The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
‘TIS THE SEASON
There was a time in our part of the country when "travel" and "winter" used in the same sentence wouldn’t necessarily give one pause, as is often the case today. To early settlers, rivers and even lakes which presented barriers to travel in the warmer months could freeze over and become a handy shortcut. Roads that were often impassably muddy bogs in a wet spring or summer not only firmed up in cold weather, but also benefited from a layer of snow to smooth out the bumps. Col. Nathaniel Rochester, in his elder years, personally took the new city’s charter to Albany to be blessed by the State Legislature, but he waited until winter so he could make the trip by horse-drawn sleigh. It seems the roads at that time had been blazed through the woods with tree stumps left in the right of way. Wagons and carriages with large-diameter wheels had enough clearance to navigate such roads, but it was pretty bumpy going. But in winter, the surface of deep snow was well above the stumps and speed could be achieved comfortably.
Despite today’s technology, snowstorms can bring airlines to their knees and their passengers to near tears; trains may run but they’ll be hours late and the retention toilets will have frozen up; and all-wheel-drive doesn’t do much for the motorist trapped on an interstate highway after someone’s momentary lapse of judgment has blocked all lanes of the icy road. In fact, despite the occasional benefits, like the colonel’s faster travel times to Albany, staying home is often the preferred option when the temperature drops and the snowflakes fly, and it’s been true down through the ages.
To wit, the 1885 Report of the New York Railroad Commissioners, Volume I, provides a glimpse through a frosty window pane of winter train travel in upstate New York. In the case of D. D. S. Brown et al versus the New York Central Sleeping Car Company, March 12, 1885, "The complainants were passengers on the sleeping car "Arctic" of the New York Central Sleeping Car Company, running on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, and alleged that the car was unfit for use; that it was impossible to properly heat the car; that the windows were so loose that the snow drifted in on the berths; that the doors could not be kept closed; and that finally the car was appropriately named the "Arctic"." Keeping one’s sense of humor always helps when the snow is piling up on the blankets in one’s berth, we suppose.
The report continues, "The answer of the company was that the "Arctic" was lying in Buffalo, having been ordered into the repair shop for a thorough overhauling. The snow blockades west and east of Buffalo had delayed trains and left the company without cars necessary for the travel, and in this extremity the company had put the "Arctic" in use again, rather than put none on at all to accommodate the travel. It acknowledged the condition of the car, and while stating that before long there would be none in a similar condition, said the use of the "Arctic" was due to a desire to make their passengers as comfortable as it could, under the circumstances of most unusually severe weather, which had placed its ordinary complement of good cars out of its reach."
Mr. Brown and company were apparently mollified by these assurances that the railroad had only their best interests at heart, for the report closes with "This explanation was satisfactory to the complainants, as letters now on file in this office show". No thought given, apparently, to renaming the car.
Is it spring yet?
Winter still holds upstate New York in its icy grip, and we all look forward to May, when the earth warms and NYMT resumes its summer track car rides. But springtime can’t always be trusted hereabouts. In this donation from Dwight Bliss, great grandnephew of George Ruggles, inventor of the rotary plow for trolley lines, we see one of the Captain’s creations doing what it does best. Written on the negative: Note that the single pole on the roof of the plow is hooked down, yet snow is gushing out from the electrically-powered rotary mechanism. Electrical power must be coming from somewhere, but in fact, where are the overhead wires and support poles? Perhaps readers with knowledge or ideas would share them with us. Drop us a line—we’ll include them in our next issue.
There are volunteer tasks at the museum to match any age, skill set, or interest, and a glance at our roster of 35 or so people confirms that. Men and women, retired or still working, unskilled or professional, young and not-so-young, each one makes a valuable contribution. Stepping into the Spotlight this time is someone with the classic combination: a Kodak retiree with an aptitude for mechanical things and a love for things with wheels on them. Meet John Ross.
Maybe we can’t call John a "volunteer" in the purest sense, as we kind of roped him into helping with one of our projects that fit his experience. Since then, just like quicksand, the more he does for us the deeper he gets! Several years ago, the museum’s calliope was slowly deteriorating outside in its "circus trailer". John, happy and innocent, was a member of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the Buick Club of American along with museum Board Secretary Jim Dierks. When the two discovered a mutual interest in player pianos, John was urged to take a look at the calliope and see if he wanted to adopt it.
