Article From the Spring 2004 Issue of


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation


The Charlotte neighborhood of Rochester, at the mouth of the Genesee River, is getting lots of attention these days, as the former New York Central Hojack swing bridge is deemed "in the way", a new bascule-type drawbridge has replaced the venerable 1917 version on Stutson Street, and the new "fast ferry" Spirit of Ontario has gone into limbo due to heavy financial losses. Over 125 years ago, another ferry was part of the lakeside scene—one that connected the shores of the Genesee for travel and commerce. After the Lake Avenue streetcar line was opened to Charlotte in 1899, the ferry provided a "bridge" between that line and the Summerville line on the east shore. Though low-tech by today’s standards, it did the job. The following account is credited to Leon R. Brown, Editor of New York State Railways’ employee magazine "Transportation News", and appeared in the August, 1927 issue, Vol. 5, no. 1, pages 24 and 25:


Not many of our readers know that the New York State Railways operate a steam boat. This boat is the good ship "Windsor" which plies as a ferry across the Genesee River between Charlotte and Summerville and connects the end of the Summerville line on the East side of the Genesee River with the end of the Charlotte line which is on the West side of the river.

Close-up view of the Ferry Windsor showing details of construction.

Just when the ferry first began operation we have been unable to ascertain accurately but a copy of a pass reproduced with this article indicated that the ferry was in operation previous to 1877. This was before either the Charlotte or Summerville

lines was constructed. The name of the very first company to operate this ferry was the "Charlotte and Irondequoit Ferry." This was later re-organized and as early as 1877 was known as the "Charlotte and Summerville Ferry Company." The ferry boat in use at that time was named the "Windsor," the same name as the present day boat. However, it was only one quarter the size of the present boat. It was operated by winches. This first ferry had a propensity of breaking from its moorings and taking a trip up the river or down toward the lake. The end of the first boat came when it was partially dismantled and the hull floated out into the lake. The hull disappeared and nobody knows what became of it.

The present ferry was built by Doyle, in 1894, and has been in constant operation since, during the summer months. It is 75 feet long and 40 feet wide with a vehicular way of 22 feet.

In 1906 the ferry was equipped with a boiler and steam engine for motor power.

The heavy chain extends across the river and the steam engine on the ferry boat pulls the ferry back and forth. The chain sags in the water below the bottom of passing boats. The engine is a 20 H.P. double marine engine built by Scintznic, in Rochester. The one vertical marine boiler is of Kingsford make having 25 H.P. capacity. The ferry is equipped with one hand-operated deck pump with a capacity of 100 cu. in. per stroke and one steam driven pump. For safety the ferry is of course equipped with chemical fire extinguishers, has three life boats, and 200 life preservers of pressed and solid cork.

When the boat was first in operation there were frame houses on each side of the river. At the present time the wharves are protected by cyclone wire fencing so that passengers can not get on the wharf except when the ferry is in.

In 1894 the captain was J. B. Estes who remained captain for two seasons. He was followed by Captain Baine for two seasons, when the present captain, William F. Andrews, took charge.

      Varied clientele made
      for an interesting ride.

Captain Andrews had previously sailed for twelve years as captain on Great Lakes vessels and has a captain’s license to operate between Ogdensburg and Chicago. He entered lake service when 15 years of age and advanced from galley to captain in fifteen years. During his twenty-nine years as captain on the ferry Windsor he has had no accidents charged against him. Captain Andrews lives on River Street in Charlotte, is married and has three children, all daughters.

The ferry is located opposite Broad Street in Charlotte. It is very near the mouth of the Genesee Where the river enters Lake Ontario. The river is 500 feet wide at this point and it requires seven minutes for the ferry to cross the river. The present fare is 10 cents. During the rush hour round trips are made in fifteen minutes. Each year the ferry begins operation about the middle of May and continues in operation until about the middle of October.

The 1927 season was the last during which the "Windsor" was operated. In his history of NYSR, Shelden S. King writes that "construction of the Stutson Street bridge caused a decline in patronage…" of the ferry, noting that Captain Andrews was 73 at that time. See: King, Shelden S., The New York State Railways (1975), p. 16