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The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Spring 2012


During the past winter, electrification concept plans have been developed and approved for final design. Ongoing construction work for electrification has also taken place. Together, these efforts should lead to a complete trolley ride between NYMT and RGVRRM in the next few years, fulfilling a dream we have shared since the beginning of the museums.

Electrification is now the single-longest construction effort to take place at the museums. The construction of the mainline took 15 years, from 1977 to 1992. Electrification has now been actively underway since 1995, a total of 17 years. During that time, two operable cars were obtained, a mile of overhead was erected, a substation was built and regular operations commenced. To fully realize the potential of what has already been built, and to truly demonstrate the capabilities of electric transit, it will be necessary to extend the ride southward to RGVRRM so that visitors can experience a one-seat trolley trip between the museums.

As has been the case in past years, the remaining work has been phased so that volunteers can perform the bulk of the construction labor, keeping costs at least reasonable. This year’s electrification construction work is centered on the east leg of the loop track at NYMT. At present, the electrification runs the long way around the loop on the west leg, a distance of about 2,000 feet from the substation to the loop switch. The distance between these two points via the east leg of the loop is just 800 feet. By electrifying the east leg, power has a 1,200-foot-shorter path to travel south. This effectively extends the power level that we now see at Midway to near Switch 6, without having to resort to an expensive feeder system.

The east leg of the loop track has seen recent tie replacement, and the poles have been set for electrification in this section.

All poles and ground anchors are in place along the east leg of the loop track, and one span wire and its downguy are in place. During 2012, the remainder of the overhead here is to be erected and about 50 rail bonds placed. The track structure in this area is being upgraded with the installation of 26 new ties.

With the loop track fully electrified, cars will finally be able to be turned occasionally to equalize wheel wear. Once 50 or 75 more ties are installed in coming years, it will be possible to operate cars routinely around the full length of the loop, eliminating the need for changing ends at NYMT and adding new mileage to the ride.

South of Midway, at the other end of the present electrification, three poles have recently been set. During 2012, the remainder of the poles and all the ground anchors needed between Midway and a point somewhat north of Switch 6 are to be installed. They will be left to harden in place during the rest of 2012, permitting overhead to be installed in 2013. An important improvement at the south end of the line was completed on April 14, 2012, with the installation by RGVRRM volunteers of a new culvert just north of Switch 6 to replace the old one that had failed.

The adjacent power line would result in dangerous induced voltage in trolley wire.

The final piece of the electrification puzzle has been solved in concept. The 69,000-volt National Grid power line along the east side of the Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad runs above the Museum Railroad from Switch 6 to the RGVRRM depot. Running an electrified line along the Hill Block and under the power line to the Depot is therefore not practical. However, construction of a Trolley Bypass to the east, starting about 200 feet north of Switch 6 and extending along the east side of the RGVRRM property to Track 9 in the Upper Yard, will be far enough away from the National Grid power line to permit trolley overhead to be built and maintained safely. Trolley trips along this route would terminate on Track 9 in front of the RGVRRM Restoration Building, at which point visitors could either examine displays or proceed on a 700-foot walk down to the Depot. This concept has been approved by both museum Boards so that final design work can be completed. During 2012, a full topographical survey of the area from several hundred feet north of Switch 6 to the Restoration Building will be made in preparation for a final design for the Trolley Bypass.

Along with the extension of electrification south to RGVRRM is the improvement of track north of BOCES so that diesel-powered trains can operate for the full length of the railroad. This will permit both an increase in operational possibilities and railroad capacity. Two track projects are planned for this year. In June, NYMT will again host Giambatista Railroad Contractors’ crew for a week; they will be smoothing and superelevating the Remelts-Giles curve. During this year, the RGVRRM track crew will remove the kinks in the track near Reid’s Crossing, replacing many ties there. The NYMT track crew will finish the safety tie installation on the East Leg of the Loop Track this summer.

It should be an exciting season of railroad and electrification survey, design and construction at both RGVRRM and NYMT!


Our group tour program brings in pre-schoolers, senior citizens, and everyone in between. This season’s touring began in January with 154 first graders from Honeoye Falls Elementary School. From the children’s thank you notes we received—each one illustrated with a drawing depicting a special memory from the visit—we can see we’re making an impression. Here are two examples of the artwork:

This drawing from Dan does a great job of recalling details on car 161…color, poles, catchers, trucks. We’ll keep our eye on him for a future volunteer!