As if he had a choice! All those keys, pipes and hoses called out to him, as Jim stood by mumbling ideas about removing the apparatus from its trailer and placing it on a small cart so it could be brought safely indoors and placed wherever convenient when needed for entertainment. With help from Bob Miner, Don Quant and Lew Wallace, John removed the calliope and found a nice balloon-tired cart for it, then undertook to assess the needs and make repairs.
Seeking the origins of John’s interests we find ourselves in St. Louis where he was born in 1939. His father was a chemist there, with the family relocating in the early 1940s first to Easton, Pennsylvania and then to Cleveland, Ohio as Dad’s job with General Electric moved him around. Living in Shaker Heights, Ohio, John got his first glimpse of a rapid transit car, but that wasn’t enough to suck him into railfandom.
While the father hoped John would follow in his footsteps toward a career in chemistry, the son seemed more interested in electrical and mechanical things. He tore apart his dad’s Briggs & Stratton power mower engine (no word if it ever went back together successfully), and he and his buddies found fun working with radios and telephones. When cars were being designed with 12-volt electrical systems, the guys picked up a bunch of old 6-volt police radios. They converted them to ham outfits, installed them in their parents’ cars, and drove around town talking to each other. Although he’s no longer an active ham operator, he still has his license, W2HCU.
John attended Penn State, graduating in 1961 with an Electrical Engineering degree. By 1967 he had earned a PhD, doing his thesis on analog computers. He joined Kodak and spent his career in computers at the Research Labs, designing specialized test equipment for chemists doing research in the silver halide field. John retired in 1999.
John met his wife, Carol, around 1970. She was a fellow Kodaker with a degree in business statistics and hailing from Addison, Washington ("population 3", says John), a small(!) town 80 miles north of Seattle. They married in 1972 and promptly moved to their present home in Pittsford. Seems neither of their apartments was big enough.
Not "big enough" for a family, of course, eventually adding two sons to the roster, but also not "big enough" for his 1966 Corvette convertible which he’d had since his pre-Carol bachelor days. The unrestored ‘Vette is still part of the family.
John added some more wheels to his collection in 1993 when he became the second owner of a 1955 Buick Roadmaster convertible. He spent eight years restoring the car, including a new top and a lot of engine work. On the latter count, someone had earlier mis-timed the cam shaft, so they had ground down the pistons to clear the valves. Oh boy. John eventually diagnosed the problem, but had to replace all the pistons. There was some rust to deal with on the Roadmaster, but it was largely in good shape. With the exception of the front seat, the interior is all original and looks great. The top-of-the-line buick has been to a few local shows, taking a 1st place both times it appeared at the Sage Rutty show in Honeoye Falls, and a 3rd at GVAC. John enjoys stopping at local cruise-ins, and is looking forward to this summer’s Buick national meet in Batavia, for which he’s one of the club members doing the preparation and planning.
Another of John’s varied interests is antique music boxes and record players, as any visit to his home will attest. He has all these interesting old instruments in good working order, ready to play a tune for a receptive audience. Even more spectacular are the two player grand pianos that take up most of the family room. These are both reproducing players, meaning that they play paper rolls that have additional holes to replicate the nuances of the actual playing of the performer who made the master roll. One piano is a Duo-Art, and the other is an Ampico (of E. Rochester piano factory fame). For anyone who thinks the compact disc is the cat’s meow, try standing next to a grand piano with George Gershwin, himself, playing Rhapsody in Blue! All the subtleties of the great composer’s rendition was captured when he sat down and played, and it’s all there for the listener to enjoy today.
John is now a "regular" in the Thursday group at NYMT, most recently helping with painting and glazing the windows for P&W car 161. Last winter he built up two dozen down guys for our stockpile of parts and subassemblies that will enable us to string more wire over our rail line.
When asked what his hopes for the future are for the museum, he hasn’t any special ideas. "There’s obviously a lot to do!" he says. That says it all. With John Ross’ willingness to pitch in and the thoroughness he demonstrates on any task he takes on, we know we’re up to the task!
