The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
OUR TRACK EXPERT
A good portion of our museum railroad was built in the 1970s using rail and ties salvaged from the Rochester Subway. The materials were old then, so they’re a lot older now. While it’s nice to be able to say that our visitors are “riding on history” as their trolley ambles down the line to Midway station, it’s our important responsibility to make sure that “historic” trackage is ready for safe and reliable operation.
To keep things that way, rotting crossties need to be replaced, ballast cleaned and refreshed, switches rebuilt, and track generally aligned and leveled. With a full mile to take care of between the museum and Midway station, several years ago we quickly began to see that the deterioration rate was exceeding our ability to keep up, due to a lack of both capable volunteers and the special skills required.
President Ted Strang one day suggested paying professionals to do the work, and that led us to Nicholas Giambatista Railroad Contractors, of Syracuse, New York. Since then we’ve reported in these pages a series of engagements with Nick and his crew, replacing crossties and contributing those “special skills” we lacked. We thought it would be of interest to acquaint our readers with Mr. Giambatista, a man who has spent a good part of his life in railroad work and who carries with him unique knowledge and a fine work ethic that have benefited our museum greatly.
Nick’s father immigrated from Italy and worked for the New York Central doing track maintenance. Dad also did railroad track work on the side while he was with the Central, but eventually that became too much and he left the railroad to concentrate on his contracting business. Nick got his start in 1937 when he was 16 years old, working for his father.
Nick eventually enrolled at Syracuse University, where he played football in 1941 and 1942. He’s an Orangeman to this day, with his jacket and office walls proudly carrying the school’s color.
World War II interrupted college, and Nick went off to Buffalo to enlist with the Marines. He failed the test for color blindness, so he settled for the Army, serving as an MP at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. After the war, he joined U.S. Hoffman Machinery, a manufacturer of filtration machines and presses for tailors, where he was in the purchasing department.
In 1949, Nick joined the Syracuse Police Department where he spent his first year in uniform, and the next eight years as a detective on the night detail. Amazingly, during the day, he did track work. It caught up with him one night after a full day of labor at the American Locomotive Company plant in Schenectady. Driving back to Syracuse he nodded off at the wheel, and the scare helped him decide to leave the police force to concentrate on the family business.
When most of us think of railroad track, we recall miles and miles of mainline, most of which is maintained by the railroads that own it and regularly inspected by outside firms with sophisticated equipment. We don’t usually consider all the mileage on the “short line” railroads, or the numerous sidings and yards at private industrial sites. All this other track adds up and needs to be maintained, rebuilt, and added to…and that’s where Nick and his company come in.
Nicholas Giambatista Railroad Contractors moved to a new location in Syracuse last spring, and the orange walls of the reception area are decorated with framed aerial photos of Nick’s bigger jobs over the years. That move, incidentally, was accomplished in one month’s time, and viewing the neatly stored supplies of ties, rail, switch stands, switch points, and frogs is tiring just to think about moving it all.
Nick’s encyclopedic mind can reel off the numbers as he points to the various photos in the reception area. Here’s a Lehigh Valley yard in Niagara Falls, NY, where Nick had 40 men working, rebuilding 90 switches back in 1963. Over there is another yard job, at Oswego Oil in 1979. The Pepsi Cola sugar beet operation had a yard in Montezuma, NY (who knew?!), and Nick designed and built the track there.
The stories come spilling out. The Schlitz brewery (now Budweiser) under construction in Baldwinsville, NY had a water problem. Nick had the track already built to serve the facility and it all had to come out and be reinstalled. Incredibly, a further problem required an additional tear-out and rebuild. Not a problem, says Nick…it was all cost-plus. Nick did the trackwork for Wegman’s Brooks Avenue warehouse off the Baltimore & Ohio line, but first he had to cut down an orchard full of apple trees. All in a day’s work.
When Niagara Mohawk built their Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant near Oswego, Nick built the track there. Also in Oswego, he has done work off and on for the last 40 years at the huge aluminum rolling plant there. In Buffalo, Nick moved an entire yard “across the street” for the Buffalo Creek Railroad, by paneling the track (making it into movable sections much like on a toy train layout). He’s done work for the Genesee & Wyoming, and for the Birdseye plant in Avon, NY. In Hammondsport, NY, he installed switches at the Taylor Winery, using four crews. In a well-planned routine of cut rail, colored ribbons to identify the different lengths, and string alignment, the crews were able to “couple ‘em up and nail ‘em” at the rate of four switches a day.
