The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Winter 2002


A few years back, Bernie Weis favored us with the donation of a set of scrapbooks he kept when he was a teenager growing up in Rochester. You may recall Bernie produced the nice article in our Fall issue about the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company’s centennial. He’s always had a fascination for anything with wheels on it, and that can be easily seen by browsing through these wonderful scrapbooks.

Bernie carefully cut and pasted articles from several local newspapers, plus national magazines when appropriate, whenever he came across something pertaining to transportation. True, most of this material is available on microfilm at the library, but in these scrapbooks, it’s all laid out in chronological order and you don’t have to hunt through all the other stuff!

We always enjoy searching for something in these scrapbooks, but we keep getting side tracked on interesting photos and articles. As an example, while we were looking through the July 1951 – February 1952 volume, we realized we were looking at clippings that were exactly half a century old. Hmm…anniversary time. One subject was a 1951 Christmas Eve traffic jam downtown that was declared "worst in the city’s history" by William A. Lang, Vice President of the Rochester Transit Corporation. Some buses ran close to an hour and a half late, when holiday shoppers "swarmed" the city’s central shopping district, according to the Rochester Times-Union article dated January 24, 1952.

Lang was quoted from a speech he gave to the Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Club, in which he expressed deep concern for the lack of strict enforcement of traffic regulations, citing problems such as parking in bus stops, commercial vehicles unloading in the central district, and motorists clogging intersections. He also called for an extension of the rush hour ban on left turns downtown.

Traffic congestion prevented RTC from efficiently providing service to its 180,000 daily bus riders, and the "all-time high" of 168,000 passenger and commercial vehicles in Monroe County meant things were only going to get worse. By the way, today’s RTS daily ridership is just over 30,000, while the count of passenger cars (not including commercial vehicles) in Monroe County is now over 500,000. Those cars aren’t clogging the streets downtown anymore, either.

Meanwhile, Sunday bus service was reduced, effective January 20, 1952. Intervals between buses were lengthened (from 10 minutes to 13, and from 12 minutes to 15 minutes) and Sunday evening service on some lines was sharply curtailed. According to a January 22 Democrat & Chronicle article, there were no rider complaints registered, and receipts from fares were about equal to the Sunday before the change. Not that running the bus company was without its rider complaints, however. An exchange of letters over a driver’s reluctance to make change for a dollar made for interesting reading in the Rochester papers that winter, fifty years ago.


About ten years ago, the availability of a small cadre of retired volunteers, combined with the completion of our rail line through to RGVRRM, led us to increase our weekday group tour activity. We never solicited this business, but gradually took on more and more requests. Today, still without advertising, weekday group visits bring in a healthy percentage of our total visitors each year. In 2001, one fourth of the headcount came from a total of 43 group visits.

With thanks to Jerry Gillette for compiling all the past tours, we find that there have been 527 visits set up since we started keeping records in 1992. 90% (473) actually came, and 9% cancelled for one reason or another. The remaining 1% (8 groups) either were rained out after they arrived, or failed to show up as scheduled.

Scout groups, schools, day care centers, retirement communities, car clubs, bus tours, birthday parties, and homes for the handicapped…some have come once, many are repeat customers. Many members contribute at both ends of our facility to host groups. Let’s shine a little of the spotlight on them and the things they do to bring transportation history to life for over a thousand new people each year.

The word gets around one way or another. A teacher might tell a colleague. A scoutmaster might notice a mention in an area scouting newsletter. A Sunday visitor might tell the operator of a child care center next door. Whatever, they call the museum and leave a message, which Jim Dierks responds to. Often, the first contact just answers basic questions such as price and availability, and it’s not unusual for the caller to have never heard of us!

Here, by the way, are some of the answers to the "FAQ’s":

Q: What’s the admission?

A: Same price we charge on Sundays except kids under 5 pay the "student" fare. A reasonable number of teachers, aides, bus drivers, and group leaders are admitted free.

Q: What days and hours are you open?

A: Any day and time that fits your plans, but we prefer Mondays and Tuesdays to minimize conflicts with track work and other activities at the two museums.

Q: What’s a typical tour consist of?

A: We offer a guided tour through NYMT’s main exhibit hall, the motor vehicles, and the model railroad, allowing time to get in the cab of the steam loco, etc., then put the group on the track car ride, including a 15-minute tour of the RGVRRM depot and railroad equipment. This typically takes 1½ hours.

Q: What about the size of the group…maximum? Minimum?

A: We are limited by track car capacity (22 adults seats), but by breaking the group into a "ride" module and an "NYMT tour" module, we can handle 44 adults, more or less, in that 1½–hour time period. If the group is much larger than that, we break into a third module (show "The End of the Line" in the Gallery, for example, or have the group leader plan outdoor games). Minimum charge is $50, so if the group is too small, they either pay the $50 or find another small group to join them.

Q: Wheelchair accessible?