ROCHESTER STREETCARSNo. 33 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Real photo postcards showing a trolley car with its crew reflect
the pride these men felt for their streetcars and their occupation. This particular view is the only known photograph of Rochester car 342, a somewhat mysterious car. A 1906 Rochester Railway roster tells us the car was in existence by that year but gives no other information. A 1912 roster indicates that two cars from the 300-343 series were missing, one of which is known to have been 341, scrapped in 1909. A 1916 roster is more specific. The 41 cars of the 300-340 group are listed, and car 343 is listed, but 341 and 342 are not listed. Thus, it is assumed that car 342 lasted for only the six years from 1906 to 1912.
We heard from two readers after the Fall issue of HEADEND arrived at readers’ homes. A phone call from Dwight Bliss brought us some more information on the ferries that once carried freight and passengers across the mouth of the Genesee River in Charlotte. Our reproduction of a 1927 issue of New York State Railways’ "Transportation News" stated that ferry service across the Genesee began before 1877 and that the name of the craft was the Windsor. The article went on to say that "the present ferry was built by Doyle, in 1894, and has been in constant operation since, during the summer months", but it isn’t clear if the original Windsor ruled the waves all the way to the 1894 of the "new" Windsor. Dwight tells us that another ferry, the Yosemite, operated there and he understands that it finished its useful life around 1885. The Yosemite measured 40 feet by 28 feet, and like the other ferries was steam powered and used a chain to pull itself across the river. We’ll have to do more research on this. If the Yosemite held down the job until 1885, what was used until 1894? Could there have been a third Windsor?
Dwight says that when their service life was over, both the Windsor and the Yosemite were pushed upriver to the marsh just north of Rattlesnake Point on the eastern shore of the Genesee. There, they were stripped of equipment and usable superstructure. In 1922 Stuart Sill, a marine contractor operating out of Sodus, New York, bought the remaining portion of the Windsor from the New York Central Railroad and used it as a barge for about ten years. Finally, the spent remains were shoved to the south shore of Sodus Bay and left to rot. The Windsor’s last vestiges may still be with us, decaying into the ooze, with the ferry’s role in the commercial vitality of Charlotte lost on motorists as they zip across the brand new O’Rourke draw bridge.
Member Ann Stear wrote to say she appreciates that our articles are written "so that they are easily understandable by non-specialists like me". That’s a good reminder that our museum’s mission isn’t to satisfy only highly-informed enthusiasts. Saving and presenting the transportation history of our part of the country is aimed at enlightening a broad cross-section of the
public. We’re wise to remember this as we move toward trolley operations, as we put new exhibits in place, and as we prepare each issue of this journal.
Ms. Stear went on to suggest that we routinely include our location and simple directions to follow. We’ll take that to heart. Some of us can find our way to the museum blindfolded, but most area residents aren’t that familiar with rural Rush, NY. The info box in each issue of HEADEND sometimes gets shortened for space reasons. We’ll try to do a better job in future issues. Thanks for your compliments and suggestions, Ms. Stear!
As Rochesterians wonder whether the fast ferry will resume its service
across Lake Ontario to Toronto, here’s a view of the steamship Ontario I,
that operated from June 6, 1908 until 1950, carrying rail cars of coal
as well as passengers and autos between Rochester and Cobourg, Ontario.
SHOP REPORTby Charles Lowe
Track No. 2 at New Car House:Randy Bogucki finalized the purchase of the switch timbers and 64 standard-length ties needed for the new switch and track at the new car house.