But the Giambatista operation isn’t just an upstate New York enterprise. The work has ranged all over the Empire State, and into Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. Nick tells about a 1959 episode at the Raritan, New Jersey Army Arsenal where 12,000 ties were to be changed out. He drove down and met the 2 p.m. bid deadline, offering to do the job at $8.10 per tie, installed, paying $2.50 an hour for local men. At the last minute, however, Nick had to pay an additional 40 cents for “health and welfare” which he quickly figured out meant his, not the workers’. He got the job, but had to take “some useless union men” in the bargain.
Sayre, Pennsylvania, is a source of continual work for Nick, and he keeps an inventory of supplies and several trucks at the former Lehigh Valley (now Norfolk Southern) facility.
We’re glad to have the time and expertise of Nick and his son, Mike, and their experienced crew. If Nick was 16 years old in 1937, you can understand our amazement when we see him on our rail line, poking at the ballast with a fork, eyeballing the rail for alignment, and waving his cane in instruction for the men. He enjoyed a trip to Italy in 2006 to visit his father’s home town outside of Naples, but otherwise shows no sign of wanting to retire and take it easy. When he does, we hope he’ll come by for a trip on the trolley with us, to enjoy the smooth, safe ride his efforts have provided. We’ll be looking forward to more of his interesting stories, too, from over 70 years of working on the railroad.
When the wedding has a 1930s “film noir” theme(!), traditional wedding photos posed in the lobby of the party house just won’t do. At least that’s what the future Mrs. Tim Hacker had to say about it. So she called us, wondering if the wedding party could come to the museum and have their pictures taken amid our antique trolleys and vehicles.
At the appointed hour on Saturday, May 8, the stretch limo rolled up, and out stepped young men and women dressed for the theme. The guys had black shirts, white ties and spats, and the ladies (the gun molls?) all wore sexy black dresses. The photographer (Daniel Paniccia, of PhotoEmphasis) had cased the joint earlier so he went right to work, setting up shot after shot in locations around the main barn…leaning out of the cab of steam locomotive 47, languishing in the mahogany confines of Northern Texas Traction interurban trolley 409, and generally soaking up the period atmosphere. A couple of representative shots are posted on our bulletin board in the entry foyer. Stop out and take a look.
all this photo activity, a storm was brewing and the wind was
rattling the roofing. Soon it was time to head for the reception,
and off they went. A few minutes after the limo pulled out, a large
limb blew off the big willow tree out front, falling about where the
limo had been parked. It’s supposed to be good luck if it
rains on your wedding day, and in this case, the good luck was ours!
Jacinda and Tim
Hacker stand behind their Best Man and Maid of Honor as photographer
Dan Paniccia sets up the shot.
Jacinda and Tim Hacker stand behind their Best Man and Maid of Honor as photographer Dan Paniccia sets up the shot.
We decided to give our annual trolley-themed event an extra kick this year. Many of us have enjoyed the tranquil beauty of early evening at the museum after a long day of volunteering, but the thought of sharing that with visitors left us wondering if we were expecting too much. Would the general public be available on a Saturday night, and could they be tempted to join us for such an experience? Turns out the answers were yes, and yes. Over 200 people came to “Trolleys at Twilight”, and we put a new notch in our event history.
The core idea was to let visitors appreciate the sunset and cooler temperatures of a summer evening. It occurred to us that years ago before air conditioning and television people used to take the trolley to lakeside parks for a similar experience, escaping city heat and enjoying an evening’s diversion from life’s routine. With that in mind, we promoted our event as a recreation of an old-time trolley park, and brought out the museum’s calliope and engaged an ice cream vendor.
The Posner family that owns and operates the Bruster’s Real Ice Cream stand on East Henrietta Road jumped in with enthusiasm. Their $1 Nathan’s hot dogs sold out quickly, and their $2 dishes of ice cream (six varieties to choose from) were popular with volunteers and visitors alike. We look forward to working with them on future events.
Charlie Lowe’s dad, Charles E. Lowe, held forth at the calliope, sounding out the many tunes on our supply of paper player rolls. The music added a festive air, and as one visitor commented, “It’s like a party!”
The Tangley calliope has 42 whistles and the music is played with punched paper rolls. Ear protection is a must!
The event started at 4 p.m., and things got busy right away. The first trolley run departed at 4:30, and subsequent runs were every 30 minutes, as on a Sunday. Trolleys were met at Midway by diesel/caboose trains of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum for continuation to their depot and collection.
