New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 1008           Photo by Al Gilcher

Winton Road. In early years, double-ended cars had used a crossover track on East Avenue just west of Winton Road. A loop built in 1916 at the northeast corner of the intersection of East Avenue and Probert Street was situated about midway between Colby Street and Winton Road.

In our May 15, 1937 view of the Probert Street loop, car 1008 (Kuhlman, 1913; Shop Order 558) is ready to leave for a run to Kodak Park, halfway out the Lake line. This was one of several cut-back services offered on the inner portions of some lines. New York City railfan Al Gilcher made this photo, an original print of which is in NYMT’s archives. On his trip to Rochester, Gilcher was accompanied by Utica railfan Bob Gurley. Gurley’s photo, showing more area to the left of the car, includes the waiting benches, the sand box (for replenishing sand boxes on the cars) and the motorman refreshing himself with a swig from what we hope is a water bottle.

Sadly, all in this photo is long gone. The Park streetcars were replaced with buses on August 10, 1937 (last full day was on the 9th), and all the buildings seen in the background have been replaced by the parking lot for the East Avenue Wegmans grocery store. One vestige of the old remains, though. Buses of Regional Transit Service’s Park line, operated on virtually the same route as that of the streetcars, terminate nearly all outbound runs near the Probert loop site by using Probert Street, University Avenue (where the layover point is located) and Winton Road before returning to East Avenue for the next inbound run.


Charles Lowe

New York State Railways, Rochester & Eastern 157: In early June, the tarps covering the Baldwin trucks to be placed under 157 were removed and all motor bearings and journal boxes were lubricated. Car 157’s broad-gauge Brill trucks were also lubricated at this time. To be able to roll the Baldwin trucks away from the car house, some minor track repairs were made in late June to the track leading into the car house. Detail measurements made in July revealed that 157’s center pins are 1 ½" in diameter, while the holes in the Baldwin trucks are for 2" pins. These pins will be retained but the car bolster-to-truck fittings on 157 will be replaced with the ones provided with the Baldwin trucks. Temporary wooden side bearings will also be inserted to provide lateral stability to 157 when placed on its new trucks later this year.
On July 12, the Baldwin trucks were moved onto the loop track pending their placement under 157. The drawbar from NYMT’s Philadelphia Transportation Co. C-130 snow sweeper was pressed into service while moving these trucks.

NYMT's L-3 and Baldwin trucks make an interesting train

Matthews Building Movers lifted 157 on July 31, ironically the 72nd anniversary of the last full day of service on the Rochester and Eastern in 1930. The Brill trucks were moved out of the car house the next day.

Philadelphia & Western 161: Don Quant has finished cutting the 17 trolley board cleats. The heights of these cleats are arranged to correct for the slight sag in the car’s roof. In June, all scaffolding was removed, all debris was cleared away from under the car and all motor bearings and journal boxes were lubricated. Don Quant sealed the four roof vents while Sam Swisher, Eric Norden and Charlie Lowe used Paul Monte’s Masonite boards to seal all side windows. The boards were wrapped in plastic and snapped into place at each window opening. On July 12, a work crew consisting of Bob Miner, Jim Dierks, Randy Bogucki and Charlie Lowe used L-3 and moved 161 outside and onto the loop track where it will be stored until 157 is on its new trucks.

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 437: Arrangements are being made for placing this car on its new trucks once they arrive; Matthews Building Movers will be doing this work. A fund raising campaign is being planned to defray the cost of this work.

Hornell Traction Co. 34: A shop truck has recently been fabricated and primed by Charlie Lowe using two track car wheel sets rehabilitated in 1999, intended for use under 437. Since 437 is now receiving operational trucks, its shop truck wheel sets became available for other use. The Hornell snow plow has been on wood blocking since its arrival at NYMT in 1998, but its placement in front of one of the shop’s two side doors has made access by mowing tractors difficult. Placement of 34 onto its shop truck will eliminate this problem as well as position 34 for eventual movement into the car house. The shop truck has a wheelbase of 7’-0" and is constructed entirely from pressure treated 4x4 lumber. All connections are by means of 3/8" diameter bolts. Both side frames are 12’-0" in length; four 8’-0" long cross members span between the side frames and provide a bed onto which car 34, measuring 16’ long and 7’ wide, will be placed.