These arrived in late October, at which time Randy used a forklift and distributed the ties along the work area. Charlie Lowe, Trevor James, Tony Mittiga and Randy then distributed the standard-length ties inside and in front of the new car house. This was heavy work as all ties purchased are 7" x 9" ties rather than the 6" x 8" ties used elsewhere on the museum rail line. As winter approached, Randy and Tony brought four lengths of 90 lb. per yard Rochester Subway rail to the work site. Charlie and his friend Dave Reifsnyder inserted the two 13’-long switch ties at the points; at another session, Rand Warner assisted Charlie in placing two 10’-long switch ties. With winter weather making further tie placements difficult, attention turned to steel work. Rails are being dragged into position using a large come-along and bolted into position. Just before heavy snows temporarily shut down most outside work, the frog was placed between the rails by Rand and Tony, and a crew of Charlie, Randy and Ted Strang moved two rails into position. These two rails were then bolted onto the point rails. A "January thaw" late in the month provided the opportunity for Charlie and Randy to wrestle the frog into its final position. Working in T-shirts and 50-degree weather was a treat, but just as rewarding was seeing the switch take shape, confirming the design. Assuming winter isn’t through with Upstate New York, work on the switch may have to go dormant until early March or so. Completion of this project is necessary for the beginning of the track car season in May. NYMT members who are interested in taking part in this very necessary project are encouraged to contact Charlie Lowe at 223-5747 for work session times.Charlie Lowe has no trouble keeping warm doing track work.
A frog permits the rails to cross each other at a switch. That’s it, dead-center in the photo, ready to be spiked in place.
Philadelphia and Western 161: Work on the side windows has finally been completed. Ted Thomas fabricated three newwindow sashes to replace ones that had badly rotted. Don Quant and John Ross finished the glazing of the 28 side windows, and this crew is replacing the last two ceiling panels in the car. Paul Monte has finished the steel repairs to the window posts and continues the work of preparing for the installation of the wood window stools. Don, John and Ted, along with Bob Miner, are systematically removing the wooden
upper windows for replacement. Ted has already produced two replacement frames, and a reasonably accurate replacement glass for the original (and no longer produced) prism glass will be used once glazing begins.
P&W 161 yields it rotted upper sash to Bob Miner’s efforts.
New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 1402: The last portion of the cottage roofing was removed from this car’s roof, lowering the shipping height about one foot. In December, Matthews Building Movers began the moving process by lifting the car off its concrete foundations. The remainder of the move will be made as weather permits. A large bucket of loose parts, left inside the car, was examined and found to contain 28 brass fittings that once held the standee straps. A bent screw remained in one of the holes, permitting exact replacement. Donations for the move of this car have been generous but a moderate deficit still exists. Contributions to this worthy project will go a long way to making the salvation of this rare car a reality.
Despite the move to digital photography that’s happening so rapidly today, there still seems to be business for the silver halide medium. Last issue we reported that we had answered several archive inquiries from people preparing to shoot a remake of "King Kong" in New Zealand. Since then we’ve learned that this is a project of Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson, most recently of "Lord of the Rings" success. Watch for the Universal Pictures film in December 2005, and blame us if the trolleys aren’t historically correct!
On the local level, Rochester Institute of Technology students have once again discovered the museum as a great venue for
One of our trolleys is in the movies. Lights, camera, highball!photography, and this time it’s Brendan Van Meter and his crew. They recently spent a cold evening doing test shots in P&W car 168, and we’ll be hosting them off and on through the semester as their production takes shape. No word on whether Universal is picking this one up…
NEWARK AS IT WAS
Our knowledge of the past…what we call history…is often built bit by bit from the debris of everyday life—the stuff that usually gets tossed out and is lost forever. Collectors don’t call it "ephemera" for nothing. Sometimes fate manages to intervene, and these details are saved for future edification... and perhaps amusement.
A glorious early fall day in the 1960s set the stage for a visit to the Newark, NY station of the New York Central. The struggling carrier’s shrinking "great steel fleet" no longer called at the attractive brick structure, and the windows had recently been boarded up as part of the decommissioning. Laborers had apparently cleaned out the attic too, as the incinerator on the west side of the station property was heaped with the residue of a bon fire, the history of Newark’s place on the "Water Level Route" gone up in smoke.
Ah, but not quite. The employees responsible for all this must have decided lunch was more important than hanging around while history burned, as some items had blown out of the untended conflagration, ready to be picked up, examined and taken home.
