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The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Summer 2011


Another fine evening and another happy crowd enjoyed the unique pleasure of our country setting at dusk. This was our second “Trolleys at Twilight” event, recreating the ambience of an old-time trolley park, complete with calliope music and refreshing ice cream and hot dogs…and, of course, a ride on a trolley through some of the nicest scenery in these parts.

Car 161 is ready for another run as the shadows lengthen.

Two photos by Charlie Lowe

As last year, the good folks at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream came with their mobile food service (defined as a nice trailer and the whole family to help), and they did a land-office business with our visitors before and after their trolley rides. Our Tangley calliope was in the capable hands of Charlie Lowe, who this year moved the machine to a position outside the milking

Holes in the paper roll admit air to actuate the notes. Each roll contains several tunes of entertaining music.

parlor location where it had operated in 2010. The relocation mercifully reduced the decibel level inside the museum, and allowed us to share the happy music with a good part of Henrietta and Rush. The calliope operates off of paper rolls with a repertoire of march melodies and popular songs from a century ago. The music added to the period theme of our event…and by the way is available for purchase in our gift shop on two CDs expertly recorded by Charlie’s father.

The warm afternoon gave way to a colorful sunset and the coolness of an Upstate evening, with many of our 267 attendees still with us. We hope you were able to join us!

About time for the last run of the evening…

Photo by Chris Playford

MEMORIES Our older visitors often have stories to share with us, stories that fill in the gaps of recorded history and give us a better picture of what things were like in years past. We recently met a gentleman at one of our off-site slide talks who said he was hired to work on the Rochester Subway when he was just a teenager. It seems that his first assignment was to walk the Subway line and count all the insulators on the overhead trolley wire. Sounds a little like make-work to us, but we suppose the company had to know. He also spent time in the lost-and-found department, marveling at all the things people misplace and never seem to come looking for (we added that the same is true at NYMT where, among other mysteries, is how a family could leave an entire infant stroller behind and not miss it later!).

The same man told us he used to talk with a Mr. Messner who claimed to be the last living horsecar operator from the Rochester street railway system. Incidentally, Mr. Messner’s grandson, Elmer Messner, became a locally prominent artist and Times-Union editorial cartoonist.

Leona and granddaughter Francesca seem to be enjoying their trolley ride.

Leona Ziobro and her family came for a visit recently and told us about her work with the New York Central Railroad in Buffalo. The job she had was in Special Services, a unique part of running a large, mainline passenger railroad. She was there from 1944 to 1954, and had some great experiences along the way. Let’s let her son Jim tell the story:

“Leona started at the railroad shortly after high school. Special Services handled some of the unfortunates that needed special handling like the sick and the lame. They also handled the over-fortunate including the Buffalo “bosses” who controlled the lucrative taxi concession at the terminal. She fondly remembers the Christmas Eve parties [put on by these unsavory characters]”.

“Since it was such a long time ago, Leona has trouble remembering names….except one. Jimmy Stewart needed help with his tickets, and though it was not her department she led him to a proper agent”. As Mr. Ziobro tells us, Mr. Stewart was pretty flustered by the attention from the pretty, young agent and Leona specifically remembers him blushing!

Another good memory Leona shared was the opportunities to go on “maiden voyages” of new trains. Bringing ticket agents and other staff from foreign lines to ride a newly equipped train was a good way to direct business to the line. Such trains as the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha way out in the Midwest made a good impression on the young NYC lady.

Jim Ziobro and family are members of NYMT, and we’re glad they brought Mom out for a visit. Jim tells us, “Leona greatly enjoyed her visit to the museum. She especially wants to thank the staff who helped her when she dropped her cane off the work-cart”. Hey…”Special Services”…it was important on the New York Central, and it’s just as important at NYMT too!


The word is out that our museum is a fun place to hold a birthday party for a youngster who is into trains. We’re up to ten of these events so far this year! We usually host parties on a Sunday when we’re operating our trolley rides, but some choose to come on other days (some even come in the winter).

Alex Cleere is ready to dig into Mom’s homemade train cake!

The party family handles all the goodies, invitations, etc., and we provide the venue (usually in car 409 that once served at the former Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant).

We don’t charge an extra fare, and the birthday family pays the regular admission for all party attendees. We work out the timing of the event so that we can save the appropriate number of tickets for a ride that fits their schedule. Our well-stocked gift shop is a good source of party favors as well.