A: Yes, except the stairs into the various cars. Rest room is not specifically designed for the handicapped nor is the ride. We try to accommodate special needs on a case-by- case basis.

There are always other considerations, such as a picnic lunch, or a request for one of our Teacher Kits, containing a variety of instructional materials to prepare for (or follow up on) the visit.

Once the date and details are agreed on, Jim adds the tour to the master schedule which he publishes weekly by e-mail to the area leaders and others who have a need to know. Leaders include Don Shilling (to staff the depot), Dick Luchterhand (to operate the model railroad and assist with NYMT tours), and Dave Soble (to call the necessary crew for the track cars). Copies go to other people at both museums for general awareness, so that activities aren’t planned that might conflict (tearing up some track, painting the Gift Shop, etc.). Depending on the size and particulars of the group, we might also call on additional members to help with crowd control, Gift Shop sales, and additional depot guides.

NYMT is always happy to host visiting clubs, civic organizations, schools and other groups. We also have several interesting slide talks we can give off-site. Contact us at (585) 533-1113 for details.

Always a hit with visiting groups is the model railroad,
with three trains and two trolleys all in motion at one time.

We give groups the option to cancel if it’s raining on the day of their visit, provided they call by an agreed deadline so all crew can be reached before they leave home. Some groups happily come no matter what the weather is, while others fall by the wayside at the slightest hint of dark clouds. Of course, we are happy to run if it rains, but are watchful for lightning, in which case we don’t operate the rides.

On the morning of the visit (it’s usually in the morning, but we’ve had groups in the afternoon and even after dinner) all is quiet until the buses roll in and we go into action. Larger groups get divided into ride module and NYMT tour module, then further split up for manageability. Jim and Dick, sometimes assisted by Vern Squire and Ted Thomas, lead the visitors around, instinctively finishing up just as the track cars return from their depot trip. The modules switch and it starts all over again.

The two museums have agreed that any activity for outside organizations that involves our jointly built rail line constitutes a group visit, and therefore gets scheduled and managed as described above. All proceeds from such visits get accounted for and split evenly between the two museums, just as we do with Sunday proceeds throughout the summer joint operating season. Once the group has departed, a Day Sheet is prepared, any cash taken in is locked in the safe, and the doors are locked. A peaceful calm once again settles over NYMT!

Much to our delight, the AACA Founders’ Tour
brought their classic cars along on their group visit.

Our largest group each year comes from French Road School, in a well-organized logistical tour de force that sees around a dozen classes pass through the museum experience over two full days! At the small end, we’ve bent the rules on the $50 minimum and hosted visits of three or four people in very special cases. Whatever the size, groups are important to us, because each one represents another chance to share what we know about the transportation history of our area, and to make new friends for the museum.


Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised to find transportation in the background of so many of our volunteers. After all, we all have to move around in this world. But it does seem that most of these spotlight features usually mention some connection with the transportation industry in the background of the subject, and it’s true this time as well. Meet Phil McCabe.

When Phil was born, in 1930, his father worked for Otis Elevator Co. But that’s not the transportation connection we’re talking about. Dad’s 1933 promotion brought the McCabe family to Rochester, and in 1940 they moved to Honeoye Falls where Phil soon discovered it was fun to bicycle over to Rochester Junction on the Lehigh Valley to "hang out".

He got to know all the regular employees and he remembers well the click click of the telegraph and the steady parade of steam-powered freight and passenger trains. A favorite spot to watch the action was upstairs in the tower where the towerman threw the long, "armstrong" levers to control switches and signals at the junction. Switches led from the New Jersey-to-Buffalo main line north to Rochester, and south to Honeoye Falls, Lima and Hemlock. There was a small yard at the junction as well, so the tower was a busy place, and Phil enjoyed the "bird’s eye view" from there.

Aunt Dorothy lived in Ithaca, also on the LV main line, and Phil was lucky to visit her from time to time, with the family traveling on the famous Black Diamond. But the trip he remembers most fondly was on the more humble Honeoye Falls branch. He was 12 years old at the time, and he often saw the local freight head south late in the afternoon, returning north to the junction late in the evening. One day, the conductor hollered out, "Going to Honeoye Falls?" After Phil answered in the affirmative, the conductor said, "Well, put your bike in the caboose and ride with us!" With the EMD switcher burbling up front, the caboose swaying on the light rail, and a triumphant arrival in his home town, Phil’s love of trains was signed, sealed and delivered.

Well, for awhile at least. Seems that flying also had caught Phil’s fancy, and when a grass air field operation was started up right there in Honeoye Falls after World War II, Phil found a new place to "hang out". Now in high school, he was able to trade work around the air field (moving planes around, mowing, fueling, etc.) for the occasional plane ride.

Weekend shows at the air field were a special opportunity, and several times each summer Phil and his fellow fans would operate "light signals" to communicate with the radio-less planes. These were large electric lights, mounted on a short, shotgun-like base. The color of the light could be changed from red to green to clear. By positioning signal men along the approach pattern to the field, their colored light signals would keep the planes separated and control their landings.

