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HEADEND

The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Fall 2003


SEABREEZE PARK NOW 125 YEARS OLD

by Charles R. Lowe

Since 1920, the famous Jack Rabbit roller coaster has been Seabreeze Park's central attraction. This exciting roller coaster has become the fourth-oldest wooden roller coaster in continuous operation in the United States. NYMT Photo

Every so often your editors are reminded of an important anniversary at the last minute, and the recent 125th anniversary of Seabreeze Park's opening falls into this category. Seabreeze Park dates to the opening of the Rochester and Lake Ontario, a six-mile-long standard-gauge steam railroad built in 1879. The R&LO extended north from the end of the North Avenue horsecar line along what is now Portland Avenue and continued east along East Ridge Road to a point near present-day Eastridge High School. From here, the line turned north and followed the route of today's Sea Breeze expressway.

With construction of the track complete, the line's two dummy steam locomotives and eight coaches for the line were unloaded and placed on R&LO tracks on August 4, 1879. This operation took all day and was fraught with difficulties. When an attempt to haul two coaches by streetcar tracks to the R&LO depot was made, it was found that the streetcar track curve at Draper Street and Concord Avenue was too sharp for the cars. The two cars were then hauled back to the New York Central crossing on North Avenue (now North Street) where "rails corresponding to those on the regular [streetcar] track were laid on the top of the pavement on North Avenue for a certain distance and the cars ran upon them. The rails passed over were taken up and carried forward, and the cars were again drawn towards their destination... Then engine number 1 was arranged, fired up and coupled on to the other engine. The rails were laid and taken up and relaid...and the little dummies were soon on their proper tracks." John Rauber of Rauber and Vicinus, a well-known general contracting firm, had charge of this work, using 32 men and innumerable horses.

The cars and locomotives were all in the R&LO yard by just after 11 P.M., but spirits remained high despite the late hour. "About 1 o'clock, 'dummy' number 1, and one car loaded with the officers of the road and a few invited guests started for the bay. It was feared that difficulty would be experienced with trees growing close to the track…but nothing serious happened. Yesterday [August 4, 1879], however, the gas lamps from Bay to Clifford street on the west side of North avenue, were all taken down by permission of the proper city officials to accommodate the road, and last night there was but one gas light in the sixteenth ward north of Bay street." The train finally returned to the Bay Street engine house at about 5 A.M.

Only a few hours after the first trial run over the R&LO, the line's excursion took place. "Yesterday morning [August 5, 1879] at a late hour the picnic of the Sunday-school scholars of the North Avenue Methodist church took place. About 600 persons in all enjoyed the inaugural trip to the bay. The train of three cars returned again, and in the afternoon made its last trip for the excursionists, carrying down a large number of persons who paid their money and took their choice [of cars] for a hasty jaunt over the new road."





At Seabreeze Park's 125th anniversary celebration, park manager Jeff Bailey places a ride wrist-band on Charlie Lowe. Working the controller at right is Sam Reifsnyder who, with photographer Dave Reifsnyder, helped move the NYMT display equipment. Later, the wrist bands were put to work on several rides including the 1920 Jack Rabbit roller coaster.





It also seems that a group from the Hudson street Memorial Church congregation was also taken over the new line. "It was found to be impossible to run [trains] on any regular time. The machinery being all new, runs, of course, a little hard, and the boilers 'foamed' so much that it was found necessary to clean them out. A trip was afterward made in the evening, and the waiting party at the Bay brought safely to town." The R&LO's grounds at the end of the line consisted of a simple "pic-nic" grove with access to the nearby beach on Lake Ontario. The grove was located within the confines of present-day Seabreeze Park. Rochester Transit Corporation sold Sea Breeze Park to long-time concessionaire George Long in 1946. In the 1970s, the park was renamed from its early-day "Sea Breeze Park" and post- World War II "Dreamland" to its current "Seabreeze Park" so as to distinguish the amusement park from the locale.

Although the railroad to Sea Breeze, electrified in 1900, was
abandoned in 1936 in favor of buses, a vibrant Seabreeze Park remains in operation and has become the nation's fourth-oldest amusement park. On August 5, 2004, a day-long celebration marking Seabreeze Park's 125th anniversary was held at the park. Heavy crowds attended the park that
day, and members of the media as well as area museums including NYMT also were present to note the occasion.



AT HALF TIME

As of the end of the second quarter of this year, business results are mixed. The important goal of our work at the museum is to serve the visiting public, but the headcount so far has been disappointing. While we note the unusually cold and rainy weather that has washed out many Sundays during the summer season, not to mention a bitterly cold January, record-high gasoline prices and a general uncertainty in the local economy, nevertheless a decrease in Sunday attendance of 38% compared with last year’s period is a significant concern. Group tours fared somewhat better but still showed a headcount drop of 11% from last year.