ON THE 20TH CENTURY. . .part 3

With the third, concluding installment of this series, we again thank Jim and Mary Carroll for sharing with our readers the remembrances of Mary’s father, Joseph B. Komonchak, from his service as a stenographer on the New York Central’s premier train. His detailed record makes for enjoyable reading for us 80 years after the fact, and also provides a valuable addition to the known history of luxury train travel of the era.

(From “I Had a Trainload of Bosses…Memories of Life on the 20th Century Limited”, © Joseph B. Komonchak)

The famous and the infamous were frequent travelers on the Century, and Mr. Komonchak served them all. Among the luminaries were sports figures and sports writers, and while we may recognize names like Heywood Broun (with his “baggy trousers [that] always looked like he slept in them) and Bennet Cerf, others like Grantland Rice and Dan Parker are probably only known to more dedicated sports aficionados.

Apparently family income took precedence over sports for Mr. Komonchak on at least one occasion. He was on the last section of the Century on an evening in the late 1920s, and the train was made up entirely of private cars [Ed. Wow!]. The millionaires on board were on their way to Chicago to witness the second Tunney-Dempsey fight. We’ll let Mr. K take it from here:

At Albany we picked up four cars which came down from Speculator where Tunney had been training for the fight, for the trip to Chicago. I recall that Tunney’s secretary gave me two ringside tickets for the fight. As I recall they were $40.00 seats, which I later learned were something like fifty rows back from the ring. I never saw the fight because I sold them. At that time my father had been recuperating from two broken legs which he received in a railroad accident and I was the breadwinner of the family and the $80.00 meant more to me than seeing the fight. I listened to it over the radio at the Atlantic Hotel. One of the other train stenographers, whose name I can’t recall at this time, had resigned to take a job as Gene Tunney’s private secretary after Tunney became heavyweight champ.

Mr. Komonchak had better luck with baseball, and readers don’t have to be Yankee fans to enjoy this:

Another trip rich in my memory was taking the New York Yankee baseball team, winners of the American League pennant in 1928, to the third and fourth games of the World Series in St. Louis where they played the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees had won the first two games in New York and wanted to duplicate what they did in 1927, in four straight. This was a special train with only the players, Manager Miller Huggins, coaches, Col. Jake Ruppert, the owner of the Yankees, the sports writers and Lou Gehrig’s mother, the only woman on the train.

On the way down, Babe Ruth entertained the players on his harmonica. There was no nonsense on the way down with lights out and to bed at an early hour.

This was the team of sluggers, headed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzari, with Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and Rosy Ryan as pitchers; Benny Bengough catcher, Gene Robertson at third, the rest I don’t remember. Leo Durocher was also one of the Yankees.

From Cleveland down most of the trip was during daylight hours and the players and sports writers divided their time between playing cards and reading. As we approached St. Louis I went to Mr. Ruppert’s drawing room and, as was our usual custom, asked if everything was satisfactory on the trip, and he said it was. I wished him good luck for the remainder of the Series and he asked, “Aren’t you going to see the games?” I told him the crew was instructed to deadhead back, which meant taking the next train available back to New York. He then told me he wanted the entire crew held over for the return trip. I told him I didn’t have the authority to tell the stationmaster at St. Louis to do that, and he said he would speak to the stationmaster himself.

Upon our arrival in St. Louis there were photographers and cameramen by the score taking pictures of the team, mostly of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. During this time Mr. Ruppert and I went to the stationmaster’s office wherein he told him he wanted the entire crew held over. The stationmaster said it was ridiculous, that that meant holding the crew for two or possibly three days as the next three games were scheduled to be played in St. Louis. Mr. Ruppert asked him if there was any written order he had to sign and the stationmaster prepared some sort of paper, which Ruppert signed.

As we were walking out of the station, I thanked him in behalf of the crew, and he asked me if I was going out to see the games. I told him I didn’t know if I could get tickets, but I would try. He also asked me where I was staying and I told him I would be staying at the Pullman House, which was a large house in a nice section in St. Louis, across from which there was a nice size park. He said, “Why don’t you come with us? One more won’t make a difference.” Apparently he had reserved a certain number of rooms for the players, sports writers and others who accompanied the team...

