The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
WINTERFEST 2009 A SUCCESS
For several years, members from trolley museums around the northeast U.S. and Canada have gathered during the winter to visit one of their museums, share experiences and learn from their peers. With the recent extension of our rail line, resulting in a true interurban experience, NYMT was a logical choice to host the 2009 event. “Winterfest 2009” was a big success, thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, and we were able to show our guests a good time. Those 48 guests, by the way, came from eleven different museums, from Ohio to Maine, including 15 enthusiastic representatives from Halton County (Ontario). Here's NYMT member Don Shilling's report:
NOTES ON WINTERFEST 2009
By Donovan A. Shilling
We arrived at the New York Museum of Transportation with Bob Miner at noon on Friday, February 20, 2009. It was the first day for registration with arrivals scheduled for 4 p.m. By 2 o’clock, however, a number of early visitors were already wandering through the museum’s many transportation related exhibits. One affable gentleman, NYMT member Dave Farren, had driven up from Philadelphia and was eager to get reacquainted with the museum’s two late-1920s-vintage trolleys, former Philadelphia and Western numbers 161 and 168.
Dave had been a motorman on these venerable cars during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He even brought with him the wooden handled brake lever that he had used when rolling trolleys on the P&W mainline. As a certified operator at NYMT, Dave was allowed to pilot the museum’s trolleys on several runs made on Saturday.
At dusk on Friday we boarded the brightly orange painted trolley 168 with Charlie Lowe at the controls. Taking our seat, we became aware of that nostalgic "thrum, thrum, thrum" of the trolley's air brake compressor. As a kid we remembered that almost hypnotic "thrumming" beat from our first trolley ride, from Sea Breeze to downtown Rochester. It was great to hear that unique sound again.
Within minutes, 168 was pulling out of the trolley barn, moving so smoothly that at first we didn’t realize it was in motion. Journeying down the hill heading south, we heard someone shout, "Hey, look!" We all did. Silhouetted on a hillside field above us was a herd of a dozen deer. Wind had recently blown away enough snow to reveal a patch of snow-cleared grass. This had attracted the deer who were munching away on the scarce grassy areas along the distant fence line.
As we approached a former BOCES rail crossing, Charlie tooted the trolley whistle. Its effect on the deer was instantaneous, creating a most extraordinary spectacle. As we watched, the deer, one after the other, gracefully vaulted high over the fence, their white tails flying.
In another half mile we halted at the present end of the overhead wire. Bob Achilles repositioned the trolley pole on the wire to reverse the car and once more we were underway, now heading north. Returning to where we first spotted the deer, we discovered that the herd was still there. No trolley tooting was going to deprive them of their evening meal this time though, and they stayed put as we passed.
On another Friday evening run, Dave Farren does the time honored march from one end of the car to the other-reversing the poles at Midway station Chris Playford photo
Exiting the trolley at the NYMT car barn, the hungry riders entered the museum’s ticket and souvenir shop area. Here, working behind the counter were Doug Anderson and Jack Tripp, who met us and the other arriving guests. A familiar aroma greeted us. Arrayed on another counter were three large boxes containing cheese, pepperoni, and sausage pizzas. Within minutes the boxes were emptied and the room was filled with contented trolley fans recounting tales of their own trolley museums. As the evening progressed, more trolley runs were made. About 9 o’clock most of the visitors had left for their evening accommodations, the museum parking lot having been brightly illuminated by a pole light set up by the eminently resourceful Bob Miner.
The sun rose on a crisp and cold Saturday. Its radiant rays would soon sublime the evening snow fall to a point where it would not hinder scheduled trolley runs. By mid-morning over seventy trolley fans, including members of NYMT and the Rochester Chapter of NRHS, had arrived. Trolley car enthusiasts came from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Ohio, Boston, and Washington, PA, along with a large contingent from Halton County, Ontario, Canada. In all, seven states and a province were registered representing a dozen trolley organizations.
Of course, the visitors came for the trolleys, so rides began by 9 a.m., using both cars 161 and 168, and continued through the morning. (Continued)
161 and 168 meet in the carbarn, exchanging Winterfest riders.
Chris Playford photo
In preparation for the visitors, Doug Anderson had printed large tags each with a guest's name and that of his trolley museum. These also contained a clever signal-light symbol with red, yellow and green colors indicating meal sign-ups. Placed in plastic sleeves and worn around the neck, the name tags did much to enhance the social segment of the Winterfest conference. Along with the name tags, guests received a map of the trolley line, another map locating the Saturday evening dinner site, and yet another document for guest trolley operators: an illustrated, ten-page "Summary of Operating Instructions for the Philadelphia & Western cars 161 and 168", written by Charlie Lowe.