Phil went on to enlist in the Air Force in 1948, where he became an instructor in the Weather Service, teaching at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. He started private flying lessons while at Chanute, and eventually found time to finish and get his license in 1970 (with instrument rating later, after getting snowed in for a few days in Bradford, PA). In between, he got his BS and MS degrees in biology and after a two-year stint teaching at Monroe High School, joined Eastman Kodak Co., where he did classified government work, primarily satellite programs, until his retirement.

Phil married Cathy Santos in 1985 after meeting at a local political committee meeting. Cathy has served on the Town Council in Henrietta for eight years now, and spoke at our electrification celebration last June. Cathy has a son, Bill, and grandson William is often a feature in the McCabe house. Phil’s kids are Chuck (and grandson Chad) and Marcy (granddaughters Meghan and Lauren). All are in the Rochester area except Chuck, who got the airplane bug when flying around with Dad and now works for Cessna in Wichita.

One day about ten years ago, fellow classified worker Rand Warner invited Phil to come out and see what was going on at the RGVRRM depot. Soon after, in 1993, Phil took a ride on the track car that as of that spring was now operating all the way from NYMT to the depot, and we had our hooks in him! "I like to drive", says Phil, and as a result he has taken the track car training and is one of our main operators on weekends as well as during the week on group tours.

Hard to tell who’s having more fun…Phil McCabe
or grandson Will Santos, age 2.
Cathy McCabe photo

Phil’s contributions go well beyond track car operation, however. He has a business in retirement making signs, primarily those beautiful carved jobs you see around town, with the gold leaf. At NYMT, he’s utilized his skills and knowledge of sign materials to create our main highway sign, two "Entrance" signs (one painted on a silo!), directional signs inside the main exhibit hall to lead visitors to the ride, the famous "slow pedestrians" sign, and several others. Our nice, neat signs impart a quality image as well as serve an information function, and we have Phil to thank for them.

For the future, he hopes to qualify as a trolley motorman when we put our next group of trainees through the course. He’ll continue helping us when another sign is needed, and he says he does silk screening too. Not to mention woodworking. In fact, as we parted, Phil was heading for the TC-1 overhaul workplace to see what he could do to help. Now, wouldn’t an old Otis elevator be a cool addition to our collection…..


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: Don Quant, fresh from his R&E waiting shelter re-roofing job, has taken charge of finishing the roof work on 161. With the canvas stretched, nailed, and painted, remaining work topside includes repair and re-installation of the four ventilators and the trolley boards. Don and Jim Dierks recently measured out the carlines in order to plan placement and manufacture of the cleats that support the trolley boards. With work continuing by Paul Monte and Joe Reminder (windows) and Randy Bogucki (ventilators), Don and his team should have 161 finished by the time regular trolley operations begin at NYMT. Don Quant/Paul Monte

Philadelphia & Western interurban car 168: Charlie Robinson’s vital work on the windows continues, as he replaces rotted quarter round and primes and paints the sashes. At least one window has been identified as needing rebuilding or replacement, and openings in the floor will also require attention soon. Charles Robinson

Northern Texas Traction Co. 409: Sometimes, pieces in a puzzle just happen to fit together, and that is exactly what happened recently. One initiative in the past year had been a survey of the trolley parts in storage at NYMT. Several master controllers with no car assignment were inventoried during the effort. When Charlie Robinson mentioned that the one major electrical component still needed for car 409 was a 15B type master controller, a quick check of the inventoried items showed that NYMT had such a controller in stock. Charlie spent late last year inspecting the C15 controller and has determined it will work well on 409. He also turned up the elusive fact that the control circuit this controller operates at is a 90-volt circuit. Charles Robinson

New York State Railways, Rochester & Eastern Line 157: A plan to replace the trucks under this car with Japanese-Baldwin trucks is now being developed. The new trucks for 157, complete with four motors in working condition, are standard-gauge and would permit the car to be operated at NYMT. The trucks now under 157 are broad-gauge (5’ 2¼"), having been obtained for the car from Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co. 63 about 1970. Charles Lowe

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 437: Restoration of the wood reverser finger block and its sixteen contact fingers for the car’s K35GG controller was completed in late November and is now ready to be re-installed. The next controller work to be tackled will be cleaning the reverser shaft and its contacts. An exactly correct compressor governor was found in NYMT’s store of spare parts. It is a National Type R governor dating from about the 1910-1920 era. Governors were used to automatically turn the compressor on when air pressure dropped below a prescribed amount and to shut the compressor off when the system was sufficiently charged. On 437, the low setting was 85 psi and the upper setting was 100 psi. Charles Lowe

