The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Winter 2009


Anniversaries are the milestones that mark the course of history, and we like to observe them for the moment of attention they bestow on the celebrant. Charlie Lowe reminded us recently that our New York State Railways Rochester & Eastern car 157 was moved into the main hall on October 5, 1973. A lot has been accomplished toward seeing 157 run again in the 35 years it has been in our care. The “crown jewel” of our collection, 157 will indeed one day operate on our electrified line. Until then, happy 35th anniversary, 157!


…by golly! Building on last year’s successful introduction of wintertime trolley runs geared to the holiday season, we once again warmed up Philadelphia and Western 161, and warmed up our attendance in the bargain.

Involving the museum in the holiday activities of local families has always been a challenge, first because there are so many competing events, and second because it’s a busy time for our volunteers. In the past, we’ve put up a tree, festooned the exhibit hall with lights, and played carols on the sound system, but without anything special to gain the attention of the media we celebrated pretty much alone. Trolley rides changed all that.

Last year we got a nice bump in attendance in December, running during the first three Saturdays and Sundays of the month. We repeated that pattern this year, only on a half-hourly schedule due to the longer ride brought about by our recently completed line extension. We also increased the fare for the ride to $2, both for those boarding at the Remelt Christmas tree farm station and for museum visitors (who paid the additional modest winter season admission charge of $3 for adults and $2 for kids under 12).

161 rolls northbound past the station for Remelt’s Christmas tree farm, as tree choppers watch Photo by Christopher R. Hauf

There were other features to this year’s event besides the longer trip. The Democrat & Chronicle responded to our publicity release by sending a reporter (and her young family) and a photographer, which resulted in a good sized photo article in that paper on the middle of the three Sundays, December 14. We had averaged about 75 visitors over the previous weekend and Saturday the 13th, but attendance bumped up to 182 on the 14th. Total attendance for the three weekends came to 583, several times the business we did last year. We’re sure many of these new friends will be back for more fun in the summer season too.

The other “feature” of this year’s Holly Trolley runs came to us courtesy of Old Man Winter. The snow came down hard on Friday, December 19, and left some impressive drifts on our line. Our volunteers came out in force early Saturday, hand-shoveling through the deeper parts and at the driveway crossing where our plow had left still more snow. In some places, as soon as we cleared an area, wind-blown snow filled it back in again. Special attention was given to the flangeways at our driveway crossing, since ice buildup there could easily derail even our 30-ton interurban trolley car. At the same time, we were busily shoveling to keep the entrance sidewalk clear and the parking lot open. And it’s a good thing we did.

We’ve shoveled through the snow between the new car barn and the mainline, and already the snow is drifting back in.

It was cold, but the sky was clear, and there were plenty of people who hadn’t had a chance to take a trolley ride after seeing the newspaper article last week. They came, and we added 90 intrepid visitors Saturday.

Operating the car was an adventure. Once clear of the drifts on the leeward side of our two barns and the knoll by the main barn lead switch, the snow was fairly uniform. But it was still over the tops of the rails. On the first run, it was eerie operating with no tracks visible…just a smooth sea of white. We left lines in the snow made by the lower parts of the motors.

Our R&E waiting station shivers in the low afternoon sun as 161 passes by on another revenue run.

Sunday brought more drifting snow, and we had to do it all over again, shoveling drifts and clearing flangeways. Again, hearty visitors determined to get a trolley ride came out and added another 90 to our headcount on this cold, clear, windy day. The Remelt family had run out of cut-your-own trees, so there were no passengers to pick up at the Remelt station and all of our riders were full-museum admissions. Throughout these two days of operation, 161 ran well and the interior heat kept passengers and crew comfortable. There’s a risk to the traction motors if snow gets in them, so we’ll watch carefully before operating in deep snow again…at Winterfest 2009 and at next year’s Holly Trolley event. Can’t wait!

Top: 161 stops at end-of-wire with Midway station buried in the white stuff. Above: The sun sets early on the shortest day of the year, in a scene that could just as well have been 100 years ago.


By Charles R. Lowe

In celebration of Rochester’s 175th birthday, the New York Museum of Transportation will be presenting unique views of our city’s early days. In this issue of HEADEND we offer the following little-known claim to fame for the Flower City.

The New York and Harlem Railroad of New York City is commonly assumed to be the first street railway in the United States. Incorporated on April 25, 1831 and opened along the bowery from Prince Street northward to 14th Street on November 26, 1832, the line is antecedent to the Rochester Canal and Railroad Company’s rail line in Rochester on both counts. In fact, The Rochester Canal and Railroad Company was incorporated on march 26, 1831 and began operation on September 20, 1832. Just as Rochester, N.Y. is long known to have had the first documented baseball team in America (1825), so too can it add the street railway to its list of firsts!