…The Yankees won the next two games by the same score, 7 to 3, with Tom Zachary pitching the third game and Waite Hoyt the fourth. My recollection is that in one of the games Babe Ruth indicated to one of the Cardinal outfielders to go back farther, that he was going to drive the ball in his direction, which he proceeded to do, except that it went into the bleachers for a home run.

We had been told by the Yankee management that if they won the two games, as they were expecting to do, we were to assemble at the train that night for a return trip to New York. The stationmaster had been alerted to have the train ready for the return trip, and when we arrived at the station from the hotel the train was waiting for us, but without a dining car. A hurried conference was held and then within something like half an hour to 45 minutes some catering outfit brought in wicker baskets, such as are used for clothes baskets, loaded with fried chicken, pork chops, lamb chops, barbecued beef and other foods, which were loaded on the train and distributed in the cars, along with some beer which I understood was obtained from the Anheuser Brewery in St. Louis. Prohibition was still in effect. The beer was bottled beer.

Once the train got underway, bedlam broke loose and the party got wild. They warned Mrs. Gehrig not to leave her room, and then the team proceeded to tear each other’s clothes off, not only the team’s but the baseball writers, too. The players were running through the train naked. According to the newspaper writers it was a tradition for a victorious team to carry on in this manner.

When Lou Gehrig locked himself into the men’s lavatory, Ruth and a couple of others battered the door down and proceeded to rip his clothes off also. Then they went to Colonel Ruppert’s room, where he had already donned his pajamas preparatory to going to bed. He didn’t escape either, one sports writer saying his $15.00 pajamas were in shreds.

At Matoon Ill., our first stop, Babe Ruth gave a rousing speech for Al Smith from the back of the observation car. Al Smith was running for President against Herbert Hoover.

Other stops were made at Terra Haute and at Indianapolis where there was a smattering of local people to greet the victorious Yankees. I recall about a dozen Yankees, wrapped or drape in Pullman blankets, milling around the people, looking like a bunch of Indians.

Of course Ruppert thought they went a little too far in their revelry, but the joy of winning four straight games in a World Series was indeed cause for celebration.

“Bedlam along the Hudson” probably wasn’t one of the Central’s advertising slogans in the glory days.

The next day as we were coming down the Hudson after leaving Albany on our last lap to New York, I again went to Ruppert and reported to him the incident of the broken men’s lavatory door, and he just said, “Send me the bill.” I thanked him again for his hospitality and he then gave me money for tips for each of the crew, along with what I thought was a very good tip, something like $50. He said he was very pleased with the service on the trip and asked me for my name and address and said he would send me a season’s pass in the spring. Just before the baseball season started next spring in the mail I received a gold colored pass which was good for four box seats in any American League park, which I got for the next two years.

Others among the famous movers and shakers were the business titans of the day—Marshall Field, William Wrigley, and other recognizable names like Armour, Swift, Cudahy and Rockefeller.

John D. Rockefeller, grandfather of New York’s Governor Rockefeller, was a rider we all came to dislike. I never had occasion to do any work for him. Although he was a multi-millionaire, he was very tight with his money. No matter what services you performed for him, he gave you a nice new shiny dime. The average tip to a porter in those days was a quarter or half-dollar, and John D. would pose for photographers showing him giving a brand new dime to the porter.

Sam Insull and Harold McCormick were the main backers of the Chicago Civic Opera, and on some occasions would be accompanied by Mary Garden and Gana Walska, opera singers. They were reputed to be their respective girl friends. McCormick later married Gana Walska but, as I recall, the marriage didn’t last very long. Neither one of these singers ever made the Metropolitan Opera and the story as told to me was that Insull and McCormick started the Chicago Civic Opera so they could star them.

About Samuel Insull

London-born Sam Insull had a connection to Mr. Komonchak, as he too began his career as a stenographer rubbing shoulders with famous people. As a young man he came to the United States to be private secretary to Thomas Edison. He also served as Edison’s much-needed financial adviser, and during twelve years with the great inventor, he became intimately familiar with the growing field of electrical power.

A genius in his own right, Insull became the father of the electrical utility industry, developing the financial and structural standards that led to the rapid spread of electrical power throughout the country. Along the way he made many enemies in powerful positions who were only too eager for retribution when in the Depression Insull took on a mountain of debt that brought on the collapse of his empire.

In a flurry of Chicago election-year politics, Insull was indicted for embezzlement and larceny, but eventually was acquitted on all charges. He died in Paris in 1938.