New York State Railways, Rochester and Eastern Line Johnson’s Crossing Waiting Shelter: Unseasonably benign weather gave Don Quant the additional time he needed to complete the shelter’s roof reconstruction and re-shingling just before the end of the year. Appearance of the shelter has been improved, and along with it the first impression given to our visitors. More importantly, the steady deterioration of the roof has been arrested, and the new roof of durable, long-lived asphalt shingles will protect the entire structure for years to come. Don Quant

At an earlier (warmer) stage in the project, Don installed new
mahogany eave boards as part of the roof reconstruction.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS  No. 21 in a series

˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜

by Charles R. Lowe

Rochester Transit Corp L-2    Charles R. Lowe Collection

It hauled freight cars but never carried any passengers. Its motive power was, horror of horrors, an 8-cylinder LeRoi gasoline engine, not electricity. It was painted a utilitarian black rather than the bright colors of Rochester’s streetcars. In spite of these "shortcomings", though, trolley fans always include Subway locomotive L-2 in Rochester’s streetcar history. Visiting railfans of the 1950s, intent on recording the Subway to the fullest extent possible, dutifully made at least one exposure of L-2 in its usual storage berth at the Subway car house. Our 1953 view of L-2 is one of these many photos.

Purchased new in 1937 from Plymouth Locomotive Works of Plymouth, Ohio, L-2 was used to move freight cars on non-electrified Subway sidings. These were for the General Motors plant at the Subway’s western end, and L-2 was usually stored on a siding at the nearby Subway car house. Subway passenger service ended in 1956, but Rochester Transit Corporation continued to provide railroad freight service on the Subway using its electric locomotives, 0205 and L-1, as well as gasoline-powered L-2. RTC’s primary purpose was transporting city passengers; interchanging freight cars had been a sideline required by the City of Rochester, owner of the Subway. Accordingly, RTC ended its Subway freight operations on August 31, 1957. All RTC freight and work equipment, including L-2, was retired at this time, and the five diesel railroads in Rochester¹ took up freight operations in the Subway. Remaining RTC work and freight cars were scrapped in 1958, and L-2 wound up at Atkins Waste Materials in Rochester. Sitting outdoors as a hulk, L-2 weathered the 1960s in obscurity, never quite being broken up for its scrap content. After NYMT was formed in 1973, one of the early pieces of rolling stock acquired was the remains of L-2, donated to NYMT by Atkins. In July 1977, L-2 was trucked from Rochester to NYMT where an aggressive restoration program was launched.² Over the next few years, the locomotive’s running gear was entirely rehabilitated and a new LeRoi engine was obtained to replace the tired original. Sheet metal body work proceeded into the 1980s but the museum’s emphasis shifted from restoration to track-laying and track car operations. Today, L-2 is stored inside the NYMT car house in its partially rebuilt form; most of the locomotive’s parts were moved to the NYMT store room when Northern Texas Traction car 409 was acquired in 1996. In spite of its disassembled state, L-2 is the last remaining part of Rochester’s once-great trolley freight operation and therefore occupies a unique spot in the NYMT collection.

1. Rochester's five diesel railroads in the late 1950s were New York Central, Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania RR, Erie RR and Lehigh Valley RR.
2. Rochester Times Union, July 14, 1977, pg. 1C


The past few months have seen plenty of action on NYMT’s top priority—electrifying our rail line and getting into public trolley operations. Since our weekend spectacular last summer, we have had many visitors ask when trolley rides will resume, and certainly our members want to know too. Here’s a rundown on the progress that’s being made.

We told in the last issue of HEADEND about obtaining the wire and overhead hardware that will be needed to electrify the rest of the entire jointly operated rail line. Overhead Designer Charlie Lowe has inventoried these parts and those already on hand and confirmed that we have what we need to proceed. Tony Mittiga is leading the effort to restore the wood insulators. Selecting insulators that have intact steel end fittings, Tony sands the hickory insulator and applies several coats of a long-lasting varnish. Only about half the number of insulators required have been restored so far.

Before wire can be strung and insulators attached, there must be poles planted along the rail line. The museum is working with a local company that plans to support the installation of poles in exchange for testing of the firm’s equipment on the rail line. On December 7, 2001, Rand Warner and Charlie Lowe identified the locations for pole #27 (near milepost 1.0), through #61 (a short distance from switch 6 at RGVRRM). In mid–December, poles were hauled to three of these locations, and one was set (planted), by the NRHS line crew. Work is underway by Charlie and Paul Monte to prepare stakes and finalize the pole line design, so that the 50 to 60 locations for poles and ground anchors can be marked as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.

On December 22, 2001, twelve used wood poles were delivered to the NYMT pole yard by Rand Warner, Scott Gleason and others. These are surplus poles from Rochester Gas and Electric Co. At $60 for each pole on the open market, these donated poles represent a significant saving, and thanks go to RG&E and to Scott for arranging the donation.