The railroad in question most certainly ran in the streets of Rochester. A map accompanying Sketches of Rochester (1838) by Henry O’Reilly clearly shows the route of the line within Water, Andrews, and St. Paul Streets before reaching private right-of-way near today’s Upper Falls Boulevard—just as a street railway might have been laid out. With steam or electricity not being available to power cars in those early days, the Rochester Railroad was a horse-drawn railroad—again, just as later street railways were built. The facts that the line was built to carry freight as well as passengers (as were many surface streetcar lines), and was considered by some to have merely been a “connecting railroad” (what rail line wasn’t?), do not disqualify the Rochester Railroad from being considered a street railway.

After the end of the War of 1812 in 1815, enthusiasm for development in the Genesee Valley rose dramatically. Wheat grown in the fertile lands of the upper Genesee Valley could be floated on the Genesee River to the falls at Rochester where it could be milled into flour. From there, shipments were made to Canada via Lake Ontario. The gap in this transportation system was between Rochester and the lake. The several falls on the Genesee, with an aggregate drop of some 250 feet in just three miles prevented water transportation, and the rough corduroy roads of the era were not suited to heavy loads.

Since 1809, the hamlet of Carthage had been growing on the east bank of the river near the head of lake navigation. Seeing traffic on Ridge Road diverted southward to Rochester to use that hamlet’s 1812 bridge over the river, the promoters of Carthage built a gigantic wood-arch bridge there during 1818 and 1819. It leapt across the river gorge in one span near present-day Driving Park Avenue. Unfortunately, the magnificent structure collapsed in May 1820, leaving Carthage to ponder its fate.

By some accounts the 714-foot-long span built 190 feet above the river was the world’s highest single arch bridge at the time.

Between 1817 and 1825 the Erie Canal was built across the state, crossing the Genesee River on an immense stone aqueduct somewhat south of the largest of the falls on the river. Interest in a “rail-way” from the Erie Canal at Rochester to the head of lake navigation on the river, just south of the present-day Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (NY-104), dated from just after completion of the canal. A notice to incorporate “Rochester Rail-way Company”, to be built to connect the canal and the lake, appeared in the December 20, 1825 issue of the Monroe Republican, and is the first known mention of a railroad in Rochester.

With the canal, Carthage saw a means to tap the endless traffic on that waterway and divert some business toward Canada via lake craft. In the late 1820s, the “Rochester Rail-way” scheme was enlarged to become the Rochester Canal and Railroad Company. Newspapers of 1829 and 1830 are filled with notices that the company’s promoters intended to ask the state legislature to incorporate for the dual purpose of building both a canal and a railroad between the Erie Canal and the lake. Finally, on March 26, 1831, the state granted the petition to incorporate, and construction began within months.

The guiding light of this project was Elisha Johnson, engineer-extraordinaire of early Rochester and, later, a mayor of that city. He had come to Rochester in 1817 and immediately became a key figure by constructing the Johnson and Seymour dam and millrace on the east side of the Genesee which, in the present day, still flows under the Rochester Public Library. Johnson was immensely interested in railroads by the late 1820s, and championed the Rochester Canal and Railroad project. Among his many railroad pursuits of the era, he also served as the chairman of a “Rail Road Meeting”, held in Rochester on September 23, 1831 with the goal of building a railroad from the Hudson River to Lake Erie under one large, coordinated effort. (This did not come to pass as several much shorter lines, built in the 1830s, 1840s and early 1850s were finally consolidated in 1853 to form the New York Central Railroad). It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Johnson would build the Rochester Railroad first, and worry about the Rochester Canal at a later date.

Construction of the railroad portion of the Rochester Canal and Railroad Company began in April 1832. Two famous engineers from the Erie Canal, John B. Jervis and David S. Bates, aided in the line’s layout. Jervis scouted the proposed route and offered advice as to the final layout, while Bates surveyed the actual line of the curves and tangents that would form the rail line.

Commencing at a point on Water Street (now largely covered by the Convention Center) at the east end of the Rochester Aqueduct (now Broad Street), the route was to run along the east side of Water Street northward to Andrews Street and cut diagonally across the block to St. Paul Street. Continuing northward along the west edge of this street’s right-of-way, the tracks were to leave the safety of the street just north of what is now Upper Falls Boulevard and run along the precipitous edge of the gorge. Carthage, centered on the east bank of the river at Driving Park Avenue, was to be skirted, the railroad being squeezed between the hamlet and the river gorge. Just south of present-day NY-104, the north end of the railway terminated in a counter-weighted incline plane railway which lowered cars down to the docks at the river.

