The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Winter 2010


There's something about a cold, snowy night that prompts thoughts of boarding a Pullman sleeping car, slipping under the covers, and lifting the window shade to watch the world drift past as one is slowly carried away into the "arms of Morpheus". Such an experience is still possible for Rochesterians, with the nightly westbound departure of Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited and its sleeping car service to Chicago. But as thankful as we are for this long-running train, our options today are just a trace of the sleeping car service once enjoyed here.

Books can be written (and have been) about the history of the sleeping car, travels aboard it, the Pullman Company and its founder George Pullman, etc. At the peak of its success in the late 1920s, the company's 9,800 sleeping cars each night offered accommodations for over 100,000 weary travelers.

Some Pullman Factoids

According to the company magazine, Pullman News , in the late 1920s, just to keep up with wear and tear (and the occasional "souvenir"), Pullman annually bought over a million towels, 23,000 blankets, 4 million cakes of soap, and almost 8,000 mattresses. For a typical trip from Chicago to California, a standard sleeper with 12 sections (each section having an upper and a lower berth) and a drawing room (sleeping accommodations for up to three people, with a private lavatory) required 400 hand towels, 250 sheets, 200 pillow slips, 56 wool blankets and 8 porter's coats.

Undoubtedly the heaviest Pullman car is the former Ferdinand Magellan, refitted as an armored private car for President Franklin Roosevelt. Including bullet-proof window glass 3 inches thick, the car clocks in at 142 tons!

George Pullman (1831-1897) spent his young adult years as a cabinet maker in nearby Albion, New York.

Post-World War II, the company was still working hard to fill the overnight travel needs of Americans. With the long ordeal behind them, many railroads replaced their worn out passenger equipment with modern, streamlined cars, including all-room sleeping cars. Into the 1950s, optimism reigned and classy passenger trains roamed the land, with passenger traffic departments for the most part bravely confronting the growing competition from automobiles and airplanes.

A cutaway of a 1920s "heavyweight" Pullman sleeping car reveals sections in both day use and made up for overnight.

Rochester had sleeping car service on a variety of trains, even including "set out" cars that were placed at the station and boarded at a passenger-convenient time, then picked up later at night by a passing train. The same arrangement was used in the morning so passengers could sleep to a decent hour before disembarking—generally 8 a.m. The coupling, uncoupling, and shunting back and forth in the wee hours for such situations could disrupt sleep, so cars for pick-up and drop-off were concentrated on particular trains, leaving other trains and their passengers to enjoy uninterrupted straight-through running.

Photos from an Association of American Railroads school kit display the amenities and comfort of 1950s Pullman travel.

On the New York Central, many through trains stopped in Rochester, providing sleeper service to numerous destinations on the Central and beyond. We also enjoyed such service into the post-war era on the Lehigh Valley and the Pennsylvania.

The Lehigh at one time offered through service from their depot at the corner of South Avenue and Court Street via a connecting train that ran to Rochester Junction. Sleeping cars were carried overnight to Philadelphia on train #4, and to New York City on #6, the Lehigh Limited. By the 1950s, the Lehigh Valley’s sleeper clientele in the Rochester market had to make do with boarding the cars at Rochester Junction, having reached that point first by a coach on the connecting train, and later by a bus.

Service on the Pennsy was more round-about. As we locals know, the nearby city of Canandaigua, New York became a thriving metropolis in the late 1700s as the headquarters of the Phelps-Gorham land company, and that city became a major stop on the New York Central’s original main line between Syracuse and Rochester via Auburn, New York. The Central eventually chose a more direct alignment for their "water level route" and downgraded the "Auburn Road" to secondary status. By the early 1950s there was only one daily round trip serving the towns along the line. The local was a key player in longer-distance service, however.

The Pennsylvania Railroad had a secondary mainline from Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Sodus Point, New York, with a branch line that ended at Canandaigua. The connection between the Central and the Pennsy there made for the most direct route for service between Rochester and Washington, D.C., and a through, inter-line Pullman car was established.

According to the October, 1954 Official Guide, by this time the through sleeper from Rochester had been eliminated, but one could still board the car (another 12-section, 1-drawing room battleship) at Canandaigua for its overnight run to our nation’s capitol. Not that Central sleepers stopped passing through Canandaigua, however. The single remaining train on the Auburn road carried an 8-section, 5-double bedroom car from Rochester, connecting at Syracuse with theNew York Special to New York City.

The New York Central by far provided the greatest number of sleeping car accommodations for the Flower City. Spending an evening at our former Bragdon-designed station on Central Avenue would have been thrilling even without boarding one of the dozens of trains coming through. Let's go back to the early 1950s and take a look:

New York Central train #51, the westbound Empire State Express, dusts the fields outside Churchville, New York.