Among his many accomplishments, Insull created a network of high-speed interurban rail lines to complement his interests in Chicago’s traction system. As our museum continues to recreate the interurban era, in our own way we owe a debt to Sam Insull.

I never did any work for McCormick but Insull was another story. He would load you down with work and instead of the usual tip would give you two tickets to the Chicago Civic Opera.

We had a small box in the room where the train stenographers had lockers for their clothes and typewriters at the LaSalle Street Station that had a padlock on it, to which we all had a key. In it were passes to every theatre in Chicago, passes to Wrigley Field, a pass to Soldier’s Field and several passes to the Arlington Race Track and Al Capone’s dog track in Cicero. The pass to Soldier’s Field events was a rarity. Most of these were obtained by Tommy Ryan, one of the stenographers from Chicago.

Usually when we would disembark from the train we would wait for the other stenographers coming in on the other sections and walk up to our room together and generally one of us would deposit the opera tickets in the box, which would elicit a remark from the other stenographers, “Oh, I see you had Sam Insull aboard.” We had enough opera tickets in the box to paper one wall.

Mr. Komonchak had interesting experiences with folks from both sides of the law:

On one of the trips we had the then famous Pussyfoot Johnson, a Federal agent in the Alcoholic Division during prohibition, whose picture made headline news when they raided some big stills that were in operation, particularly in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and some of the other big cities. On one trip he got so loaded the porter had to get a wheelchair to wheel him to a taxi to be brought to his hotel.

One year I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party. Seeing that we passed through Buffalo, which was so near the Canadian border, one of my friends asked if I could get some liquor for the occasion. I made inquiry among some of the train’s personnel if liquor could be bought at Buffalo and was told to look for a maintenance porter who would be standing on the station platform with a push broom. His name, for the sake of this story, we will call Rufus. I was told unless I called him by his name he wouldn’t respond to any request for booze.

It’s around midnight and the east- and west-bound Centuries meet at Buffalo Terminal for train servicing.

When we arrived at Buffalo, there on the platform stood Rufus, leaning, as they said, on his push broom. I went up to him and said, “Rufus, can you get me a few bottles of liquor?” He looked at me and said, “Follow me.” Down the station platform he went pushing the broom, down a flight of stairs, still pushing the broom, right up to a door, which he unlocked, still pushing the broom, across the room to a closet, which was locked also. Unlocking the door revealed a pigeon hole type of cabinet and a lower cabinet which was also locked.

He asked me what brand I wanted and not being schooled in the names of good liquor I said any good brand would do. He unlocked the bottom cabinet, and produced two pints of liquid without any labels on them, reached up to one of the pigeon holes, produced two labels of a brand which I recognized as a good brand, moistened the labels with his tongue, slapped them on the bottles, and then reaching down to the floor he picked up some dirt and rubbed it over the labels saying, “Got to give it that age-old appearance,” and charged me $5.00 a bottle. It was probably made that day. When we celebrated at the New Year’s Eve party I didn’t know whether we would be poisoned or whether it was really good stuff. We survived and I have no recollection of any bad effects.

I almost forgot about a frightful experience I had going westbound from New York. Although they wouldn’t reveal their names when asked, Al Capone and a party of six or seven came aboard occupying three or four drawing rooms adjoining each other, the doors in between being opened by the porter for the convenience of going back and forth between the rooms.

Unknown to me at the time was another Chicago gangster by the name of Spike O’Donnell. O’Donnell ruled the north side of Chicago while Capone’s domain was the south side. There were frequent shootouts and clashes between the two factions. When the dining car steward recognized O’Donnell, knowing that Capone and his henchmen were also on board, we became a little concerned, but nothing came about between the two.

However, I had a telegram addressed to Ralph Capone, Al’s brother, that I had received at one of the stops that I had to deliver. I rang the buzzer and a voice from inside wanted to know what I wanted. I told him I had a telegram fro Ralph Capone. This, I later learned, was a common way to get someone to open the door for you in gangland. When the door was opened very slowly, I found myself looking into the barrel of a submachine gun. I delivered the telegram and didn’t even wait for a tip.

On a slightly less intimidating side, one day when making his rounds taking the passenger register, he came to a room occupied by an older woman and a young, beautiful blonde, both of whom refused to give their names. This was not unusual, according to Mr. Komonchak.