The track consisted of yellow pine rails. Some of the road was built with yellow pine sleepers (what we now call ties) and sills (running lengthwise under the ties and wooden rails). Another portion of the road was built with the wooden rails set on stone blocks measuring some 8 cubic feet in size (probably cubes, 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet), this mass being required to maintain the gauge of the track without the benefit of sleepers. An iron strap was spiked to the yellow pine rail to serve as a wearing surface for the wheels of the cars. Eight switches, using specially-built sets of “turnout irons”, were installed along the line, presumably for passing trains, for car storage and, perhaps, even for reaching additional shipping points along the line.

Both the passenger and freight cars for the line, the first ever in Rochester, were built locally by J. H. Whitbeck in the shop of Whitbeck and Hanford. Two passenger cars, dubbed the Grieg and the Duncan after investors in the line, resembled stage coaches on railroad wheels. The freight cars seem to have been four-wheeled flat cars.

Too bad railfans with cameras hadn’t been on the scene back then…this early artist’s conception may be a little idealized.

Tracks were laid southward from Carthage, reaching Main Street in Rochester by mid-August 1832. Finally, the tracks reached the canal near Ely’s Mill at the east end of the aqueduct, now the site of an RG&E electrical substation, and all was in readiness to open part of the road to traffic. A grand scene was laid before Rochester village on September 20, 1832 when the new rail line was opened for traffic. The Rochester Gem for august 25, 1832 reported the opening gala:

The Rail-Road

Between the Erie Canal and the head of navigation on[the] Genesee River, was yesterday opened for passengers. The pleasure carriages were for the first time, placed on the tracks:—The Grieg and the Duncan, which headed the line of cars,]made a beautiful appearance. Between the two was an open car upon which was the Rochester Band, which enlivened the scene by many tasty performances. All the conveyances were crowded with citizens, many of which afterwards partook of a sumptuous entertainment prepared in mathies’ customary style at the Clinton House. The Road is not quite finished to the landing at Captain Trowbridge’s—the cars stop at present at North Rochester Hotel—a situation overlooking some handsome scenery below the lower falls. It is a pleasant, though brief jaunt.—Daily

The opening date of the line is a matter of conjecture. Note that the article above observes that the line was opened “yesterday”. However, the article ends with the source noted as being the Rochester Daily Advertiser, the only daily paper in Rochester of that era. We find, in Rochester’s Anti-Masonic Enquirer for Tuesday, October 2, 1832 that “[t]he Rail Road between the canal and the head of navigation on the Genesee, is so far completed that the pleasure carriages were placed on the tracks on Thursday last, when a crowd of citizens enjoyed the pleasure of an excursion by this as yet novel mode of conveyance.” The prior Thursday had been September 27th, but the Gem had already run a story from the Daily that had reported the opening ceremonies. Thus, Thursday, September 20, seems the likely date of the first run upon the new line. (Alas, the distinguished Rochester Daily Advertiser for most of the second half of 1832 has not survived to the present day in any form, leaving us in doubt as to the actual opening date.)

Almost immediately, the Rochester—Carthage railroad soon made enemies by running its cars all day long on Sunday, September 30. The Anti-Masonic Enquirer published an indignant notice from “THE PUBLIC” noting an “outraged public feeling” and observing that the “conductors [of the cars] might have found better business” on the Sabbath day. Doubtlessly, the problem resolved itself once winter weather arrived and railroad service concluded for the season.

In early 1833, the charter was amended, changing the name and the emphasis of the venture to merely “Rochester Railway Company”. This seems to have been accomplished by February of that year. Gone were the plans for a connecting canal between the Genesee River and Lake Ontario. Just considering the elevation drop was enough to realize such a scheme was impractical. On January 1, 1833, president and construction superintendent Johnson reported to stockholders that the elevation drop between the canal at Rochester and lake navigation on the river was 254.79 feet. Assuming 8 feet of drop per lock, some 32 locks, or roughly a third of the number required for the entire 363-mile-long Erie Canal, would be needed in the three miles traversed by the nearly finished railroad.

The charter amendments of 1833 also included a provision for the railroad to be extended across the Main Street bridge over the Genesee River in Rochester, and to run west from that point as permitted by the village trustees. In that the Tonawanda Railroad, to extend from a station on Buffalo Street in Rochester to Batavia was in the process of being promoted by, among others, Elisha Johnson, suggests that the two railroads were to have been linked at some early date.

