The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation



2007 was indeed a milestone year for our museum. After several occasions when we ran trolleys for our visitors, this was the year that we set a schedule and operated trolley rides on a routine basis throughout our summer “ride season”. Our well-trained crew members looked great in their uniforms, and ex-P&W car 168 carried on all summer in fine form. Becoming the only museum trolley operation in New York State has been a challenge, but all the work and expense have paid off in the fulfillment of this long-held dream.

Charlie Remelt readies another hay wagon run for tree choppers...

Reaching back to the early days of track car operations, we recalled offering track car rides in the winter season. There were a few hardy takers, but overall it was an idea whose time hadn’t come. But wait…unlike the open trailers on the track cars, our trolley cars are enclosed! We spoke with our neighbor, Charlie Remelt, about possibly joint-promoting trolley rides and his Evergreen Acres Christmas tree farm, and he eagerly embraced the idea of holiday operations. After thinking through the basics, we settled on trolley operations for the first three weekends in December.

Planning and preparation involved checking out ex-P&W 161 to handle the runs, as its orientation at the museum is set up for boarding on the Remelt side of our mainline. Charlie Lowe and Jim Dierks worked out the schedule and logistics, with a big assist from Steve Huse whose experience with RGVRRM’s former Christmas caboose runs was invaluable. Car 161’s electrical system was given a going over, and…ta da…we discovered the electric heaters in the car were in working order. We coordinated the museum’s public relations release with Charlie Remelt’s advertising, and spent a good part of November training motormen and conductors for the special operation. In addition, platforms were constructed at the Remelt station and to facilitate boarding at NYMT. Signs and “crowd control” fencing were installed at Remelt’s, and special instructions, signage, etc. were provided for the gift shop.

Car 161 pauses at the Remelt loading platform amid Christmas trees and holiday decorations.

The schedule entailed waiting at the Remelt platform, near the bottom of the grade on the back straightaway. There, the car would serve as a “billboard” to attract Christmas tree shoppers. Unlike our summer operations, the conductor collected fares from those boarding at Remelt’s, and receipts were issued a la streetcar transfers. At the scheduled departure time, the car would proceed to the recently completed end of wire over a quarter mile away where the ends would be reversed. The car would then travel to NYMT, passing Remelt’s with a few warning toots on the whistle (to attract riders for the next run, too). At NYMT, riders were offered the option of visiting the museum after paying the additional museum admission. Meanwhile, other people who had come to visit the museum would board for their ride, with unlimited riding included in their paid admission. 161 would then depart for Remelt’s where every 20 minutes the cycle would repeat itself.

Winter came in with full force this season, including several good snowfalls as of this writing. For the “Holly Trolley” rides, snow was on the ground throughout, and the last Sunday, December 16, actually had to be cancelled due to near-blizzard conditions in the area. The car heaters worked well, and 355 happy riders ushered in the Christmas season on an 80-year old trolley car!

Looking back over the full year, total attendance was 4,935, plus an additional 142 people who chose to ride the Holly Trolley without visiting the museum. Our group attendance dropped dramatically this past year, with a headcount only a bit over half of what it was in 2006. We suspect high fuel prices are making buses too expensive for schools, senior homes, group homes, and the like. The good news is that all-summer weekend trolley operations did a good job of making up the difference, so the total, including trolley-only people, was short of 2006’s total by just under 4%.

Jim Dierks gave 14 slide talks to groups around the area, bringing transportation history to life and making new friends for the museum. A total audience count of 486 was registered at these talks, and many organizations provided gratuities for our general fund. There are two slide talks that we offer: “The Interurban Era” which focuses on the Rochester & Eastern, and “The Rochester Subway”, a composite of black and white shots from the Tom Kirn Collection. Jim has six shows already booked in 2008.

We’ve covered other big news items in previous issues, including extending our trolley line to twice its original length and installing a well and septic system. Members can be sure they’ll be reading about more progress throughout 2008 as we launch another line extension and continue preserving and exhibiting our area’s transportation history.


Sometimes an interest in trains first shows itself in model railroading, and although many fans dream of working in full-size railroading, few realize that dream. Our Spotlight victims, however, have made the leap to the 1:1 size, and they still enjoy all the fun in modeling. Meet Todd Consadine and his dad, Jay.

Todd’s a mature 9 year-old, and a good student in the 4th grade at Fairport’s Northside School. His interest in the flanged wheel goes back to when he was 3, and he had to share some Brio toys with his older sister, Kelly. There were a couple of Thomas engines that ran on the grooved Brio tracks, but it was a Santa Fe “war bonnet” diesel locomotive that his uncle gave him that really caught Todd’s interest. Nowadays, he’s totally into BNSF, and says he especially likes their “pumpkin engines” in that great-looking orange and green paint scheme.