Bailey also has an eye for detail, here exercised in the model train room. That’s probably Bill Chapin on the stool running the trains over that big mountain. Note the TV too!


We’re always glad to hear from readers of HEADEND, especially with the little details that further illuminate our transportation history. The Winter issue’s article about New York Central’s Wayneport icing station reminded one member of some family history. It seems that there was an annual reunion at the family home on Macedon Center Road, and some of the young men in attendance were deputized to procure ice for the beer. They would travel to the icing station at a specific time, we are told, and always succeeded in bringing back plenty. The beer had to stay cold for the entire two-day event, and the ice supply had no trouble handling that. Although the broken pieces left from loading the refrigerator cars were probably enough for the assignment, we can’t help but wonder if an attendant at the icing station didn’t end up enjoying some free beer that weekend!

Incidentally, we mentioned in that article that there’s not much left of the icing station other than a sign in the museum’s collection. The sign was originally used to protect trainmen who, as part of their switching duties, might be hanging onto the ladder on the side of a refrigerator car. Since the icing platform was necessarily quite close to the cars, there was no room for a man between the car and the structure, so the sign advised “WARNING KEEP OFF SIDE OF CAR”. Years after the icing platform was taken out of service, the track came into use as a mainline passing track and was moved some distance away from the platform. So, the sign became superfluous. It became detached from the abandoned structure one day and for a while served as a coffee table. We’re happy that it’s found a rightful place on exhibit at NYMT.


Rochester has its finger prints all over the automobile industry, from George Selden’s 1895 patent of the automobile itself to the many local firms that continue to supply auto manufacturers. Looming large in local auto history is James Cunningham, Son & Company. Here’s the conclusion of our two-part story about this significant Rochester firm.

By the turn of the 20th Century, the Cunningham firm had become a major employer in Rochester, known throughout the world as a producer of the finest horse-drawn vehicles. Founder James Cunningham’s devotion to quality in design and construction had been a company hallmark from the beginning, and now James’ son Joseph and son-in-law Rufus Dryer were maintaining this tradition under their management as they faced an exciting future.

A new era was dawning in transportation as tinkerers and inventors began developing automobiles. Often little more than motorized buggies, early auto creations were powered by steam, electricity and gasoline, and had few paved roads to travel on. They were also expensive, thus appealing mostly to wealthy “early adopters” of the time as curiosities and playthings. Cunningham was already well respected among the moneyed class as a purveyor of top-quality (and expensive) carriages, so the company naturally decided to aim in the direction of making cars for these same customers.

A massive effort had the company embracing a totally new technology, and at the same time retaining their skills and craftsmanship of the carriage days. In a few short years, by 1908 the transition was made from coach-making to auto production. At first, the firm concentrated on the car bodies, contracting out the chassis components to suppliers. But in 1910 the first Cunningham cars rolled off the assembly floor with running gear made in-house. As expected, Cunningham cars were splendid in appearance and performance, and they had price tags to match. By 1910, your new Cunningham would set you back $5,000 (120,000 in 2012 dollars!). Service was also top-notch, especially at a time when local garage mechanics were still making a transition from blacksmithing. For the Cunningham customer, technicians were sent from Rochester when repairs or other service was required.

This 1913 example of Cunningham car building, a four-cylinder Landaulet, is adorned with pin striping on every surface.

The company is said to have produced the first automobile in America with a V-8 engine in 1916, yet at the same time most of the steel and wood work was still the subject of painstaking hand craftsmanship. Competition in the industry drove technology, and Cunningham worked hard to keep up. Largely through Henry Ford’s determination to build “cars for the multitudes”, by 1919 there were an estimated seven million cars in the United States. But Cunningham was determined to provide elite automobiles for elite customers. That year, famous racing driver Ralph De Palma broke speed records at over 98 miles per hour in a stripped down stock Cunningham car. The rest of the market could have their “Tin Lizzies”, but Cunningham customers would continue to get style, quality, speed and comfort.

The company traded on the racing driver’s fame with this 1922 De Palma Speedster, featuring a 445 cid L-head V-8 engine.