On the positive side of the ledger, great progress is being made on our substation, which along with extending our trolley line and maintaining our operating trolleys is the key to start-up of regular trolley service for our visitors. We are confident that trolley rides will reinforce community awareness of our unique offering and bring in more visitors not only from this area but out-of-town as well. Solid member response to the fund drive to pay for our new trolley barn has put us over the 2/3 mark, and a generous donation to the mowing fund enabled us to purchase a good, used lawn tractor and to stop wasting valuable volunteer time and money keeping the old equipment alive. Progress on exhibits, restoration, and archiving, along with numerous smaller repairs and improvements demonstrate the dedication of our volunteer staff and provide a positive balance to our situation.



SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

NYS-R 437: Work on restoration of the car's K35 controller has resumed with the installation of new main contact fingers. Motor curves for the car's two 1920s GE265 (35 hp. ea.) motors have recently been located at the Schenectady Museum, copies of which were graciously made available to NYMT. These will be used to design the resistance grids
necessary to operate the car. By studying the underside of 437, it has been determined that these grids were located under the rear platform after the car was one-manned in 1922. The support boards are still in place, with cut off bolts matching the pattern of typical grid supports. On July 18, Charlie Lowe and his brother Tom removed one of the gear
case covers, counted gear teeth and determined that the trucks under 437 have a 17:60 gear ratio. This information will be used in developing the resistor grid design.

P&W 161: Trolley retrievers have been selected for this car from NYMT's stock of equipment. Unfortunately, new retriever bases, which attach to the car body, will have to be acquired or manufactured as none are available at present at NYMT. Don Quant is leading the restoration of the retrievers. Don has fitted one of the two trolley poles to a base on the car’s roof, with the help of John Ross and Jim Dierks, and expects to have the second pole in place by late August, bringing to conclusion roof work on 161. Meanwhile quarter-round for glazing the car’s windows has been primed and painted by the same trio, and painting of the window sashes is underway with help from Paul Monte.


P&W Car House: In July, final work by the contractor on the car house was completed, including driving pipes for cane bolts used to secure the car house's doors in both open and closed positions. The centerline of the car house's second track has been laid out on the ground and grade stakes placed so that excavation for ballast can be performed. Most switch items have been stockpiled at the work site, and
these include a #7 fixed frog salvaged from the Rochester Subway, provided by Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. On August 6, the first spikes for the new switch were driven when two long tie plates were spiked in place. The extra-long tie plates are used where the moveable points of the switch must slide laterally. Track foreman Randy Bogucki and Charlie Lowe are leading the effort to construct this switch and track; any assistance is most welcome.







Charlie Lowe puts down a base line to lay out the new switch.

NYS-R 1402: Rochester city streetcar body 1402 has been donated to NYMT by The Furniture Doctor, Inc. of Bloomfield, N.Y. The arrangement is contingent upon the car’s removal from its present location prior to the end of this year. This car, originally an open car built in 1904, was a trailer car in its later years and was of the same series as NYMT's 1406 which was scrapped in the 1980s. Some of 1406's parts were salvaged and these could be used in a restoration of 1402.


Substation: Virtually all of the many substation components and conduit have been mounted on the walls of the substation room. This work includes the former Denver Tramways control panel which has a heavy-duty DC disconnect switch and several electrical meters. Remaining work inside the substation room includes pulling AC and DC wiring in the conduits and making all connections, as well as installing the grounding system bus and completing metering instrumentation, already in progress. Through September, conduit will be laid from the building to the track, and AC and DC wiring pulled through it, and outside grounding will be installed and connected to the inside system. In parallel with that work, final quotes for hook-up will be received from Niagara Mohawk and an electrical contractor. The schedule for finally connecting to 3-phase 400 amp/480 volt service, and connecting the DC line to the trolley wire, will determine when we can implement live testing. A lot of top-quality work is being done by Jim Johnson, Charlie Harshbarger, Dick Holbert, Bill Chapin, Rand Warner and many others. We’ll be sure to appropriately celebrate when their work is done and our new substation is ready for service!

Electrification: Six more track bonds were applied to the rail nearest the NYMT buildings by Rand Warner. These are located between the trolley loading platform and the switch in front of the R&E shelter. Now, the loop track has both rails bonded from a point opposite the new substation to the R&E shelter.

Mack Fire truck 307: Don Quant has checked out the truck and hopes he has resolved engine problems by cleaning out the fuel tank and lines. In late July, Don and Jim Dierks drove the truck to obtain its annual N.Y.S. safety inspection, and the truck performed flawlessly.


Fire truck 307 responds to Don Quant’s call for a short drive.

Tangley Calliope: John Ross has fitted a clear acrylic plastic cover over the player mechanism so the calliope can be left in unattended operation during events. John is seeking reliable volunteers to be trained on operation of the calliope so they can help entertain our visitors on Sundays.

Chevrolet sedan: Lew Wallace has been refinishing parts for the engine compartment, and reinstalling them as they become available. Recently, he reattached the hood to its hinges, with help from Gary Morse, Don Quant and John Ross. The Chevy represents the post-World War II suburban movement in the U.S., an important part of the transportation history in our country.


Gary, Lew and Don concentrate on assembling the hood hinge.