There were agent’s stubs from tickets sold in the 1940s, including numerous Pullman accommodations. Some were for a "Mrs. Richard Comstock", wife of the President of the Comstock Canning Company, later to become
There were also pages of correspondence, revealing all the backstage activity that no one thinks of as the drama of passing trains holds the attention at center stage. Neatly hand-typed letters on thin paper seem like ancient relics all by themselves, in this day of word processing and email. But the content too seems to come from another age. There’s the 1948 letter from the Mills Automatic Merchandising Corporation of Long Island City, New York, arranging to send a replacement for the "six-column stainless steel vender" that had arrived at Newark damaged in transit. Apparently, the answer to whatever financial woes the Central was experiencing back then would be chewing gum sales at the Newark station. The letter goes on to instruct the agent to keep it filled at all times.
Other extramural communication came from the President of Wm. C. Moore & Co., Inc., a part of Newark’s once thriving nursery stock business ("Hardy, field grown fruit trees, shade trees, shrubs, perennials and roses"). He was returning an unused round trip ticket, in a bedroom, and requesting his refund of $65.56. On the other side of the ledger, a letter went out from the Division Passenger Agent (with a copy to the Newark agent) informing Miss Joyce Johnson at Cortland State Teachers College that the agent had only charged her the one-way fare for a recent trip to Lake Placid and back. $6.99 was therefore payable to the railroad. "Will you please attend to this at an early date, greatly obliging".
But the great bulk of the papers that escaped destruction were bureaucracy in action—many levels of administrators, assuring that procedures were being followed. There are notices of job postings; all kinds of forms for all sorts of purposes; memos to remind people to use the forms; memos to notify people they are using the wrong form.
And then there’s the Great Exchange. In August, 1948, the Newark agent reported sale of a 3-month round-trip half-fare ticket to Buffalo, and collecting $2.93. By October, this news had wended its way to C. H. Maurice in Detroit, whose laboriously typed letter informs the agent that the one-way child’s fare should be ½ the one-way adult fare of $2.93 "ending in full cent or $1.47". The round-trip for the child would therefore be twice the one-way fare or $2.94. A whole penny…clearly worth all the time to write to the agent and correct her befuddled mind.
There’s more. The agent has apparently written back (there’s no copy in the file), and C. H. Maurice is now (December) pointing out that there is no 3-month fare in effect for the travel in question, so Form BL1RC (one-year) should have been issued. The letter goes on to quote "Rule 1 (e) on Page 4 of Tariff No. 377-Second Issue, and Tariff No. 377-Third Issue", just to make sure his point is clear.
Apparently it wasn’t, as it’s now late January, 1949, and C. H. Maurice has fired off another one to our hapless agent. It seems that after all the instructions to the contrary, the agent has submitted Form APA-294 with the notation "Buffalo round trip $5.86 – ½ - $2.93". She is instructed to "…return the attached Form APA-294 with your reply". If C. H. Maurice had anything further to pursue in this matter, the evidence must have been lost in the incinerator. And all over one cent.
Other, hopefully more profitable, company correspondence deals with special stops of train #90 for local luminaries, extra cars on #38 (with the club-lounge car "to be amply stocked with liquors, beer, etc.") for Rotarians going to a New York Convention, and arrangements for 50 third-graders from Marion Central School to ride "X-158" from Palmyra to Newark leaving Palmyra at 9:46 a.m. and arriving Newark at 10:01 a.m., where they would be retrieved by their school bus. The ticket window was to open "30 minutes prior to departure of X-158 and be prepared to have some change to handle the sale of tickets".
Thank goodness they weren’t going round trip!
ED BLOSSOM 1930-2004
On November 22, 2004 our museum lost an important part of its own history with the death of Edward Blossom. A trolley enthusiast who devoted his whole life to preservation and restoration of electric trolleys, Blossom was a storehouse of traction information and never hesitated to share his knowledge with others.
Ed was born in 1930 when the family home was in Yonkers, NY. His mother died in childbirth. He reportedly had an early interest in trolleys which led to volunteer work in his teen years at Branford Trolley Museum. In 1963, Ed’s career took a turn from clerking in a Wilkes-Barre, PA hardware store when he bought Danville & Bloomsburg (PA) streetcars 10 and 11 that had been converted to cottages. The D&B had been abandoned for almost 40 years, but Ed’s dream was to restore the cars to operation and introduce people of the "modern" age to the trolley travel experience.