Philadelphia & Western 168: Charlie Robinson has been continuing his efforts to refinish the outsides of all the side windows on this car. While the roof of 168 is a weather-tight fiberglass, Charlie points out that the wood windows and quarter-round glazing strips are in grave danger from rain and snow. He is methodically removing and repainting the movable sash, including caulking all trim pieces, and is also caulking the quarter round on the fixed, upper window sash. Birds nested in the ceiling of 168 this season, and Don Quant has been making parts to fit over holes in the floor to seal them out and minimize weather damage.

Rochester Transit Corp. "Casey Jones": Gary Morse took charge of moving "Casey Jones" outside and test-operating it on the museum’s annual "Casey Jones Day", June 16. The car ran well and was run up and down the passenger loading track at the museum in between regular track car runs. "Casey Jones" remains the only working ex-New York State Railways or Rochester Transit Corp. car in the world, so having it at NYMT in such good condition is quite unique.

New York Museum of Transportation L-3: Bob Miner and Charlie Lowe attempted a test running in early June, but weak batteries prevented all efforts at starting the engine. After charging the batteries, the test run was made. Just before using L-3 on July 12 to move 161 out of the car house, transmission fluid was added to overcome leaky seals. L-3 performed flawlessly through the 5-hour job of moving 161 and the Baldwin trucks.

New York Museum of Transportation TC-1: Ted Strang, Bob Miner and others continued their winter-long rebuilding of NYMT’s primary track car. In addition to mechanical work, which included major, wholesale rebuilding of the frame, wood boards have been replaced with metal diamond plate. A new operator’s seat, a storage box for the radio and other items, and a large fuel tank are some of the features that will make life easier for track car operators. TC-1 was moved outside in June and the car was made operable for visitor ride service in July. As time permits, Ted expects to complete detail work and start rebuilding the body.

Randy Bogucki

The museum’s railroad has been divided into seven track maintenance sections with section 7 consisting of NYMT’s yard tracks. Included are the passenger loading track, the car house lead track and the two tracks inside the car house. One switch, where the two car house tracks meet, is also part of this section. As the Section 7 Track Foreman, I will keep NYMT members informed about ongoing track work by regular reports in HEADEND.

Ballast cleaning and placement has continued on the passenger loading track, and the days of ties hanging from the rails because of a lack of ballast will soon be over. Dirt-laden ballast is hand-shoveled onto a screen, leaving clean and reusable ballast on the screen. The ballast is then placed between ties on the track.

Reconstruction of car house track no. 1 is underway now that car 157’s broad-gauge trucks have been pulled outside. The track under 157 is being re-gauged to standard gauge with new ties and salvaged light-weight rail is being used. When finished, track 1 will be fully able to handle routine use. Much work remains to be done in a fairly short time, however, and members’ assistance would be much appreciated. Contact the museum at 533-1113 and let me know how you can help move this very important project along.

Charles Lowe

On May 1, a crew of RG&E employees, led by Scott Gleason, set 18 poles in the ground as part of a community service day. Sixteen poles were placed along the railroad and will form the basis of a 1500’ extension to the electrifica-tion that will terminate just south of the loop switch. Several ground anchors were also placed, and two other poles were set near the NYMT car house for use in building substation facilities. The site for pole 13 wasn’t suitable to drill a hole, but this pole was finally set in place by Scott Gleason’s NRHS pole crew in July using a backhoe.

Rand Warner conducted a meeting on May 23 about building a substation. The former sanding room in the NYMT shop will be used as all conduits can enter the building through the former manure trough and since this is the part of the NYMT building closest to the railroad. A combination of aerial and underground lines will bring current into the substation where it will be transformed and rectified to 600 volts direct current for use by

    Amid a forest of the uprights,
    RG&E men and machines
    show how to plant poles

the trolleys. In the next month or so, all equipment needs to be cleaned out of the sanding room and any assistance in this work would be greatly appreciated. Call the museum at 533-1113 to volunteer to aid in this important project.


Over the past few months, several artifacts from the Rochester and Eastern and the Rochester and Syracuse interurbans have been added to the NYMT collection. With the rural trolley lines of New York State now having been gone from the scene for over 70 years, the discovery of interurban artifacts is an increasingly rare event.

Perhaps most unusual is a wood railroad tie that survived along the R&E roadbed for many decades. Placed on the R&E in the early 1900’s, this rot-resistant cedar tie measures 8" wide by 6" thick by 8’-0" long. As with most railroads of the era, tie plates were not used on the R&E, and cut marks from the lower flanges of the rails are still visible on the top surface of the tie. Recovered during housing construction along the former R&E roadbed near Pittsford in 1996, this tie has been placed on display under the R&E picture board in the NYMT exhibit hall to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of heavy construction on the R&E on July 10, 1902.