BATAVIA SUMMERS

By James C. Johnson

About all that’s left of the Batavia Traction Company is car 33’s wooden shell, one of the several trolley exhibits at our museum. The memories of those who once rode the Batavia cars have a way of bringing the car and the trolley era to life. Thanks to Jim Johnson, of Leroy, NY, the recollections of his father, the late Morris T. Johnson and his dad’s brother, the late John E. Johnson, take us back to a time when the sparks flew over Main Street and kids could be counted on to breathe a little life into sleepy summer days.

It was the early 1920s. The two boys were young and always into pranks, and they had their share of fun with the Batavia trolley. One prank was to pull the trolley off the overhead wire. The motorman, a Mr. Brown, would have to walk back and place the pole back on the wire, and kick the boys off.

But kids everywhere knew the pull-the-trolley-off-the-wire trick, so these two gave Mr. B more to stew over. Sometimes the brothers would board, along with several friends, and on command from the ringleader all the boys would run to the back of the car. Since the car was just a 4-wheeler, all that weight at the rear would raise the front of the car off the rails, sometimes even turning the car sideways. On one occasion, the boys exited the car so quickly it came down with a thud and broke an axle spring. That time, the boys were taken home by the local police.

To set the stage for this next prank, remember that the track started on the east end of Batavia at 6 Clinton Street from the car barn, made a sharp left turn and west toward Main Street along a stone wall about 150 feet in length on the south side of Clinton. Mr. Johnson notes that this stone wall is still in place today.

The track would then run west on Main Street until Harvester Avenue where double track began. The tracks continued west through the business district until about Oak Street, where the line narrowed to single track again, ending at the fair grounds.

During the 4th of July, the boys liked fireworks. The trolley tracks were a great place to launch sky rockets, by laying the rocket in the flangeway of the trolley rail. Once lit, the rockets would skitter down the track, (Continued) causing much excitement. Several times, an automobile would come up the street with a rocket stuck in its radiator! The boys were again escorted home by the police.

Undeterred, the boys kept at it with the rockets-on-rails routine and again got in trouble. This time they sent the rocket up State Street, but the rails made a right turn and the rocket went airborne, passing through an open transom window of a ladies hat shop, exploding and setting fire to a display of hats. The boys again were taken home by Batavia’s finest, and their father, Dr. W. D. Johnson, paid for the damage to the store. The boys were forbidden to ride the trolley after that one.




       The little trolley has Main Street to itself as Batavia languishes
       in the sunshine of an upstate summer ca. 1905.
NYMT Collection

As Morris Johnson grew into his teen years, Mr. Brown [apparently a pretty forgiving man] taught him how to operate the trolley so he could fill in when Mr. Brown was not well. Morris discovered that the 4-wheelers tended to derail on the sharp right-hand curve approaching the car barn, but he learned to apply grease to the outside rail to solve the problem.

Automobiles figure prominently in Mr. Johnson’s recollections, as one might expect. At times, cars would stall on the tracks, and he would give them a push with the streetcar to get them started. One time two motor vehicles had an accident at an intersection, and a chain was attached to the trolley car so it could pull the two autos apart. Another accident required the streetcar to pull an auto by chain up the street to a garage.

Morris Johnson loved the Batavia trolley, but never took pictures of them. In 1927 he did buy a Kodak movie camera. But by then the Batavia Traction Company was history.

 

CAR HOUSE FUND DRIVE STILL NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT

Member contributions to the fund drive to pay for our new car house have brought in over $22,000 to date, taking us over the 2/3 mark. This still leaves room for further donations, so If you haven’t yet made your donation…or if you’d like to add to your previous car house gift…we’ll be glad to hear from you. Make your check out to New York Museum of Transportation, and indicate that it is for the car house fund. NOTE: Total donations of $200 or more will bring you a nice set of note cards featuring a pen-and-ink drawing of P&W 168…destined to be our first revenue service car. Thank you to all our contributors!




ARCHIVES REPORT by Jim Dierks

Cataloguing: We hope you’ve had a chance to browse through our Archives through the convenience of our website (www.nymtmuseum.org). Thanks go to Ted Thomas who not only maintains our site, but who has spent countless hours cataloguing archive items, photographing them, and placing them on the website for research around the world. And we mean that literally! One recent correspondence came from New Zealand where a film company is working on a remake of "King Kong". After perusing our site, they e-mailed us to ask a number of detailed questions about the streetcars in New York City, circa 1930s, to be sure that the cars they create for Kong to toss and squash are appropriate to the era. Meanwhile, Shelden King has stepped up his visits from Alloway, NY to a weekly basis, with a goal of completing the work he’s doing in our vertical file by Labor Day. He’s well into the "W’s" now, as he corrects misfiling, sleeves photos, and generally assures that this part of our research resource is ready for business. We’re especially grateful to have Shelden apply his encyclopedic knowledge of traction lines and railroads to our, and future students’, benefit.

Shelden King attacks the last of 9
drawers in the Archive "vertical file".

Meanwhile, on another level but still useful in research, Jim Dierks has been shelving newly donated books in our growing library.