168’s headlight pierces the darkness as it heads out on its final run of the evening at “Trolleys at Twilight”.
As the evening wore on and darkness descended, there were opportunities for night photography, but few of the visitors were into that. Night fell, and as advertised we closed down at 10 p.m., putting trolley 168 away for the next day’s operation. We hope to build on the success of “Trolleys at Twilight” for future events. Stay tuned!
GIFT SHOP ACTION
Our gift shop manager, Doug Anderson, has been working overtime, stocking our store with plenty of interesting things for fans of all ages. Among the small toys, trains, erasers, and books for the kids, there are plenty of items for the big people too. A recent donation of over 90 railroad books includes many hard-to-find titles in great condition. Also recently donated are two dozen quality HO freight cars ready to roll on your home pike.
Of special interest is a two-volume compact disc set that captures the wonderful sounds of the museum’s calliope. Charles E. Lowe (Charlie Lowe’s dad) spent many hours carefully making digital recordings of the instrument as it belted out traditional tunes like “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, “In the Good Old Summertime”, and the “Washington Post March”.
Our calliope was donated by the late Andrew Wolff, and is a Tangley model CA-43, built around 1920. The calliope works similarly to a player piano, using large paper rolls with punched holes. As air is drawn by a vacuum pump through each hole, a valve opens to admit compressed air through the appropriate whistle to form a note. With the punched holes properly arranged, the result is delightful (and loud) music. The CDs sell for $15 each, or $25 for the set (plus tax), with the proceeds going to our “Destination Depot” fund that will extend our trolley line all the way to the far end of the railroad. Books and CDs are available only at the gift shop, so come on in and pick up some unique items soon!
|Rochester Railway Company 511|
by Charles R. LoweJack Tripp, one of NYMT’s intrepid motormen, made our present photo available to ROCHESTER STREETCARS. It is a classic crew photo with motorman 215 on the left and conductor 376 on the right. The duties of these men are known by the buttons on their coats: the conductor has the fancy double-breasted coat while the motorman is relegated to the plain single-breasted coat.
The “R R Co” lapel pins of the crew date this photo to before March 1909 when Rochester Railway Company was consolidated into New York State Railways. Cars 510—513 were built in the St. Paul St. shops in 1904 as duplicates of recently-delivered Brill-built 500—509. Therefore, with the trees having leafed out, the photo probably dates to the summers of 1905 through 1908. The sign on the car’s dasher reads “Mil??? Carnival at Glen Haven Starting ??nday, August 27.” The day can only be Sunday or Monday, based on the letters we know. The only Sunday on August 27 in the 1905-1908 era was in 1905, but the car looks a bit too banged up to be only one year old (note the fender, especially). However, Monday, August 27 occurred in 1906. The car has about enough damage for two years of service, and Monday seems more likely a day than Sunday for the start of a carnival in the era. So, perhaps this photo dates to mid-August 1906.
Parsing out the location is a bit tougher. We are on the St. Paul—South route, according to both the roof-mounted sign and the train number “513” in the right front window. The “5” in the train number is the route number and the “13” is the number of the train on that route. Since this number is less than 50, we know this is a morning train so sun angles tell us the car is generally pointing east and south. The guard rail on the farthest rail from the photographer and the lack of such a rail under the car tells us the car is entering a curve to the left. Such guard rails were used on the inside rail of a curve to lessen wheel wear. Except for terminal loops, all of St. Paul—South was on streets and double-tracked, unlike this view which features a single open track in a forest setting.
Based on the lone track visible in the photo, and the fact that the crew had time to pose in front of the car, this photo was probably made at a loop. St. Paul—South had five loops. The St. Paul loop (at the branch-off into Seneca Park) and the loop at Crittenden and Mt. Hope were built in 1921 and 1920, respectively, long after this photo was made. The loop at the end of the line at Crittenden Boulevard was built in 1904, but the surrounding area did not have the tree growth as shown in our photo. The loop at Summerville was built in 1893 and did have the tree growth shown. So, too, did the loop at the end of the Seneca Park branch-off, built in 1901. My vote would be for the Seneca Park line; readers are invited to chime in with their thoughts.
Car 511 led a long life and was not scrapped until the 1930s. St. Paul—South, converted to bus operation on May 23, 1939, remains a strong component of today’s Regional Transit Service bus system.