At our first stop, which was Elkhart, Indiana, I received a telegram for Jean Harlow. I had never heard the name before and knew nothing of her movie career prior to that. As events later turned out, Jean and her mother were coming east for the premiere of “Hell’s Angels,” her first big picture, in which she starred with James Hall and Ben Lyon. I went through the train paging Jean Harlow. Shortly after I got back to my desk I was asked by a porter to go to a particular drawing room in his car, which was occupied by these two women, where the mother did most of the talking.

She asked me if she could read the telegram for Jean Harlow. I left the drawing room and a short while later I was asked to return to the same drawing room. At that time the mother told me her daughter was Jean Harlow but they didn’t want anyone to know of their presence on the train, and then went on to tell me there was some rivalry at that time between Billy Dove, Marlene Dietrich and her daughter Jean for Howard Hughes’ affections, and that Billy Dove had vowed that Jean would never get to New York for the premiere opening. Apparently there was some kind of scheme to get her off the train so as to miss the opening, which was scheduled for the next day.

When Jean showed me some identification, I gave her the telegram, which she and her mother read, returned it to me and asked me to seal it and have it marked “undelivered”.

Both at Toledo and Cleveland I was approached by some men who apparently were some kind of police or detectives who asked me if I had a Jean Harlow aboard, and having been instructed not to divulge their presence, I said, no. They said she was a “platinum blonde”, an expression I had never heard of before. I told them there were a few blondes on the train and that they could go through to see if anyone answered that description, which they did. Of course the door to Jean’s room was closed so they didn’t see her.

When the train got to Buffalo, again I was met by a few more men, who this time flashed their badges as police officers, asking if I had a Jean Harlow aboard, and, again, I told them what I told the others at Toledo and Cleveland. Again, they used the expression “platinum blonde”. It just so happened that our conversation was just outside the window of the drawing room occupied by Jean and her mother and they overheard the whole conversation.

After the train left Buffalo I was again summoned to their drawing room and asked about what other stops the train made. I told them Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, arriving in Albany early in the morning.

After leaving Albany I again responded to a call from them and asked if there was some stop near New York where they could get off and if it was possible to send a telegram. I told them our next stop would be at Harmon where we changed from steam engine to electric but that we made no stops before Harmon. She said it was very important that they get a message off to a man by the name of Griffith, who at that time published a stage-screen newspaper that came out only on Sunday. She wrote the message and I told her I would see what I could do.

I then employed a means which we used only in emergency cases. I consulted the railroad conductor, told him the story and he agreed to signal the engineer (I believe it was three short pulls on the signal cord, and the engineer would respond with three short blasts on the whistle that he got the message) to slow down at the next station so I could throw the telegram off, wrapped in a newspaper, with a note to the stationmaster that it was urgent that he send it immediately to the party to whom it was addressed. Any requests such as this from the Century were given priority, and apparently the message got through because when we arrived at Harmon, Mr. Griffith was there to greet them.

When I returned to tell them I got the telegram off, they asked me to join them at breakfast in their drawing room. I accepted, of course. After all, how many times do you get an offer to have breakfast with a movie star? We had small talk conversation between us, in which I was asked if I was married, and I told them I was and that we were expecting our first very shortly. Her mother, who did most of the talking, said they would be happy to have us as their guests in their box at the premiere opening, which I had to decline because it was late August and we were expecting, so we thought, in early September. Estelle, of course, wasn’t born till October 23rd.

This one last tale seems to contain all the elements that exemplify the period in Mr. Komonchak’s time on the Century…high living and high jinks in the “anything goes” 1920s:

Another one of the men who could almost be called a commuter was Vincent Bendix, an inventor, who invented the self-starter for automobiles and the four-wheel brakes, along with about a hundred other automotive and aviation inventions. He was president of Bendix Aviation.

Bendix lived in South Bend where one of his plants was located, which was 16 miles from Elkhart, Indiana, our first stop out of Chicago. Occasionally Mr. Bendix, who was a short, squatty man, about five-five and weighed about 190 pounds, would be accompanied by his wife, who towered over him by a full head; and the best description I could give you of her was that she looked like a big German housewife. She also was quite heavy and although her clothes came from Marshall Field and some expensive New York shops, they just didn’t seem to do anything for her.