Acquisitions: A number of valuable additions to the museum’s collection have been made since our report in the Spring issue of HEADEND. By weight, the leading item on the list is books (see above). While many of these donated volumes fill another empty niche in the general field of transportation information, a good number of them are books we already have. By agreement with the donors, these surplus books are made available in our Gift Shop, where they bring in valuable income and at the same time help us fulfill our educational mission. A collection of over 200 videos has been similarly sorted, with duplicates set out for sale. Several artifacts were donated this period, including a cast paperweight in the shape of a New York Central Dreyfus-designed Hudson, a BR&P oval serving platter, trolley receipts and timetables, a "no loitering" sign from the Rochester Subway, a Star Headlight electric lantern, and a controller handle that fits our P&W cars 161 and 168. A buffalo-hide lap robe arrived in June, and now graces our sleigh just as it once served to keep the donor warm when sleighing with her grandfather 75 years ago. Images include 13 black and white prints of area traction, framed prints of the NYC depot in Rochester and of Erie Canal views, and a color photo of the Sodus coal dock ablaze. An assortment of locomotive engineer union magazines was also donated, illustrating life at the throttle from the 1930s to the 1960s. In addition to some hand tools, we also received a 4-drawer file cabinet to put all these things in, and a replacement dehumidifier to keep our archives in good shape.

As a rule we don’t name donors in these pages, but we want to recognize two significant donations. Mr. and Mrs. John A. Wenrich donated a number of rail-related artifacts, including an original light bulb from the Rochester Railway and Light Company and a link and pin coupler.


Harold Russell tells grandson John Harris about the dangers
of link and pin technology in the days before knuckle couplers.

Along with this donation came over 100 books, several large prints, and 2400’of color 16mm movies of railroad action around the northeast U.S. The films were made by C. F. H. Allen, and are a terrific record of railroading in an era of transition from steam to diesel, and standard to streamlining. Mr. Wenrich’s father was John C. Wenrich, who produced architectural renderings for many important buildings and whose watercolor paintings of steam locomotives captured the essence of their power and grit, and won him numerous art awards. The two Wenrichs, father and son, enjoyed railfanning together and we are grateful to John A. for remembering us with his donation.


This stunning portrait of B&O steam power by John C. Wenrich
graced the cover of the company magazine.
NYMT Collection

We also want to thank Lynn Heintz, a longtime member with NYMT, for donating a collection of 40 trolley and transit tokens. Lynn tells us his father collected stamps and also accumulated a large number of tokens over the years. When he was a boy, Lynn would enjoy going through the tokens, identifying where they came from, and finding the locations on maps. From little things like tokens comes fire for a child’s imagination and a life-long interest in transportation. The recently re-discovered tokens brought back pleasant memories for Lynn, and he and his family felt that donating them would help extend the enjoyment to future generations.

Meanwhile, Ted Thomas is hard at work on a new display cabinet in which we’ll be able to exhibit artifacts, allowing us to share the history with our visitors. We’ll have all the details in the fall issue of HEADEND.


 

THE "CORNFIELD MEET"

by Paul S. Worboys

On February 24th, 2004, I interviewed my wife Susan’s 90-year-old aunt, Ruth Strong Ostrander, at her home in Greenville, South Carolina. Our meeting was to record some of the delightful stories she can relate about being a wife and mother in the post-WWII baby boom era. One segment is this classic slice of railroad Americana and is entitled, "The Cornfield Meet", after an old term for the head-on collision of two trains.

A native of Auburn, New York, Mrs. Ostrander has resided in Greenville for over twenty years. She and her husband, Eugene (who passed away in 1996), raised their family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and relocated to South Carolina upon his retirement from Kopp Glass Company.

Today, this slim, white-haired woman keeps a pleasant home on the outskirts of Greenville, is very active and enviably popular within her family and church community. She will readily travel to visits with children, grand- and great-grandchildren in Ohio, Connecticut and New Hampshire and has been a joyous companion to the writer and Susan on local sojourns.

Her sidekick on many of these "ramblins," as they call them, is another delightful woman of great humanity and goodness, Greenville native, Ruth Blanton. Mrs. B. is the wheels of the team - for Mrs. O. has not driven a car in years. But when the Yankee carpetbagger and Southern belle get together, the magical joys of life seem to surface - and the stories stream forth.

To set up this account, Ruth, Gene and their three children traveled to his native Olean, New York to visit family for a few days. It was in the summer of 1949, when Bill was still a baby and Jeannie and Bob were pre-schoolers.

Departing their home in Pittsburgh, they drove the 175 miles to Olean, just over the state line. Ruth, having not seen her own parents in some time, decided it would be well for her to venture into central New York for a solo visit with them. Perhaps seeking a respite from her active young brood, Ruth fashioned a railroad itinerary to get her to the city of Auburn, 100 miles away "as the crow flies", but more like 200 by train.

As the sun was breaking the horizon and the kids were fast asleep at the grandparents’, Gene chauffeured Ruth twenty miles to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot in East Salamanca. There, after hugs and pecks all around, she boarded morning train #852 for Rochester, precisely 106 miles up the line.