This 1918 town car, with plenty of head room for the guv’nor’s top hat, is posed at the University of Rochester’s old campus.

Style and innovation went hand in hand at Cunningham, and customers could be assured that they would stand out as they drove, or were driven, down the avenues and boulevards of the world’s cities. Kings, politicians, movie stars, and industry moguls all demanded the best and got it when they opened their checkbook at the Cunningham showroom.

Posed in spring sunshine by New York’s Central Park, this Cunningham touring car has stylishly dispensed with running boards in favor of steps placed below front and rear doors.

Through the “Roaring Twenties”, business roared apace. The Cunningham car grew heavier and more powerful, always maintaining its reputation for world-class style and quality. Typical of the requirements of customers Cunningham served, and the extent to which Cunningham would go to satisfy them, is the sedan pictured and described below.

The car was built for Air Force Major M. K. Lee to his somewhat extreme specifications. Its 148 inch wheelbase probably wasn’t all that unusual, nor for that matter was it the first time Cunningham installed bullet-proof glass in all the windows. The 50-gallon gas tank, an oil supply good for 5,000 miles, and triple windshield wipers might be considered a little special, though. Probably with the car’s speed capabilities in mind, the Major asked for eight lights to illuminate the road ahead as well as possible: two headlights, two ditch lights, two adjustable spotlights, and two sidelights.

It might have been hard for Lee to keep his eyes on the road, however, as he had his dashboard tricked out in 42 items, many of which would be more at home in an airplane. Among this array was a tachometer, radio switch (Cunningham was among the first to install a car radio…back in 1919), fuel gauge, oil gauge, ignition switch, voltmeter (so far, so good), ammeter, altimeter, light switches, two Motometers (for cooling system water temperature), an air speed indicator, aviator’s compass, and an imported French speedometer engraved with Major Lee’s name. Happy motoring, Major!

The Cunningham Mystique

Detroit was in another world, a rather bleak world of assembly lines, speed-ups, and labor disputes. Thirty years later few of its customers would have any clear recollection of the cars they had bought in the twenties; none of its workers would remember it with anything resembling affection. By contrast, no one who owned a Cunningham car ever forgot it, and retired Cunningham workmen in the sixties still spoke of the old plant with a certain fondness. If Cunningham could not afford to pay wages as high as some in Detroit, nevertheless, “It was a hell of a nice place to work. The management knew you by name. You felt at home there.” Like the men who had worked for James Cunningham almost a hundred years earlier, they grumbled a bit at exacting specifications, but “you knew you were making the best car there was”

The Pursuit of Excellence, by Noel Hinrichs

The party couldn’t last forever, and the stock market crash of 1929 quickly led to the Great Depression. Some of the wealthy people who could be considered potential Cunningham customers were no longer in the financial running for that consideration. Most of the rest decided conspicuous consumption wasn’t appropriate. As a result, car production at Cunningham fell off dramatically, and in 1931 the company’s last cars were shipped. For a few more years, the company made special-order bodies to be placed on chassis of other manufacturers, such as Packard and Cadillac. Most unusual among these was a town car body for Ford which raised the $600 price of the basic Ford by over $2,000. At least into the 1960s, Mrs. Charlotte Whitney Allen could be seen being driven down Rochester’s East Avenue in her Ford-Cunningham from her home on Oliver Street.

But back to the 1920s. Another feature of these exciting years was the increasing popularity of the airplane. First seriously developed for World War I combat, the airplane branched out during the 1920s to such peacetime uses as transporting mail, and it also was turning the well-coiffed heads of the rich and famous as another toy-that-only-they-could-afford. General public interest grew dramatically with Charles Lindberg’s solo flight from New York to Paris, and some people were starting to wonder if the airplane might someday replace the auto for personal transportation.

In 1929, this Cunningham bi-plane had an all-metal cabin seating six.

Not wanting to give up the bond with their then-wealthy clientele, Cunningham management decided to explore the technology of flight and prepare for whatever market may come from it. A Cunningham-Hall subsidiary was formed, and a modified bi-plane design was built, first test-flown out of Le Roy, New York in 1929. Their 1934 low-wing, all-metal X-14324 could cruise at 145 miles per hour and had a top speed of 165. The company also produced training aircraft and some experimental planes for the Army and Navy, but by 1938, the airplane business too was finished.