KEEPING IN THE NEWS
It’s always a struggle to remind area residents and visitors that the museum is here for their enjoyment and enlightenment. We work every angle we can, and have had some unique successes this season.
“Railroad Day” on June 20 was a redesign of “Caboose Day”, which had been losing steam as a mini-version of “Diesel Days”. The RGVRRM folks took the ball and ran with it, adding several demonstrations to share railroading with our visitors while they were at RGVRRM’s Industry Depot.
Lehigh Valley Alco diesel 211 was used in a demonstration of coupling and uncoupling. Crew hand signals played a key role as 211 was signaled to come ahead, couple on, and “stretch” to insure the coupling was complete. Passing up train orders on the fly, and live action on the Morse Code communication system were features of the event. Best of all, we had a feature spot in the Democrat & Chronicle’s Weekend section, with a photo we sent with our release.
Lynn Heintz in period station agent garb passes up a train order to a visitor as the caboose train arrives at RGVRRM.
On the national scene, our Genesee & Wyoming caboose restoration project was pictured in the Railway Post Office section (letters to the editor) of Trains magazine’s August issue. In July, Jim Dierks was invited to a podcast interview with Eric Model about the Rochester Subway. Eric has a deep interest in uncovering interesting places in the U.S., and his website at www.hiddenamerica.com has a variety of engaging subjects. Click on “And a podcast…”, and scroll down to the Rochester Subway item if you’d like to listen in.
Thanks to Rich Carling, we now have plenty of museum brochures to distribute locally. Working with RGVRRM’s Jesse Marks, we’re included in several websites, especially “Kids out and About”, geared to parents. There is a surprising number of website calendars that we try to keep up to date with our events and information. We also continue to work the local newspapers and “shopping bag” free papers, and have had good success getting our events listed there.
you visited our website lately? You’ll find that we’ve
updated the look and reorganized much of the information. We’ve
also added lots of new photos. It’s still a work in progress,
but thanks to Bob Sass and Jim Dierks for the nice looking site we
now have. Go to
course, our best publicity is word-of-mouth. Delighted visitors
pass the word along to friends and neighbors, and we often hear that
as the reason people come to see us. Credit goes to our many
volunteers who treat visitors like royalty and accommodate their
every need. Recently, Bob Moore reported a conversation with a
visitor. Bob says, “She started by saying she was very
pleased that our volunteers talked with visitors and
explained/expanded on the information attached to our exhibits.”
Apparently she had visited at least one other rail-related museum
where “you visit the museum but no one talks to you”.
We’re happy and proud to receive this kind of positive
feedback, and we look forward to continuing that great record for
Of course, our best publicity is word-of-mouth. Delighted visitors pass the word along to friends and neighbors, and we often hear that as the reason people come to see us. Credit goes to our many volunteers who treat visitors like royalty and accommodate their every need. Recently, Bob Moore reported a conversation with a visitor. Bob says, “She started by saying she was very pleased that our volunteers talked with visitors and explained/expanded on the information attached to our exhibits.” Apparently she had visited at least one other rail-related museum where “you visit the museum but no one talks to you”. We’re happy and proud to receive this kind of positive feedback, and we look forward to continuing that great record for future visitors.
P&W 161 ON THE SICK LIST
Hopefully by the time you read this, car 161 will be “all better” and back in service. The experience of the past couple of months has been interesting and educational for us, and we thought we’d share the details with you.
On ride-season opening day, Sunday, May 16, a radio call came in to the Officer of the Day from motorman Bob Achilles at Midway Station that car 161 seemed to be losing power. He was uncertain whether to return to NYMT, but considering a car full of visitors, the decision was made to limp back north. That almost worked, but the car didn’t have enough power to climb the grade on the back section of the loop track and it stalled just north of Giles Crossing.
A rescue effort was mounted, and car 168 was sent to bring 161 back to NYMT. Climbing the grade towing a dead trolley car isn’t the best thing for 168 to do, but it was up to the task, and gamely went into service for the rest of the busy day. Even with all that, we missed only one scheduled run.
In order to sleuth 161’s troubles and make repairs, we had to move it into the trolley barn on track 2, continuing to reserve track 1 to park the car being used in regular service (now 168). This meant an elaborate “moving day”, Saturday, May29. Using 168 as motive power, G&W caboose 8 was towed from its restoration spot on track 2 and placed on the loop track; 161 was towed and placed in the barn on the now-empty track 2; and the caboose was repositioned in front of the trolley barn on track 2. With 168 parked back on track 1, ready for the next day’s operations, the work was complete. Or, rather, just beginning.