Arriving there, equipped with handbag and valise, she was taxied from the careworn B&O depot to the New York Central station, waited a short time in the ornate concourse, then boarded an Auburn Branch coach for a 75-mile lunch time reunion with her folks. The trip was uneventful and Ruth spent a relaxing couple of days applying the watery eye of memory to the events, people and places of her girlhood.

Then her Sunday departure day arrived and the plot thickened. Gene called to say, "...on the way back, Mother Ostrander thought it would be a nice idea to have a picnic at Letchworth Park [about 60 miles south of Rochester], it will be close to where you would be coming. Instead of coming on to East Salamanca, get off at a place called ‘Silver Lake Junction.’"

Taken aback, Ruth responded quizzically, "I don’t recall ever seeing that stop on the way up?"

"Oh, yes," he countered, "it’s in big capital letters here on the train schedule, so get off at Silver Lake Junction."

Having misplaced her own B&O schedule for the moment, the round went to Gene. In short order, the melodious "Silver Lake Junction" was fixed in her brain - a new bit of geographical trivia committed to memory.

The writer jumps in at this point in the story to announce that, "Yes!" an American husband was (for once) correct. The handsome blue and white 1949 B&O timetable, "Table 38" to be exact, showed Silver Lake Junction exactly as Eugene Ostrander stated. There it was, in bold print, midway down a list of some thirty possible stops between Rochester and good old East Salamanca. Ruth had nothing to fear.

It had a purpose too, for this junction was where a branch line, the former Silver Lake Railroad, headed off to the community of Perry, about six miles away. Prior to and for a time after the B&O takeover in the early 1930‘s, the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh carried on a symbiotic relationship with the Silver Lake - helping to ferry hoards of summer lake enthusiasts and Methodist camp meeting people to flag stops along the lakeshore. Several stately Victorian ‘cottages’ of the Silver Lake Institute cultural center, as with its world-famous cousin at nearby Chautauqua, New York, remain in collective evidence as a National Register Historic District.

There was one problem for the traveling public, however, when it came to the Silver Lake Junction, boldly displayed in my timetable from 1949 - no Sunday connections - and, for good measure, none on Monday through Saturday either.

The yarn continues...

"So, being the obedient wife," Ruth sighed, "I did as I was told. I came into Rochester on the Auburn train, took a taxi to the B&O station and paid the fare for Silver Lake Junction."

Perhaps it was because passenger business was poor and soon to disappear from this B&O line that the ticket agent apathetically issued Ruth a ticket to nowhere. She paid him cash money and the pass read "Silver Lake Junction" - there was little doubt in her mind she was on her way to some where.

But when she boarded train #851 with her precious ticket, resplendent in Sunday dress and anxious to see her family once again, the conductor declared, "Lady, you don’t want to get off at Silver Lake Junction, there’s nothing there. We’ll take you on to Gainesville, the next town five miles down the line."

"Well, I have to get off at Silver Lake Junction," Ruth said, "because my husband wouldn’t know where to find me. He assured me that he would be there."

Ticket punch at the ready, yet befuddled by her status, the conductor grew testy at the challenge to his authority. Enunciating each word into a crescendo, he replied, "But, it’s... just... a... cornfield!"

"Well, he’ll find me..." retorted the trim little lady, hackles rising. Heck, with three young ones down the line, she also knew a thing or two about stubbornness, "I don’t know what else to do?"

Clearly agitated, yet defeated in purpose, he shrugged, punched her ticket and grumbled, "Alright, if you insist."

 

A B&O 4-6-2 wheels train 851 past Ames St. in Rochester as it
begins its journey to Pittsburgh., by way of Silver Lake Jct.
Photo by Ed VanLeer, NYMT Collection

Seventy minutes and several stops later, they came to the afore-demeaned Silver Lake Junction, and Mr. Conductor was right - it was, at least from the vantage point of a rail coach window, literally a cornfield! Nothing. No buildings were in sight, but for a farmstead silo high on the distant hill. A large cornfield, with two sets of rails going right through the middle, became Ruth’s vision for the Ages.

Little did she know (or Gene, who was merrily trundling the family up from Olean), the last operator of the Silver Lake Junction depot would have given valuable advice before this Letchworth picnic scheme was hatched. Mused one-time BR&P agent Gilboy, "...there was nothing there as far as a town or people or houses. You couldn’t see a light anywhere at night. The houses were scattered way back."

However, in Ruth Ostrander’s eyes, that was her stop, no "ifs" "ands" or "buts," because her man Eugene said to meet him right there. So, after scrambling the crew into an unexpected ‘STOP’ mode, she bid adieu to the obstinate conductor (who dared not re-ignite the issue) and alighted from B&O #851.

The little train, a baggage and mail car and one day coach, pulled by an unpretentious coal-burner of the 4-6-2 ‘Pacific‘ class, picked up speed and, with each "kerchoof" vanished around the bend. An elongated plume of smoke and steam hung over the empty tracks to East Salamanca. It was just before lunch.

Attired in high heels, white gloves, and with her brown perm buried under a stylishly floppy hat, Ruth began to wonder if she was overdressed for her first visit to Silver Lake Junction. Here she was, attired as any well-mannered lady out in public would be a half-century ago, but, well, you know the phrase, she was, "...all dressed up and with no place to go."