The later years of the 1930s were grim ones for Cunningham, as a skeleton staff of machinists kept the lights on making a variety of small, metal items for commercial use, diving helmets and Boy Scout belt buckles among them. With the arrival of World War II, however, things changed once more.

The company wasn’t a stranger to production for military needs. In addition to the venture into airplanes, there had been development of military vehicles as well. In fact, the firm’s support for the country’s war needs went back to Civil War gun carriages and World War I ambulances. In the 1920s, a growing awareness among some in the armed forces for the need for more modern mechanized war machinery led to work at Cunningham on light, maneuverable armored artillery vehicles. In 1928, the company’s first tank tested at 25 miles per hour, a three-fold increase over any tank produced before that time.

A V-8 engine powered this 9-ton tank which carried a 37mm cannon and a 30 caliber machine gun.

Further work in armored assault vehicles helped keep at least part of the plant busy in the early- to mid-1930s, as a light-weight rubber tank tread was developed. The reduction in weight permitted higher speeds, and one of the company’s tanks achieved 50 miles per hour in cross-country testing.

Cunningham’s four-wheel-drive T-4 armored car weighed four tons, and its body replaced the conventional chassis.

Cunningham built experimental half-tracks, armored cars, and several other military vehicles at this time, none of them leading to any big orders. With Depression-era financial support for this work gradually drying up, the company’s century of vehicle manufacturing—military and otherwise—was finally terminated.

If military vehicles weren’t going to be a part of the company’s contribution to the World War II effort, there would certainly be other opportunities. Like so many firms around the country, Cunningham quickly geared up to produce such materiel as 30- and 50- caliber machine guns and servo-motor assemblies for aircraft manufacturers. These complex devices were for use controlling canopies, gunner turrets and wing and tail surfaces. A plant that in 1940 employed only six men, by 1943 had ramped up to a work force of 800, working around the clock to meet the needs of the war effort.

Once again, the boom times didn’t last. After the war ended, Cunningham wasn’t positioned with products to keep the work flowing. To build on the post-war boom in suburban home building, small lawn and garden equipment was tried. In fact, the museum’s collection includes a sickle-bar mower made by Cunningham as one of the products in this line. Garden equipment was accompanied by small-horsepower engines, and later followed by plumbing fixtures for mobile homes. In each case, although the vision of serving a growing consumer market was there, the company was outflanked by larger corporations better suited to achieve economies of scale and to tap the national and international markets.

The company soon transformed itself yet another time. From the earliest day of the telephone, calls were manually connected between parties by operators. As telephone use grew, however, something had to be done to streamline the process, and automation was the answer in the form of the crossbar switch. An electrical engineer with Rochester’s Stromberg-Carlson company had a passion for perfecting his version of this electro-mechanical device, and in 1951 he found willing support at Cunningham. After some false starts and a lot of refinement prompted by discussions with potential users beyond the telephone industry, the company launched its perfected product in late 1956.

Cunningham’s were known as the “Rolls-Royce of crossbars”, the same tribute once bestowed on their luxury automobiles.

From this point, the Cunningham story continues to demonstrate a corporate allegiance to top-shelf quality. The company moved to a new facility in Honeoye Falls in 1961, where under the leadership of the fourth generation of the Cunningham family, the firm developed crossbar systems that served the analog computer industry. Through its application engineers, the company became known as a solver of switching problems.

In 1968, Cunningham became a part of Gleason Works, another leading Rochester company from the 19th Century that grew to world prominence through unique, quality products.

Today, the former Cunningham buildings on Rochester’s west side still stand, but a search for “Cunningham” on Gleason Works’ website produces no result. The legacy of this unique company survives in classic, luxurious cars and carriages lovingly restored and maintained around the world. They stand as reminders of a bygone era and of yet another Rochester company that once brought world fame to our city.

Headlights on Cunningham cars were enormous, with glass lenses by another Rochester institution, Bausch & Lomb.

Some credits: Material for this two-part article came from The Pursuit of Excellence by Noel Hinrichs; Cunningham Corporation, Subsidiary of Gleason Works, published by the company; and Cunningham company photos. All materials are part of the museum’s collection, and we are indebted to Bonnie Franko and the late Lew Wallace for their generous donation of the items.