On some of these trips Mr. Bendix would be accompanied by two young women in their late twenties or early thirties. At that time I guessed his age to be in the late fifties, early sixties. I never understood why he had two, but I knew they weren’t his daughters.

On the occasion of the trip I am about to relate he had a blonde and an auburn-colored red head accompanying him in his drawing room out of Chicago. He had given me some telegrams to send when we were taking the passenger list, which meant I had to go to the head of the train at Elkhart because that station only had a very short platform. As the train was pulling into Elkhart, I noticed Mrs. Bendix standing on the station platform with two suitcases getting ready to board the train. As he later told me, after he left Chicago she had called his office and was informed that he was on his way to New York so she decided to accompany him.

When I saw her standing there, I gave the telegrams to the conductor to give to the stationmaster, along with the money and I hurried back to the car in which Mr. Bendix was located. Our stop at Elkhart was very short, just long enough for anyone to board and to give the engineer any train orders, before we pulled out.

When I reached his accommodations, the door to his drawing room was closed. I pressed the buzzer and was asked who it was and what I wanted. I told him I was the stenographer and it was urgent that I see him. Thinking I wanted to be paid for the telegrams he had given me earlier he told me to come back later. I persistently pressed the buzzer four or five times and he kept telling me to come back. Finally he came to the door and I told him Mrs. Bendix had boarded the train at Elkhart. He told me to head her off so that he could get rid of the two women.

I met Mrs. Bendix a few cars away, told her to have a seat until the conductors came through and we would escort her to her husband’s accommodations. Once he got rid of the two women, he came forward to meet her. He called me aside and gave me enough money to purchase other accommodations for the two women he previously had in his drawing room. That night, in the club car, before retiring he came up to me and said, “That was a close call.”

We wish we had more space to include all of the remembrances in Mr. Komochak’s 56-page memoir. We’ll close with this:

The Century ran until 1957 when it was combined with the Commodore Vanderbilt and from then on it went downhill. It was reported that mail received by the railroad officials vilified and abused them for tampering with a long established Century tradition. Three years later they tried to restore some of the elegance but were never successful.

Reading the newspapers that the Century was to make its last trip, I wrote to the president of the railroad asking that I be advised when the last trip was to take place as I wanted to relive some memorable experiences, but I never heard from him. This was not too long ago, which by this time they had added coaches to the train. Thank God I didn’t make that last trip. I read in the press that the train arrived in Chicago eight hours late.


Despite its financial straits, our beleaguered U.S. Postal Service still caters to philatelists (fancy word for stamp collectors), and our museum was able recently to get in on the action. With the issuance of a commemorative stamp honoring Owney, a small dog that was adopted by the railway mail service (or maybe it was the other way around!), we saw an opportunity to stage an event designed to appeal to stamp enthusiasts as well as train buffs, and probably dog-lovers too. “Owney the Rail Mail Dog” was held Sunday July 31, and over 200 people came to share the fun.

In accordance with Postal Service regulations, we registered to become an official Postal Station for the day, and submitted a unique postmark design for approval by USPS. In due time, they OK’d the postmark and provided a rubber “stamper” containing the postmark. Arrangements were made with our West Henrietta Postmaster, Donna Economides, to spend the day at the museum selling stamps and postmarking any and all comers.

Jim Dierks created the design for the special one-day-only postmark honoring Owney and the Railway Postal Service.

Visitors were able to purchase museum post cards, business envelopes and a cardstock page telling Owney’s story and bearing the museum’s embossed corporate seal. They then bought their Owney stamps from Donna, affixed them to the souvenirs they’d purchased, and had the items “cancelled” with the rubber stamper. Since the postmark is official, any items to go through the mail were set aside by Donna so they would pass through the system without being marred by a separate, automated postmark. It was fun noting the very particular requirements the stamp enthusiasts had for the precise location of the postmark on each piece, and we were reminded that getting anything postmarked on a Sunday was extra special.

Adding to the event were members of the Casey Jones Unit of the American Topical Association, and of the Rochester Philatelic Association, who set up tables with examples from their hobby to enlighten visitors and attract new members.

Cathy McMahon, Florence Wright, and Whitney McMahon told the story of railroad stamp collecting through their collections.

We managed to sell over 150 of the various souvenirs, adding $100 to the gift shop income for the day. Meanwhile, over 80 requests have come in from across the U.S. and as far away as Spain from stamp collectors sending us assorted cards and envelopes to put our postmark on.

