Article From the Summer 2003 Issue of


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

by Charlie Lowe

  On June 24, 2003, Rochester city streetcar 437 took its first trip in the nearly six years it has been at NYMT—sideways! Thanks to the generous donations received earlier this year, NYMT engaged Matthews Building Movers to perform the difficult sideways sliding maneuver needed for 437 to reach its trucks. Before this could occur, though, much preparation was needed.

During this year's long and sometimes dreary spring, volunteers Trevor James and Charlie Lowe painted the car's trucks black. To position the trucks opposite 437's bolsters, Philadelphia & Western car 168 had to be moved out of the work area. Bob Miner prepared L-3 for this job by installing much-needed new batteries. A test start revealed that L-3's starter was faulty, so Bob removed it, lubricated all moving parts and replaced it on L-3. This did the trick, and L-3 starts fairly easily now.

After pondering the workings of hand brakes, project leader Charlie Lowe decided that 437's trucks had to be repositioned on the loop track. When delivered from California in 2002, the trucks were placed with motors inboard as had been the case with the car's Brill 39E maximum traction trucks. This orientation positioned the trucks' brake rigging toward the ends of the car. After consultation with Western Railway Museum's Dave Johnston, it was decided to reverse the trucks so that the brake rigging faced the center of the car. Bob Miner piloted L-3 to pull 168 clear of the loop track and to spot it on the passenger loading track. Next, he pulled the two trucks up to the loading track switch, leaving one truck with 168. After resetting the second truck opposite 437, he did likewise with the first truck. Finally, he spotted 168 on the loop track slightly north of its former position. Dick Luchterhand also helped out by moving various work cars with TC-1. By this time, a large crowd of museum model railroad volunteers had come out to gawk at the "one-to-one" scale models being moved about, so they were enlisted to help move 168's loading platform forward to its new position

All this work, performed in early June, left 437 ready for the big move. June 24th proved to be extremely hot but the Matthews crew pressed on. In short order, 437 was raised several inches and long steel beams placed under the car. These beams extended over the adjacent loop track and provided a smooth surface for the rollers used for the sideways move. With all in readiness, hand-operated come-alongs gently pulled 437 about 15 feet to its new trucks. After a little jockeying, 437 was lowered onto its trucks, making it mobile on rails for the first time since 1936.

As the car was lowered, it became apparent that a conflict between the truck side frames and the side supports for the platforms would occur when the trucks swiveled on curves. The Brill 77E Special trucks now under 437 have a slightly longer wheelbase than trucks previously under the car, so this conflict was not unexpected. Fortunately, shimming the car body about 2-1/2" higher would correct the problem. Shims were designed and made by Steel Works, Inc. (the same company that had made157's side bearings last year). During July and August, the car body was raised and the shims inserted, one truck at a time. The shimming was designed to return the car to its original height above track level. On August 15, the car was lowered onto the second shimmed truck, and all conflict points were eliminated.

      Easy does it as 437 carefully slides into position over its trucks.

The financial situation of the car 437 fund is not too bad but it is in the negative. Since Matthews required only one day to do their work, the final cost of the sideways move was only $2400, much less than the $4000 that was estimated. The cost of the parts required for the shimming was donated by myself, and the work of lifting the car, rolling the trucks out, installing the shims and lowering the car body is being performed with volunteer labor. When the fund drive tapered off this spring, about $1800 was in the 437 fund, but with the recent expenditures, the fund is about $600 in arrears. A show of support for 437 by the NYMT membership, though, could erase this deficit. The offer of gifts of appreciation for donors still is in effect. Donors of $25 or more will receive an illustrated history of car 437. Donors of $50 or more will receive, in addition to the car history, a 5" x 7" photograph showing 437 in service in Rochester. Major donors of $200 or more will also receive an invitation to ride 437 next year when it is brought into NYMT's car house for display and restoration.

      Charlie Lowe has one of 437’s trucks rolled out and prepares to
      place new shims to raise the car to its proper height.

2004 will be car 437's 100th anniversary, and the car is now completely ready to be moved inside the car house and to emerge from under its heavy green tarp. Let's all make a big effort to get the car's fund as strong as possible for that occasion.