While some visitors drank coffee and enjoyed a large assortment of donuts, others perused NYMT’s many displays and transportation related artifacts. During this time, Dave Mitchell almost single-handedly was preparing for the lunchtime meal. He had spent much of Friday transporting bottled water and coolers of water for today’s coffee, tea and cocoa. He also provided the necessary amenities, cups, spoons, cream, sugar, etc. And, for last night’s dinner Dave invented a special warming contraption to insure that the pizza stayed warm after its delivery.
For Saturday’s lunch Dave had personally put together a huge kettle of vegetable soup to accompany sandwiches and meat-filled croissants. These were consumed with gusto, the wintry weather prompting many keen appetites. Not only did Dave make the soup, but he also ladled it out to the attendees.
In the meantime, Mike Story and Dick Van Ness were presenting a slide program in the museum gallery. While not everyone had a chance to attend it, those who did were treated to a wonderful look back in time and learned much about the pioneering efforts of those who saw NYMT as a significant contribution in preserving the area’s exceptional transportation history.
During the day, numerous conversations dwelt on topics from Boston's new Italian subway cars ("they don't run well in hot weather, they don't run well in cold weather, and they have great difficulty negotiating the S-curves in Boston's tunnels") to the unusual meter-and-a-half track gauge at the Halton County museum's trolley line. We also heard about the 2006 Winterfest at Electric City in Scranton, PA. The snow was so deep there that the trolley ride amounted to only fifteen feet!
While many trolley trips were made in the morning, after lunch things got even better. Promptly at 1 p.m., our trolley departed for another trip, with every seat filled. This time, though, we were met at Midway station by a Rochester Chapter diesel pulling two cabooses.
RGVRRM GE diesel 1654 with its caboose train meets car 168, ready to return to NYMT from Midway station.
Chris Playford photo
Aboard this train, the visitors traveled the remaining half-mile to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum depot. There, guides toured the group through the depot and rail yard displays, and up the hill to visit the restoration building.
Nicely restored Penn Central transfer caboose 18526 was a center of attention on the run from Midway to RGVRRM.
Chris Playford photo
Five tours were made during this busy day, which ended with a catered dinner and a great slide show at the Stevens-Connor American Legion Post.
Mike Dow, from RGVRRM, and NYMT’s Charlie Lowe worked closely together to assure the smooth transfers at Midway.
Chris Playford photo
The generous time and effort of the many volunteers from both museums made the event a big success. There was Paul Monte who served as Officer of the Day, Charlie Lowe and Bob Achilles who did so much of the planning, and many others who deserve special thanks for their contributions. We can't wait 'til the next Winterfest!
"Rochester Streetcars", a regular feature in these pages thanks to the enthusiasm, research and writing talent of Charlie Lowe, has reached a milestone with installment number 50. Through this continuing series of articles, Charlie has been able to illuminate our area's trolley history, pulling up interesting details from the accompanying photos about the streetcar, the circumstances of the shot, and even about the photographer.
If you haven't been a member since "Rochester Streetcars" number 1, you'll be happy to know that all fifty of the series can be found at our museum website. Go to www.nymtmuseum.org and click on the "NYMT Journal" box. Scroll down the page and click on any of the articles 1 - 33. For later articles, click on "Past Issues of HEADEND" near the top of the page and select any of the complete issues from 2005 to our most recent issue.
|New Your State Railways, Rochester Lines 437|
|photo by George Votava|
by Charles R. Lowe
For this 50th installment of the Rochester Streetcars column, our photo is one showing a car in NYMT’s collection of historic street railway equipment. As it sits now, car 437 does not attract too much attention in the main car house. It is, however, the Rochester city car in the nearest-to-running condition anywhere, and thereby warrants our attention on this anniversary.
In fact, NYMT's association with car 437 began about the time of the beginning of this column, back in 1997. During the winter of 1996-1997, the late Ben Minnich offered NYMT one of two Rochester city cars he had rights to at lake Lamoka, observing that "a trolley museum in Rochester ought to have a Rochester city car." The only stipulations were that we had to rescue our car first, which was not easy considering the two cars were melded together to form one cabin, and that we had to help Ben when it came time to move the other car to Seashore Trolley Museum. Ben even gave us our choice of cars since they were about equal in condition.
The NYMT Board agreed with Ben and authorized the move of the car to NYMT. Tony Mittiga and your author spent many weekends preparing the car for its journey, having selected 437 since its window posts were all intact. Partner car 394 had a much better roof, but was missing two window posts, a problem we agreed would be tougher for NYMT to repair than the roof on 437. With Silk Road engaged to move the car, the journey to NYMT took place on August 4, 1997. How odd it was to follow behind a 1904 streetcar barreling down I-390 at 50 miles an hour! Within three weeks the car was tarped at its new home.