Other line work that took advantage of the unusually mild weather included two work sessions, under the direction of Sam Swisher, to move all spare Subway rail to a location on the inside of the swamp curve, to make way for several poles. Also, a culvert near pole location 25 needed attention. The gap in this two-piece pipe had allowed fill materials to wash into the pipe, so a clean-out was accomplished and the gap was covered. More fill over the repaired culvert will permit passage of the heavy auger and bucket trucks needed for construction of the overhead here. Not so easily adapted for truck access will be a second culvert three poles farther down. Some low lying branches also need trimming.

Besides poles, wire and hardware, we will need electricity, and some very good news arrived on that front in November. Rand Warner had further discussions with Niagara Mohawk personnel that cleared up conflicting information (yes, we do in fact have the necessary 3-phase power just 100 feet from our building). NiMo also confirmed that their ability to supply power was sufficient for our trolley needs, and that within the assumptions Rand presented the cost to operate would be affordable. NiMo does not have a special discount for non-profits, nor does it offer reduced rates on weekends (normally lower demand). They have a series of escalations of charges depending on power usage, designed to encourage energy conservation, and from Rand’s analysis it appears that properly trained motormen, and a well designed operating schedule, should avoid any of the potentially serious penalties.

There are two proposals for a substation to convert the high-voltage AC power to 600-volt DC for the trolley line: (1) adapt the NYMT storeroom, with AC fed in underground conduits and DC returned to the trolley line overhead, or (2) install a small building or cabinet next to the track, without the need for underground conduit. Rand is currently seeking a small structure such as are seen on railroad rights of way to house crossing signal apparatus. It has been agreed to decommission the trailer mounted diesel generator, as its rectifier and switch gear will be incorporated in the new substation.


As if his work in the museum Archives hasn’t taken enough of his time, Ted Thomas agreed awhile back to overhaul our web site to bring it up to date and fill it out with the many things we want the public to know about us. He and Jim Dierks put together an overall outline, and through the fall Ted did the computer work that, as of December 1, 2001, has gotten us on line with our new site.

Check us out! Maybe you’ll learn something about NYMT you didn’t already know. Better yet, perhaps you’ll give us your feedback about things you’d like to see on the site or suggestions to optimize navigation and usefulness.

Our new site provides cyber-visitors with all the information they could want in order to come see us, join as a member, learn about the vehicles and artifacts we have, take a "virtual tour", and read the latest issue of HEADEND. Ted has used his digital camera and placed images on the site to support all this. Our old site was put together by Chris Hauf, and featured a "collegial" image reflecting our close relationship with our friends at RGVRRM, so in our new site, we are keeping that relationship visible and over links to the RGVRRM site. Chris, meanwhile, has set things up so that anyone attempting to find us at our old web address will be automatically sent to our new one.

Ted Thomas’ copy stand of his own making, plus a digital camera,
puts our Archive collection in the computer catalogue.

We’ve told you in past issues about the computerization of our Archives with numerous items that are already catalogued in our manual system now put in the computer for easier, faster access through key words. Ted has been using his digital camera to record the photos and other images among these catalogued items, and put the image records in the computer too. Now, when you search the computer for a particular item, you’ll find a "thumbnail" image of the item, and you can click on it to get a full-screen enlargement. This is a great advantage when seeking a particular view, for example, when there are many to choose from. Instead of dragging the heavy boxes down and pawing through the many possible items, you can let the computer do the work for you.

The natural extension of this, of course, is to allow access via the internet, so that searches can be done remotely without using the Archive computer. This ability to access our Archive collection is now available on line.

Preserving and disseminating the history of transportation is our mission, and it looks like our new, updated exposure in the web world will enhance our ability to accomplish our mission…both in attracting new friends and providing information to a worldwide audience.


We’re never at a loss for something to do at the museum, and if it isn’t money we need, it’s volunteers. Then again, sometimes we have the resources and the people, but we don’t have the Plan. On top of all that, we often get pulled off on a sidetrack due to a unique opportunity or problem, or our own creative juices. To try to keep our collective "eye on the donut", making sure we first concentrate on what we’ve all agree must be done before heading off in a new direction, we have an annual Priorities list.

After surveying our most involved volunteers, the Trustees look at the museum’s needs and the ideas that have come up, and agree on a final list. From this list comes the budget for the year’s expenses, as well as a rough allocation of volunteer hours. Keep in mind that this is only an attempt to define the things we will do that we don’t normally do throughout the year. Such important functions as staffing the Gift Shop and Ticket Desk, operating track cars, mowing and maintenance, fire truck parade appearances, Archive work, etc. are all continuing obligations that keep us open and serving the public, so they come first.

Here’s the list for 2002. If you feel you can help on any of these "must" projects this year, please get in touch with us at 533-1113. We’ll put you in touch with the appropriate project leader and he or she will take it from there. Whether or not you can lend a hand, the Priorities list gives a clear picture of where your museum is going in 2002, and reflects our vision and aspirations for the years to come.