She knew there would not be another passenger train for another several hours, and the lack of nothing more than a weedy depot foundation was none too pleasing. Sniping at the memory from decades ago, Ruth quipped, "Who wouldn’t assume that, if a stop is on the timecard, then there should be a station... a tool shed... an outhouse... something!?!"

Alone, with the murmur of katydids and shimmering rails baking in the midday sun, she regretted not asking that stern conductor where she might go if her husband failed to show. A half-hour passed.

Her feet started to hurt in those high heel shoes and there was nowhere to sit down without mussing her good clothes. "Nothing to worry about... be stoic," she thought to herself, "he will show."

Then the sound of a train clattered close by, giving her a jolt of expectation. But it was merely the Erie local, down in the valley, behind schedule on its leisurely run to Binghamton. The vote was in. As the midday sun bore down more intensely, she was just not having a good day.

A smidgeon of anxiety commenced to eroding her constitution, when, about an hour into her grand adventure, Ruth heard the "chug, chug, chug, chug," of an approaching freight train. Like a knight in shining armor, a pair of monstrous steamers rolled into view, laboring upgrade from Rock Glen. (2-10-2 Mikados of the old Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, they were, and a fine sight for a weekend afternoon.)

One had to wonder who was more awestruck, the petite lady decked out in her Sunday-go-to-meetin’ outfit and staring down grimy, smoke-belching behemoths, or the dumbfounded engineer, peering upon Ruth’s delicate beauty - but a visual aberration in this isolated railroad-slash-agrarian place.

As the engineer pulled close, a crewmate leaned out of the locomotive cab and shouted in his most gentlemanly railroad vernacular, "Lady, what the [bejeebers] are you doing here!?"

"I was supposed to meet my husband," Ruth screamed at the arriving tempest, "but this doesn’t look like a place to meet!"

"Well, the man whooped, "they never should have left you off the [golldarn] train!"

As the train slowed to a crawl and the fireman continued to feed the stoker, the head brakeman jumped down to the cinders and directed Ruth to a quieter spot. The look on his face told it all. They had a through freight in tow, a schedule to keep and a 1.4 per cent grade to master, so an unescorted damsel was no better than some farmer’s stray bull blocking the tracks.

Ruth stood firm, "It wasn’t the conductor’s fault. I insisted, because I didn’t know what else to do. My husband said he’d meet me here."

"Well, this d.., er, darn place burned years ago - there hasn’t been anything here since. The only thing we can do is take you on to Gainesville."

"Is there any place I can leave a note? I know my husband will find me."

Fortunately, there was a railroad telephone box on a pole at the depot site, so Ruth gave up the original plan and tacked a hurriedly scribbled note in plain view. Camouflaging a growing frustration with the events of the day, she kept her refinement and penciled something polite, like, "Dear Gene, Sorry I couldn’t meet you here, I have gone to Gainesville in a freight train."

In the meantime, Gene and the children and Mom and Dad Ostrander got a late start (which, according to Ruth, was normal for the Ostranders - "...not like the Strongs, who were always two hours ahead of time."). When they got to Silver Springs, a mile south of their intended meeting spot (and well after Ruth entrained at the junction) Gene asked a shade-tree mechanic how to get to Silver Lake Junction.

They were bluntly informed, "Well, there’s nothing there!" To which Gene declared something to the effect that he was supposed to meet his wife at the Silver Lake Junction depot - as shown in bold print on his trusty timetable.

"But there’s nothing there," came the local’s knowing retort, "that depot burned twenty-five years ago, there hasn’t been anything there since! I’d say your timetable suggests a station because, some old railroaders consider the ‘spirit’ of a depot to be as real as the depot itself. Understand?"

"My god," Gene replied, "I told my wife where I’d meet her and, knowing her, she’ll be there! I can’t take the chance that she isn‘t there. How do I get to the junction?"

With a condescending air and a northerly nod, the other man deadpanned, "Well ... you go a mile that way ... and you come to a white farmhouse ... and several barns. Then go down through the lane ... you’ll have to go over a couple of fences ... and you’ll come to a cornfield. Find your way through the cornfield and that is where the depot used to be."

O.K. Motoring northward, they followed the directions precisely and readily found the described farm. Leaving Grandmother Ostrander and the children waiting in the car alongside the road, the men headed off to find the lady in the fine Sunday outfit, armed with valise and obligatory woman’s handbag.

Ruth continued, "Dad Ostrander, bless his dear heart, who was in his 60’s or 70’s at the time, went right along with Gene - climbing over fences and all - it took him four days to recover! They came down to this spot and Gene, after some degree of searching and calling out, found the note and thought, ‘Ah, well, everything’s fine, she’s at Gainesville.’"

So, it was backtracking over the fences for the Ostrander boys, up the farm lane and to the car.

Reverting her discourse to when the freight train came along, Ruth quoted the brakeman, "We can’t leave you here, we’ll go on to Gainesville. I don’t want to put you up in the engine cab, because you’ll get all dirty. When the caboose comes along, just climb on the caboose and they will take you on in."