The home layout is HO-gauge, and Todd and Kelly still share the fun. She’s more interested in the people and the social interaction on the model pike, but does have a Lehigh Valley cab unit diesel and freight cars. Todd definitely favors the trains, although he admits to liking pickup trucks, and has several in HO. This past Christmas, he asked for a Burlington “doodlebug”, and now has that running on his layout. He says it’s kind of funny when people ask him what he got for Christmas…not too many people know what a “doodlebug” is.

At NYMT, Todd has shown an interest in helping out in the model railroad room, operating the trains (he especially likes running the trolley) and taking care of derailments and other situations that come up. The model railroad crew are teaching him about the various controls, and he’s mastering all the complex switches involved in operating the yard.

But, as we said, sometimes the little stuff leads to an interest in the bigger stuff, and that’s where you’ll find Todd and his dad, operating a track car for our visitors. Jay says the family has been a member of the museum since 2002, after coming to “ Bring Your Own Train” that winter. When Todd needed a community service project for church, the two of them came out and cleaned up the yards around the museum, washed steam loco 47, and broom-swept the trolley cars. Todd started to work on his dad to become a track car operator last spring, and now the two have graduated to the 4 foot 8 ½ inch gauge. Jay does the operating, and Todd punches tickets and generally keeps a watchful eye on the passengers as they make their runs to RGVRRM. Their big moment came while operating on our last ride day of the season in late October, when they saw some pheasants, a fox, a buck and several other deer along the right of way.

Jay was raised in Poughkeepsie, where his father worked for IBM. As a boy, Jay had a Sears tinplate train set with a single loop of track, and when he was about the same age Todd is now, he got an HO yard engine and short train. In storage since then, the train came back out when Jay’s interest in trains was awakened watching trains in Fairport back in 1995. Jay graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in computer science in 1984, and immediately found work here in Rochester. First at Harris RF, then Kodak and Xerox, he’s now at Quality Vision International, a manufacturer of precise measuring equipment on such products as heart stents and auto engine components. Jay met his wife, Lori, when they were both working at Harris, and they’ll be celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.

Consadine family travel usually involves a summer golfing vacation to Virginia, but they have managed to visit Steamtown in Scranton, PA. Jay adds they can always make a little time for trainwatching when the opportunity presents itself. Todd hasn’t been west of Buffalo yet, but we bet he’d like to do some trainwatching someday out in BNSF territory.

Jay says working on the track and operating trolleys are things they might want to get into later on. We’re fine with that, so eat your spinach, Todd…we’ll be ready when you are. Meanwhile, the Consadine duo are great contributors at NYMT, and we’re glad to have them!


One of our alert gift shop staffers, Bobbie Corzine, noticed a personal ad in the local newspaper from someone who came for a ride on Diesel Days weekend last August:

Redheaded Man: riding caboose w/2 boys @ NY Transport Museum on Sun. 8/19. I felt a connection, did you?

We wonder if the “connection” was karma-related or just a little slack action between the caboose and the engine…


By Charles R. Lowe

Conjure up a winter image of Rochester, New York and you might imagine tall drifts of snow after major storms. A blanket of snow over a foot thick can cover everything for months on end, and temperatures often dip to and even below zero. Today, heavy diesel-powered trucks equipped with plows and salt-throwing machinery are universally used to keep streets and highways open for winter traffic. But in the streetcar era, such vehicles had not yet been developed and it was necessary for the street railway company to keep its tracks and a portion of the street open for use in winter.

The first of Rochester’s street railway companies, Rochester City and Brighton Railroad, began operation with horsecars in 1863. One early effort at fighting snow was to abandon street railway service during the months of heaviest snows and substitute horse-drawn sleighs along the icy streets of the regular horsecar routes. The use of sleighs was a provision of the 1862 city ordinance which governed street railways in Rochester. Another provision permitted plowing snow from the tracks and spreading it evenly so that all sleighs could still pass. (This and other early information cited comes from the recently acquired Franchise Book, described in a recent issue of HEADEND.

By 1870, the use of sleighs by RC&B seems to have been largely discontinued in favor of plowing. No doubt the primitive wooden plows and scrapers used were horse drawn affairs. Rochester’s street superintendent, John Quin, complained bitterly to the Rochester Common Council that year that “they [RC&B] run a plough through the streets and raise a dangerous ridge of ice and snow which makes it hazardous to public travel. I hope that they will not be allowed to plough any more troughs through the center of the street.”