There are still a few of the cardstock pages left with the Owney story and corporate seal impressed, so come out to the gift shop next Sunday and pick up a souvenir of Owney.

In the hot summer days we’ve been experiencing in Rochester this year, it’s well to look back at a simpler time a century ago. There was no air-conditioning to beat the heat, but there were some pleasant alternatives just the same. With the cool shores of Lake Ontario newly accessible by the “breezers” (open cars) of the city trolley company, business was promoted with ads like this:

To stay in town these red hot days to say the least is tough.

So take a car to Windsor Beach and lunch upon the bluff.

Dick Luchterhand

1934 – 2011

We mourn the loss of one of our museum’s most recognizable volunteers, Dick “Lucky” Luchterhand. Dick joined us in 1994, arriving with the large HO-scale model railroad that is so popular with our visitors. That layout had served in patient therapy at Monroe County Hospital where Dick volunteered. Without missing a beat, he not only began operating the little trains for our museum visitors, but took on other jobs such as track car operator, with enthusiasm.

Dick also helped with group tours and was the man we counted on to get the museum open with the lights and heat on, ready for the day’s activities. NYMT was a second home for Lucky and we gained so much from his work with us.

Growing up in Rochester, Dick always was fond of trains and had special memories of watching the Ringling Brothers circus train unloading at Otis Street. He was one of the 7-year-olds you read about who helped set up the tents in exchange for free tickets. Dick was a model railroader from the time his father set up Lionel trains under the Christmas tree. Over the years he became adept at modeling scenery, and gave informal classes at NYMT in making miniature trees.

Dick was married to Lucy 53 years, and they had four daughters and a son, and a total of eleven grandchildren. Our condolences go out to the family along with our sincere thanks for stipulating that donations could be made to NYMT in Dick’s memory. These generous contributions are accumulating in a fund for our model railroad, something close to Dick’s heart and a fitting memorial for him.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 59 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 54
Photographer unknown

by Charles R. Lowe

[This is the third installment in a tribute to Kodachrome. The last shop still handling the film ceased processing it on December 30, 2010.]

Kodachrome slides are sometimes the only way left for historians to answer tough questions.

When a recent request came in to ROCHESTER STREETCARS as to the exact colors of 1950s red-and-cream Rochester Subway cars, quite a flurry of activity resulted. No RTC color diagrams are known to be extant, and Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum’s Subway car 60 was known to have been repainted somewhat incorrectly while at Rail City in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This exceptionally clear and sharp Kodachrome slide of car 54 was made in April 1951, soon after the car was painted into the red-and-cream then used on RTC buses. It is seen in the small yard area behind the Subway car house. A bright red main body color was set off by a very pale yellowish cream upper body color. Other colors, though, remained as they had been: golden yellow for car numbers, sienna for doors and window sashes, brownish red for the car roof, and black for under-body equipment. Later Kodachrome slides confirm that these colors were used until the end of passenger service in 1956.

Oh, and the answer to the question: the RTC logo was indeed in that very pale yellowish cream upper body color. Thankfully, it was Kodachrome to the rescue, once again.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

New York Museum of Transportation TC-1: The TC-1 crew, led by Bob Achilles and composed of Bob Moore, Jack Tripp, Dave Coon, Tony Mittiga, Bob Miner and Ted Strang, has completed their efforts refurbishing TC-1. New poly-carbonate end windows now extend across the full width of the car without an intervening center post, offering an exceptional view of the track ahead. Black polycarbonate panels are now in place under the end windows. The all-steel end frames have been fully primed and painted so as to be protected from the weather during continuing outdoor storage. Finally, the wooden engine cover has had one broken board replaced. To finish the job, the team is now installing red marker lights on the rear of the car.

Track: The crew from Giambatista Railroad Contractors performed much work in a two-week period just prior to our ride-season opening. A 16-inch-diameter corrugated steel culvert was installed in the S-curve to replace a clogged and damaged pipe which dated to the original construction of the railroad in 1979. Some 115 ties were installed in the S-curve, and about 30 were placed in the Remelts-Giles curve. Many tons of ballast were installed, and the track alignment in the S-curve was smoothed. An inch or two of superelevation was built into the S-curve as well. Dick holbert and Bob Achilles oversaw the work along with Pete Gores, while Jack Tripp, Tony Mittiga, and Dave Coon operated TC-1 as needed.