Priorities 2002

Snow/ice over entrance: design and install barrier

TC-1: design, construct, rebuild; operator’s seat; on-board storage box

P&W 161: ventilators, trolley boards, poles

P&W 161: window sills, windows, interior lights, interior moldings

P&W 168: window sealing and painting; upper sash caulking

P&W 168: rework window sticks to keep windows up; relocate rear pole

Track: Contribute to ongoing trackwork, especially in electrification area

Caboose 8: window sills, sash, replace worst siding, display on level track

Substation: consult, prepare space, construct

R&E waiting shelter: re-paint siding

Corridor roofs: repair to stop leaks

Hornell 34: secure and stabilize

outside light: install light on silo to illuminate parking lot at night

Overhead parts: define needs; prepare for next phase of line extension

R&E 157: design plan to place on proper trucks; implement

NYSR 437: complete restoration of K35 controller

Administration: continue organization, vision, policies, long range plan

Administration: create file of key documents; store copy off site

Gift Shop: neater, more functional inventory storage behind counter

Gift Shop: spruce up floor, ceiling, paint walls, display cases

Driveway and parking lot: re-gravel

Bus corral: relocate history bus; pave with gravel


A lot of effort went into salvaging rail and ties from the Rochester Subway and creating the northern half of our shared rail line, and our popularity with visitors wouldn’t be the same without the track car rides that all that work made possible. But the fact remains that subway track that was already long in the tooth has spent 25 more years exposed to the whims of weather and the wear and tear of track cars, diesels, and most recently trolleys. Keeping up with at least the most serious problem areas, not to mention running a planned program of upgrading and replacement, has largely been in the hands of our friends in RGVRRM, led for many years by Rand Warner. However, NYMT’s Randy Bogucki has also been a part of this effort over the past few years, and he recently wrote a report on his activities. It gives some credit where it’s due, but also lets our members in on just some of the details of keeping the track in good condition and the track car rides functioning safely.

Randy reports that he started getting involved in track work in the fall of 1999 when he was between jobs. He focused on one of the museum’s priorities for that year which was to clean up from earlier work that had, thankfully, leveled out the track coming into the new passenger loading platform. That effort had left the track in a smoother gradient out to the mainline, but had not been fully ballasted. There were also several piles of the scooped-out, former-Lehigh Valley mainline ballast/dirt/cinder mix that needed to be disposed of for housekeeping reasons. Randy points out that this trackage, and the area around it, is the first thing the visitor sees as the ride departs, and a good impression there is important.

He built a ballast sifter and began running the piles of undercut material through it. Randy says, "With the equipment I had—buckets and later a wheel barrow—I couldn’t move all the material to the dirt pile in the alcove where the calliope is kept." So, sifting out the stone made his disposal job easier, and it reclaimed ballast for re-use. The "fines" from sifting ended up being used in various places nearby to fill low spots in the lawn, etc.

"Progress was made from the starting point, at the corner of the building, down to the platform by sometime in August, 2000", Randy says. "By fall of that year, I made the determination that the first sifter was too small, and that the mesh was too. A bigger sifter was built." He had already taken down pile #1 and now started work on the second pile. While work proceeded beyond the corner of the building to straighten and level the track (Dale Hartnett and RGVRRM’s young railroaders), Randy and Rick Israelson continued to sift. Late in the year, ballast was being stockpiled to fill the straightened and leveled track, and Randy started using our Jacobson tractor and trailer to carry the stone. He even did some additional undercutting for drainage improvement. Randy worked under floodlights as the days got shorter, and finally shut down his work when the weather got too bad.

One of Randy’s main goals, as noted above, was to "make that small stretch of track somewhat of a showpiece", and he was certainly succeeding. In the relatively dry spring of 2001, he started work early and had pile #2 sifted by Easter. Doug Anderson gets credit for helping for several hours during a routine stop at the museum on Gift Shop business. Working solo most of the time, however, Randy could see that, at two ties per week, it would take all summer to undercut the rest of the siding, so he cut back on that effort and concentrated on cleaning the ballast, trimming the edges, and helping Rand and Mark Pappalardo with a major effort to replace switch timbers in the platform switch. The disturbed ballast from that work lead to more cleanup and trimming.

In late summer and fall, Randy began carting in new ballast with the Jacobson. As he filled the track, he raised the rail level "over an inch, to provide a graceful curve with some super elevation". Leveling was also done south of the platform switch on the main line to put some fit and finish to the switch work. He notes that, "More work needs to be done at the areas immediately to the south of the platform switch on both tracks, to ensure smooth transitions with level track." He also wants to keep at the continuing task of cleaning up the removed ties, miscellaneous tie plates, spikes, etc. that eventually accumulate in the work areas, to keep a neat, safe appearance. The barn leads need work, especially important as P&W 161 work nears completion, and there will be attention given to the main line parallel to the platform track all the way to 168’s current location at the end of the electric overhead.