168 has spotted the caboose temporarily on the loop track and is about to retrieve 161 (foreground) and place it in the barn.
The first order of business was to figure out what was wrong. Why had 161 lost power? There were lots of possibilities, many of them dreadful to imagine, considering our generally meager facilities for heavy repairs. Bob Achilles was affirmed as leader of the project, and with electrical issues high on the list of possible problems (especially concern that motor leads needed to be replaced), Dick Holbert and Jim Johnson were enlisted as first responders.
After identifying the trouble spot as in motor #3 on the rear truck, a crew was mustered to do the heavy work of lifting the car and removing the truck for examination and repair. This involved removing the pilot at the front of the car which otherwise would have hit the rails as the rear was lifted. Pete Gores came to the rescue with an air compressor and pneumatic jacks, and in a major effort the jacks were placed and the carbody chocked and raised. A jack stand was put under the car for additional security. The fun part fell to Pete to remove the king pin…the heavy steel pin that connects the truck bolster and the carbody bolster. Turns out this pin is not accessible inside the car with a cover in the floor (as is common on streetcars), but comes out from underneath, held in place with a large, sheet metal cotter pin that’s almost not reachable inside the carbody bolster. With a lot of sweating and swearing, Pete was finally able to take out the pin, and the truck was rolled out for inspection.
161 is supported by two jacks and a jack stand, and its rear truck has been rolled out for service (background).
The good news at this point was Dick’s and Jim’s discovery that the motor leads were OK. The problem was with the brush holder that had “home made” shims made of galvanized sheet metal instead of the necessary insulated material. Per Dick’s report, “the brush holder had arced over and burned, spattering slag and causing superficial damage to the wires which is the opposite of what it looked like before.” Note the damage seen in the photo.
Fortunately, Mike Dow had refurbished a brush holder from a spare motor we obtained some years ago for the P&W cars, so thanks to Mike’s efforts a ready replacement was at hand. Dick and Jim found the other motor in the truck also had the same sheet metal shims with signs of arcing, and they replaced them. As a side note, they also discovered that motor leads stamped “F” (for “field”) actually were connected to the brush holders, and those stamped “A” (for armature…i.e. to the brush holders) were connected to the field coils. This explained some perplexing megger readings, but left us wondering what other oddities we’ll discover over the years to come.
While all this was going on, Charlie Robinson had a growing concern about the lubrication packing for the motor bearings, based on what he’d seen in the spare motor. There are four bearings per motor—one at each end of the armature and two where the motor casing rides on the wheel axle. Lubrication is from recesses in the truck castings that are filled to specific levels with a special journal oil. The oil is carried to the armature and axle shafts by wool “waste” that must be in a specific orientation and condition to wick the oil from the pool below up to the shaft. Charlie had discovered that the waste in the spare motor was not in that orientation, and he feared that the same condition in our active trolleys could risk serious bearing failure.
With partial underwriting from Charlie, the museum bought a bale of wool waste, and a team went into action learning how to repack bearings with it. A great help came from the advice of David Johnston, who volunteers at Western Railway Museum but is also one of our more valuable NYMT members. He patiently described in detail all the steps and “do’s and don’ts” involved in packing motor bearings.
Jim Dierks wrings out the oil from some rewound hanks.
The wool comes in “hanks”, which have to be rewound into smaller, more coordinated hanks. Then they are immersed in journal oil for a few days, wrung out, and stuffed into the bearing boxes.
Rewound, oiled hanks await the call to duty.
“Stuffing” is actually a pretty special process, that involves guaranteeing that a hank is properly positioned with its lower end in the oil and its upper portion resting against the shaft being lubricated. Once the position is established more waste is crammed in around and on top of that key hank, all the time being sure not to let that hank slip out of position. It’s a messy process, involving special tools that fortunately were among the items Charlie Lowe scooped up at the Cleveland auction last winter, and it’s especially fun in the 90-degree weather we’ve been having this summer.
This unique tool has just the right shape for packing the wool waste tightly in the bearing boxes.
The waste team included Charlie Robinson, Bob Achilles, Bob Pearce, Bob Sass, and Jim Dierks. By mid-July all eight bearings had been repacked, and Jim and Charlie filled the various boxes with journal oil. We came back later to top up the boxes as the wool began its wicking job, and we were able to use some simplifications to the tools and procedures for checking the oil levels. It’s hoped that these changes will streamline the ugly job of topping up the bearing boxes under the car when in service.