Plowing practices of RC&B remained a matter of contention, the Common Council resolving in 1877 to “compel” RC&B to plow streets in full compliance with the 1863 ordinance. The main problem was that the plows, being horse-drawn, could not easily be equipped nor economically operated with the scrapers needed to evenly spread the snow. This problem began to disappear as the public abandoned the use of their sleighs for private travel and began using their carriages through the winter.

Snow plowing practices in horsecar days were recounted by long-time employee Joseph W. Hicks in 1923. (Hicks had begun his career with RC&B in 1866, and was to amass an incredible 66 years of service.) In recalling horsecar days, Hicks noted that on the company’s horsecars, with their open front platforms, “there was no protection for the driver whatever. He had to stand out on the platform and take the storm as it came.” The early snow-fighting equipment was primitive but effective. “We had four- or five-horse plows and an eight-horse sweeper. During [a] storm we would put two horses on the bob-tailed cars and as soon as the storm was over and cleared up we would take out the sweeper at night with eight horses and sweep all the tracks clean of snow.” The eight-horse sweeper, in particular, must have been an awesome sight to behold, with its gigantic rotating broom and its eight-horse team charging through the night. Sweeping the tracks was particularly important, noted Hicks, because the bobtail cars usually were operated with but one horse, the second horse being added only to pull through unplowed streets. Hicks mentioned that the company wanted to “sweep all the tracks clean of snow so that we [RC&B] could put one horse on the bob-tailed cars the next morning.” (Transportation News, vol. 1, no. 1 (August 1923), p.29.)

Much more power could be brought to bear on the snow once electric streetcars were adopted for general use about 1890. At first, small single-truck passenger streetcars of the day were used to push small nose plows along. Soon, it became obvious that special cars dedicated to snow removal were warranted by the heavy snows seen in the Rochester area.

The Rochester Electric Railway operated the first electric cars in this area, beginning in 1889. Its line ran north from the Rochester city line to Charlotte, following Lake Avenue the entire distance. The plow car being pushed by RER 20 may very well be similar to the horse-drawn snow plows used on Rochester City and Brighton horsecar lines since the 1860s. The curtains do not seem to be much of an answer for the cold weather the motorman must face on the car’s open platform.

On the city lines, Rochester Railway Company had succeeded RC&B in 1890 with a mandate to electrify all city streetcar lines. The conversion of all horsecar lines was essentially finished in 1893. To complete the shift away from horses, and thereby be able to close all stables and hay barns, RRC purchased several single-truck wood snow plow cars. Equipped with a wedge plow and scraper on both ends, these double-end cars could quickly and easily keep snow pushed to the curb. Incredibly, cars from this initial fleet of snow plows lasted in service for over four decades. At least six, 02 – 05 and 010, served in the 1930s.

The Rochester Electric Railway had completed its pioneer trolley line between the Rochester city line and Charlotte in 1889. With the bitter winds that whipped winter snows into a frenzy, forming massive drifts on the mostly rural RER, it became apparent that wedge plows would not always be able to clear the line. Seeing a need for a fresh answer, Captain George Ruggles developed an electric-powered rotary snow blower. A series of giant fans and an outlet chute were built onto one end of the car, with a strong electric motor running both a chopping fan and the snow throwing paddles. The chopping fan consisted of four blades. The first of these plows were pushed along by streetcars, but it was quickly seen that self-powered rotary snow plows worked much more quickly and efficiently.

Rotary snow plows for city operations used two small chopping fans which cut a more square path through the snow and often rode on a single truck. Interurban models usually had one large and fierce-looking chopping fan, perhaps ten feet in diameter, and rode on two trucks.

While these plows worked well, there were some disadvantages. The snow hurling through the air could contain rocks and other debris that could smash window glass and strike bystanders. Once the use of rotary plows had begun, the resulting windrows of snow prevented the use of wedge or nose plows. In a blizzard, though, nothing could beat a rotary snow plow.

This Ruggles-design rotary plow shows off its chopping blades in this early 1900s photo. Paddle-like blades behind the choppers, barely visible in this view, threw snow off to the side. This two-chopper-fan design was especially good at clearing out the areas directly over the rails; rotary plows with one large chopping fan were good for deep drifts.

The Rochester city lines had several rotary plows on its roster. The Rochester and Eastern had two, one of which was later assigned to the Rochester and Sodus Bay line along with four others. The last R&E rotary plow, 017, was reassigned to the Rochester Subway in the 1930s and survived to become perhaps, the second-to-last Ruggles-type plow. Car 017 was scrapped in 1958, but a rotary snow plow from Montreal is preserved at Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Conn.

While rotary snow plows were the heavy hitters used in the worst of weather, other snow-fighting cars saw most of the work of removing snow from electric railway tracks. Nose plows, pushing snow to both sides, were used on single track lines. A wedge plow, pushing snow to the right was normally used on double-track lines. A scraper car, with a long blade held off to the side of the car and angled to the rear, could be used to press plowed furrows over to the curb. It was the sweeper car, with its whirling brooms at an angle to the forward progress of the track, that was most useful under normal conditions.