Westbound departures out of New York City understandably are sprinkled throughout the day there. From the early morning Empire State Express to the past-midnight South Shore Express, trains roll out of Grand Central Terminal on a regular basis to suit the needs of Gotham travelers. Here in Rochester, the first westbound run of the evening is #39, the North Shore Limited, around half past eight o'clock. Destined for a "short cut" across Canada to Detroit and Chicago, #39 arrives with a post-war streamlined 10-roomette, 6-double bedroom sleeper, coaches and modest dining facilities. At Buffalo, an 8-section buffet lounge car will be coupled on, along with two more 10-6s, with more sleepers to be added at Detroit (from Toronto).

An hour later, #41, The Knickerbocker, arrives with half a dozen modern sleepers heading to Cincinnati and St. Louis, from New York and Boston. An observation parlor car brings up the rear of this train, having provided first class seating for day travelers along the route from New York. Right on #41's heels is the combined all-coach Pacemaker and all-Pullman Advance Commodore Vanderbilt. In better days, the Advance Commodore carried the overflow from #67, the all-Pullman Commodore Vanderbilt. This luxurious train of roomette, bedroom and compartment cars makes few stops and indeed blows right through Rochester about 11:30 p.m. The gap between Mr. Vanderbilt's two namesake trains is filled first with the Ohio State Limited around 10:30, and then the New England States, a Boston-Chicago limited that roars through without stopping about a half-hour later. If you looked quick you could probably spot some late nightcaps being served in the observation lounge sleeping car on the rear of the New England States.

The famous Twentieth Century Limited blasts through on its way to a post-midnight meeting with its opposite number in Buffalo and charges on to a morning arrival in Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station. The top train on the Central, the Century carries sleepers with room accommodations only, including spacious compartments and drawing rooms for those who want a more luxurious trip, and can afford it. Two sleeping cars on this train will be handed off to the Santa Fe in Chicago, destination Los Angeles. From its lightning-striped diesels to its beautiful high-windowed observation car, this terrific train with top-notch equipment and on-board service is a thrill to see, even if it’s leaving Rochester in a plume of ballast dust as it heads over the Genesee River bridge, westbound.

Walter Greene created many images for New York Central posters and calendars. In this 1930 view, the 20th Century Limited east- and westbound counterparts meet in the glow of Buffalo Central Terminal.

#33, the New England Wolverine, must be fun to try to sleep on, as it carries sleeping cars from Boston to Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, and picks up a sleeper from Massena. That makes for some switching of cars along the way. Right on its heels is #17, The Wolverine, another Chicago-bound train that will get there via Canada, also loaded down with sleepers to be added and dropped off throughout the night. A through sleeper to San Francisco is included in this train's complement of cars. Both of these trains hit Rochester just before and just after 1 a.m., and are quickly followed by the Lake Shore Limited at 1:30. Care to take the Vista Dome California Zephyr to San Francisco? One of the many comfortable sleepers on the Lake Shore is destined to be trundled over to Chicago Union Station after arrival in the Windy City this afternoon. You'll be heading off to dreamland on the CZ somewhere in Iowa tonight.

More westbounds parade through. The Detroiter doesn't stop here, nor does the combined Southwestern Limited/Cleveland Limited, but The North Star will be paying us a visit at 3 a.m. if you’re still awake. Around 5:30 a.m. The Chicagoan will fly through, unless it’s Sunday when it actually stops here. This train’s complement of New York sleepers is destined for Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and…ta da…Rochester (Sunday morning only). What about the rest of the week? Well, #99, The Tuscarora, carries three Rochester-bound sleepers from New York. A 10/6 and an 18-roomette car will arrive on #99 at about 6:45 a.m., just in time for a quick breakfast in the station coffee shop before a day’s business at Kodak or one of the other major commercial destinations here. The third sleeper is that previously mentioned car that comes off at Syracuse to wend its way to Rochester via the Auburn road.

According to an article in a recent issue of Central Headlight by Carl J. Liba, in 1941 Rochester made the top ten list of sleeper patronage by New York Central origin-destination city pair, with 234 beds in 10 sleeping cars devoted to Rochester-New York City service.

Of course, all of these trains have an eastbound equivalent, so we can double the action described above to get a picture of what a night at the Rochester station was really like. The Knickerbocker and Lake Shore Limited stop by early in the morning, followed by The Mohawk, The Missourian, The Chicagoan, the Advance Empire State Express and Empire State Express throughout the day. Late in the evening the Interstate Express, New York Special, and Fifth Avenue Special all come to call within minutes of each other, with the last picking up Rochester set-out sleepers for New York City.