Contact with the operator of a steam train ride in Bloomsburg brought the opportunity to meet Harry Magee, wealthy owner of the Magee Carpet Company which was a manufacturer of fine-quality rugs and carpeting. Magee had that familiar love for vehicles of all types, and had acted on that affection by creating an antique car museum. He wanted to help Blossom preserve the two trolley bodies and agreed to let Ed store them in a barn at his Crescent Farm.
The two men got to know each other, and it didn’t take long for visions of an enhanced museum featuring operating trolley cars to take hold. The farm became the site where the vision would become reality, and the Magee Transportation Museum was formed. Ed took a full-time position with Magee’s museum, and in 1968 and 1969 worked night and day to restore two classic open cars originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Totally devoted to this project, he would sleep in the trolley workshop, ready to hop off the cot at daybreak and resume his work.
Ed also was instrumental in the construction of the museum’s rail line and installation of overhead wire to power the cars he was restoring. Soon, the public flocked to the Magee operation, viewing classic autos and carriages, enjoying tunes from antique music boxes, and riding the open trolleys that are so closely associated in the public mind with the carefree days of the late 19th century.
NYMT’s archives contain two volumes from a series of scrapbooks maintained at the Magee museum, recording that operation’s growth and development through photos and news clippings and revealing Ed Blossom’s role there. The August 2, 1970 issue of the Williamsport (PA) Grit refers to Blossom as "…director of the operating trolley car line and 12-car exhibit". The Scranton Sunday Times, in an October 24, 1971 article says that "Edward Blossom…has charge of the transportation section of the museum." Photos in the scrapbooks show Ed restoring, running and describing various trolley cars at the Magee Transportation Museum.
Group tours were important to Magee Transportation Museum.
Magee realized the need for an enclosed car for days when weather didn’t suit the open cars, and one robust enough to stand up to the service needs at the museum. In 1970 Blossom rescued Pittsburgh Railways Co. 4145 from a Pittsburgh junk yard, then went to work on this steel car restoring it for the 1971 season. The car’s most recent active assignment had been as a work car, and Ed had his work cut out for him. Once in service, the car was a success.
Sadly, the museum’s glory days were brief. It suffered a fatal blow when Hurricane Agnes hit the east coast of the United States in the summer of 1972. Flash floods swept across the Magee property, destroying track and overhead wires beyond any hope of repair. Later in the summer, Magee himself began to slip, experiencing complications from a childhood spinal injury. On October 9, 1972, Harry Magee died, and the museum’s inspiration and guiding light died with him.
The museum’s collection of autos and carriages were cleaned of mud and debris left by the flood. Magee heirs sold much of this trove of vehicles, and then held an auction June 16, 1973 to get rid of the rest. The genesis of the New York Museum of Transportation came with this dismantling of the
Unfortunately for Ed, the end of the Magee museum left him with no place to continue storing other trolley equipment there that he personally owned. After assisting with the dismantling of trolley overhead and the sale of trolley cars, he was given his final paycheck and told to vacate the premises immediately. He managed to single-handedly move his Lehigh Valley Transit interurban, #801, in one day to a new storage location he had arranged.
Blossom needed a job, some place to store his vast collection of trolley parts and materials, and a way to stay involved with his love for trolley preservation. NYMT provided the perfect opportunity. By his own account, Ed made 75 trips to the developing NYMT museum site in Rush, NY through spring of 1974. The route he perfected took him through Dushore, PA where he eventually opened up his Dushore Car Company shop, followed in 1977 by a move to Topton, PA.
After Ed’s 1973-1974 contributions to the start-up of NYMT, he concentrated on his own trolley collection and the pursuit of a suitable place for their operation. The idea of a trolley museum in Scranton, PA was floated and gaining favor, no doubt with Ed Blossom one of the louder cheerleaders. In 1984, a trolley division of Steamtown was inaugurated. In October of the following year, Ed moved former Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company/SEPTA 7 from Topton to Scranton. He expected to soon move himself and his restoration business to Scranton too, but planning and fund raising complications delayed his move into the late 1990s.