About this time I approached our HEAD" editor, committing myself to a quarterly regimen of writing "Rochester Streetcars” as my effort to make sure at least one story about Rochester’s electric railway history made it into each issue. Author, readers and 437 have traveled a long way since 1997. We have been able to sample from the great railfan photographers’ efforts and learned about a variety of Rochester’s cars, from the earliest horsecars to the single-truckers of the 1890s, to the double-truckers such as 437, and finally to the Peter Witts and Rochester Subway cars of 1916. Likewise, car 437 has journeyed as well. In 2003, it was placed on what are arguably the best pair of trucks with motors in the museum’s collection. In 2005 it finally burst out from underneath its tarp and was rolled into the museum’s new car house. Finally, when the restoration of P&W car 161 was declared finished in 2006, car 437 swapped places and was rolled onto the shop track in the main barn.
The journey of car 437 is to end when it reaches the condition shown in our present photo. The photographer, George Votava, was a New York City railfan but had come to Rochester hoping to sample the city’s fleet of deck roof cars. He was not disappointed. Having positioned himself at the intersection of Main Street East and Union Street on the morning of March 25, 1936, a parade of cars returning to East Main Street Station after the morning rush-hour rolled into his viewfinder. When 437 appeared, trailing behind a peter Witt 1200-series car, it must have been about 10 o’clock or so, based on the sun angle. One rider, seemingly intent on his newspaper, can be seen. The sign EAST MAIN STATION indicates that while 437 had been on the North Goodman route (as shown by the car's train number and roll sign), it was one of the many cars returning to the barn where it would wait until the evening rush-hour traffic began.
Having enjoyed this view of 437 in action, let's all redouble our efforts and make an in-service shot of 437 on the museums' railroad the subject of this column as the 100th installment in December, 2021 - or before!
POST CARDS SHOW US OFF
Thanks to the able photography of Chris Hauf and Charlie Lowe, and the nice work of NexPress’ James Root, we have six new post cards in our gift shop. Post cards are popular souvenirs and they help spread the word about us. For some, post cards are also collectibles that sometimes attain considerable value.
Several images show our former-P&W 161 holding forth on our trolley ride. In one image, happy visitors are climbing on board at BOCES crossing, in another, 161 reflects a late autumn sun under a brooding sky. An action shot of 161 kicking up some snow will be a nice souvenir for Holly Trolley riders next winter, and a picture of 161 meeting RGVRRM’s former Lehigh Valley Alco diesel 211 is a great representation of this summer’s plans to meet trolleys with diesel trains on selected Sundays.
One of Chris’ great night photos has Jeremy Tuke’s 1940 Buick pausing as 161 passes Giles Crossing, and a nice view of 157 in the main exhibit hall tells people we have much more to experience with our indoor displays, vehicles and artifacts.
Looking for even more rail fun around New York State? Check out "Tourist Railroads and Museums of New York" at this web site. Both NYMT and RGVRRM are listed, but that’s really no surprise. The classy and informative site was created by Otto Vondrak and Mike Roque…talented volunteers of both museums. Next time you’re cruising the net, give this site a look…and tell your friends!
NEW SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Most museums sell a souvenir booklet that visitors can take home with them, something that tells the story of the museum and provides more detail about the exhibits than one can absorb during a Sunday visit. Many years ago, we joined with our friends at RGVRRM to publish such a booklet, but it’s not only out of print…it’s way out of date. Charlie Lowe recently completed the huge Guide Book to the Electric Railway Collection of the New York Museum of Transportation, with 126 pages of detail and photos covering just about everything at the museum that runs on rails, including the model railroad. It sells for $25, and is a must-have for those eager to learn about our past, present and future.
Charlie and his father collaborated on an audio CD now available in the gift shop, Hear the Trolley Now. Charles E. Lowe recorded the sounds of P&W 161 in Holly Trolley service on December 14, 2008, and it’s all on a 67-minute parade of typical trolley sounds, plus crew announcements and the voices of happy visitors. You’ll hear the thrumming of the compressor, chunkity-chunk of the rail joints, whine of the traction motor gears, toots from the Westinghouse trombone whistles, even shouts of delight as some kids spot a deer. $10 will add this unique souvenir to your library.
DESTINATION DEPOT FUND
With the recent completion of the extension of our trolley wire to Midway Station, the final goal is in sight: RGVRRM’s Industry Depot. A special fund has been set up to get us there, called "Destination Depot". We invite all members and friends to give us the financial push we will need for this last, important segment of our electrification effort.
One easy way to contribute to this fund is to make some purchases in the museum gift shop. The entire proceeds from both our new Guide Book and the trolley sound CD will go to Destination Depot, and there are numerous used and new books for sale there tagged for this special fund too. Some of these books came from our own duplicate supply, and many were donated by the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in support of our shared goal. The books cover trolleys as well as railroad subjects, local and otherwise, specific lines and general coverage.