The heavy locomotives tugged the first of their load over the trestle spanning the Erie tracks, as the dutiful trainman stood at Ruth‘s side. Little did she know, he was ready to fling her and her gear on the train, if that was the requirement. It may have been chauvinistic, but she was not going to be left behind at Silver Lake Junction.

Several cars with various purposes resolutely passed them, thump-thump-thumping flat wheels and all, until along came the caboose. The brakeman lectured, "Now just grab onto the bar and pull yourself up. The train won’t stop completely, so grab the bar."

"But I grabbed the wrong bar," Ruth chortled, "the man pushed me up and the two railroaders on the caboose yelled, ‘Lady, don’t ever get on a train that way!’"

Exasperated, the new passenger huffed, "Well, my experience is pretty limited. That’s the first time I ever had to do that!"

As it turned out they were exceptional fellows, dutifully hauling her baggage aboard and announcing, almost in unison, "We are all family men here." She thought the declaration was interesting at that harried time, but it did not have significance until many years later, when (in retelling the story for the tenth time) it suddenly struck her they were reassuring her they were gentlemen of the highest order.

"They helped me, she continued, "there were bunks in there and a little refrigerator. They got me a glass of water and helped to sit me up on one of the bunks and, in due time, we arrived at Gainesville."

Still working up the steep grade, the freight was not about to stop until it made its way to the Gainesville water crane for a long drink. Unlike the train she abandoned earlier, Ruth would not see a dandy passenger conductor flinging down a foot stool and extending a hand for her to alight daintily in that little burg.

Instead, a beefy railroader swung off the caboose, grabbed Ruth’s things, sat them down in a heap, scurried back into place and waited. Strong arms helped the lady out and down, into the equally strong arms of the man positioned on the ground.

The delivery was completed, the crewmen were heroes and the lady, slightly out of whack for a Sunday tea, was back on terra firma. No one needed to remind her that the first-class caboose ride ended precisely where one or two fellow travelers on #851 from Rochester may have alighted quite a while earlier.

Had she been in the mood to look over her shoulder for a little snapshot memory, she may have appreciated the irony of her adventure. Her elegant carriage was, frankly, an old wooden caboose, marked in tattered B&O herald and in the C2600’s of the old BR&P numbering system. Within the circle logo was the motto: "Linking 13 Great States with the Nation."

Waiting in the shade of the tired little Gainesville depot, situated well behind the tired little Gainesville Hotel, the solitary Mrs. Ostrander was in high dudgeon as she assessed her prospects. The part-time station agent had luckily gone home to await the evening train, otherwise he might have gotten an earful about the "amenities" at Silver Lake Junction.

Passersby seemed nonplussed that the fancy traveler had used unconventional means to grace their fair realm. (word of such matters spreads fast in small-town America, you know.) Even the assertive dared not inquire as to her intent and thus risk stirring up a hornet’s nest.

Finally, after another uncomfortable hour in wait mode, along came the Ostranders - true to form in their tardiness.

"Well, I was feeling a little ‘cool’ towards my husband," Ruth noted with a chuckle, "but he was perfectly relaxed (behind that sheepish grin), since he knew I had gone on to Gainesville with no problem."

In retrospect, Gene Ostrander was very grateful to the men in the caboose and, since his wayward spouse had gotten their names and addresses in transit, he sent a nice note and a carton of cigarettes to each one of them.

"Knights of the Road," he called the railroad men, whose names were still fixed in Ruth‘s memory, "... Walt Frost, Ralph Kelly and Ed Kiley."

Concluding her account, Ruth mused on the entire Silver Lake Junction experience, now aged with a patina of more than fifty years,"...it became a family story and we had a good many laughs and reminiscences. Some day, I ought to go back and have my picture taken."



READER RESPONSE

Member Dave Lanni found the Spring issue of HEADEND of particular interest when he read Charlie Lowe’s history of the beginnings of the Rochester & Eastern. In that account, an accident was described in which a runaway flat car loaded with rails and carrying several men (including two officers of the railway) collided with an express car on the line. Dave has donated to the museum his extensive collection of materials pertaining to the construction of another local interurban line, the Rochester & Syracuse, and had written up much of it intending to publish a book. In his draft, there’s a tale of an accident on the R&S that’s quite similar to the one that befell the R&E. Dave writes:

"On Thanksgiving, a rather unusual accident occurred east of Palmyra [New York], as a construction train was hauling men and a heavy load of ties to the job site.

"About 7:30 a.m., a train of an engine and two flat cars left the yards at Palmyra. One flat car was piled high with ties and the other was loaded with workers. As the train was proceeding up a steep grade two miles east of the village, a coupling broke and the two flat cars started back down the grade at a rate that quickly increased to forty miles an hour.

"The men stayed with the flat car, knowing that the cars would soon ascend another steep grade and slow down. As they reached this grade, the flatcars did slow down and would have stopped safely except for the presence of a parked locomotive on the same track. The cars rammed the parked engine with force enough to roll the heavy ties over the second flatcar filled with men, burying them with the timbers. Almost everyone on the car was injured.

