Article From the Winter 2005 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
TALES FROM THE RAILS
Now and then we enjoy the chance to talk with older visitors at the museum and listen to the memories evoked by our collection of trolleys, trains, and other vehicles. A couple of vignettes come to mind from recent conversations.
Joe Griffo grew up during the Depression in Mt. Morris, NY near the Pennsylvania Railroad line that passed through there, connecting Rochester with the railroad’s namesake state and the world beyond. Coal trains were big business on the Pennsy, and Joe and his friends used to go out to the tracks to see the trains pass. While the loaded hopper cars rolled by, the boys would gather up cinders from along the right of way. Then, as the caboose went past, they’d let fly a volley of cinders at the crew. The angered men would retaliate by throwing large chunks of coal at the kids. There was a method to this madness, of course. The boys would then grab the coal and head for home where the black stuff would come in handy keeping the house warm on cold winter days!
Robert Sardis, a retired bus driver for Regional Transit Service, donated a nice collection of transit bus items to the museum, and had some memories to share as well. One came to mind from his recollection of riding streetcars in Rochester in his youth. Apparently the switches at the major intersection of Main Street and State Street were a frequent source of trouble. Tracks crossed here, but there were several connections too, allowing the streetcars to pass straight through the intersection or turn right or left. Some of the switches were spring switches, normally aligned for one route but able to slide over to permit a car to come through on the other route. Other switches were activated by the motorman closing the controller at just the right place. According to Mr. Sardis, there was at least one switch that at times would have a mind of its own. Cars coming west on Main Street and wanting to go north on State Street could do so after the motorman activated the switch there. The front truck of the streetcar would successfully take the turn to the north, but something would then cause the switch to spring back to its normal position, with the trailing truck ending up heading west on Main Street! If the car was going slow enough, a major problem would turn out to be just an embarrassing delay for all concerned.