Charlie Robinson aims a light into one of the axle bearing boxes as he checks the depth of the refilled oil.
On Tuesday, July 27, with the motor and bearing tasks completed, the truck was rolled back under the car, the motor leads and brake rigging reconnected, and the car lowered.
Several tons of steel and copper get rolled back under 161 with Dick Holbert on the car mover and Pete Gores on a wheel.
Pete eyes the center bearing as Bob Achilles (background) controls the pneumatic jacks to lower 161 back onto its truck.
To finish off the day, 161 was then moved to the other end of the barn, the jacks positioned at the front truck and the car raised…another Herculean effort by Pete, assisted by the usual members of the task force.
At this writing, Dick and Jim J. have inspected the motors in the front truck and declared them OK and not having the sheet metal brush holder shims. With the carbody raised, Jim D. and Bob A. have repacked the four bearings on motor #1. With luck, 161 should be back on the rails and ready for service on “Diesel Days”, Aug. 21 and 22.
In any event, the work on 161’s ailing motor constituted the heaviest maintenance work we’ve had to do so far on the trolleys, and it’s a reminder that the routine operation of 80-year-old 30-ton trolley cars comes with a responsibility to maintain them. We’re very fortunate to have the volunteers with the knowledge, tools and willingness to handle the job!
SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe
Track: Using the remains of an old ballast pile near the R&E shelter, the Saturday work crew filled in “Bob’s Pit” on the loop track and installed a new tie.
Work at Switch 6 near Industry Depot has taken place. Already, 2 switch timbers and 17 standard ties have been installed to stabilize track there. Stockpiled nearby are more timbers and ties which will soon be installed by R&GVRRM crews.
The big news, though, is the major track repair project NYMT had Nick Giambatista’s crew tackle. When the Museum Railroad was built in the late 1970s, a section of track was laid through soft, damp ground near the S-curves. Large bridge timbers, obtained from the Lehigh Valley Railroad bridge over the Genesee River, were used here so as to “float” the railroad over the marshy area. In time, although the track was raised and clean ballast added, the bridge timbers rotted and began to fail badly. These and other rotten ties in the area were removed by Nick’s crew, 63 new ties were installed along with several truckloads of ballast, and a general smoothing of the railroad alignment was made. Now, this is a great section of the railroad with excellent riding qualities.
Nick’s gang has their work all laid out for them as the bridge timbers come out and new ties go in at the start of the S curves.
Electrification: Ted Strang has completed repairs to the auger truck. A rebuilt transmission was purchased, using the entire 2010 electrification budget of $2,000 plus a special appropriation of $1,000 from the electrification fund. Ted devised an ingenious system with a come-along rigged inside the truck’s cab for lifting the heavy transmission. We were indeed fortunate to find this replacement for the very rare and old transmission in the truck. The first assignment for the repaired auger truck will be to finish the installation of poles and ground anchors on the loop track, after which work will resume on the mainline south of Midway.
Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: There has been a considerable effort put in this summer on heavy repairs on car 161 which are described elsewhere in this issue, but Bob Miner has been busy with various maintenance tasks on the cars. While 161 was out of service, he cleaned and oiled the #14 and #15 double check valves, the sequencer and the reverser. He removed 161’s air compressor governor for cleaning and oiling, and replaced it with a spare unit. With 161 raised on jacks, Bob also drilled and tapped the center bolster bearings at both trucks and installed a Zerk fitting so the bearings can be lubricated without jacking up the car.
a Zerk fitting? For greasing machine parts that are closed to the
atmosphere, the Zerk fitting is a small nipple to which a grease gun
is attached. The fitting has a small, spring-loaded ball inside
that seals the opening to keep the grease from leaking out and to
prevent dirt from entering that can cause wear on the bearing. The
device was invented in 1929 by Oscar…wait for it…Zerk.
York State Railways, Rochester Lines city car 437: A small
supply of street railway light bulbs has been purchased for use in
& Wyoming Caboose 8: Caboose 8 sports a bright blue tarp to
protect its roof while parked outside to make room for P&W 161’s
repair work. While further roof repairs can not be made until the
car is moved back inside, Don Quant, John Ross, Bob Pearce and
Austin Gross have been working on remediation of the rotted ends of
several siding boards.
York Museum of Transportation line car 2: The center bearings
obtained for line car 2 have been installed on the car’s Lake
Shore Electric Railway freight car trucks. Replacement center pins
and keepers have been designed and are being fabricated.