"Every doctor in the village of Palmyra was called to the scene. The rescuers were handicapped because most of the injured men were crying out in their native tongue and very few could speak English. All were given prompt medical attention and everything possible was done to comfort the injured men".



SMALL STUFF

Visitors enjoyed a nice array of models at our "Worlds in Miniature" event July 18. Exhibits included operating steam engines, ships, trains, autos, and antique cast iron fire equipment, as well as member Don Shilling’s detailed scenic modules. Our thanks go to Leroy Blades (and the Genesee & Ontario Model-N-Gineers), Randy Bogucki, Lew Gracey, Gaylon Louth, Alan and Alex Reinnagle, Harold Russell, and Don Shilling for making this event a success.



That tiny thing in front of Gaylon Louth’s beautifully crafted
USS Missouri is a UP Big Boy in the same scale as the ship!

 

YOUR HELP IS (STILL) NEEDED!

The busy summer season is upon us, and the need for volunteer help is here too. Will you give us a hand? We need help in staffing the Gift Shop and ticket desk, jobs that are fun and varied, letting you greet and interact with our visitors.

Please give us a call. For help in the Gift Shop, please call Marie Miner at 671-3589; for other volunteer opportunities, call Jim Dierks at 473-5508. Thank you!

 

ROCHESTER STREETCARS        No. 31 in a series
˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜

by Charles R. Lowe

For one last moment, on February 11, 1937, car 757 was bathed in sunlight and photographs were made by admiring fans. Seen here at Blossom Road Yard, 757 hardly seems in so bad a condition it needs to be scrapped, but the empty trolley base on the roof makes it clear that the end is near. The "Watch Your Step" admonishment at the rear step will never again help passengers aboard; likewise, the "Exit" warning at the front step will never guide boarding passengers to the proper door at the rear of the car. Although successfully operated as a steam road between Portland Avenue and Sea Breeze from its opening in 1879 until 1899, the Rochester and Lake Ontario
New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 757                  Author's Collection

suffered a disastrous accident in the latter year. A new company, the Rochester and Suburban, took over the line and electrified the operation. In 1899, J. G. Brill of Philadelphia built ten 15-bench open cars numbered 24-33 and two similar (but slightly different) 15-bench open trailers numbered 34 and 35. These cars were the original electric equipment on the Sea Breeze trolley line. In 1911, with open cars having lost favor among railway officials, these twelve cars were rebuilt into single-end pay-as-you-enter cars. The ten motor cars became 750-759, and the two trailers were motorized and became 760-761. Later, between 1917 and 1920, 750-761 were modernized along with a great many other Rochester streetcars. About 1928, white safety stripes were added to most if not all the 750-761 cars. If we are to believe the "Hudson-Allen" route sign visible on car 757, the 750-761 group remained active until August, 1936 when eleven Rochester streetcar lines were abandoned, permitting the withdrawal of many cars. The efforts of the railfan(s) that sunny February day in 1937 were fortunate in that some of the best photos ever made of 750-series cars were made that day. Perhaps Rochester railfan John Woodbury, in whose collection (now owned by Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society) a negative of 752 resides, was tipped off by friendly streetcar men. Just two days later, on February 13th, the remaining 750-series cars, 752, 757 and 760 (at least) were scrapped by the burning of their wooden carbodies.



DID YOU KNOW?

* Despite the drop in attendance this year, our Gift Shop’s remodeling…and the many new items Doug Anderson has stocked it with… have caused sales to exceed last year’s!

* We have a new roof over the corridor that leads to the model railroad room. The walls will be painted when they dry out.

* Speaking of roofs, the multi-talented Don Quant has put a new coating on the roof of Genesee & Wyoming caboose 8.

* Our highway equipment is getting spruced up, with Rick Holahan painting the road plow and stabilizing its cab, and John Ross and Jim Dierks prepping the roller for painting.

* The model railroad crew are installing the Broad Street bridge on their N-scale Rochester Subway layout.

* Ted Strang got TC-1 and its trailer in good shape for the summer season with a fresh coat of paint.

* Bob Miner resoldered TC-3’s radiator and rigged a new gas tank for it. He also keeps our mower fleet running and prints our brochures and tickets. Gale Smith is the unsung hero who cuts the tickets to size and drills the holes in them.

* Treasurer Tony Mittiga, when not spiking rail and replacing ties, greases the rails on curves to cut down wear and noise.

 

KEEPING IN TOUCH

VISIT US: Your museum is open Sundays, year round, 11 am to 5 pm. and on weekdays by appointment. Museum membership admits you free any time, and allows you to bring a limited family group to enjoy your museum at no charge. Why not stop out and see the progress first hand and check out the new items in our Gift Shop? Winter admission is $3 adults and $2 under 12. Summer admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors 65 and over, $4 ages 3 - 15, age 2 and under free if child sits on adult’s lap on ride. We’re at 6393 East River Road. Take I-390 Exit 11, Route 251 West 1 1/2 miles to East River Road, then north 1 mile to our entrance.