Ready for the pipe…but will the railroad be ready for May 15?

…if Roosevelt Freeman has anything to say about it, it will!

Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: Bob Miner and Tony Mittiga oiled all motor bearings and journal boxes on 168. Bob also fixed some air leaks on 168 and cleaned the control air cleaner and check valve. On 161 he changed the oil in the compressor and oiled the sequence contactor pistons. He also oiled the journals on 161.

Pit: A “mini-pit” is now under construction for use until a permanent concrete pit can be built. Located on the loop track just south (railroad north) of the stone loading area at NYMT, the mini-pit will permit crucial trolley maintenance tasks to be accomplished. The abutments of the pit, consisting of three ties stacked one on top of the other, are in place and the excavation is completed. Thanks go to the RGVM volunteers who performed some of the excavation using the RGVM backhoe working with Bob Achilles. Guard rails are being added to the running rails to insure gauge will be maintained. The pit when finished will have a clear span between the abutments of 40 inches and a depth under the rails of 18 inches. Bob Achilles, Charlie Lowe, Dave Reifsnyder and Dave Coon have worked on the mini-pit’s construction, along with Chad Timothy of RGVM.

Genesee & Wyoming caboose 8: The caboose restoration team met with Susan Manning of Integrity Canvas Solutions to discuss our canvas needs for the caboose roof, including #8 weight, non-treated, and the required dimensions. Since the material is not available in widths sufficient to span the width of the caboose, discussion centered around seaming. After reviewing the options and alternate material widths, the decision was made to go with two pairs of 6-foot wide pieces (one pair for each side of the cupola), seamed longitudinally in a “top stitch” which is best for flatness and strength of the seam. Susan delivered the canvas in mid-July and shortly after that the pieces were placed on the caboose roof to relax. Later in the summer, weights will be hung to stretch the material prior to tacking in place.

Don Quant and John Ross flatten out the roof canvas on the G&W caboose to relax the creases.


We continue to slog our way into the 21st Century, and have recently been able to assemble a group email address including all our members who have given us their email address. We promise to use this sparingly, and so far have only issued three alerts for upcoming events. We hope that helps you keep track of us in your busy lives so that you can come out and enjoy your museum even more. If you haven’t received these three notices, perhaps we don’t have an email address for you. Send us a note at info@nymtmuseum.org and we’ll fix that right away. Thanks for your membership, and we hope to see you soon!

Check out this issue of HEADEND at:


Our policy is to give our members exclusive access to the most current issue of HEADEND, and to offer the option to read it in hand (sent via U.S. mail) or to read it on line, in color. The latter option also provides a pdf version for printing in color if that’s preferred.

If you’re happy to skip the black-and-white printed issue and just read on line, let us know at info@nymtmuseum.org if you haven’t already so indicated. But if you’d rather read hard copy, we’ll keep it coming in the mail. Either way, we’re glad to have your membership support. Thank you!

There’s plenty of volunteer opportunities at NYMT, and we hope you can help. Call us at (585) 533-1113 or email us at info@nymtmuseum.org, and we’ll take it from there.


It’s gratifying when lots of visitors come to enjoy what we have to offer at the museums, and we’re proud that our attendance has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. But a little of that “drama” goes a long way. The popularity of the “Dinosaur Train” TV show and the publicity WXXI gave us for our ride-season-opening joint event with them was more than we bargained for.

Over 1,300 attended, almost three times our ride capacity even with the Empire State Express coach our RGVRRM partners fielded for the trolley connection. Worse (much worse) it rained hard all day and our open field parking areas turned into mud pits! There were lots of happy faces on the folks who weren’t turned away or who left with rain checks in hand, but we have our work cut out for us to increase the capacity of our ride and facilities for future mega-events.

Chris Playford photo

The line goes all the way around the silos as visitors queue up to “Dinosaur Train” Day.


Our own Vern Squire will present a slide talk on “Railroads and the Civil War”, Sunday, September 11, at 12:55 and 2:55 in the museum gallery. The half-hour presentation will reveal interesting background on the role railroads played in the War Between the States.

With the 150th anniversary of the war being observed throughout the nation, visitors and museum members will want to join us for this unique aspect of the conflict.

HEADEND is published four times a year by the New York Museum of Transportation, © 2011. 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
Publication - Doug Anderson, Bob Miner