York Museum of Transportation 03: Jay and Todd Consadine
completed work on NYMT’s work flat trailer just in time for
use in June by our track contractor. Once that work was finished,
Jay and Todd applied a second coat of orange paint to really put a
shine on the car.
New York State Railways, Rochester Lines city car 437: A small supply of street railway light bulbs has been purchased for use in this car.
Genesee & Wyoming Caboose 8: Caboose 8 sports a bright blue tarp to protect its roof while parked outside to make room for P&W 161’s repair work. While further roof repairs can not be made until the car is moved back inside, Don Quant, John Ross, Bob Pearce and Austin Gross have been working on remediation of the rotted ends of several siding boards.
New York Museum of Transportation line car 2: The center bearings obtained for line car 2 have been installed on the car’s Lake Shore Electric Railway freight car trucks. Replacement center pins and keepers have been designed and are being fabricated.
New York Museum of Transportation 03: Jay and Todd Consadine completed work on NYMT’s work flat trailer just in time for use in June by our track contractor. Once that work was finished, Jay and Todd applied a second coat of orange paint to really put a shine on the car.
Our many museum volunteers come to us from varied backgrounds and bring an equal variety of skills to help us with our work. Our spotlight victim this time has a strong history in design, and we expect to make good use of that in future work with him. Meet Bob Pearce.
Bob’s 1935 arrival on this planet was in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He spent his youth there in the Garden State, although the family moved often due to his parents’ talents for home remodeling. They enjoyed fixing up older houses, selling them for a tidy profit, and investing that in another project house. Most of this happened in the then-sleepy town of Basking Ridge, NJ, on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western’s electrified Gladstone branch.
Bob’s father worked in Newark as a supervisor in a Western Electric plant, and some of Bob’s pleasant memories from childhood involve trips by himself on the DL&W commuter train into Newark to meet his dad for dinner and a night baseball game. The “huge” HO-gauge train layout at the Newark terminal was a hit with Bob, as he had a small set-up in HO at home. He recalls one particular item on the layout, namely a water feature with a car ferry onto which freight cars were loaded by a switch engine, after which the car ferry would proceed about six feet downriver to dock and be unloaded by another locomotive. Bob and his dad conjectured the ferry might have been moved by magnets in the shallow water, but whatever the process, Bob says it was fun to watch and something he’s never heard of elsewhere.
Bob Pearce checks the alignment of one of the Rochester Subway station signs that he’s hanging in the main barn.
Life in 1940s Basking Ridge was pleasant. Mom’s interest in antiques led to a business in that field, eventually filling a large barn and catering to customers from New York City, just an hour and a half or so away. The business must have been a success, as Bob says the antique store put his younger brother through Princeton!
spent his youth like any kid, palling around with friends. Unlike
most of us, though, among his pals were the twin sons of John Jacob
Astor, Jr., who maintained one of his several homes in Basking
Ridge. Bob says the three had fun together, but they couldn’t
get into too much trouble because the twins were always accompanied
by a bodyguard. Bob had a paper route back then, and at that time
he lived in a house just a couple of blocks from the train station.
He would pedal his bike down there every afternoon and pick up the
newspapers dropped off by a DL&W train, then head out on his
and a high school buddy “were always doing crazy things”,
and decided that they could skip the school bus and take the DL&W’s
2-car Gladstone branch train. The school was just two blocks from
the next station down the line, and Bob and his friend made a game
of trying to stay out of the conductor’s sight during the
short trip to avoid paying a fare.
Bob and a high school buddy “were always doing crazy things”, and decided that they could skip the school bus and take the DL&W’s 2-car Gladstone branch train. The school was just two blocks from the next station down the line, and Bob and his friend made a game of trying to stay out of the conductor’s sight during the short trip to avoid paying a fare.
Eventually college beckoned, and Bob left the idyllic life and came to upstate New York to attend Syracuse University. He was interested in landscape architecture, so he enrolled in the New York State Forestry school there. Admittedly “not such a good student”, Bob dropped out in his second year and joined the Army. After his 2-year hitch, he returned to Syracuse and resumed his studies, this time in the Art Department, taking courses in design, architecture, interior design and related studies. Best of all, the G.I. Bill helped with the tuition, and Bob graduated in 1959.