In early 1833, the principal remaining work on the Rochester Railroad was the finishing of the inclined planes at the line’s north end. In his report to stockholders, Johnson promised that the planes, which were nearly completed, were “intended to be in operation on the opening of the navigation [season]”. The two planes were the wonder of the road. Both were built at a grade of 1 foot down for every 6 feet of horizontal travel, or a grade of 16-2/3%. The upper of the two was 600 feet in length while the second was 339 feet. A total drop of 156.5 feet was made here, the remainder of the required 254 feet being made gradually at grades of 2.2% or less throughout the horse-drawn part of the railroad. On each of the planes, a dummy inclined plane car loaded with stone was provided on paralleling tracks to help balance a car loaded with goods.

The full system seems to indeed have been placed in service in 1833. Passengers and freight used the system, with passengers generally descending a system of stairs instead of riding upon the freight cars on the inclined planes. In 1835, the Rochester Daily Democrat was to report that five steamboats were touching the landing at Carthage each week during the navigation season, giving a service to Canada which had not previously been enjoyed. The Daily Democrat thought there might very well be “thousands in this community who have never thought of the immense benefits we are deriving from those channels of communication, in connextion with the Carthage railroad”.

As early as October 6, 1835, questions had arisen concerning the rights of Rochester Railroad. The city of Rochester attorney was empowered by the common council to investigate the exact terms granted by the village of Rochester relative to the use of St. Paul Street by the Rochester Railroad. With prosperity at hand, having a railroad occupying the area normally reserved for a sidewalk was not in keeping with the city’s vision for St. Paul Street.

The prosperity of the early 1830s was not to last, however. An economic depression, named the Panic of 1837 for the year in which it began, gripped the United States until about 1844, stunting businesses of all description. Canadian business, upon which the Rochester Railroad relied for business, was also disrupted at this time by the Rebellions of 1837. The Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837-1838, in particular, engulfed the present-day province of Ontario and decimated trade with the United States.

These two coinciding economic distresses probably caused the Rochester Railroad to cease operation in 1838. At the very least, no further mention of Rochester Railroad operations is found in local newspapers.

The First Street Railway in America (Cont’d from page 4)

In April 1843, a controversy over the Rochester Railroad’s use of St. Paul Street again arose, at which time it was noted that the railroad occupied the west sidewalk of that street for 700 feet just north of Andrews Street. The railroad was awkwardly placed, lying some three feet below the street level. As if to deny the Rochester mayor and the common council the privilege of tearing up the line, the city attorney concluded that the common council “have not the right to proceed in a summary manner to remove the Rochester Railroad” but that, upon passage of an ordinance, the common council could force the railroad to alter its route or grade if “the public convenience requires it”. That the city would consider a summary removal of the Rochester Railroad merely to build a sidewalk suggests the line had not been in operation for several years by this time.

Thus, the Rochester Railroad passed into history. For several decades, the line’s private right-of-way could be seen, but now even this seems to largely be gone. Certainly, not a single scrap of the line exists in places south of Upper Falls Boulevard where it was located along St. Paul and Water Streets. The lack of continuity between the Rochester Railroad of the 1830s and the birth of the horse car transit system in the 1860s which has evolved to the present day has often led scholars to relegate the Rochester Railroad to the dustbin of history. But the railroad did exist and run in the streets of Rochester before any other such railroad in the United States, becoming America’s first street railway.

For further reading:

Barnes, Joseph W., “Bridging the Lower Falls”. Rochester History, vol. 36, no. 1 (January 1974), pp. 1–24. An excellent modern-day account of the Carthage Bridge is given on pages 3-9.

Hooker, Susan Huntington, “The Rise and Fall of Carthage”. Paper read before the Rochester Historical Society on March 10, 1902, and published by that organization’s Publication Fund Series, vol. 2, pp. 205-232. Accounts of both the Carthage Bridge and the Rochester Railroad are given within the framework of pioneer recollections available to Hooker, who was herself a member of one of Carthage’s foremost families.

O’Reilly, Henry, Sketches of Rochester. Rochester, N.Y.: William Alling, 1838. Republished, Geneseo, N.Y.: James Brunner, 1984. Page 347 gives a brief description of the line, and the fold-out city map details the route of the line. This book is a valuable snapshot of the young city of Rochester at the time of the Rochester Railroad.


Our model railroad guys are among the most dedicated of our volunteers. They’re there for us when our group tours come, and they tirelessly run the trains for visitors each Sunday. If you haven’t stopped by lately, check out the live TV view from the “engineer’s seat” on one of the diesels as it rolls around the model pike.

The fellows have been busy lately putting finishing touches on their N-scale recreation of the Rochester Subway, and it’s really looking good! Let’s let members Anne Marie Scotto and Alex Cserey take you on a tour. First, they’re hanging out at Winton Road, probably to watch the Subway car make its brief station stop.

Aha… looks like they’ve spotted Plymouth gas loco L-2 with a freight train, as a passenger run approaches.