…and a correction: We don’t know where our head was when we wrote Part I of this article. Right at the beginning readers will find two references to “John Cunningham”. Of course, Mr. Cunningham and his eponymous company go by “James”. In an article about a company whose hallmark was the highest quality, the irony is almost too much. We apologize.


A lot happens at the museum that we just don’t have space to tell you about. Here are a few glimpses…

A New Year’s present showed up at the museum door early in 2012 with a collection of fine-quality HO-gauge trains for the museum model railroad. The assortment of brass and custom-painted power and rolling stock included ten steam locomotives, eight diesels, six passenger cars and forty-five freight cars. One of the steamers, complete with sound, is currently chugging around the “red line” at NYMT. Come see!

A recent article in O-Scale Trains magazine covered the scratch-building of a Delaware, Lackawanna & Western caboose by Gene Deimling. One of this series of DL&W cars found service as Genesee & Wyoming caboose 8 which is now under restoration as part of the museum’s collection. Through the article, and thanks to former Upstate New Yorker Chuck Yungkurth, we’ll be receiving a set of original DL&W drawings for the caboose to guide us in our restoration work.

Anna Thomas still keeps her hand in, most recently with a plaid flannel skirt for the Donovan Shilling display table. The table was built by Ted Thomas, and the skirt spiffs things up, hiding the wiring, etc. beneath the table.

NYMT volunteer Steve Morse recently received the “Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award” at Rochester Institute of Technology. Ted Strang represented the museum at the ceremony and received a generous donation from the school in Steve’s honor.


Is it possible that we’ve found a museum volunteer who doesn’t have any transportation in his blood? Uh, no, actually. In fact it seems like we all have a connection to moving people and things around, and our Spotlight victim this time is no exception. Read on, and learn all about Rick Fischpera.

With his Rochester credentials established in 1953 in the maternity ward at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rick has lived here ever since. An early connection to transportation took place at the early age of 18 months when he was given his first Lionel train set—the 2046 Hudson with a whistle tender. We suspect dad had something to do with that, along with subsequent additions to the roster with a Burlington GP-9 and three streamlined passenger cars, other equipment, and accessories. At age 2, the first layout was built—an L-shaped board that was on the floor at the Fischpera apartment on…are you ready?...Pullman Avenue. Rick still has that 027 stuff, but later moved on to HO gauge, and is now into N-scale.

Dad had an interesting past in transportation too. As an 18-year-old in Germany, he was drafted and was told he could be in the infantry or the air corps. He chose the latter and after training in a Ford-Trimotor-like plane, ended up serving as a pilot in a Heinkel-111 twin-engine bomber. Mr. Fischpera considered himself fortunate that his whole service was in dropping parachutists into Russia and towing gliders, and not in bombing runs. Rick’s grandfather worked for the underground in the war and has a plaque dedicated to him for preventing the German destruction of a railroad bridge at Dillweissenstein that would have thwarted the Allied advance.

Rick recalls trips with his father to the beautiful old New York Central station in Rochester for lunch at the snack bar and some train watching. On one visit they toured through the Xplorer experimental light-weight train that was being shown around the system.

By now, Rick was hooked on trains, and a favorite memory comes from Glide Street neighbors of his grandparents. The neighbor worked for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the city, and delighted in entertaining Rick and his two cousins at B&O’s locomotive facility on West Avenue. Taking a spin on the turntable was a standard treat along with tours of the various diesels in service. Special fun came on New Years Eve when the boys would accompany their mentor to the diesel house, and precisely at midnight blow all the diesel horns to celebrate the new year.

After graduation from Jefferson High in 1972, Rick was #3 in the draft lottery, but got turned down for heart issues. He then resumed a career that had started four years earlier at the local shoe store chain, Altier’s. He had started as a stock boy, and over time became a store manager. He also programmed the firm’s point-of-sale computer system when that degree of modernization arrived.

One day in the mid-1970s, on duty at the Eastview Mall store, a guy came in wearing a Chesapeake & Ohio jacket, and with a change of career possibly in mind, Rick asked him, “Do you work for the railroad?” No, he didn’t, but the guy was Rick Holahan, an early mainstay of the NYMT volunteer group. This encounter led to Rick F. joining the activity at the museum, helping with the roadbed prep work for what would become the museum rail line. Come summer, he and the others retrieved rail from the Rochester Subway bed between Lexington and Lyell Avenues. This makes Rick one of our earliest still-active volunteers!