A friend at Syracuse, one year older than Bob, lived in Rochester, where his father owned Olympic Lanes on Scottsville Road and several other bowling venues. Together, Bob and his friend, Joe Schuler, opened a design business. Bob tells us they were naïve enough to plunge into this venture pretty much without regard for where the customers might come from, but luck was with them. They soon found customers (or the customers found them) and they were off and running. Their little firm eventually landed accounts such as Loews Theaters, for whom they did the design work for all the company’s theaters throughout the U.S. Bob says they could never quite make their designs as outlandish as Loews wanted them to, but somehow they satisfied their customer. The work involved the interiors of the theaters as well as the lobbies, refreshment areas, and offices.
Another big client was A R A, the people who managed vending machines just about everywhere, but who also operated cafeterias. The connection here was through work they did for a local cafeteria firm. When that company was bought by A R A, Bob and Joe were picked up for plenty of new business. In all these jobs, the guys started with a theme or concept. Sketches of designs would be made, and once the project was approved, they would solicit bids, contract out the various construction and equipment jobs, and manage the project through to completion. Other companies followed, ones we all know, such as Bausch & Lomb, Xerox and PayChex.
When Joe’s dad retired, he decided to take over the bowling business and left the partnership with Bob. That didn’t slow Bob down, though, and his next concentration was in nursing homes, where he did the design work for 80 or 90 percent of the homes in Rochester during the 1960s and ‘70s. Following this were banks, bringing another avalanche of business. He designed every Citibank location outside of New York City, and handled the work for several local banks as well. His work on the First Federal Building at Main and State included the locally famous Changing Scene revolving restaurant atop the building. With some sadness now that it’s coming down, Bob points out that he designed facilities for about 40% of the tenants in Midtown Tower.
At its peak, Bob’s firm had 15 design people on staff (which is large for this business). In an industry survey of the top 100 design firms in the country, Bob’s Pearce Design was listed at number 68. More interesting, his was the only company that wasn’t in New York, Los Angeles, or some other major city.
Today, Bob says the era of the independent design studio is just about over, with most such work being done within architectural firms. In retirement, Bob enjoys woodworking, a field he got interested in years ago when he designed decorative wall panels, desks, and other furnishings. As Bob points out, we have a lot of very talented woodworkers in our area, thanks to Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Craftsmen. He got to know many of them when they built the items he designed, and he now has a well appointed wood shop at home. As you’ve read in past issues, that shop has produced windows and other wood parts for our Genesee & Wyoming caboose restoration project.
Bob says he enjoyed exercising his fertile imagination in a satisfying career, but feels he was also lucky to make the contacts that brought him so much good business. We suspect it was much more than luck. In fact, we are the ones who are lucky…to have Bob’s great woodworking skills, eye for good design, and pleasant personality to add to the mix at our museum.
WHERE’S THE FIRE?
Not, fortunately at the museum, thanks. But a recent visit from members of the Brighton Fire Department has resulted in a pretty hot deal for us. Captain Peter Schenck stopped by and said that several members of the BFD were interested in helping us with our former Brighton 1941 Mack fire truck. They wanted to be able to operate the truck in local fireman’s parades and other special functions, and in return would clean the truck up, with the longer range possibility of a more complete restoration.
We signed up their team as museum members and have given several of them our brief training course, including a check list and some behind-the-wheel experience. We involved Pete in the annual run to Beam Mack for New York State inspection, and while there we opted for an oil change and lube job, considering the truck’s more frequent operation that is sure to come.
Don Quant has briefed Pete Schenck on the Mack’s operation, and they’re ready for the road test. Turns out Pete’s a natural!
The Brighton team took the truck for some TLC prior to this summer’s East Rochester parade. Unfortunately, rain put the kibosh on running the open-cab truck in the event, but the guys really did a job getting the truck ready just the same. A wax job, chrome polish, removal of some not-period-appropriate items, (and addition of some appropriate things), and general review of all the hoses, ladders, etc. have really enhanced the truck as a popular exhibit and as a valuable part of our collection.
Stop by to see the Mack in all its splendor at the fire department’s open house on Sunday, October 3 (at the 12 Corners fire house), and watch it go by in the Brighton High School homecoming parade on Friday evening, October 8. You’ll see our museum banners on the sides of the truck, promoting NYMT (including the addition of our web address, thanks to our resident sign maker, Phil McCabe). Several new volunteers, more opportunities for the public to see the truck, assistance with restoration, and helping the Brighton Fire Department honor an important part of their history. A good deal all around!
HEADEND is published four times a year by the New York Museum of Transportation, © 2010. 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