Later, at the far western end of the line, our tour guides pull some strings and get us in for a close look at the shops. This was always a popular spot for trolley fan photographers, and we’re happy to have a chance to visit…50 years after the demise of the Subway.

Come out and see for yourself. The Rochester Subway is alive and well at the New York Museum of Transportation.

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!


By now our readers…and visitors…are familiar with Don Shilling’s generous donation of his exquisitely detailed HO-scale scenes he calls “modules”. He specifically avoids “dioramas”, by the way, since that word suggests something viewed from one vantage point, while his constructions are to be enjoyed from all sides. To this end, Ted Thomas and Eric Norden created a display case with electric turntables to exhibit the modules, two at a time. Recent arrivals include “Hawthorne-By-The-Sea” and “Smuggler’s Cove”, both currently on display. In the former, the resort and fishing village of Hawthorne exhibits both a Victorian bathing beach scene as well as a busy harbor front with a fish canning plant. Smuggler’s Cove is a seaside scene reflecting the industries associated with a coastal community. A sail loft, boat building facility and lobster house share the scene with a lighthouse and steam powered pile driver.

The latest addition to the collection shows early Rochester in four seasons, but each of the four sections depicts a different time as well. The Scrantom cabin, the first permanent structure in what was to become Rochester is shown blanketed by an upstate snow, while the adjoining quadrant shows springtime at the Eagle Tavern in 1842. Next up is summer at a Greek Revival house, which leads on to autumn in the vicinity of a unique octagon house. As always, the more you look, the more details you see. Come see if you can spot the HO-scale robin’s eggs in a nest!

Donovan Shilling (left) delivers another of his modules, to the delight of Bill Chapin and Bob Nesbitt.

Staggered boards in the plank road effectively widened the road so wagons wouldn’t fall off and get stuck in the mud.


Among the many artifacts that adorn the high shelf in the gift shop are two toy trolley cars with lettering on them thanking the museum for hosting a couple of Toy Train Collector Society events in our early days. Until recently that’s about all we could say about these 30-year-old trolley toys. Then, in early September, Russell and Mary Roberts stopped by to visit the museum. Russ spotted the two trolleys right away, and told us he had made them! Actually, “Roberts Lines” was a family affair, as Mary and their son Brian were drafted into helping construct the trolleys. Made of brass, the toys were a popular item for sale at toy train shows and such events.

Russ had a career as a design engineer for General Motors, Xerox, and Graflex, living in California, Wisconsin, and the Rochester area. He has always enjoyed model railroading, and at one time or another he’s been into most of the gauges, starting with O gauge, then HO, G, and even standard gauge. He modeled most aspects of railroading including electric engines. We’re glad to have met Russ and to know the history of our two “Roberts Lines” trolley cars, handmade souvenirs of our museum’s own history.


Each spring we start getting calls from area schools, day care centers, summer camps and senior homes to arrange a weekday group visit. We’ve never actively sought this valuable addition to our admissions income (and community exposure). Some organizations come every year, others hear about us through word-of-mouth, and still others are prompted by a parent or teacher who happened to make a family visit on a regular Sunday. This year, with the help of museum volunteer Kevin Griffith, we hope to beef up our school group attendance.

Kevin is preparing two things that will help us reach out to area schools. First, he is developing a mailing list of the key administrators for schools and school systems, so that we can efficiently send out information to encourage group tours. Second, he is researching the State curriculum requirements so that we can tell those administrators precisely which of those requirements would be met by a visit to our museums.

Group tours normally consist of an hour and a half visit, which includes a 45-minute guided tour at NYMT, plus a track car ride with 15-minute guided tour at RGVRRM’s Industry depot. Since the ride-and-depot-tour take 45 minutes, we can handle a total group size of 40 to 50 people by dividing the group into two subgroups and rotating through the two modules. Even larger groups can be handled by adding a third module of “play time” (teacher-supervised games outside).

Our largest group is the annual visit from French Road School, and with 150 or so on each of two consecutive days, we have created a customized tour involving a school bus shuttle, trolley ride, and specially timed tours. Thanks to the continuing support from Mary Dubois at the school, plus a lot of helpful teachers and parents, the French Road visits go like clockwork.

Railroad sing-alongs are part of the French Road group visits.

All of this is to say that, while our Sunday visitor process adheres to a strict standard routine, we can be more flexible for weekday group tours, in order to accommodate special needs. Factors such as time restrictions, physical limitations, whether or not the group wants to picnic at the museum, and comprehension level are just some of the things we deal with.