Whether you add some books to your collection, find something nice for a gift, or just make a cash donation, your help with our push to Industry Depot will be a vital contribution to the museum’s future!
To our visitors on any Sunday, NYMT is trolleys and a model railroad, exhibits and friendly volunteer hosts. But almost as much a fixture at our museum as our Mack fire truck and steam locomotive 47 is someone those Sunday visitors never get to see. Anna Thomas has for years been a Thursday regular, faithfully and tirelessly cleaning our gift shop and our two restrooms, as well as other spaces in between. Sadly for us, Anna has reluctantly announced her retirement from active volunteer status with us.
Anna fell recently and was kind enough to do it at home, tripping over her cat rather than taking a header on the vacuum cleaner cord at the museum. The bad news was a broken hip, but the good news was the way she came out of it all so well and so quickly. The opportunity to remain inactive during the healing process must have been a surprising discovery for this perpetual motion machine. She liked it! Anna offers the excuse that she’s now 75 years old as reason enough to retire, but if we accepted that we would probably get in trouble with the government for age discrimination, so we’ll just have to say she’s gone way past earning the chance to rest and enjoy herself.
Both Anna and her late husband Ted are dear to the museum for their many generous hours of volunteer time, and their legacy extends from our remodeled gift shop to our website and computerized archives. And our spotless restrooms too!
Anna's note says it all: "NYMT was a second family to Ted. I shall miss the volunteers who became friends. The museum is a treasure in the Rochester area community". She promises to keep in touch, and we look forward to many visits from her in the years to come. Happy retirement Anna!
The first impression for our visitors is the smiling welcome they get from the volunteers staffing the gift shop and ticket desk. It’s a great way to meet people, and all it takes is a short training session to get you started. Can you help? Give us a call at 533-1113. Thanks…we need you!
Our volunteers give generously of their time and talents, and along with our many members they also help with the funds to keep us going. The museum is on the receiving end in other ways too. Donations of items for our use and for our collection continue to be gratefully received.
Member Anna Thomas donated train-motif material and made new curtains for the crew restroom and covers for the display tables in the gift shop. A local model railroad enthusiast who has changed over to N-scale at home brought us boxes of his HO engines, cars, and accessories, for use on our own layout. Running the trains for visitors eventually wears out the equipment, so it’s great to have these additions to the fleet. We are planning a sale of surplus model train cars and engines soon, so modelers: get your wallets out!
Stretching the definition of transportation just a bit, we accepted the donation of a Taylor Tot stroller over half a century old. More than a few of our readers will probably recall this classic, and we're glad to add it to our collection of "other" vehicles.
Active volunteer Bill Chapin donated three large-format prints from the Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo interurban line. The shots were most likely taken as records after accidents, as the accompanying sample reveals.
RL&B freight motor 302 came out the loser after derailing and hitting a bridge. 302 and sister car 301 were built by Niles Car Company in 1908. No date is noted on this photo by C. Hess.
ROCHESTER’S 175TH ANNIVERSARY
We live in exciting times. The dictionary tells us 2009 is the year we celebrate our city's quartoseptcentennial, or it's demisemiseptcentennial. Either way it's a mouthful, but a good opportunity to celebrate at NYMT. Plans are afoot to slip an extra event into this summer's schedule, with a talk by Don Shilling and movie footage from the museum's archives of a parade of transportation that was presented at Edgerton Park for Rochester's 100th birthday in 1934. Stay tuned!
WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST
Some time back in these pages we offered a review of what a "trolley" is. We associate the word most often with electric streetcars and interurbans, and as we pointed out the term actually derives from the way the electric power for such vehicles is drawn by means of a spring-loaded pole bearing on an overhead wire. In our museum publicity efforts we even promote the fact that NYMT operates the "only trolley ride in New York State", and we do so with the knowledge that the only other competitor, light rail in nearby Buffalo, has cars equipped with a form of pantograph for overhead power pick-up that are thus not truly "trolley" cars.
With all that said, though, we might be fighting a losing battle in the public education department. We refer here to the rising popularity of those buses dolled up to vaguely resemble a streetcar. We’ve all seen them. They come in small "party" versions and in the large economy size that can fill in on a regular bus route. They're decorated in a style that looks like the designer got his or her inspiration from watching Mr. Rogers or "Meet Me in St. Louis", all multi-colored sheet metal and varnished wood, with a "cow catcher" just below the bike rack.
Worst of all, most members of the general public are far removed in time from the era when streetcars were commonplace in cities throughout the country. So, they have no real experience to refer to, and blithely assume that a "trolley" is that gaudy bus coming down the road. We don't know whether to laugh or pity these uninformed souls. In fact, they seem to be having such fun, we almost hate to burst their bubble.
Sparks fly and flanges squeal as...no, wait...