Sweepers were built in both single-truck and double-truck varieties, although in Rochester only single-truckers were used. Rochester used double-end sweepers with brooms on both ends. The brooms were fashioned from a stiff cane held in place by a steel axle assembly.

The brooms were powered by their own motor, and rotated so as to have the cane hit the snow and push it in front of the car. The roughly 45-degree angle at which the broom faced the street insured that the snow would eventually be pushed to the curb.

Posed on Commercial Street and facing west toward State Street, sweeper 030 is typical of the single-truck snow sweepers used in Rochester. The canvas shrouds draped over the brooms are to keep blowing of snow to a minimum. Note the angle of the brooms, designed to work snow toward the curb. This photo probably shows the car just after it was delivered new from car builder Brill in 1908.

Of course, there were always areas that needed special attention. Ice buildups in flangeways sometimes required laborious pick-and-shovel work to remove. Hand shoveling also was used on passenger platforms where mechanized equipment could not reach.

Snow and shoppers fill downtown Rochester as a 355-series car makes it way east on Main at St. Paul, December, 1936.

For more on Rochester’s struggles with winter’s woes, see page 7. “Battling the Big One” takes us back to the 1920s for a blow-by-blow account of a major winter storm and tells how our streetcar and interurban systems coped.


Kodak, like most major industries, has always placed a high value on safety in the workplace, and their railroad is no exception. Railroading can be dangerous, especially when it involves traversing the streets and walkways within a factory complex. Completing our look at the Kodak Park Railroad, begun in the Fall 2007 issue of HEADEND, Allen Cobb’s memoir describes two serious safety incidents on the line:

A fatal accident occurred at the Park in August, 1936, when an employee of the Chemical Division in Building 46 was on his way to the bus stop in front of Building 23. Apparently he made this trek often and was in the habit of taking a diagonal path across the street and tracks. “He was known to be slightly deaf”, Mr. Cobb says.

Engine 3 was heading southwest, returning from delivering a tank car load of nitrate dope. The engineer was on the right-hand side, not offering him a clear view of anyone approaching the track from Building 46. Despite the ringing bell, the pedestrian, studying the papers he was intent on delivering, walked directly in front of the locomotive. Fortunately, the engineer heard nearby people yelling in vain to stop the preoccupied pedestrian, and he applied the brakes. The pedestrian was struck by the front footboards, but the engine stopped before the wheels touched him. Badly injured, the pedestrian did not regain consciousness and died in the medical department.

As a result of this tragedy, Mr. Cobb recommended a railed platform be constructed on the right-front end of the engine, and to have a brakeman ride on that platform while in Kodak Park East.

“Another interesting accident”, Mr. Cobb relates, happened with engine no. 2 one warm summer day. “Number 2 was a clumsy engine, both in appearance and handling”, says Cobb. “The hot water tank or “boiler” protruded a long way into the cab, which was nearly deckless”. The reverse lever was well forward on the right side of the boiler and was hand-operated.

Mr. Cobb continues, “As no. 2, light, was headed west on the main line beside Building 46, the switch was set for the spur going into Building 49. Several cars were spaced along the track in Building 49 being unloaded; the door was open.

“Just as he passed Building 46, the engineer apparently blew his cylinder cocks and momentarily opened the throttle wide while doing so. He tried to shut the throttle but stated that it stuck wide open. He “lost his cool” and jumped off the engine with the throttle wide open, headed into Building 46.

“The engine struck the first car, in turn striking the others in succession. The last car jumped the bumper at the end of the track and stopped with the coupler just short of the window at the end of the building. Just outside the window were the solvent lines to Kodak West—at that time carrying acetone and alcohol. We were lucky! No one was in a car or on a deckboard at the time.

“I checked the engine immediately afterward. The throttle and Johnson bar [reverse lever] were both in good order. However, the cab contained a high stool and several wooden boxes with odd tools and spare parts. All this junk was right in the way of reaching the reverse lever. Even if a throttle should stick, an engine can always be stopped by pulling the reverse lever back to center. It was a pure case of panic.”


The extent of transportation’s influence in the lives of everyone is reflected in the wide variety of artifacts and documents that find a home in the museum’s archives. There are many recent donations to report on this time, including numerous photographs, commemorative envelopes, books, magazines and clippings. The most interesting and unusual items tend to get spotlighted in these pages, but all contributions are valued and appreciated.