There’s another connection between Rick and NYMT that goes back many years. When his dad worked at Gleason Works, he was part of the employee group that built an HO model railroad at the company. Rick was just a boy, but he tagged along each Monday night and helped with the construction and track laying. That layout is the one that now attracts so much visitor attention at NYMT, and to prove the connection, Rick says there’s a place underneath the layout where he scratched his name in the benchwork way back then.

Further early NYMT work: Rick’s first wife, Marge, helped get the gift shop going, obtained our first insurance policy, and served as museum treasurer. The family routine, including their kids Richie and Kristy, was to head to the museum Friday evening, mow the grass, and stay for the weekend staffing the place and doing whatever had to be done. To name a few projects, there was work on Rochester Subway L-2, “Wonderful World of Trains” events, operating our first track car rides, and rebuilding the handcar that is on display at the museum. Another big volunteer project, creating the gift shop and gallery, was enhanced by Rick’s uncles’ woodworking skills. The wooden letters that spell out “New York Museum of Transportation” on the gift shop wall are his handiwork, along with other details of the project.

But even with all this museum activity, the railroading itch still wasn’t scratched, so in 1979 Rick began a seven-year stint as a part-time engineer and conductor with the Ontario Midland and Ontario Central railroads. These lines rostered Alco diesels, which Rick loved. “There’s no other diesel”, he says. The Alco FA cab unit that George Hockaday (“Mr. Alco) brought in was “awesome” too.

While with these lines Rick ran the Webster-to-Williamson dinner trains for the “Loose Caboose” restaurant, which used equipment from the Adirondack Railroad that had served the 1980 winter Olympics in Lake Placid. When the Ontario Central started running excursion trains between Victor and Manchester, the Fischpera and Holahan families, kids and all, sold snacks and drinks on the train to benefit the museum. Rick’s biggest thrill was serving as engineer on a 2-unit, 17-car special passenger run for local politicians and business people. The run went from Webster to Newark, NY, and had a business car on the tail end. Rick has many stories about his railroading career. Ask him sometime about the former Canadian National business car they took delivery on, and what they found inside.

Former Norfolk & Western Alco RS-11 #36 was one of Rick Fischpera’s favorite locomotives in his Ontario Lines days.

Rick Fischpera photo

For his day job, though, Rick eventually left Altier’s, did some homebuilding with his uncle’s company, then went to work for the U.S. Postal Service for 17 years. Being a mail carrier would have put him in the “transportation” part of the business, but he actually was at the Jefferson Road facility key punching zip codes as the envelopes flew past. While with USPS, Rick handled training in HAZMAT, first aid, CPR and AED, covering facilities throughout western New York.

Although he retired in 2011, Rick has jumped back into active duty with NYMT. Operating both track cars and trolleys are a big part of this involvement, but we also have him signed up for gift shop duty. And this mild winter has given him a chance to renew acquaintance with some of the ties and ballast he got to know intimately over 30 years ago. When he’s not busy with one of these activities, you’ll probably find him taking a trolley ride with Sarah, his wife of six years. Or maybe he’ll be in the model railroad room scratching his name again on the benchwork. Welcome back, Rick!


You’ll want to mark your calendar and tell your friends for the line-up of special events at the museum this year. See you there!


Visitors can enjoy a unique ride experience with a 2-mile round trip interurban trolley excursion that connects to a diesel train on this special day. The combined ride links the New York Museum of Transportation with the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum’s country depot and railroad equipment collection. The trolley portion of the ride is the only such operation in New York State, and the diesel train ride adds a special thrill for railfans young and old. The diesel connection will operate on special event days throughout the summer. On other Sundays, authentic track cars that once served “gandy dancers” connect with the trolley. No reservations needed. Two museums and a ride between them…unique in the U.S.! Special Event admission prices apply.

June 17 (Sunday) – RAILROAD DAY

The museums let visitors get “up close and personal” with the exciting world of railroading. Find out how to couple train cars together, learn what makes a diesel locomotive go, take a turn at the Morse Code ticker in the 100-year-old country station, and discover the rich railroading history of our region. Caboose rides will provide the connection from the trolley to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Special Event admission prices apply.