As NYMT’s own electrification dreams took a dramatic turn toward reality at about the same time, correspondence with Blossom brought news of his efforts and frustrations at that time. Each lengthy letter, laboriously typed out on an old-fashioned typewriter and loaded with flowery language, wandered from subject to subject, always including news that one or another car was "due to be moved soon". Phone calls to Blossom were just as interesting, as he was invariably in his car shop either under a remote part of a trolley or catching some shut-eye surrounded by his family of cats. You just had to let it ring. This period in his life must have been very difficult for Ed as advancing age combined with the complications of diabetes left him less and less able to fight for a good home for his beloved trolleys. But it also must have been a relief for him, and a great satisfaction, when the Electric City Trolley Museum came into its own.
In 2003, Ed was hospitalized several times, and he was moved to an assisted-living facility in Scranton. His days of restoring trolleys were over, but his legacy would live long after him.
Blossom’s importance to NYMT can’t be overstated. As Charlie Lowe points out, "he gave some much-needed electric railway expertise to the museum founders and early workers at a time they desperately needed it". NYMT’s car files are full of correspondence between Blossom and then-Curator Mike Storey, with technical help and advice.
Charlie goes on to say that "Ed’s most important contribution, though, was physically lugging trolley parts and equipment in all those 75 trips that he made to NYMT, bankrolled by museum founder, Henry Hamlin. Not only did we thereby obtain a well-stocked parts room, we also received enough bracket arms, insulators, wire frogs, trolley wire, etc. to get started with our electrification project. If the former Magee Transportation Museum overhead materials had never been brought to NYMT, it is doubtful that our electrification work that began in the mid-1990s would have been undertaken". Shelden King puts it even more clearly. "If it had not been for Ed, I doubt NYMT would have come to pass", he says.Ed Blossom wasn’t a total stranger to the Rochester area before his 1973-1974 work with the newly forming NYMT. In 1970, it was Ed who moved Rochester and Eastern 157 from its Irondequoit Bay cottage location to the Magee museum. (photo, right). It’s back home now as the featured car in NYMT’s collection. Someday, the trolley pole on Ed’s 157 will touch the overhead wire he brought us, and the car will glide down the rail line under bracket arms and fittings we also owe to him. Casual observers will think the car is energized by 600-volt DC electricity, but its true power will be the inspiration we gained through the love of trolleys and dedication to preservation that was unique to Edward Blossom.
Thanks to Charlie Lowe for researching information in NYMT’s Magee scrapbooks. Additional material is credited to "The Museums of Harry L. Magee", a new book by Pat Parker.
2004 IN SUMMARY
We’ve experienced lower attendance throughout the past year, and the final tally for 2004 reflects this trend. Total headcount for the year was 3,773, a full 34% reduction from 2003. This was an across-the-board hit, as weekday group tour headcount dropped by 24% to 1,168. Even more significant, mid-May through October summer Sundays—traditionally when more people attend in order to enjoy track car rides and RGVRRM—suffered a reduction of 40%. Group tour attendance in the summer season was off by 21%.
Our membership count has never been greater and we’ve been making encouraging progress on many fronts, with a new substation soon to come on line, a new car barn built with track 2 under construction, new exhibits, some significant restoration progress on P&W 161, and the imminent recovery of another 100-year-old Rochester streetcar body, to mention just some of the highlights. Our publicity efforts included a broad array of outlets including our website, newspaper listings, area summer guides, and coupons.
A series of rainy Sundays certainly contributed to the drop-off in attendance, but we’re not going to just keep our fingers crossed for better weather in 2005. NYMT and RGVRRM have both agreed to budget $500 each to provide funds for advertising and public relations that will increase awareness
of our operation. We also are counting on completion of the substation and trial runs of trolleys to provide newsworthy activity, and if we can start trolley rides for the visiting public, so much the better. In the fall we gained publicity from the news about Rochester streetcar 1402 emerging from its 70-year life as a cottage, and we were featured in a new "Bright Spot" column on the Democrat & Chronicle editorial page. As we’ve done for several years now, Bring Your Own Train will be the feature attraction of a winter visit to the museum, and if the snows aren’t too deep, this unique offering will continue to bolster our off-season headcount.
Preliminary numbers show Gift Shop sales holding up well. Total sales were down, but not as much as the headcount, so on a per-visitor basis the shop sales rose to $1.47 per visitor from $1.08 in 2003. Income other than admissions and Gift Shop (membership, donations, etc.) was down 6% from the year previous. Total expenses were up 16%, due in part to ever-increasing insurance rates, and costs associated with railroad and substation construction, and a new corridor roof.