New York Central J1D Hudson #5279 is eastbound near West Avenue in Rochester with what appears to be #38, The Missourian. This train has carried sleepers from St. Louis for Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo, and still has several destined for New York. There's also a Chicago-Boston sleeper in the consist that was handed off from #40, the North Shore Limited. This latter train, "limited" to relatively few stops, will arrive in New York an hour before The Missourian, even though it leaves Buffalo with only a 9-minute lead.

Between midnight and the 2:19 a.m. arrival of the combined Paul Revere/Wolverine, an unbelievable seven passenger trains will fly through without stopping, bearing their sleeping riders to east coast destinations. And this is 1954, when the Central is already feeling the pinch from auto and air competition. Imagine the fun thirty or forty years earlier, with classic J-3 Hudson locomotives hauling endless strings of heavyweight Pullman sleeping cars, lounges, dining cars and observations. Must have been something to experience!

For now, though, pull that blanket up tight; it's been a busy night and we need some sleep. But can't we leave the window shade up just another couple of minutes? We ought to be meeting the Cleveland Limited about now ...

Want to know more about George Pullman and the cars that served overnight passengers around the world? The museum gift shop has a good supply of Go Pullman, by Charles M. Knoll. Published by the Rochester Chapter, NRHS, this soft-cover 230-page treat is packed with photos, diagrams, ads, signs and all the stories associated with Pullman travel. Find out how fast Queen Victoria's funeral train traveled despite her edict (when living) of nothing over 40 miles an hour. Learn about the paperwork that kept 80,000 daily reservations straight. Discover George Eastman's favorite private Pullman car. Pullman's manufacturing arm reached much farther than just sleeping cars, and you'll find the whole story here inGo Pullman. This book is currently on sale for just $10, and proceeds go entirely to extending the museum's electric line.


If you're reading this Winter issue of HEADEND, you are a member in good standing for 2010 and have received this year's souvenir refrigerator magnet featuring our snow sweeper C-130. Thanks for your continued support!

In prior years, we have sent the Winter issue with a "last call" notice. As our membership rolls increased, the cost and effort of mailing these "last call" issues has become significant. So, we are now sending post card reminders to all who haven't re-upped for the new year, hopefully accomplishing the same goal of reminding members who got a little buried under the hectic holiday activities. It's all aimed at continuing to keep our costs under control while serving our membership and the community. Again, thank you for your membership in NYMT. We hope you will stop out to see us soon.


Any visit to the museum is special, whether it's an NYMT-only tour of our exhibits November to mid-May or the unique joint-museum experience with a ride between two transportation museums the rest of the year. We schedule special events throughout the year to let visitors enjoy extra features that we can’t provide routinely. Publicity for special events helps remind busy area residents that our every-Sunday activities are worth coming for as well. In 2010 we’re making a major effort to build on the growth we’ve enjoyed in 2009 and to breathe new life into traditional events we’ve been holding over recent years. Check out the following schedule, and take special note of our members-only trolley event on Saturday evening, June 5.

Sundays, January 3 - April 25 "BRING YOUR OWN TRAIN" Once again we hand over the controls on our large HO model railroad to visitors who bring their own engines and cars. From youngsters yearning for a larger layout to seniors with collectible engines that have never run, they're welcome to take the throttle and watch 'em roll.

Al Emens, Dick Luchterhand, and Jerry Doerr clear the yard on our11' x 21' layout, readying it to host our visitors' HO trains.

Sunday, May 16 RIDE SEASON BEGINS The trolley wire once again hums with 600-volt power and cars depart every half-hour starting at 11:30 a.m. A diesel train with cabooses will meet the trolley at Midway Station today for completion of the trip to Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum's Industry depot.

Saturday, June 5 "TROLLEYS BY TWILIGHT" (members only) Enjoy an evening trolley ride and watch the sun set over the beautiful countryside. We'll have extra fun ... perhaps an ice cream vendor will be on hand, and the museum's calliope will entertain us with classic merry-go-round music. Diesel trains will meet the trolley at Midway station for the trip to Industry depot. Watch for more details.

Sunday, June 20 "Railroad Day" The RGVRRM folks will pull out all the stops to show off their collection and provide an in-depth look at railroading. The diesel/caboose train will be connecting with the trolley and there will be demonstrations of railroad activities all day.

Saturday, July 17 "TROLLEYS BY TWILIGHT" The public is invited this time, as we once again cruise by trolley and train amid the lengthening shadows of evening.

Saturday and Sunday, August 21 and 22 "DIESEL DAYS" The RGVRRM people expect to have several diesels in operation for this popular annual event-a great opportunity to compare the various makes and models in all their different sizes, types and sounds. Cab rides are allowed!