July 21 (Saturday) – TROLLEYS AT TWILIGHT

The New York Museum of Transportation recreates an evening at an old-time “trolley park”, complete with refreshing ice cream and the happy sound of the calliope wafting across the beautiful Genesee valley countryside. A diesel locomotive with two cabooses will meet the trolley for the continuation to the Rochester & Genesee Valley R.R. Museum. 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Special Event admission prices apply.

August 19 (Sunday) – DIESEL DAY

These kings of the rails come in all sizes, and the collection at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum gives visitors a close-up look.  Learn what makes a diesel go.  See several different diesel locomotives under power, and take a ride in a real caboose!  Extended hours and Special Event admission prices apply.

Sept. 16, 23, & 30; Oct. 7, 14, 21 & 28; Nov. 4 (Sundays)


Enjoy the beauty of autumn in western New York State from the window of an authentic 80-year-old electric trolley car. A diesel locomotive with two cabooses will meet the trolley each day for the continuation to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Trolleys depart every half-hour starting at 11:30, and no reservations are required. Special Event admission prices apply.

Nov. 24/25, Dec. 1/2, 8/9, 15/16 (Saturdays and Sundays) HOLLY TROLLEY RIDES

Santa may still use reindeer power, but museum visitors can enjoy a ride on an authentic 80 year-old electric trolley car, recalling another time when families rode the big interurban trolleys from their rural homes to do their holiday shopping in the city. Also, nothing says Christmas like model trains, and the museum’s large model railroad will be running five trains at once.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 62 in a series

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines Line Trucks
Photographer unknown

by Charles R. Lowe

Overhead trolley wires require constant repair. Wire-breaks from cold weather, wear on wire frogs and at section insulators, and broken insulators, to name a few problems, all required attention at an elevation of eighteen feet above the pavement. Getting to the wire has never been easy. At first, ladders and towers on horse-drawn wagons were used. In areas where tracks were not in pavement, cars which rode on the rails were fitted with ladders and towers. Eventually, electric motors were applied to line cars so they could whisk their way out to trouble spots. Such line cars were not well suited for city use as they would blockade too much of a busy city street. As the motor age dawned along with the twentieth Century, gasoline-engine trucks soon came into use. By the 1910s, street railway companies were fitting ladders and towers to such trucks, allowing their horse-drawn predecessors to drift into retirement.

Rochester first invested in motorized line trucks in the mid-1910s with the four GMC 2-ton trucks, numbered 1 through 4, shown in our photograph. So proud was New York State Railways of its line trucks that all four trucks and what looks like the entire overhead line crew posed together in 1921 at State Street Station. Trucks 1, 2 and 3 were retired by 1930 but truck 4 lasted until shortly after 1930. Eventually, two trucks of more modern design soldiered on to close out surface street railway operations in Rochester in 1941.

Meanwhile, the Rochester Subway continued in operation under wire until 1957. Former Sodus line car 105 was used to maintain the Subway overhead until the end. The story of line trucks and line cars in Rochester, which restarted in 1996, has continued at NYMT with RGVRRM’s bucket trucks. NYMT’s line car 2, with a fixed platform, is a fixture on NYMT’s main barn lead tracks. Completing the circle back to New York State Railways’ line trucks of yore is NYMT tower car trailer 021 from Cleveland, Ohio. The tower in 021 was used for decades on a truck only a little more modern that the pioneering line trucks of Rochester.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

East Leg of Loop Track: Mild weather permitted several cribs on the loop track to be cleared of dirty ballast during February. By early March, all the 22 cribs were cleaned and ties loosely fit in place. Some very mild weather on Wednesday, March 7 and Monday, March 12 brought the crew out to partially fill these cribs with ballast. Later in the month, the crew spiked one rail to the new ties throughout the work area. Among those participating in this work were Rick Fischpera, Rick Holahan, Bob Achilles, Mike Rizzella, Rand Warner and Tony Mittiga.

A hard-to-believe Upstate New York March 2 finds Tony Mittiga and Rick Holahan clearing dirty ballast on the East Leg.

Rick Fischpera photo

Electrification: Bob Achilles and Charlie Lowe installed the span wire, backbone attachments and downguy for one of the poles just north (railroad south) of Forest Lane in late February.