A “bicycle built for two” was donated this past summer. We haven’t yet been able to learn much about its history, but a notable feature is the chain that ties the two sets of handlebars together. This feature allows either rider to steer (although we wonder what happens when they both want to go in different directions)

Steam enthusiasts will be happy to see the miniature live-steam road roller we received in September. The Wilesco model generates steam in its boiler to power the machine, and has working steering via chains attached to the front roller frame.

In November, the stars aligned and we were able to pick up (actually, “take down”) the G-gauge railroad that had once graced the check-out area of a local supermarket. Gift Shop Manager Doug Anderson honchoed this donation, as the suspended track and train is destined to add to the ambience in our gift shop soon. Let Doug tell the story:

“On Monday, 5 Nov 2007, 4 volunteers from the museum met at the now closed Bay Towne Plaza Tops Markets store to tear down the G gauge railroad that ran above the cash registers. This store was announced for closing approximately two weeks earlier and by this particular day the only items left in the store were the railroad and empty shelves. Thanks to the inquiry of museum friend Kent Carpenter, Tops was willing to donate the entire railroad to the museum.

“Our small band of volunteers and an official of Tops had the task of bringing down approximately 160 feet of track that was suspended 10 feet above the floor. The track was attached to the ceiling about every 4 feet along this rectangular layout with thin steel wire. Fortunately for us we had the necessary ladders and most of the tools.

A workman at the store graciously loaned us his power driver so we could separate the joints of the red steel support structure that held this railroad in place.

“John Ross and I had the task of loosening everything up around the entire track layout before things came down. We then repeated our trip around the railroad by detaching each section and popping the ceiling clips loose and handing down the sections to Bob Achilles. Kent Carpenter wrapped up the 6 box cars and switch engine for their trip out to the museum and helped stage the sections of track for loading into the vehicles.”

Doug says they had the whole donation ready to travel “in two hours flat” and then goes on to describe the “great learning experience” figuring out how to fit 9-foot-long track sections into vehicles designed to accommodate 6-foot things. When all the dust settled, the whole escapade only burned up 9 volunteer hours, and we’re all wondering why the track gang on our museum rail line can’t be this productive…

More good things came to us from the closing of another local institution. This time it was the venerable Kodak Camera Club, reminding us again of the downsizing of that great company and the sea change we’re all experiencing in photography. Museum Trustee Paul Monte advised us that there were three large-format printer systems available for donation, including accompanying computers, software, inks and paper. Shortly before Christmas, Paul rented a truck and the items were hauled to the museum. Thanks to prep work by Paul and the staff in Kodak Employee Services, everything was boxed and ready for pickup, and the move was made in short order. We now have three systems (Kodak LF 2042; Canon ImageProGraf W8200; Epson Stylus Pro 10000) with which we’ll be able to produce large, poster-sized reproductions of archived materials. This will expand the range of exhibits we can mount, both in the gallery and on the museum floor.

John Ross, Paul Monte and Rick Holahan carefully unload one of the large-format printers that will find good use at NYMT.

Donations of materials for use at the museum were many this fall, including a new shop vac, lighting for the corridor display, track tools, copy paper and filing cabinets. In December, the Board voted to deaccession two switch tower lever assemblies, donating them with the help of former NYMT Trustee Rand Warner to the Sterling Historical Society for their restored Lehigh Valley signal tower at Sterling, NY.

Rounding out the year, we received the final two cartons of auto marketing printed material from John States, and a set of 15 prints taken when New York Central’s “Wolverine” derailed at Oak and Allen Streets in Rochester.


This fall, the combined resources of our museum and RGVRRM brought railroading to life for a group of Boy Scouts from Fairport. Led by our own Doug Anderson, a program was put together so the Troop 325 guys could earn a merit badge in railroading. Three sessions were held, starting with one in early October that included presentations on how to plan a trip by rail, identification of various rail freight cars, and Operation Life Saver. The second session featured a tour of NYMT, with an in-depth look at model railroading. Dave Mitchell and Doug operated Dick Luchterhand’s museum layout, gave the boys a shot at a “switching puzzle”, and explained the latest technological advance in model railroading, digital cab control.

In late October, the group of 11 boys met at RGVRRM’s restoration building, where Museum Director Chris Hauf got into the details of train air brake systems and diesel locomotive prime movers. Chris also led the group on a tour of RGVRRM’s depot and many exhibits. The Scouts were taught the hand, whistle, and trackside signals used on the railroads, with discussion of general safety around trains. Live action was featured here too, with demonstrations of coupling and uncoupling a car, and a couple of trips on the rail line in the cab of a diesel locomotive.

RGVRRM’s Chris Hauf explains the complexities of railroad air brakes with the help of former-Kodak diesel locomotive #9.