Sundays, September 19 thru October 31 "FALL FOLIAGE BY TROLLEY AND TRAIN" The fields and forests of our rural setting come alive with autumn colors, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than from the window of a trolley car and the cupola of a caboose. Keep your eye peeled for our resident deer herd and maybe a fox or wild turkey.

Saturdays and Sundays, November 27/28, December 4/5, 11/12, 18/19 "Holly Trolley Rides" Santa may still travel by reindeer power, but for six days in the holiday season we give him some help from our 600-volt substation. View the snow-blanketed scenery from the warmth of the museum's trolley, and stop in next door at Remelt's Evergreen Acres for a Christmas tree.


From time to time we look up from our immersion in the past and are startled to see how fast today's world is changing. Communication is more instantaneous, the world economy ebbs and flows in whipsaw fashion compared to years past, and companies alter their plans more quickly to accommodate. The effect isn't just in the abstract, and job changes have had their impact on our museum. One worth noting is that of a long-term volunteer and trustee, Paul Monte.

We're pretty sure Paul is the museum's longest continually serving volunteer, having started back in the mid-1970s. His involvement has covered the waterfront ... track work, field mowing, archiving, exhibits, photography, trolley crew, and member of the Board of Trustees to give just an overview.

That's a young Paul Monte, second from left, getting down and dirty with some former Lehigh Valley ballast on our main line.

It's hard to move around at NYMT without spotting something that bears Paul's imprint, and his move to a new job in Massachusetts will leave big shoes to fill here at home. We're pleased that he expects to stay current with the trolley training, and plans to "commute" here once a month for service on our trolleys.

The Trustees gathered at The Brighton Restaurant (a short distance from the location of the Subway's East Avenue stop, we might add) to send Paul off in style. You'd think one of us would have thought to bring a camera to show you how he hasn't changed a bit over all his time with us, but you'll have to take our word for it. The framed commemorative piece we bestowed on Paul thanks him "for over 30 years of service, playing a major role in realizing the museum's goal of public trolley operations". We guess that says it best. Good luck, Paul, and we'll look forward to having you back with us often!

With Paul's departure, the trustees spent some time thinking about the make-up of the Board, and how we can continue to keep it current and energized for the many challenges ahead. After much consideration, we invited three new members, and we're sure they'll be valuable contributors. We're proud to welcome Bob Achilles, Bob Moore, and Bob Sass as new trustees of the New York Museum of Transportation.

No, you don't have to be named Bob to be on the Board (we now have five Bobs!). Each of our new members has his own blend of expertise, experience and involvement on which to base his participation on the Board. As of this issue, you've met all three of our new guys in HEADEND Volunteer Spotlights, so we won't go through a full biography here. But we can say that you've encountered all three in these pages often. Thanks, guys, for agreeing to join the NYMT board, to share in our leadership as we look to a bright future.


Can a small boy whose HO train set caused the 1965 blackout find happiness as a trolley motorman? We’ll learn the startling truth and many more details as we get to know this issue's Spotlight victim: Bob Sass.

Bob is a life-long Rochesterian, having been born here in 1957 and having lived in the same West Irondequoit house all the years since. He claims to have "no memory of childhood" but when pressed, he divulges that his father (an RPI-educated electrical engineer) built Bob a little box with switches and batteries that didn't do anything but managed to keep the little guy entertained and out of trouble. Perhaps this was a first inkling of interest in things electrical.

Dad took the cue and got his son into electric trains with an HO set that contained a Santa Fe freight diesel and a 2-6-2 steam locomotive. The kitchen table layout soon grew to ping-pong table size, and finally settled in with its own table, complete with some scenery. We suspect that young Bob was more interested in the electrical functions of the train set than in actual railfanning-in-miniature, since he can't recall if the diesel was an F-7 or an SD-9. But then, the trauma of the Big Blackout that hit the northeastern U.S. may have something to do with his sketchy recall.

Those of us who experienced the blackout may recall that an incorrect maintenance procedure on a major power line in Ontario, Canada caused a premature line shut-down, with the resulting surge onto other lines triggering shut-downs there. This all occurred on a cold November evening, about a quarter past five, at the peak of rush hour, and lights throughout many northeastern states fluctuated wildly for several minutes before eventual total blackout. At the time, little Bobby was in the basement in charge of his model railroad empire. His mother, upstairs witnessing the off-and-on fluctuations in the house electricity, assumed her son was causing the problem with his trains, and hollered down the stairs to cut it out. Of course, the trains weren't messing up the electricity in the house, much less across the northeast, but it would have made a great Life Magazine story!