Group tours need a minimum of 4 volunteers…an OD who can also be tour guide, a track car operator, a depot guide, and a model railroad operator. Larger groups can require twice that staffing. We’ll be looking for good volunteer support as we attempt to build our group tour business this summer. If you know of a group that would like to arrange a tour, have them get in touch with Jim Dierks at his home number (473-5508).


We didn’t think it was possible, but here it is…a volunteer in the spotlight who doesn’t have an ancestor who was a trolley motorman or locomotive engineer. At least she has a lot of traveling in her background. Let us introduce to you one of the stars at the ticket desk, Colleen Dox-Griffith.

Born in Lyons, New York, Colleen’s family line includes a couple of generations at Willard State Hospital, a large facility for people with a variety of psychiatric problems. Wait…that doesn’t sound right. What we mean is her grandfather was head engineer at the power plant at Willard, and her parents both worked there too. Dad grew up at Willard and worked there as a safety officer, and Mom was an occupational therapist. Colleen even found employment there too for awhile.

Attending South Seneca High School in Ovid/Interlaken, Colleen hung around with fellow teens and got to know Rod Serling’s daughter when the Serlings were at their cottage in Sheldrake, on Lake Cayuga. She recalls that Serling, the creator of “Twilight Zone”, would come to her high school and speak to students about creative writing. Colleen’s bent was more toward art, however, and upon graduation she went off to SUNY Oswego with an eye to someday becoming an art teacher. After a year she decided that wasn’t “it” after all, and she returned to Willard where she got a job working on ways to “humanize” the surroundings, making macramé plant hangers, matting and framing pictures, and providing plants and furnishings. “I knew nothing about growing plants”, says Colleen, so she went to Finger Lakes Community College and studied horticulture. Not letting the grass grow under her feet, so to speak, after five years, she wanted a change and took off with a girl friend for South Carolina. In North Myrtle Beach, she managed the nursery for a huge nursery/landscape company. Five years later, she took a similar job in Columbia, S.C. There, she married a man who owned a small chain of convenience stores, and they had a son, Rob. Colleen managed one of the stores, in Lexington, S.C., which had a gift shop aspect to it. She drew on her horticultural experience and successfully added houseplants to the sales array.

The traveling continued. Following a divorce after 11 years of marriage, Colleen came back to upstate New York, and began selling for a Geneva wholesale floral supply company. Rob was 4 years old at this time, and after it was determined that he had a serious learning disability, he was placed in the Happiness House in Geneva for special needs kids. Colleen’s territory kept her on the move, peddling her vases, foam and ribbons from Geneseo to Syracuse and Oswego to Naples.

The plot thickens: There was a family, the Griffiths, who had been close to Colleen’s family when she was growing up. Kevin Griffith and Colleen’s older brother had a band together (“The Lost Colony”…we’re sure you’ve heard of them), and Mrs. G was Colleen’s dance teacher. Well whadya know…Kevin’s praise band (contemporary Christian music) was coming from Rochester to Ovid to play at the Griffith’s church there. Kevin had recently been divorced. One year later, in 1991, Colleen and Kevin were married in Hector, NY, and Kevin’s teenage daughter, Mandy, sang at the wedding.

Colleen’s son, Rob, got her into trains, she says. Back when they were living in Columbia, S.C., there were coal trains that served a nearby power plant, and Rob was fascinated by them. Thomas the Tank Engine was another popular thing with Rob, and he’s liked trains ever since.

Colleen is into so many things it’s hard to keep up with her. She is a good skier, and when Rob was 11 years old, the two of them joined Shared Ski Adventures, with Colleen as an instructor and Rob as a student. They’re still into it on Saturdays in snow season. She also works at Parent Partners at Monroe 2 Orleans BOCES, in Spencerport. This parent-to-parent relationship connects students and families to education services and support, and is designed to help parents of developmentally and mentally disabled children.

The green thumb is still there, and Colleen enjoys supervising Kevin in the back yard of their Greece home. She’s the landscape director (we can guess what Kevin does) in their “mini-park”, which features a swimming pool for Rob and plenty of things to attract the birds—a hobby that Kevin enjoys.

What else? Well, Colleen calls herself a jack of all trades, and says she mowed grass at Sampson State Park when she was young, and once worked as a short order cook. She has served on several boards; does contract work for New York State’s Consolidated Supports and Services (part of the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities); she’s been an Avon lady for twenty years; and she is a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils that have healing powers over aches and pains, strains, rashes, even cancer. And we’re happy to say she helps out in the gift shop and at the ticket desk, and that retail sales experience helps a lot. Most recently she made up a new guest book for our visitors to sign and tell us how great a time they had with us.

Watch for Kevin’s side of the story in a future issue of HEADEND, as he’s a volunteer contributor at our museum too. Meanwhile, our thanks go to Colleen Dox-Griffith for an interesting story and for all she does for our museum!