Our volunteer hours took another jump in the past year, to a total of 8,582, an average of 245 hours per volunteer—15% more than last year, and a new record! We’ll do everything we can in 2005 to reward that kind of commitment with more public awareness and increased attendance.
2005 group tours are off to a good start as Leary Elementary
Our new exhibit case built by Ted Thomas has already been put to work, filled with many items from our bus collection. The classy-looking exhibit, "Buses", features a variety of memorabilia from both over-the-road bus transportation and transit buses.
Uniforms, timetables, advertising pieces, manufacturer photos, builder plates, roll signs and dashboard items have come from donations made by Keith Payne and Robert Sardis, and bus models are on loan from Don Quant, Tom Kirn, and Jim Dierks. Rounding out the exhibit is the RTS poster featuring artwork of the late Robert Northrup, an early
volunteer at the museum. The collectible poster depicts Rochester’s transit bus history in a series of color paintings by Bob, showing the great variety of vehicles operated locally. Ted’s handsome exhibit case provides a secure, attractive, lighted display place for smaller items that we otherwise have no safe way to share with our visitors. "Buses" will run through May, when Paul Monte will mount a new exhibit on railroad lanterns.
A REAL TURN-ON
You probably switched on a light someplace last December 31, with your mind on New Year’s Eve revelry or the resolutions you were planning to make. With that simple act, you were participating in an anniversary celebration. It was 125 years ago that night that Edison’s incandescent light bulb was first publicly demonstrated. Dignitaries and invited guests at his laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ were treated to the magic of bright, safe illumination, but they were also witness to Edison’s ingenuity in creating the full system needed to support that magic…power generation, distribution lines, and controls.
Three years later, the first large central electric-power station was inaugurated, in New York City. It didn’t take a big leap of imagination to envision wire strung above city streets, with electric motors mounted on the horsecars that were then the mainstay of urban transit, and the era of electric traction was born. "The rest is history", as we like to say, and that history is a big part of why the New York Museum of Transportation exists. Our substation will soon become an operating reality, and public trolley rides should follow after that. Thanks, Mr. Edison.
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
* Phil McCabe has more sign work coming his way. Shortly after Christmas a car on East River Road slid out of control on the snow-slicked highway and wiped out the stop sign and the "museum entrance" sign at the foot of our driveway.
* Keeping us plowed out for winter visitors has been in the care of Ted Strang this season. Ted not only drives the plow, but has spent a lot of time keeping the truck running. This year he’s fixed leaking fuel lines, replaced the left rear tire and rim, replaced the electronic ignition system module, and repaired the distributor. Erratic malfunctions of the transmission have Ted worrying that the truck is going to die permanently some time soon. The rusted body prompted a friend to suggest a tetanus shot before driving the thing! Ted wants to replace the truck with a tractor large enough for plowing and mowing, but small enough to fit in the building.
Can you help with snow plowing?
If you have a truck and plow, would you be willing to plow for us gratis? Can we call on you in an emergency if our truck fails? Do you have a lead on a tractor? Would you like to underwrite all or part of the purchase of a good, used tractor that will fit our needs? Please call and leave a message for Ted: (585) 533-1113.
* Dick Luchterhand reports "Bring Your Own Train" is once again a popular feature at NYMT this winter. The N-gauge layout (under construction and built to recreate the Rochester Subway) is now included in the offering. Dick says the Broad Street tunnel was built to clear trolleys, but that a recent visitor’s full-size diesel loco scraped the ceiling. Raising the roof on the tunnel might require City Council action, Dick…
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; children age 2 and under are free if they sit on an adult’s lap on the 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.
CALL US: (585) 533-1113. Leave a message if we’re not there, and we’ll get back to you.
WRITE US: P. O. Box 136, West Henrietta, NY 14586
CHECK OUT OUR WEB SITE: www.nymtmuseum.org
JOIN US: If you are not already a member, complete the form on the back page of this issue of HEADEND, and we’ll take it from there.
Tell your friends about us, too!