Beyond the day-to-day needs, Randy is interested in developing a defined code for our track work, specifying standards and procedures for rail joints, hardware, rail and ballast profiles, etc. A big task, but an important one as we move from relatively light track cars to 30-ton interurban trolleys. We’re confident that with people like Randy Bogucki staying interested and involved, our rail line will continue to improve and serve our museum needs.

The Great Trolley Boat Trial
on the Erie Canal

by Donovan Shilling

When member Don Shilling isn’t leading group tours for us at the RGVRRM depot, he’s deep in research on local history. From his vast trove of historical material he’s brought us an interesting tale from that fascinating period in the late 19th century when the world was going to abandon horses and mules, and start propelling every imaginable conveyance by steam or compressed air or electricity. Time would eventually sort things out, but for now, get a load of this…

Most of you know about those teams of horses and mules that once towed hundreds of packet and freight boats along the old Erie Canal. Their muscle power moved many tons of cargo and many thousands of passengers helping New York State to win its title as being the "Empire State." However, did you know that a very modern form of energy was once strongly considered to replace old dobbin? Long before the gasoline engine was to dominate our transportation systems, there were efforts to use ELECTRICITY as a means of propulsion on the Erie Canal.

The year was 1893. President Grover Cleveland had taken office, Thomas Edison had just patented a camera that he called the "kinetoscope", and trainloads of people were flocking to Chicago to enjoy a spectacular world’s fair, known as the Columbian Exposition. New York State engineers were eager to apply electricity to the Erie’s huge fleet of cargo vessels. The concept was met with enthusiasm. However, the practicality of such a plan needed to be demonstrated to the public and to potential financial backers.

Thus in March $10,000 was appropriated to string electric lines above a portion of the Erie Canal’s waters. To accomplish this, a site was needed where the canal’s course was relatively straight and had an abundant power supply. Accordingly, state engineers chose a location near Rochester, New York for the demonstration. The community was well known as the birth place of many inventions, and more importantly, the city’s Cataract Electric Company could furnish an ample supply of power.

On November thirteenth, 1893, a crew of workmen descended upon a section of the Erie Canal just east of the village of Brighton, New York in an area between locks 63 and 64. Here they converted a packet boat into a utility vessel. A twelve foot platform was added above its deck enabling workmen to install trolley span wires above the canal. Others anchored the wires to poles lining the canal every fifty feet stretching along both sides of the waterway for over a mile. In record time the overhead wiring project was complete.

Meanwhile, in Pittsford, New York, electrical engineers leased a packet boat called the Frank W. Halley. The boat was overhauled, removing its steam boiler and adding two 25-horsepower Westinghouse motors connected to a fifty-one inch dish pan propeller. Additionally, two long poles bearing the tiny trolley wheels needed to deliver current from the overhead wires to the electric motors were installed.

With this accomplished, word was sent to dignitaries from Albany, Rochester, Brighton and Pittsford. The Frank W. Halley, decked out with American flags fore and aft, was proudly anchored just beyond an area called the eastern wide-waters. On the morning of the eighteenth of November the boat was berthed in the shade of Cobb’s Hill in water not yet drained at the season’s end, where a skim of ice was still visible on the canal’s frosty waters.

Buggies arrived, some from Rochester’s New York Central Railroad terminal, others from that city and surrounding villages, all bearing great numbers of men dressed in warm top coats, bowlers or high top hats. Over 300 engineers, electricians and political leaders massed along the canal banks. Many boarded the water craft assembled around New York State’s Governor Flowers, who was personally interested in the outcome of the novel experiment. Stationing himself astern at the boat’s steering wheel, the governor struck his best political pose. Ashore, a group of photographers took pictures of the historic occasion while other newspaper artists made sketches of the unique "trolley boat".

At a signal from the Governor, an official threw a knife switch. This produced a small flood of bubbling water at the vessel’s stern. At first, nothing seemed to happen, then slowly the vessel moved. With ever growing speed the Frank W. Halley floated quietly along at just under five miles an hour, its passengers shouting their approval, applauding and waving their hats to spectators lining the canal banks. Governor Flowers deemed the experiment "most satisfactory".

So, why wasn’t the Erie Canal electrified…? There are several possible answers, chief among them the financial panic of 1893. And too, political wrangling over the electrical contract hampered the plan. There were numerous engineering problems that also needed solving, including how to place the trolley wires to accommodate boats traveling through locks, over "wide water" stretches or under rising and lowering lift bridges. Further was the difficulty of traveling in rural areas not yet served by electricity, plus the fact that water and electricity can often create a potentially hazardous combination. Finally, there was the introduction and rapid acceptance of the internal combustion engine.