We weren’t exactly flooded with responses to our “What’s That” challenge in the Fall issue of HEADEND, but the replies we did receive were on the mark. Bernie Weis correctly guessed that the device was “some kind of trolley pole pickup shoe”, and Mike Storey came through with the full, correct answer: an ice scraper.

In winter, especially in freezing rain conditions, ice can form on the trolley wire to an extent that the trolley wheel can’t draw electricity from the wire. With this special sliding shoe attached on the pole, the transverse ridges scrape and break up the ice, permitting electrical contact.

Member Tom Kirn has vivid memories of the “light show” from Rochester Subway cars passing his bedroom window on icy winter nights when he was a boy. The intermittent contact at the wire created bright blue sparks that lit up the neighborhood.


Given the slump in the world economy, many in the leisure and entertainment business were talking this summer about where people will go for vacation fun. The term “staycation” was coined for small, local trips that would be more economical than flying the whole family to Las Vegas or Disney World. We’re not sure if this played a part in our year’s attendance, but we’re pleased that the popularity of our trolley ride, unique exhibits, and emphasis on railroading at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum did well by us in 2008.

Our total attendance for 2008 came to 5,439, an increase of over 7% over 2007, and the best number in the past three years. Of this total, 874 came in group tours. This is only a 2% increase over last year, but it arrests the recent downward trend of group attendance and we hope this new trend continues. A dozen slide talks were given off-site during 2008, with a total attendance of 388 people (and with significant donations to our treasury too).

With the extension of our trolley line, we now have a true re-creation of the interurban era, and area residents are starting to take note. We look forward to continuing to be a bright spot in the local tourism economy as awareness of our unique offering spreads.


The 2008 extension of our electrified line brought us a big improvement in our trolley operation. It also brought us a lot closer to our ultimate destination at RGVRRM’s Industry Depot. Imagine a classic interurban completing its rural run at a railroad station just like 100 years ago. “Destination Depot” is our next big push. We’ll be inviting you to join with your support…and to participate when its time to celebrate.


It’s that time again when we hand over the controls on our huge 11’ x 21’ HO model railroad to visitors who bring their own engines and cars. Many of these visitors are youngsters with small HO train set-ups who yearn to see their equipment operating on a big layout like ours. Some others are serious collectors who display their HO models but have never seen them operate. Through April, here’s their chance. Yours too! Bring your HO trains and watch ‘em roll!

ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 49 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 1206
photo by Steve Maguire

by Charles R. Lowe

Steve Maguire had a talent for recording interesting streetcar scenes that other railfan photographers seemed to miss. Take, for instance, our scene of RTC Peter Witt 1206 leaving Ontario Beach Park for a run south on Lake Avenue, through downtown Rochester and out to Parsells Avenue. It is 1939, during Maguire’s late November—early December visit to Rochester. Probably riding 1206 north, he seems to have jumped off the car, run across the street and awaited his quarry. It must have been a hurried photo since Maguire rarely would leave odd objects such as the fuzzy post in the foreground.

In the background can be seen lake Ontario. In the years before the World War, as WWI was still known in 1939, a vast amusement park had been located here. The waiting shelter, seen at the extreme left with its “Board Cars Here” sign, had been built in 1921 with fences and even water traps at the streetcar tracks so that the only way to enter the park was by paying a trolley fare or an entrance fee. By the late 1930s, however, the park had been shorn of many of its former attractions and largely resembled what we know today.

Once his shot was made, Maguire might have had to wait the hour or so until the next off-season Charlotte car reached the lake. Perhaps, though, Maguire had made an arrangement with the motorman to stop for him so he could press on with his camera at top speed. We are lucky today that Maguire made his dash across the street and snapped his photo, since about a year and a half later, this scene would be replaced forever by one with buses.


February 20 and 21

Last call to sign up to attend this great event. And please note that the date has been changed! Charlie Lowe tells us there’s great interest among members of trolley museums throughout the northeast U.S. and Canada to come and see what we’ve accomplished in the past few years. When they get here, there will be guest operations of our trolleys, as well as plenty of sharing of ideas. If you’d like to participate, you’ll have to register and pay for any meals you want to share with the group. To request a registration form and full details email us at info@nymtmuseum.org.


With the extension of the electrified portion of our joint rail line, and the success of “trolleys meeting diesels” at Midway, we’re looking at some significant new events this summer ride season. Here’s how things are shaping up:


Trolleys will depart every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour, starting at 11:30 a.m. Passengers will transfer at Midway station (the end of the electrified zone) and board a diesel train to continue their journey to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum.