It occurs to us in our worst nightmare that when people see some publicity for our "trolley ride" they could be thinking, "Oh yeah, like that funny bus at Tammy's wedding last June ... no need to go to that museum ... been there done that." All we can do is keep trying to help the public understand what we are up to at NYMT, and continue to present the trolley history of our area in exhibits and in our restored cars.
"Trolley Time", our event scheduled for Sunday, July 19, will give us another chance to bring out the truth. Also, from now on, we'l be using "electric trolley" in our publicity releases to drive the point home. And, the next time you hear someone giggling with delight over a trolley that was really just a decorated bus, invite them to come out some Sunday and experience the real thing at your museum!
THINGS YOU OUGHTA KNOW
We come across interesting historical tidbits when doing research, and some are worth sharing. Here are a few:
Building the first aqueduct. The first attempt to carry the Erie Canal across the Genesee River was a red sandstone affair built in 1821 – 1823, with a labor force of 30 convicts from Auburn Prison. To keep the nearby residential neighborhood peaceful, the convicts were kept on the island between the Rochester mill race and the Genesee (an area where the War Memorial is now). That red sandstone was quarried from the river bank at Carthage…and if you read the Winter issue of HEADEND you know that was a community north of Rochester near where Driving Park bridge is today.
The horsecar fleet. In 1884 it was reported that the Rochester City & Brighton Railroad, our fair city’s horsecar line, was quite an operation. With 424 horses and 225 men, the company fielded a complement of 86 horsecars and 2 herdic coaches. Horsecars, we know, are short rail cars, usually having only four wheels riding on rails in the streets and pulled by horses. A herdic coach is a low-slung cab, either 2- or 4-wheel, featuring side bench seating and a rear entrance. These two coaches were used for transit on posh East Avenue (no tracks there!). Of the fleet of 86 horsecars, 20 were needed to support the West/North line and 19 for the Lake/Mt. Hope line. The New York Central depot line got by with 2 cars. It wasn’t long after this inventory that electric trolleys began to roll down those rails in the city’s streets, and in the ensuing decade horsecars became a thing of the past.
Predictions for the future. In 1934 Rochester was celebrating its centennial, and as always when interest in the past is piqued, imaginative souls ventured forth to offer their predictions for the future. So it was that George Redman, Superintendent of the Brush Electric Light Company, laid out some of his vision for 50 years hence (1984, if our math is up to speed). First, he foresaw the day when telegrams would be transmitted 100 at a time on a single wire. Not bad, except we were well on our way toward email by that date. Second, Redman predicted “telephones with recording devices”. Spot on with that one. Third, he figured that electricity would be our main motive power for railroads and other transportation. Well, yes and no, depending on whether you’re looking at the Northeast Corridor of Amtrak or the latest hope for reducing auto pollution. Of course, if he was thinking of the ride at NYMT, he nailed it!
EMPIRE STATE RAILS
As our world economy struggles, reminding us of a time almost three quarters of a century ago when the Great Depression hit, it’s interesting and perhaps reassuring to consider what was done back then, all with private money. The iconic Empire State Building was not only a remarkable feat of engineering and construction, but was also an expression of faith in the future despite the hard times, something we could all use some of right now.
The U.S. economy heated up in the "Roaring Twenties", and land values in New York City rose quickly. New construction compensated with taller buildings to more efficiently utilize the land area. Late in 1928, owners of the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel decided to sell their aging property at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue and build a modern hotel on Park Avenue. With cash readily available in these heady times, developers jumped at the chance to acquire the old property and began plans for an office building, plans that quickly grew in a reflection of the speculative confidence of that period.
By August, 1929, the intention was announced to construct an office building that would be the tallest building in the world. The first contracts were signed with the architects in September, and as we all know, a month after that, the stock market crashed. Undeterred, and in fact motivated by high tax rates on the property and the desire to receive rental income as soon as possible, the project went forward at a remarkable pace.
The old Waldorf-Astoria was reduced to rubble, drawings for the new building were completed, and in April, 1930, just seven months later, the first structural steel columns were set. Construction proceeded rapidly, the steel frame rising at a never-equaled pace of more than a story a day. As incredible as it may seem, opening-day ceremonies were held on the completed 102-story building on May 1, 1931.
A lot of the credit for the break-neck pace goes to the organizational skills of the major contractors, and one of many things they did to improve efficiency was create the little-known Empire State Industrial Railway System. You wouldn’t find it listed in the Official Guide to the Railways, of course, and it was small compared to some of the rail systems in major coal and ore mines, but the diminutive pike played an important role nonetheless.