Not many Boy Scouts are fortunate enough to have two rail museums available to add such reality to the Railroad Merit Badge study materials, not to mention committed volunteers like Doug, Dave, Chris and Dick to assemble a top-quality program too!


As most of our readers have noticed, the museum saves postage by enclosing the annual membership renewal form in the Fall issue of HEADEND, instead of sending out a separate mailing. We’ve heard from a couple of members that they like to keep their issues intact, and don’t want to cut out the membership form to return with their renewal check. We’re flattered that people think so highly of our quarterly journal, and are happy to accommodate.

So, if you prefer to keep your issue whole, just drop us a line. We’ll enclose a separate membership form for your use, and the few cents extra postage shouldn’t hurt all that much.

Thanks very much to all our members for their support and encouragement! And if you haven’t yet sent in your renewal payment, please hurry. This is the last issue of HEADEND you’ll be receiving!

Battling the Big One

The greatest Rochester-area snow storm of the trolley era, which took place on January 29 and 30, 1925, tested all this equipment to its maximum extent. Most fortunately, a rebuilding of numerous snow fighting cars had been undertaken in 1923, so the fleet was really in top condition.

Snow began to fall in Rochester early on Thursday afternoon January 29th. What had appeared to be just another of the season’s storms heightened its intensity by 4 o’clock that afternoon, just as the evening rush hour was beginning. Rochester’s Commissioner of Public Works Harold Baker began the battle against the storm by calling out the sidewalk plows at 3:30 p.m.; at 5 o’clock, he called out the city’s street snowplow trucks. New York State Railways’ Rochester City Lines Superintendent of Transportation B. C. Amesbury ordered out eight city sweepers at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The havoc of the storm wrecked Amesbury’s plans to obtain the men who normally crewed the snow plows and sweepers. He had placed these men on tripper cars for that afternoon’s rush hour traffic. Many automobiles were stalled directly on the streetcar tracks by the heavy snow, forcing city cars to slow down or stop. This prevented the timely return of crews to the car houses for reassignment to snow fighting equipment. Thus delayed, the Rochester city sweepers and plows got a late start on the storm. The heavy snows were so deep that pushers were required to keep plows moving through the mountainous drifts, and as many as five cars were put together in a single train for this purpose.

The great fear for the railway men was that the snow would fall faster than it could be removed from the tracks, and that despite all efforts, the car lines would have to be surrendered to the storm. Some city streetcars did finally become snowbound, and from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., service on some lines ceased. Stalled cars were eventually freed with the help of snowplow and sweeper cars.

A snow sweeper pushes a recent snowfall to the curb on Court Street. The sweeper is eastbound just east of Exchange Street; the Erie Railroad station can be seen at left. This photo, originally published in New York State Railways’ company magazine, Transportation News, vol. 7, no. 5 (December 1929), p. 19, was taken by A. Picard, a company employee at East Main Station.

Keeping the entire force of ten city snow fighting cars (3 sweepers, 4 plows, 1 ice scraper and 2 ice flangers) and the five interurban snow plows rolling through the storm demanded an unusual degree of coordination between New York State Railways departments. In the car houses, men were kept on duty to re-broom sweepers as needed; other men were retained to make immediate repairs to damaged snow fighting cars.

Numerous emergency and repair trucks had to be manned in the field throughout the storm. Three Electrical Department trucks, with four men each, worked diligently from Thursday afternoon until the storm broke on Friday evening just before midnight. With relatively warm temperatures near 20 degrees F overnight, no trolley wires snapped. The vigilant emergency truck crews were able to prevent other problems, and no power outages occurred.

City trucks worked throughout the night. By 8 o’clock Thursday evening, 16 road plows were at work cleaning outlying streets, and at 10 o’clock that evening, the four downtown plows swung into action. Finally, at 11:30 p.m., a large Barbour-Green snow loader, recently purchased by the city, started clearing snow fields from East Avenue, which had no streetcar tracks, and from along Main Street.

Hand shoveling was needed in areas the plows could not reach. Two trucks and 35 men, from the Way and Structures department of New York State Railways, kept at the work of clearing snow and ice from switches on Thursday night and into Friday morning. Another 75 men worked throughout the night clearing snow from car stops, landing platforms, main intersections, loops and entrance tracks at car houses. Stalled vehicles also posed a problem. During the five days the storm and its effects bogged down the Rochester area, Electrical Department emergency trucks “pulled 163 motor cars off the tracks, replaced 17 snow plows and 19 passenger cars on the tracks, pulled 23 trackless trolleys out of the snow and pulled the Browncroft bus out of the deep snow three times.” (Transportation News, Vol. 2, no. 7 (February, 1925): 16-17)

When morning came, more men were put into service; eventually some 250 men shoveled snow by hand as sweepers, scrapers and plows kept rolling. Some other help that morning came from a few more heavy city snowplow trucks. Throughout the 30th, ridges at intersections were cut down by pick and shovel, and work trains kept busy removing snow. Sand cars also were kept busy making their rounds to the sand boxes at loops to keep ample supplies at hand for streetcar crews.