> Ongoing highway construction along the route of the R&S in Fairport and Palmyra has yielded a few artifacts from this important interurban. State Street in Fairport has had its former R&S double-track completely removed. A New York Central siding that crossed the R&S in State Street also had its last remains removed. Spikes obtained from this site show that the R&S used spikes beveled in two directions in the same era that the New York Central used spikes beveled in one direction, forming a chisel-like point. The latter type spike remains in wide use today. Palmyra’s Main Street is being rebuilt and a short rail sample and a spike were obtained from this project. The spike is a dual-beveled spike as was found in Fairport. The rail section will be measured so

Charlie Lowe has placed the tie just below the map board
that features photos along the R&E route from Rochester to Geneva
Ted Thomas photo
that the rail weights given in various histories of the line can be confirmed. The spikes and the rail sample will be placed on display once the present truck-moving projects in the exhibit hall are completed.


Thomas Tusser said that back in the 1500’s, but you’d be hard pressed to get any inhabitants of the Genesee and Susquehanna river basins to agree 30 years ago this summer.

In mid-June of that year, a weak tropical disturbance began to grow over the Caribbean, and by the 19th, what was now officially Hurricane Agnes moved into the Florida panhandle. Although a relatively weak hurricane, and soon downgraded to a tropical storm, Agnes was an immense 1,000 miles across. As the storm headed north, it found new life when it merged with a cyclone centered over the northeastern U.S. Stagnating over western Pennsylvania, Agnes proceeded to dump enormous amounts of rainfall, with many locations reporting totals over 15 inches, and this in turn gave rise to record flooding.

While Rochester and its immediate vicinity were spared, thanks in large part to the Genesee River dam at Mt. Morris, NY, other areas were hard hit. Wellsville, NY recorded almost 14 inches of rain, and the flooding Genesee River destroyed the Jones Memorial Hospital there. The official river flood stage gauge at Wellsville was actually washed away! The Chemung River, overflowing and choked with debris washed down from tributaries, flooded Corning and Elmira, NY. Volunteers from Rochester and many other parts of western New York spent their Fourth of July holiday weekend shoveling mud from homes that in many cases had had water up into their second stories.

The Chemung’s impact wasn’t just on New York State, however. A tributary to the Susquehanna River, it joined forces with many other tributary streams and rivers to fill the Susquehanna to well over flood stage, wreaking devastation throughout its broad, shallow, flood-prone basin. On June 23, its rampaging waters attacked and devastated the Magee Transportation Museum in Bloomsburg, PA, a privately owned collection of carriages, antique autos, and trolleys.

The trolley rail line was destroyed as flood waters undermined the track, washed away tons of roadbed, and left a tangle of rail, ties, and trolley wire. Valuable old vehicles, lovingly restored, were buried in silty water and thick, oozing mud. And in the middle of a broad field, sitting on a short section of rail as a static exhibit, Rochester & Eastern interurban car 157 saw muddy water rise up to the level of its floor. The force of the slower moving water at this location was relatively low, so the car managed to stay upright and the support underneath held. As the floodwaters receded, they left mud to dry in the motors, reverser, and control gear, but otherwise the car was blessedly undamaged.

Tropical Storm Agnes was soon determined to be the worst natural disaster ever to hit Pennsylvania, and it surely was the worst thing ever to happen to the Magee operation. Shortly after, Harry Magee died. The wealthy owner of a carpet manufacturing company had been the inspiration and support for the museum, and without him the family could only opt to sell what hadn’t been completely demolished.

     R & E in better weather
                 Magee Transportation
                 Museum photo

At an estimated $3 billion, Agnes was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history up to that time. But out of the devastation and loss came some benefit. The good people who started the New York Museum of Transportation brought car 157 back to its home territory, and those of us who followed have protected it and contributed to its ongoing restoration. And now, thirty years after tragedy struck, we are placing 157 on standard gauge trucks donated by the Sanyo Electric Railway of Kobe, Japan, taking another step toward the day when the car can roll under its own power.

Maybe Agnes wasn’t such an ill wind after all.



HEADEND is published four times a year by the New York Museum of Transportation, © 2002. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

Editor Jim Dierks

Contributing Editor Charles Lowe

Printing James Root, Peter Leas

Publication Gil and Ruth Magraw