Narrow gauge tracks were laid on each floor of the structure as soon as the concrete slab was ready for use. Push carts then carried materials on these tracks throughout the floor and to elevators leading to the construction going on above. According to official records, there were 24 double side Rocker Dump Cars and 24 Platform Cars, all steel, made by Koppel Industrial Equipment Corp. The track, also by Koppel, was 2-foot gauge, and there was 4,360 feet of it, in 15-foot straight sections and 12-foot-radius curved sections, all portable. In addition, there were six switches, and 31 turntables, 44 inches in diameter. Our museum track crew will like this: the rail weighed 12 pounds per yard.
This "typical floor equipment layout" shows the railway track with "stations" at hoistways.
Notes on Construction of Empire State Building
Despite the weight of the equipment (a fully loaded dump car could weigh several tons) the Industrial Railway was entirely man-powered. Use of the line, in conjunction with hoists and overhead trolleys to pass loads from the hoists to the rail cars, allowed the contractors to raise materials inside the building, which was considered an important public safety feature. Also, the elevators were equipped with rails, so that carts could be loaded at the ground floor, and rolled off at an upper floor and connected to that floor’s trackage by means of one of those many turntables. The rail system also, of course, permitted efficient movement of materials due to the low friction characteristic of steel wheels on steel rails.
Of local interest, the Empire State Building was equipped with eight model "F" mail chutes, equipment and installation by the Cutler Mail Chute Company (creator of the concept) of Rochester, New York. Also of interest is the fact that six men died in the construction of the building—three carpenters, two laborers and an ironworker—and one pedestrian fatality occurred, a woman struck by a piece of a broken plank. She suffered a fractured ankle and reportedly died of blood poisoning. And, if we think owning the tallest building in the world only has value for the developers’ pride, it’s noted that in the first year, the observation deck admissions totaled a million dollars, equal to what the building earned in rents. Despite the fast completion of the Empire State Building and the fame it acquired, it’s sobering to note that the prolonged Depression took its toll; the building didn’t reach full occupancy until the late 1940s.
One final piece of transportation trivia: There are really only 86 stories to the Empire State Building, but the total record-breaking height of 1,266 feet (equivalent to 102 stories) includes the unoccupied tower. This additional 200-foot part of the structure is officially referred to as the mooring mast…for docking dirigibles !
Promises kept: In our Spring issue we profiled Colleen Dox-Griffith and said we'd tell you about her husband Kevin in an upcoming issue. Well, that's Kevin, standing next to the bicycle his mother donated to us last year, and we're delighted to share Kevin's story with you.
Like his wife, Kevin comes to us without a long line of ancestors in the railroad field or some other significant transportation connection. An upstate New Yorker from the get go, he was born in Clifton Springs and raised in Ovid, where his dad was custodian of the Ovid Central School. That must have been an interesting job, as this one school educated kids from kindergarten all the way through high school. Kevin made it through, graduating in 1968.
He fondly recalls a childhood in Ovid with two close friends who enjoyed "trying lots of things". They played with the Lionel trains on the 4 x 8 layout at Kevin's home, but also got into bird watching, stamp collecting, studying insects, and building model kits of planes, boats, cars. Tropical fish became another solid interest among these inquisitive boys, a hobby that stayed with Kevin. He liked swordtails and got into breeding them for fun.
The family had a pop-up trailer camper, and summer camping was another favorite pastime. From Bar Harbor, Maine, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and up to Fish Creek in the Adirondacks, the Griffith clan traveled the roads, perhaps developing a latent interest in geography for Kevin, as he discovered in college. He studied in the Education program at SUNY Brockport, starting with a major in biology, but changed to geography for more interesting professors.
Kevin's career was in teaching, with 34 years in the Greece Central School District teaching 5th through 8th grades, with emphasis on general science. He married a lady he met in college and there are two children from that marriage - Mandy (who owns the New York Academy of Dance, a studio for children), and Michael (who just returned from a tour of duty for the Army in Iraq).
While that marriage didn’t work out, good things were in store for Kevin when, with a little help from the older generation, he got reacquainted with Colleen, whom he had known since childhood. They had dated in their youth, and hadn't seen each other for 23 years. When they met again after all that time, Kevin says, It was like we'd never been apart. The blended family (Kevin's two, plus Colleen's son, Rob) is growing, with four grandchildren plus one "en route".
important part of Kevin's life is serving as music director for
the contemporary service at Lakeview Community Church, on Latta Road
in Greece. He selects the music and plays guitar in the service.
Two bands alternate each week, and the age range of the musicians is
from 12 years to 73. Kevin notes that this contemporary service,
despite its early start of 8:30 Sunday mornings, has larger
attendance than the regular service. Parishioners say they come for
the music, which is of the contemporary Christian genre.
An important part of Kevin's life is serving as music director for the contemporary service at Lakeview Community Church, on Latta Road in Greece. He selects the music and plays guitar in the service. Two bands alternate each week, and the age range of the musicians is from 12 years to 73. Kevin notes that this contemporary service, despite its early start of 8:30 Sunday mornings, has larger attendance than the regular service. Parishioners say they come for the music, which is of the contemporary Christian genre.