Although Bob wasn't born until a year after the last trolley service in town ended with the abandonment of the Rochester Subway, there apparently is some trolley interest that's been passed down to him in his DNA. Seems his father and his uncle, when they were teens, used to ride the streetcar downtown from their Norton Street home, where they transferred to the Subway. The guys did this for amusement, and Dad truly liked all the sights and sounds of trolleyhood.

In fact, Bob's father's interest in trolleys is responsible for Bob volunteering with us. Dad noticed a news article about the restoration of the museum's Rochester Subway "Casey Jones" track car, and the family came out to see its first public operation. Apparently they thought they were coming for a trolley ride, and although disappointed, they enjoyed the day with us just the same. When we began providing rides as far as Giles Crossing, they came back and had a good time. Bob remembers TV 10 was on hand that day too.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Back in his youth, after his role in the blackout was cleared up, Bob liked to help his father with home fix-up projects. He learned home electrical wiring from this experience, and even took high school courses in the subject to perfect his knowledge.

In high school and at Alfred State College, Bob took computer courses, and in 1978 he went to work with Harris Corporation (Harris Intertype, for those who go back that far). The Rochester Division makes 2-way radios for commercial and government secure communications. Bob started as an electrical tech, building the various designs that the engineers came up with. The company needed some way to keep track of the parts lists for the engineers' projects, so with his computer knowledge, Bob’s job morphed into computer applications. By 1985 he was asked to join the computer group and take on similar tasks across many other projects.

By the mid-1990s, his job developed into a systems administrator, installing and maintaining hardware for computers over a broad range of company needs. For the last ten years or so, he's been an applications programmer for the company, as part of a group that takes care of manufacturing systems.

Bob's computer skills have been a blessing since he joined up as a volunteer. He has taken over for the late Ted Thomas, keeping our website up to date and taking charge of adding new items in our computerized collection catalogue. He has always had an interest in local history (and is an authority on Seabreeze amusement park), so he's a natural for helping in our archives.

More than that, however, Bob has also joined the overhead work crew, helping with the many tasks involved in the installation and maintenance of the line. He says he doesn't know why he likes trolleys, but he does like them, and so it wasn't long before he decided to take the training program to become a motorman/conductor with us. We're really keeping Bob busy, as he has just been invited to join our Board of Trustees. We have gained a lot from Bob Sass' participation at NYMT, and we look forward to many more good things from him in the future.


We reported in our Fall issue that attendance figures were up for the year through November 1, and we can now happily report that the full-year numbers are even better. For the year, attendance grew by 18.3% over 2008 for a total of 6,385 people, and that's on top of the 7% increase we experienced that year over 2007. Group tour visitors numbered 1,113 in 2009, up 27.3% over 2008.

Since our mission is to share the history with our public visitors, attendance is our most important measure. But we couldn't do it without the funds that come in from visitor admissions and the generosity of our members. Our ride-season admissions amounted to $23,348, which is split with our partners, RGVRRM. Additional visitor income totaled $3,722 from non-ride-season admissions and $10,985 in gross gift shop sales. As anyone in the museum world will tell you, admissions don't come close to paying for all the expenses of operating and growing the museum, so the year's $8,270 in memberships and $18,474 in donations were crucial to keeping our financial head above water.

Here's a look at our full-year attendance over the past 17 years. 2009 is a new record and the recent trend is strong!

The "ride season", when a visit includes a trolley car trip to Midway station with connecting service on either a track car or a diesel-and-caboose train for continuation to the RGVRRM's Industry Depot, a headcount of 4,977 represents a 19.2% increase over 2008. In addition to the growing popularity and community awareness of our unique trolley service, the diesel train was certainly another big factor in the increased attendance.

What's more, we decided to compete with several other "fall foliage" rail events (not to mention all the corn mazes and other autumn entertainments in the area) and offered Tracking Fall Foliage by Trolley and Train for a full six Sundays starting with the last Sunday in September.

Our Holly Trolley rides are a real success story, too. Attendance at the museum plus ride-only tickets totaled 741, which is 27.1% above last year’s count. The weather cooperated with us, and the dwell time at Remelt’s Station gave us plenty of visibility with Christmas tree shoppers at our neighbor’s tree farm.

We appreciate Mr. and Mrs. S. Claus taking some time out at a busy time of the year to ride the trolley and wow the kids.

Helping all this growth was a run of low-cost advertising in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, with the addition this year of a similar ad for the Holly Trolley rides. The group tour business got pumped up by a mailing campaign targeted at day cares, senior facilities and group homes, plus the Scouting community. A mailing to the school systems also helped, and we plan to repeat all these "active" promotions to help the "word of mouth" that has been our main means of growth in the past.