Titled “Winter Scene on the Sea Breeze Line”, this photo originally was the cover photo of the January 1929 issue of Transportation News. The rotary plow’s blades are furiously chewing into the snow, hurling it up and away from the tracks while a crew of shovelers stands aside. This photo was undoubtedly made by William G. Amer, the company photographer in the 1920s.

While city crews struggled to keep up with the storm, interurban crews fought problems of their own. R&E and R&SB plows were out by early evening. The R&E line did not close but its cars ran late; throughout the evening of the 29th, R&E cars entered Rochester about one half hour behind schedule. Both R&E plows, rotary 017 and work car 0205 (with its nose plow), saw round-the-clock duty.

The Sodus line remained open until 10 p.m. on Thursday evening before giving in to the elements when an interurban car stalled near Ontario Center. Automobiles, using the partially cleared R&SB roadbed instead of the unplowed highway alongside, had packed snow on the trolley line’s rails. A plow from Rochester came up behind the stalled interurban car, pulled it free to a nearby siding and went on ahead only to find it could not pass through Ontario Center. In the village, where the tracks were directly in the street, passing automobiles had packed snow hard and turned the whole mass into ice that trolley car wheels could not cut. stranded, these men had to leave their plow and return west on the New York Central’s Hojack line. Other plows worked their way east, allowing service to be restored to Webster on Saturday. Reaching Ontario Center at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, a crew worked all day picking ice from the rails but became exhausted and stopped work that night. While service was maintained to Ontario on Sunday,

another snowfall on Monday kept crews busy re-clearing the R&SB to Ontario. This work finally accomplished, the plows set out on Monday evening for Williamson, only to be derailed by ice at a grade crossing. Days would pass before the plows were re-railed and off to Williamson, where reports by telephone told of snow three feet deep.

Sodus village, some 31 snow-choked miles from East Main Station, soldiered on in spite of remaining “in a state of high blockade.” Meat and groceries, usually brought to Sodus by the interurban, started to become scarce until the New York Central filled the breach and began delivering groceries. While a work crew had tried to pick ice from rails on West Main Street in Sodus, such work was abandoned when the second snow storm struck the line on Monday.

Having only once before suffered as serious a curtailment of service, the R&SB was not open to Sodus until fully a week after the storm first struck. All in all, though, the city and interurban lines of New York State Railways, Rochester Lines, weathered the storm in good shape, leaving the men and equipment ready to fight snow on yet another day.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 45 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 035 Photo by Stephen D. Maguire

by Charles R. Lowe

Snow sweepers in action seem to have not caught the attention of the fair-weather railfans who visited Rochester in the 1930s and early 1940s. Not so with Steve Maguire. He often braved the elements and, protecting the leather bellows in his folding camera, made some of the only surviving trolley snow scenes. One of his photos shows an Atlantic City and Shore RR snow plow, the excessively numbered car 498181, in a blizzard so intense one can hardly see the car on the pure white background.

Our photo is perhaps the best extant view of a Rochester snow sweeper at work. In this view, probably made on January 12 or 13, 1939, a northbound sweeper is brushing aside a recent snowfall on State Street. The automobile at extreme left is parked on Platt Street, and standing behind the sweeper is the Rochester Button Company building. This building still stands, and has served in recent years as a restaurant in the High Falls district.

The trolley fan always strives to find a car number in trolley photos, much as the young coin collector hopes to divine a date on a worn Buffalo nickel or to somehow coax a year from the pedestal under the feet of the goddess “Liberty” on an aged Standing Liberty Quarter. On our photo, absolutely no trace of the car number can be seen through the snow pasted onto the car body. However, careful comparison of such features as the position of the roof bell, window spacing and damaged car body boards with the summertime photos of sweepers made by the fair-weather fans can be powerful evidence. In the manner of the youthful numismatist, I proclaim this a view of car 035.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Electrification: Bob Achilles and Dick Holbert attached the grounding wire from the trolley wire to lightning arresters at poles 17 and 26 on Saturday, November 3. This completed the overhead construction to pole 26. Once everyone caught their breaths after the Holly Trolley runs and the holiday season, a crew of Bob Achilles, Tony Mittiga and Charlie Lowe set stakes for pole and ground anchor positions for the next extension of the overhead. This work was completed on January 13.