Kevin’s background and lifelong interest in the natural sciences has had him deep into birding as his main hobby for the past 35 years. He’s Field Editor for the Region II New York State Ornithological Association and has the same position with the Rochester Birding Association. He used to write a column for the Democrat & Chronicle, "Birds Afield". He is an active bird bander and belongs to many local birding groups. Space is at a premium in Kevin and Colleen’s combined home, but he has amassed a collection of 1,500 bird books!
train connection started some years back when Rob got a train set
from grandma. They switched to HO gauge (to fit more into the
available space), and when they realized that was as big as it would
and Rob are regulars at the museum each Sunday, but they have
recently taken on duties beyond helping run the trains in the model
railroad room. Kevin’s now doing a much-needed inventory of all
the HO and N-scale rolling stock and structures, and since last year
has been doing general dusting and sweeping to keep our main exhibit
areas clean and tidy. With Anna Thomas’ recent retirement, Kevin
has gamely added her former duties to his agenda too! Like all our
active volunteers, there’s a lot to Kevin Griffith, and his
contributions make a real difference at our museum.
Kevin and Rob are regulars at the museum each Sunday, but they have recently taken on duties beyond helping run the trains in the model railroad room. Kevin’s now doing a much-needed inventory of all the HO and N-scale rolling stock and structures, and since last year has been doing general dusting and sweeping to keep our main exhibit areas clean and tidy. With Anna Thomas’ recent retirement, Kevin has gamely added her former duties to his agenda too! Like all our active volunteers, there’s a lot to Kevin Griffith, and his contributions make a real difference at our museum.
POETRY IN MOTION
The museum archives are available to anyone with a research need, and we are always eager to help. In thousands of photos and documents, area history is squirreled away, ready to help answer a question or bring back memories.
Recently we heard from a local man on a quest. Bill Preston remembered riding busses in Rochester when he was a boy, and the busses had a peculiar ride…bouncy and lurching (even more than the other coaches). We directed him to our website archives and after a lot of (enjoyable) searching, Bill decided he was remembering the old Fageol busses. These were rear engine jobs that had a unique rear window arrangement…a window at the rear of the passenger compartment, and a second on the rear of the bus. In between was the engine, so as Bill recalls the windows were always brown with oil and dirt.
Bill was moved to put his memories into verse with a short poem.
Those bouncing baby busses
THE LOCAL IMPACT
As the recession deepens, we probably all know someone affected by job layoffs at companies in the area. One in particular has dealt a blow to NYMT.
For the past several years, our journal HEADEND has been printed for us at Kodak’s NexPress division by an NYMT member employed in the test lab there. Having a publication in color and with fine image clarity has been a real feather in our cap, elevating our image among our peers at museums around the country.
While an invaluable free service for our museum, having our journal printed at NexPress also provided a chance for the company to work with real customer input. Together we learned a lot, and until recently we were hoping to take advantage of other features the NexPress equipment routinely offers, such as merging our mailing list so as to eliminate address stickers.
The performance of the NexPress printing equipment is top quality, as can be seen in our new line of post cards and the recently published book about NYMT’s trolley collection, all provided by our man in the test lab. We hope to be able to continue publishing HEADEND through the assistance of more friends at NexPress. But for now, a big thank you goes to James Root for all his good efforts on our behalf, and our best wishes to him in finding a new career opportunity worthy of his many talents.
Another link to the past is broken with the passing of Alton Rowley on April 19, 2009. An enthusiastic advocate for the Rochester Subway who accumulated several scrapbooks documenting the give and take that preceded the Subway’s demise in the 1950s, Alton also made a delightful home movie of the line, including numerous scenes that were totally new to us. We are indebted to Alton’s granddaughter, Joanne Kenyon, for arranging the donation of these items to the museum’s archives.
On October 15, 2007, Joanne brought her grandfather to NYMT, and Charlie Lowe had a chance to interview him. It seems that Alton’s father was a conductor on Rochester city streetcars and at times served as a relief conductor on the Rochester and Eastern. Alton tagged along with his dad on those trips and at least once was allowed to take the controls as motorman!
Alton made it to the century mark, and at 100 years of age it can truly be said that he was the last surviving person to have operated an R&E car in regular service.
SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe
Facility: Ted Strang has been at it again with the museum snow plow, keeping our driveway and parking areas open for visitors and volunteers alike. In his capable hands, the truck keeps running and the snow keeps getting shoved aside. Ted is also working on the ultraviolet system the County requires for our well water system, and we expect to be making the installation this summer. Don Quant and John Ross are working to keep roof drips off of our motor vehicle collection with strategically placed gutter sections. Jay and Todd Consadine intend to repaint some of our peeling barn doors soon, and some other projects are getting lined up to keep the place looking good.