Charlie’s in the bucket truck again, getting the work started on the electrification of the east leg of the loop track. Quite different from the line trucks described above.

Bob Achilles photo

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 437: Ever since 437 was re-trucked in 2003, the side bearings have been about one-quarter of an inch too short. This allowed far too much side-sway in the car; it rocked noticeably when walking around during work inside the car. Shims to take up this gap were designed by project manager Charlie Lowe, and Steel Works, Inc. fabricated the four shim plates needed in late February.

Philadelphia and Western 161: Bob Miner has readied this car for the coming operating season by completing a number of tasks. The master controllers at both ends were cleaned and serviced; the triple valve and double check valve, both in the braking system, were cleaned and oiled; the sequencer and reverser were lubricated and arc chutes cleaned. Points on the power contactors were checked and their pistons lubricated. The compressor governor was changed out to test for leaks, and replaced by a spare governor. All brake shoes were inspected. Jim Johnson and Dick Holbert discovered some abrasion on motor wiring beneath the car, and made appropriate repairs.

Philadelphia and Western 168: Much work has been finished on this car. All traction motors have been cleaned and inspected, with all brush holders now correctly held in place. The car has also been lowered back onto it trucks, the pilot reattached and the brake rigging reconnected. Bob Achilles has been in charge of this project, with Bob Miner, Jim Johnson, Dick Holbert, Pete Gores and Dave Coon devoting many work sessions to this effort throughout the winter. All journals and motor bearings have been lubricated.

Track: In March and early April, several volunteers inspected the railroad in preparation for the 2012 operating season. A 30-foot-long section of one rail on track 1, just in front of the trolley car house, was loose from its ties, and a work crew repaired this situation. Numerous loose bolts at the joint bars that connect rail sections, some with cracked or missing lock washers, were replaced. Near Midway, a gauge rod was termporarily installed near a loose joint where bolts will have to be cut away and replaced. On April 14, an RGVRRM crew replaced a broken concrete culvert just north of switch 6 with a 40-foot-long corrugated steel pipe. On April 16, a crew including Bob Achilles and Tony Mittiga traveled to Syracuse and obtained some much needed track parts including bolts, lock washers and gauge rods. April 29 saw Charlie Lowe placing gauge rods on the Remelts-Giles curve due for smoothing and tie installation by Nick Giambatista’s track gang during the week of June 4. This work will create a firm track structure for safe reliable operation.


Dave Scheiderich has the attention of train and track car operators at the rules class on April 21, 2012.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, we offered track car rides on a half-mile of railroad to a small number of Sunday visitors. Track car operators…there were just a few of us back then…were given informal hands-on training covering the basics of running the equipment and some common sense advice on dealing with the riders, keeping speed down, etc.

Today, we share operation and maintenance of a 1-1/2-mile railroad with the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, and in addition to track cars we operate full-size electric trolley cars and diesel trains. In addition to much more thorough training governing the operation of all this equipment, there are schedules to adhere to and a number of rules to obey. These rules are based on actual railroad practice and are there to assure safe, reliable operation.

In a coordinated effort between our two organizations, rule books and training classes have been created and all who plan to operate on the railroad must successfully complete the work. The formal rules class is a 3-hour affair in a classroom setting, and additional classes provide guidance specific to trolley, train and track car work.

We all understand the seriousness of our responsibility to the public and to ourselves for maintaining a safe, prototypical railroad and trolley operation, and we look forward to another successful season, doing it “by the book”.

The visitors have all gone home, the trolley is put to bed, and a brilliant sunset marks the end of another busy day at the museum. Join us as a volunteer. See you soon!


The New York Museum of Transportation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit museum chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. We are managed and operated entirely by volunteers. Open all year on Sundays only, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., we also welcome group visits during the week by appointment.

We are located at 6393 East River Road in the Town of Rush, and our mailing address is P.O. Box 136, West Henrietta, NY 14586. www.nymtmuseum.org is the place to find us on the internet and learn much more about us. Also, you can visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NYMTmuseum.

Want to contact us? Call us at (585) 533-1113 or send us an email at info@nymtmuseum.org. And, remember to tell your friends!

HEADEND is published four times a year by the New York Museum of Transportation, © 2012. 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, Bob Sass