State engineers had a great idea, well ahead of its time. However, it just didn’t float. What kind of world might we have had today if we’d built our transportation systems based on electricity instead of gasoline….? Maybe we’ll do it yet…


History has its unusual coincidences. One deals with the 1893 trolley line erected above the Erie Canal near Brighton. On September 3, 1927, the city of Rochester initiated its first run of subway passenger cars over that same mile stretch used in the trolley-boat demonstration. Built thirty-four years later, the Rochester Rapid Transit and Industrial Railway electrified the canal bed corridor as part of its new subway line. Like the proposed canal electrification project, the subway succumbed to the internal combustion engines of the Rochester Transit Corporation on June 30, 1956.


These headlines appeared on page six of Rochester’s morning paper. Mr. Hawley was an influential resident of Pittsford, New York. In 1888 he owned a large stock farm and most impressive Victorian home on the village’s Main Street. It was said that he "made quite a splash" traveling around the community in a handsome tally-ho carriage driven by a uniformed coachman accompanied by a footman who blew a long brass bugle at intervals.

On his estate he established a baseball field and a deer park, and on the nearby Erie Canal he operated a boat line. It was also remembered that he once had many New York City connections and once owned a private rail car on the New York Central and Hudson River Rail Road.

His life style caused him to run up considerable bills of credit. Sometime around 1895 – 96 he mysteriously disappeared with a mountain of unpaid debts. The Rochester newspaper account stated that Hawley was a "Director of the Cataract General Electric Company, the New York and New Jersey Ice Lines, the Elcho Mining and Manufacturing Company of Randolph, New York, and the Erie Canal Traction Company." The article continued adding, "he has risen from a fifteen-dollar-a-week reporter to the distinction of owing $100,000 worth of bank notes… Socially, Mr. Hawley is one of the best fellows that ever lived. He is past master in the art of saying pleasant things. If words were dollars, he would be a multi-millionaire."

Some said he wound up in a debtors prison in Scotland. Others, that he secretly returned to his home from time to time. Hawley’s wife, Mrs. Estelle Hawley, continued to manage the farm. She became locally famous for the fine line of Shetland ponies she bred on the farm up until the First World War. Today, the estate, known as the Pittsford Dairy Farm, is still in operation in the heart of the village. It boasts of selling the highest quality dairy products, and its rich Guernsey milk eggnog is a holiday necessity for hundreds of local citizens.


The forlorn trolley car peering back at us in the picture on the next page was one of Rochester’s fleet of 1200-series Peter Witt streetcars, cars that were the mainstay of the system in its last years. After the 1941 abandonment of the city’s last streetcar lines, car 1246 was saved in the following year to become part of a permanent exhibit at the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences on East Avenue. Alas, World War II and altered priorities after the conflict led to the eventual decision to dispose of the car. An attempt to sell 1246 netted only one taker, a scrap company, and on March 30, 1950 the car left the museum property in pieces in exchange for $100 cash.

 Rochester "submarine" streetcar 1246 rests in retirement,
neglected and unwanted.                Howard J. Rowe photo

But wait! As many of our readers already know, that isn’t the end of the story about Rochester’s Peter Witt cars. Sister car 1213 was saved as a cottage in Webster and eventually was picked up by Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. The man in charge of the restoration work on 1213 is none other than Chris Perry, who helped us load out a truck full of trolley wire and overhead components last October (see Fall 2001 HEADEND), and whose father, Fred, has provided invaluable help with our ongoing electrification program.

The 1213 is undergoing major surgery, with a whole new frame and bolsters completed so far, and with the fragile body recently placed on the frame for further work. In order to assure accurate historical restoration, Chris tells us he had to master the riveting technique used on the original car. There’s much more to be done before 1213, the only survivor of the Rochester submarine fleet, runs again. We’re sure Seashore would appreciate any support it can get.

For our part, we’ve forwarded to Chris copies of the above shot of 1246 and the other nine pictures in the set, for the detail they reveal. We are all indebted to Howard J. Rowe for having the foresight to record car 1246 from all angles (including a great top view!) before it was scrapped, and we are equally thankful for the generosity of his son, Howard, for arranging the donation of these pictures.


Chris Perry has a big job ahead of him in restoring
1246’s sister car 1213 at Seashore Trolley museum.

B.Y.O.Train! Dust off your favorite HO gauge locomotives and cars, and you take the throttle at the museum’s huge 11’ x 21’ layout! Sundays, through April


VISIT US: Your museum is open all year, Sundays only, 11 am to 5 pm; weekdays by appointment. Membership admits you free any time, and at the family level and above lets you bring the family free too. Why not stop out and see the progress first hand and check out the new items in our Gift Shop? Tell your friends about us! We’re at 6393 East River Road. Exit 11 from I-390, Route 251 West to East River Road, north 1 mile to our entrance.

CALL US: (585) 533-1113. Leave a message if we’re not there, and we’ll get back to you.

WRITE US: P. O. Box 136, West Henrietta, NY 14586


If you aren't already a member of the museum—or if you know someone who would like to be—here’s your opportunity to help us preserve transportation history.

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: Doug Anderson, Peter Leas

Publication: Gil and Ruth Magraw