Sunday, May 24, “VARNISH DAY”

“Varnish” is the traditional term for first class passenger operations because in the early days, varnish was applied to make the wood cars shine. Instead of track cars, RGVRRM will operate a diesel with one of their recently refurbished Empire State Express coaches to meet the trolley.

Sunday, June 21, “CABOOSE DAY”

RGVRRM may come up with a new name and additional features for this annual event, such as a hobo theme, prizes for best hobo costumes, freight train handling demos, etc. The track cars will again be side-tracked today, and the trolleys will be met by a diesel powered caboose train.

Sunday, July 19, “TROLLEY TIME”

NYMT will be adding some new spice to this event, possibly including emphasis on trolley efficiency and “green” benefits, and displays by promoters of light rail for Rochester. Trolleys will be met at the transfer point by a diesel-caboose train for the continuation to RGVRRM’s depot museum.

Sat/Sun, Aug. 22/23, “DIESEL DAYS”

A full weekend of diesel runs, including as many of RGVRRM’s diesels as can be operated. Visitors can ride in the cab or in a caboose (or both!).

Sat/Sun, Dec. 5/6, 12/13, & 19/20, “HOLLY TROLLEY”

We heat up the trolley and brush the snow aside to give our visitors a winter treat. Santa may come, and as usual we’ll be pausing to board riders at Remelt’s Christmas tree farm.

There’s more. A “Pumpkin Patch” event is being discussed for October 18, and NYMT will pick a Sunday to participate in Rochester’s 175th anniversary celebration with movies and presentations. There will be other days where diesel trains will meet the trolley at the Midway transfer station, too. We’ll be doing all we can to tell the community all about these events, and we hope you’ll be there to enjoy them with us!

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Electrification: Getting ready for the 2009 electrification effort began in November with a general clean-up of both the overhead parts and the overhead construction areas in the milking parlor. Before snow covered the museum, stakes with flagging were set for poles and ground anchors that will be needed for the next 500 feet of electrification, leaving another 500 feet of staking to be done in the spring. Plan sheets for the 2009 work are about half finished.

Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: Several small jobs on NYMT’s operating cars were completed in preparation for the Holly Trolley runs. The windshield wipers on 161 were adjusted, and the wiper motor on the southbound end of the car was made to function. The wiper motor at the northbound end of 161 resisted all efforts to work properly and a search for a replacement began. Ted Strang salvaged an exact replacement and found it was in practically like-new condition. He cleaned it and installed it on the car. The one remaining buzzer cord on 161 was reinstalled, it having been coiled on the floor and obstructing a “railfan” seat for years. Three original ladder steps, two on 161 and one on 168, were re-installed in late November. These had been removed from 161 for shipping from Iowa in 1996 and never re-installed. The ladder steps on 168 had been found to interfere with the platform used in 2001 for “Trolleys Return to Rochester” and had been replaced by a home-made set of steps. The platform for loading and unloading 161 at NYMT was moved about four inches closer to the track, eliminating the need to use the portable platform extender. In January, a spare C36 master controller was purchased for use at NYMT by Charlie Lowe, further improving our chances of keeping our two operating cars in good condition. After the Holly Trolley runs, preparations for Winterfest 2009 included additional work on 161 and 168. In 161, Bob Miner freed two stuck journal boxes; Dick Holbert installed new bulbs in the coach area; and Charlie Lowe re-sewed several damaged seat covers.

Packard ambulance: The search is on for tail light lenses to replace the cracked ones on the left side. Donation anyone?

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 437: A set of spare parts for building the resistor boxes this car needs was purchased on-line and donated to the museum. Included in the lot of parts were enough rods, mica insulators and end supports to build two boxes.

Johnstown Traction Co. rail grinder: On December 6, the 1920s-era JTC rail grinder was moved from its long-time storage spot, pulled out of the milking parlor and towed outside to the overhead parts construction area. This was the grinder’s first journey outside since 1974 when it was brought to NYMT. This 4-wheel car, used for grinding streetcar rails back to a smooth-riding profile, drew 600-volt power from the overhead to run its grinder motor. It was ruined in the Hurricane Agnes flood of June 1972 at Magee Transportation Museum, but is now on display as a rare artifact of the trolley era. Dick Holbert, Bob Sass and Charlie Lowe worked on this project.

New Car House: As a preparation for Winterfest 2009, the Saturday work crew completely cleaned out the new barn on January 10, 2009, a job which had never comprehensively been performed since the installation of track 2 in 2005. Those contributing to this effort were Bob Achilles, Steve Huse, Charlie Lowe, Carlos Mercado, Bob Miner, Tony Mittiga, Paul Monte and Jack Tripp. They were aided in this effort by Don Quant and John Ross who cleaned up the caboose area.

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

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