Electrification: Positions for all poles and ground anchors on the east leg of the loop track were staked in March. A delivery of ten poles was overseen by Bob Achilles in March, and being of sufficient length for bracket arms they will be used on the mainline south of Midway. The numerous sub-assemblies needed for this year’s overhead construction are being built up, with the downguy upper sections for the loop track being finished by early April. On April 20, a second shipment of 22 poles was overseen by Bob.
Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: On a cold January 24, 2009, Ted Strang made numerous welded repairs to several seat frames on car 161. That same day, Dick Holbert investigated the heating circuits on car 168 and found the cab heaters to be intact and working. Unfortunately the coach section’s heaters in 168 are removed, and the replacement heater is a 480-volt unit which can not be run by trolley power. This heater has been removed and may be re-used in the substation. Oiling of all journal boxes, motor bearings and armature bearings for both cars was complete on January 31, and topped off again on February 20 for Winterfest operation, Charlie Robinson and Charlie Lowe doing this difficult work. On car 161, the upward force of the trolley poles on the wire was adjusted from about 20 pounds to about 35 pounds. Along with cleaning the trolley wheels and making sure the trolley wheels are lubricated properly, arcing between the trolley wheels and the wire has been completely eliminated. Bob Miner has been working his way through various air system components, carefully cleaning and oiling as needed for 2009 operations.
New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 437: Charlie Lowe has donated a Cleveland farebox for use in this car. This was the style used in the car after it was one-manned in July 1922. A Rochester roll sign box, complete with its mid-1930s roll sign, was unearthed in the NYMT parts area. Although it looked far too large, it was dutifully carted over to 437 where it was found to slip right into a recess built for the purpose in the last side window on the right! This discovery is an incredible bit of good fortune for car 437.
Genesee and Wyoming caboose 8: Work has moved from replacing damaged siding to constructing the openings of the main cabin windows. John Ross made new window lower sills using one of the originals as a pattern. These were installed over 30-lb roofing felt to protect against water seepage. John measured the upper sills and made replacements where required. Don Quant fabricated and installed side jambs. In some places it was nearly impossible to seat the finishing nails on the side jambs, so there may be steel stiffeners inside the wooden studs. 1-1/8"-wide lower window jambs will be made and cut to proper length after the upper window sash is put in place. Work on the caboose will be meshed with other priorities throughout the summer months.
Philadelphia Transportation Co. snow sweepers C-125, C-130 and C-147:
C-125: This is the ex-sweeper, rebuilt as a line car, which is being traded to NYMT by Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Plans have been made for its arrival on May 8, including the preparation of sufficient blocking for the car body.
C-130: This is the long-time resident of the NYMT main barn. The severed motor cables have been investigated with a view toward planning for the eventual repair of these cables.
C-147: This is the Chapter’s sweeper body. It is to be scrapped, but not before NYMT salvages all useful parts. This includes two GE80 (40 hp. Each) motors, four air cylinders, two car body bolsters, three sizes of tongue-and-groove boards, and myriad small parts. All of these materials will be useful for either future restoration work or for trades with other museums. A crew from NYMT, including Bob Achilles, Jay Consadine, Dick Holbert, Charlie Lowe, Tony Mittiga, Bob Sass, Jack Tripp and others spent the last three Saturdays in April removing much of the car’s useful parts.
Northern Texas Traction 409: In January, Paul Monte reworked the boards used to fill in the car’s rear step well so that the door here can be closed tightly. This is needed to keep heat inside the car for events such as Winterfest. Other work included installing new light bulbs throughout the car and re-installation of one light bulb sconce.
Track: The new switch bars for the track 2 switch, purchased in 2007, were drilled and installed on January 24, 2009. Five 1" diameter holes were drilled through the 3/4-inch-thick steel bars. This permitted a readjustment of the switch, making it much easier to operate, and was imperative to make both 161 and 168 available for use. One last permanent bolt at this switch was installed on January 31, completing the five-year-long construction of track 2. A section of 90-lb Subway rail was cut to length to replace an odd section of 100-lb rail used in the main barn lead. Ten ties have been purchased and will be installed on this track so it can receive the Baldwin interurban trucks from RGVRRM. Dick Holbert prepared a comprehensive track report, detailing work which should be performed in 2009. Several gauge rods have been installed on the sharp mainline curve near and within the main car house lead switch. This switch, built in 1980 with reused Lehigh Valley bridge timbers, is now in need of a complete rehab.
It was a dark and stormy night…here’s one more view from our Winterfest experience, with light snow falling at Midway station Friday night, February 20, 2009. Joel Solomon photo
HEADEND is published four times a year by the New York Museum of Transportation, © 2008. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. www.nymtmuseum.org (585) 533-1113
and photographer - Jim Dierks