Article From the Spring 2003 Issue of


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation


The first quarter of the new year brought in several acquisitions to enhance our interpretations of this area’s transportation history. Every known photo of the Rochester Subway, we thought, was included in the vast collection donated by Tom Kirn some years ago. However, a new set of 82 snapshots recently surfaced, showing construction of the concrete forms in the near west side subway work. We suspect these shots were made by the on-site supervisor, then forwarded on to the home office of the company to satisfy the bosses there. Accordingly, each print is nicely documented as to location and date, written in pencil on the margins. A picture is worth a thousand words, but knowing when and where it was taken adds a lot of value. And, these photos add a new look at the construction of Rochester’s subway rail line.

One of our new set of subway construction shots shows this rare
view of aqueduct modifications in progress, July 25, 1922.

Stepping much further back in time, the museum was fortunate early this winter to locate and procure a horsecar bell with the initials of the Rochester City & Brighton Railroad cast into it. With one-man operation of horsecars in Rochester, patrons boarded at the rear, dropped their nickel fare in a slot that sloped toward the driver on the front platform, and sat down to enjoy their ride. When they were ready to get off, they alerted the driver by pulling a rope connected to a bell such as this one. With the coming of trolleys and electricity, these pleasant little bells were replaced by loud alarm bells and buzzers. Our "new" bell is a valuable reminder of a gentler time and a very valuable addition to our collection.

In January, we received two generous donations to our collection: a set of nine transom and clerestory windows from local streetcars and interurban trolleys, and a collection of approximately 5,000 (we haven’t had a chance to count them yet) slides covering U.S. and foreign railroading.

Finally, the good news is we were blessed some years ago with a donation of several paper items, including a June 7, 1883 Owego Gazette, a supplement to an August, 1883 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, handbills promoting travel and emigration to the western territories, and three 1883 railroad timetables. The bad news is raccoons (we suspect) used these items for an outhouse, and the smell is still a factor in any attempt to use the items for research.

If any of our readers can suggest a simple method for decontaminating these papers, without damaging them, we’d be interested to hear from you!