But, ads, promotions, publicity releases and websites don't count for much without something uniquely entertaining and enlightening for visitors to enjoy, and we have that in our trolley operation, our museum full of rare rail and road vehicles, our operating model railroad, numerous displays of photos and small artifacts, and a host of volunteers dedicated to bringing history to life for our visitors. So, congratulations to us all for a year of real growth. Serving the public is why we're here, and we look forward to furthering the trend with some unique new special events and continued operation of the only trolley ride in New York State.


Some time back we were able to salvage the G-gauge track system from a TOPS grocery store in Rochester. The system was mounted overhead in the check-out area and consists of a solidly built framework with rails and ties. Doug Anderson, our gift shop manager and leader of the salvage effort, obtained the system for overhead mounting in the shop. The installation work is now underway, and although the ties and rail aren't as heavy as on our 12" = 1' mainline, there's still effort and planning involved.

Doug has determined that the grid that supports the suspended ceiling in the gift shop can handle the extra weight of the G-gauge system and train. As you can imagine, the ceiling support grid isn't always just where you want it to attach a cable from the track. So, a lot of "engineering" is going into this enterprise to provide sturdy, level support, with sections cut to proper length to suit our space. Doug's been assisted in the work by Kent Carpenter, a friend who helped him with the salvage operation, and Doug's son, Cameron.

Kent Carpenter checks a section of G-gauge track with a level to assure reliable, smooth operation of the train.

We expect the track structure to be installed through the winter, with power arranged soon after. Although the diesel that came with the track system isn't in running condition, we're fortunate to have a Budd RDC generously donated by the Genesee G Gauge Railway Society, and more equipment will be ready to roll when the track is complete.


The first-ever Joint Board Meeting for the boards of trustees of NYMT and National Railway Historical Society, Rochester Chapter, was held at NYMT on Thursday, January 28, 2010. A unified railroad operations rulebook, written over the past two years by Mike Dow and Charlie Lowe, was adopted at this meeting. All those who operate passenger or work trains are to become trained in the rules.

The first rules class will be held at Rochester Institute of Technology on March 6, 2010, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and running until early afternoon. Dates for additional sessions in April and May are being determined. Those receiving training need attend only one session. For details, contact Bob Achilles (track cars) at bobachilles@aol.com or Charlie Lowe (trolleys) at crloweny@rochester.rr.com .

ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 53 in a series

Rochester Railway Co-Ordinated Bus Lines. Inc. 307
company photo

by Charles R. Lowe

Fans of ROCHESTER STREETCARS may be aghast at this installments photograph. Before we go further, though, let me assure you that New York State Railways painted these vehicles in the green and cream of its streetcars, not the red and cream of its buses. For that matter, NYSR referred to such a vehicle as a trackless trolley car rather than a trackless trolley bus or some other "stink can" inspired name such as trolley coach or electric trolley bus.

No, in Rochester, this vehicle was every bit a trolley except that there were no rails, and a second wire was hung in the overhead. In a street railway electrical circuit, the rails serve as the return path to the power station, these being replaced in a trackless set-up by the second overhead wire. Needless to say, any crossing of a "hot" trolley wire and a ground wire for the trackless would be disastrous.

Rochester had some horrific flaws in its street railway system. The important LAKE, ST.PAUL and PORTLAND/SEA BREEZE lines to the north were about twice the length of any of the others in the radial system of lines emanating from downtown. In addition, nearly all the city's 14 streetcar lines converged on Main Street, clogging it full of traffic for 18 to 20 hours a day. Most travelers between the northwest and northeast quadrants were forced to journey through downtown, lengthening their travel by several miles. A direct crosstown route was seen in the early 1920s as the answer to all these problems.

Standing in the way was the 100- to 200-foot-deep Genesee River gorge. In the 1920s, a few spans crossed the gorge, the northern-most of which, perfectly situated for a crosstown line, was the 1890 wrought-iron arch bridge at Driving Park Avenue. By this time, though, streetcars weighed far in excess of the safe carrying capacity of this bridge.

To the rescue came the new trackless trolley. While a few other installations were in place in an experimental form, the choice by usually-cautious New York State Railways of an unproven trackless trolley for the crosstown line is remarkable. Beginning in 1921, NYSR forged ahead with its trackless plan, and by mid-1923 was ordering vehicles and erecting overhead.

On the morning of November 1, 1923, trackless service began. Streets followed were Driving Park Avenue, Avenue E, Conkey Avenue, Avenue D, North Street and Clifford Avenue, with terminals at Driving Park and Pierpont, and at Clifford and Hollister, and a total distance of three miles. Nine streetcar lines were either crossed or within easy walking distance.