Philadelphia and Western 161: In preparation for the holiday trolley runs, Bob Miner and Dick Holbert repaired numerous items on this car. Coach lights mostly work, although a few have wiring problems which have yet to be resolved. All platform lights now work, which allows motormen to use them as a guide for dewirements. Heaters in the coach section and on the platforms also now have been tested and work well.

After training runs, a few problems cropped up. Bob Miner cleaned and lubricated a balky trolley rope catcher. One trolley pole became weak when raised to the wire, an effect which led to several dewirements.

A quick look at the US-13 trolley base revealed that one of the four heavy springs had broken. A single spare spring was located in the parts area, and it was installed by a crew consisting of Bob Miner, Dick Holbert, Paul Monte and Charlie Lowe. Since that spare was the last we had (it was a miracle we had even that one!), and since the failure of just one of these springs would make 161 unfit for duty, I contacted Dave Johnston of Western Railway Museum. He provided a set of eight reproduction springs at a most reasonable cost, which was in turn provided for by the donation of funds by several of the motormen. The springs are now at NYMT, ready to safeguard us if further problems occur. To lessen the tension of these springs (and the force in the trolley boards on which the pole bases are mounted) when the P&W cars are not in use, we now store the poles off the hooks and resting on the roof trusses of the new barn.

Track: A small flag stop platform was constructed in early November at Remelts Stop near pole 7 for use during Christmas trolley runs (see photo, page 1). Crushed stone topping was used for this work, salvaged from the 2001 “Trolleys Return to Rochester” platforms at pole 12. An addition to the wooden platform inside the new car barn, measuring 32 inches wide and 12 feet long, was also built to make boarding car 161 safe and easy.


With the new year, there’s a new schedule of special events at the museum for our visitors (and members!) to enjoy. Mark your calendars and be sure to join us for all the fun.

Through April 27: Bring Your Own Train. Budding empire builders can take the throttle and watch their own HO trains roll on the museum’s super-sized model railroad.

May 18: Trolley and track car rides begin. The only museum trolley operation in New York State brings back the interurban era on a half-mile long electrified rail line.

June 15: Trolley Follies. Late in 2007, our volunteers completed work that doubled the length of our trolley line, a big step in bringing back the days of interurban travel. Slide talks, rare movies, trolley restoration demos, and more.

July 20: Caboose Day. Vans, cabin cars, crummies or “the little red caboose”…whatever you call them, here’s your chance to ride in one and live the life of a railroader.

August 23 and 24: Diesel Days. A two-day celebration of diesel locomotives lets you ride in the cab of one of these monsters, courtesy of the collection of RGVRRM.

October 26: Trolley and track car ride season ends, but the museum stays open throughout the year, featuring exhibits of trolleys, models, photos, and transportation artifacts.

December 6/7, 13/14, and 20/21: Holly Trolley rides. Santa may still use reindeer power, but museum visitors can celebrate the holiday season with rides on our authentic 80 year-old interurban trolley car.


To make the best use of the museum railroad and the huge investment to date in electrification of the line, the next overhead extension is now underway. Already, the survey and stakeout are completed, as mentioned in the above Shop Report. Volunteers are meeting at the museum on Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to sort and clean parts, and to make the sub-assemblies needed for the overhead. More volunteers are needed to press this preparation work so outdoor construction can begin promptly in the spring.

The extension will cover all the remaining railroad built on the museum’s leased property. This will carry the overhead to a point just south of Scanlon’s Curve and give us a mile-long trolley railroad. From the proposed south end of the wire it is just a short half-mile hop to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, a distance that track cars could be used to complete the inter-museum ride.

All of the fittings and trolley wire are on hand. About half the wood poles are also on hand. Several plans are being considered for the arduous job of installing poles and ground anchors. These include having either a contractor or a local utility company help us with this work. Another expensive area of the project, rail bonding, needs to be extended for the southern half of the project area.

The hope is that if the poles are set by May, all wire could be in place by early August. This would permit trolleys to meet diesel trains for Diesel Days this year. Once the track is bonded, the trolley ride can be extended to Scanlon’s Curve. Your support, both as a volunteer of time and as a donor of funds, will make this essential project become a reality.

Volunteers interested in helping with this important work can contact Project Leader Charlie Lowe at 223-5747 or crloweny@rochester.rr.com.


We direct readers’ attention to our own snow sweeper, former Philadelphia snow sweeper C-130. The first restoration project by museum volunteers way back in the 1970s just needs some final work and she’ll be ready to run. Imagine seeing this beauty throwing the snow aside, on our own trolley line! Someday.…

HEADEND is published four times a year by the New York Museum of Transportation, © 2007. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. www.nymtmuseum.org

Editor - Jim Dierks
Contributing Editors - Charles Lowe, James Root
Printing - James Root, Peter Leas
Publication - Doug Anderson