The trackless trolley cars themselves, of which no. 307 is seen above, were unusual. The chasses were built by Brockway in Cortland, NY while the bodies were built by Kuhlman in Cleveland. Either a gasoline engine or electric motor equipment could be used. Of the twelve vehicles ordered, five were originally electric while the others had gasoline engines and were used on other lines. By 1928, when this company photo was taken with eastbound 307 pulled over to the curb on Driving park Avenue at Maplewood Avenue, just west of the Genesee River gorge, all twelve vehicles had been converted to trackless trolley cars.

When the Driving Park Avenue streetcar line was abandoned in 1929, service on the outer portion of Driving Park Avenue was continued by extending the crosstown trackless line a quarter-mile to the west. By 1932, when the ten-year agreement with the city for the line’s poles and overhead was coming due for renewal, the 1923 trackless trolleys and their solid rubber tires had become anachronistic. Rather than invest in new trackless vehicles, gasoline buses offered New York State Railways, then in receivership, with the least expensive way to continue the crosstown line. With a last full day of service taking place on March 3, 1932, and a final pull-in occurring in the early morning hours of March 4, the trackless trolley cars were retired. Gasoline buses started grinding across the Driving Park Avenue bridge on the morning of the 4 th, the trackless wires soon were removed, and the cars soon scrapped, erasing forever the trackless trolley from Rochester.


By Charlie Lowe


A lot goes on behind the scenes in support of our museum and its trolley operations. Recently Charlie Lowe headed up an important effort that netted some significant additions to our collection and our parts supply. Here's Part One of the tale, in Charlie's words.

The demise of Cleveland’s Lake Shore Electric Railway Museum (formerly Trolleyville, U.S.A.) in 2009 placed 30 cars and an abundant supply of spare parts on the market. Shore Line Trolley Museum’s Bill Wall organized a consortium of 14 trolley museums that agreed to purchase all the cars and parts so as to divide the collection amongst themselves.

While the cars were easy to divide up, based on the needs and available funds of the participating museums, the division of the parts was an entirely different issue. The parts had been separated into about 250 lots, but there was little organization within each lot. The parts were generally very desirable items, and much haranguing was anticipated over their eventual disposition. To move the effort forward, Bill Wall arranged for each museum to pay a standard fee for a one-fourteenth share of the parts. The weekend of November 14 and 15 was then set for the great division of the parts.

Tony Mittiga and I offered to travel to Cleveland, select NYMT’s parts and transport them to back to the museum. A large U-Haul truck was rented for the trip. On Friday, November 13, we drove to Cleveland without incident. The weather was warm for the season, and as it turned out, jackets were not really needed once the heavy lifting began the next day.

Lodging within a mile of the downtown warehouse was found in order to minimize mileage on the truck. It also was convenient since the doors opened at the warehouse at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. When we arrived, a PCC car was outside and loaded, ready for its move to its new museum. Inside, representatives of the various museums were already hard at work surveying the massive array of parts. About 9:00 a.m., Bill Wall convened the proceedings using the Blackpool "Boat" car (an open car with no roof, resembling a ship's hull) as a pulpit. By general agreement, the compressors were to be divided first. The museum representatives were each issued a pad of paper to make notes as to what lot or lots of compressors were desired. Bill reminded us that the parts were to be shared fully for the betterment of all the museums. With that in mind we were all off to the compressors.

My great desire was to obtain one of the five Westinghouse DH25 compressors to use as a source of parts or as a spare for the DH25s in cars 161 and 168. As I watched the other rare compressors get parceled out, we approached the DH25s. Some of the better ones went early, but I registered my desire and purpose for at least one. At the end of the compressor dickering, one with an intact case and one with a cracked case came into play. We were awarded both with the hope that we could get one good one. Luckily, I remembered that we had at least one spare cover back at NYMT so I hastily scribbled "NYMT" onto the parts lot signs. NYMT was now officially on the big board!

Much debate for the means of dispersal of the rest of the parts soon followed, the agreement being that we would consider each lot one at a time, working our way around the warehouse, and entrusting to Bill the ultimate power of arbitrating any disagreements. This system actually worked well since, by knowing the physical location of the next lot in which one was interested, it was easy to research lots in advance.

Some of the lots were not too attractive to any museum. Here, though, the mass and power of Illinois Railway Museum came happily into play since they were willing to take on even the most unattractive lots which had no takers.

In our pathway around the warehouse, first up for NYMT were several lots of resistor grids. These are fragile cast-iron plates which are used in the control of electric railway motors. Seeing that most of the parts available would be of assistance in the restoration of NYMT's Rochester city car 437, and knowing our general lack of spare resistor grids, I determined to obtain several built-up resistor boxes and a supply of individual grids. Although there were some tense moments as several of the complete boxes went to others, I was able to obtain several boxes and a generous supply of the grids.

All through this, I noticed that a sense of cooperation was being rewarded. After being assigned a lot of boxes, to the disappointment of a representative of another museum, I made a point of mentioning that person's desire when the next boxes came into play. He was awarded the boxes, and NYMT was awarded some measure of consideration for the next lots of interest!

Be sure to tune in for the conclusion of this saga, and see the full list of parts and components; read about the Great Controller Handle Monkey Pile; and find out about a discovery that was added to our haul at the last minute. It's all in the Spring issue of HEADEND.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Electrification: Ground rods were delivered to NYMT by Jim Johnson and Rand Warner in late December for use in 2010 electrification projects on the loop track and the mainline. In January, the large crateful of overhead parts from Trolleyville were broken down to individual components. Each part was stored with other similar parts for easy access and restoration. Bob Achilles, Jack Tripp and Tony Mittiga worked on the overhead parts. Bob finished drilling the Lehigh Valley bridge timber tie plates in January. The tie plates, which will be used as soil plates for the ground anchors, probably came from the Lehigh’s Genesee River bridge in the 1970s.

Another pole planted, and another step forward in our rail line electrification.

Construction work included setting five poles and two ground anchors on January 16. Scott Gleason, Dan Waterstraat, Bob Achilles, Tony Mittiga, Jack Tripp and Charlie Lowe worked on the pole crew. While working on the sixth pole the auger truck broke down and it will require transmission repairs. On January 23, the auger truck was hauled back to NYMT by Scott and Dan using the Chapter backhoe, after which they set six more ground anchors.

Genesee & Wyoming Caboose 8: A plan has been developed to complete the caboose well enough to permit it to be moved outside during construction of the trolley lube pit. Tasks include: completing the new window frames and glazing; constructing new roof overhangs; choosing a suitable roof covering and installing same. Currently the work of making components is being done off-site with assembly scheduled for March. The initial look at a rubber membrane roof material suggests it is not appropriate. Bob Achilles and Charlie Lowe finished attaching the curved handrails at each corner of the car and swept out the interior. We are fortunate to have a new member on the caboose team. Bob Pearce is an experienced wood worker whose skills are a valuable asset for the rebuilding of the caboose.

The "Thursday Group" has grown by 50% with the addition of Bob Pearce (foreground) shown here in Caboose 8 with Don Quant (left) and John Ross.

Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: Two spare Westinghouse DH25 air brake compressors were obtained with the Trolleyville parts. These two units will be used for spare parts for the compressors in 161 and 168, and possibly to build one good spare compressor.

Cleveland Transit System tower car 021: This car, obtained from Trolleyville, arrived at NYMT on December 4, 2009 and was immediately stored on track 1 inside the operations car house.

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines city car 437: The following parts were obtained from Trolleyville for car 437: a trolley base and pole; a retriever and base; resistor boxes; and spare resistor grids.

Generally out of sight atop the trolley car, the trolley pole base is a critical component. Its massive springs provide the force to keep the trolley wheel in good contact with the overhead wire. That wheel is at the end of a long, steel pole that fits into the component that's almost vertical in this photo of 437's new base. The whole affair has to rotate freely as the car negotiates curves, and of course the base conducts the current, often several hundred amperes, to power the car.

New York Museum of Transportation line car 2: Two former Lake Shore Electric Railway (Cleveland-Toledo, 1901-1938) standard-gauge trucks were obtained from Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in the aftermath of the Trolleyville closing. PTM obtained parlor car Toledo, which had been a cabin at Sage's Grove on the Lake Shore Electric from the 1930s to the 1960s. The trucks were considered surplus since PTM has a broad-gauge line, and will be used temporarily at NYMT as shop trucks for line car 2.

New York Museum of Transportation 02: Jay and Todd Consadine have volunteered to rebuild the wood deck on this work flat trailer car. The car has been positioned in the hay barn near the sliding barn door to the outside, and the remains of the old decking have been removed.

The Consadine Duo attacks rotted deck planking on NYMT 02.

Track: Work continued into November on the Subway track salvage operation. About 500 tie plates, 20 joint plates, 75 angle bars, numerous rail braces and associated plates, and a complete switch machine were obtained.

The track that leads down into the Subway tunnel from the former B&O yard has shed its valuable components, the very last of the Subway's contributions to our museum rail line.

Jay Consadine photo

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

Editor and photographer - Jim Dierks
Contributing Editor - Charles Lowe
Printing - Bob Miner, Chris Hauf, Rich Carling
Publication - Doug Anderson