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The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Summer 2012


For the last several years, the volunteers at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum have been restoring their former Rochester Gas & Electric Company GE diesel for operation on the museum rail line. With that work essentially finished, a test run was made on August 11, 2012 over the entire distance between RGVRRM’s Industry Depot and the New York Museum of Transportation. With a small army of volunteers carefully watching for coupler bind or anything else that could hinder operation around the tight curves at the north end, the diesel and two cabooses successfully made it to the trolley boarding platform with no trouble.

RGVRRM’s diesel 1941 and train pause at the loading platform, easily demonstrating the potential for end-to-end train rides.

This test run was a major milestone event for the two museums. It has now been clearly demonstrated that the diesel train offers a viable way to carry passengers between our museums. Now, instead of relegating the diesel train to shuttle service between Midway and Industry Depot on selected days of the operating season, we can envision use of the train over the full length of the shared rail line on a regular basis.

This new addition to our capabilities offers many possibilities. We might imagine the diesel and the trolley alternating to enhance a visitor’s day at the museums; we could consider “train days” that give the trolleys a day off in favor of a trains-only operation; we might even foresee an arrangement where we could be open both days of the weekend, with trains on one day and trolleys on the other.

Yet another benefit comes from this new resource. Our RGVRRM friends will finally be able to see themselves as full and equal partners in the public operation, with the hope that more of that museum’s members will join in the many tasks that need staffing, from the train operation itself and on to the ticket desk, the model railroad, and Officer of the Day.

Joe Nugent and his motive power team can be proud of their accomplishment in the restoration of diesel 1941 (which, by the way, is numbered for the year it was built). The Chris Hauf paint job and replicated period RG&E logo are the visible signs of the restoration, but there was a lot that went on under the hood to bring the loco up to a standard of reliable service. Prior to RGVRRM’s acquiring the 45-ton diesel in 1991, it was used by RG&E to switch coal cars for the Beebee Power Plant near the Genesee River. The trucks on the diesel utilize side rods, which add a unique visual interest when the loco is in motion, and the two six-cylinder engines generate 380 horsepower that easily handle the two-caboose train.

Restoration of the diesel wasn’t the only thing that allowed us to make the successful test run. Before operating all the way to the loading platform at NYMT, 25 crossties, several gauge rods, and 20 tons of ballast were installed on the portion of track between the loading area and the driveway grade crossing. NYMT hired Giambatista Railroad Contractors for this work, and RGVRRM contributed the ties and use of their backhoe. In addition to the Giambatista crew, several of our own volunteers put their backs into it too, for a successful, one-day track restoration project.

With a radio control box in hand, Joe Scott of Hanson Aggregates slings the ballast. Sure beats the manual method.

Track is literally what our ride operation is built on, and we are putting a lot of money and time into guaranteeing a safe and comfortable ride. Read more about our efforts in the track department “Remelts-Giles Curve Improved” and “Shop Reports” later in this issue.

New ties, new ballast…new railroad!

ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 63 in a series

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 26
Photographer unknown

by Charles R. Lowe

One of the most unusual of car reconstructions undertaken by the St. Paul Street shop were those in 1914 for a group of seventeen open cars. These cars, numbered 25-29, 31-37, 39-42 and 44, had been built by G. C. Kuhlman Car Company of Cleveland in a lot of twenty cars (25-44) during 1904. By 1913, the transverse-bench open car configuration was considered dangerous for street operation, especially when considering the conductor had to walk the running boards of moving cars to collect fares.

Three cars—30, 38 and 43—of the original group of twenty cars had been rebuilt as standard closed cars. For the remaining seventeen cars, though, the answer was to enclose the sides except for a center door on the curb side. Since many of Rochester’s streetcar lines had finally been rebuilt for single-end cars with the addition of loops at the ends of the lines, the formerly double-end open cars were rebuilt as single-end cars. This shaved some weight as only one set of controls was needed. The cars remained summer-only cars since side windows did not have glazed sashes. Our photo of rebuilt car 26 dates from about 1914.

Alas, the hopelessly outdated Brill 22E maximum traction trucks were retained. These seventeen cars served for a few years but the onset of World War I diminished the need for summer-only cars operating to resorts such as Sea Breeze and Ontario Beach Park. In 1920, all seventeen semi-open center-entrance cars were rebuilt as unpowered trailers. A total of eleven such cars, numbered 1400-1410, served Rochester while six others, 1411-1416, were sent to Syracuse. All were withdrawn from service by the early 1930s.

Rochester’s only surviving open cars came from the 1400-1410 group. One car, its number unknown, still serves as part of a cottage. Car 1406, once a resident at NYMT, survives to the extent that its front end was saved. Car 1402, lacking its front end (that 1406 can provide) rests quietly under a green tarp along the loop track at NYMT.


In the basement of her Brighton home, tracks of a tinplate model railroad twist and turn, a reflection of the busy life of our Volunteer Spotlight subject this time…Florence Wright.

We’ll get to that train layout, but first we have to travel back to Burma in the early 1930s. There, a Baptist Missionary couple celebrated the birth of their daughter, Florence. But their joy was clouded by Japanese fighting in China, unrest in Europe, and the worldwide Great Depression. When the every-seven-years furlough came for the family, they returned to Granville, Ohio, home of Baptist-founded Denison University. Interestingly, although Florence’s father liked preaching to the flock, he was not an ordained minister. Her mother was, however (in fact, she was the first woman to be ordained a Baptist minister in Rhode Island).

The economic conditions of the time, as well as her father’s health issues, caused Florence’s parents to decide to stay in Granville rather than take on another foreign assignment. By this time, Florence was in grade school and had many friends among the children of other missionaries. She grew up in Granville and attended Denison University studying science and intending to become a nurse. That career was foreshortened in 1951 when Florence married Norm Wright whom she had met in college.

While Norm initially had an interest in the ministry, time spent in the Air Force in Japan during the Korean War introduced him to the field of journalism. He edited the base newspaper while stationed overseas, and on returning to the U.S. edited two more at stateside bases. Back in Rochester, he attempted to find work in that field, but the local Democrat & Chronicle and Times-Union didn’t have an opening for him. Florence and Norm went to visit college friends in Connecticut and met the friends’ landlord there who worked for the Sikorsky division of United Aircraft. The landlord recommended Norm for a position as a technical writer at the famed helicopter manufacturer, and in late 1955, after trailering their worldly possessions to the east, the Wrights began 16 years in Milford, Connecticut. The Sikorsky hitch lasted less than a year, after which Norm moved on to local newspapers, eventually editing the Southington News, for example. Florence worked from home, writing society news, church news, and so on for local papers. All five of their kids were born during the Connecticut years…Norman (“Ned”), Nancy, Nita, Noreen, and Norma. In a nod to the couple’s journalism work, each child was given a middle name starting with “E”, so altogether the family was considered “the NEWS”.

A job opening at Rochester’s suburban Wolfe Publications brought the Wrights back to our area, and Florence quit the journalism field for a job with the Town of Brighton. Norm went on to work at Rochester Institute of Technology and eventually returned to his early career interest, ministering to people and saving lives by founding five local alcohol treatment centers. Florence’s job was secretary in the town’s Sewer Department, where she basically ran the office. She also had part time positions at libraries in Brighton and Henrietta before finally joining Norm in retirement in 2000.

Norm had always had an interest in trains, and model railroading was a hobby back in the early days in Connecticut. The “NORMANED Railroad”, named for Norm and son Ned, got its start in 1965 and can be viewed in all its glory at http://home.online.no/~jdigrane/normaned/. That enthusiasm for trains led to a trip Florence remembers fondly, from Rochester to the west coast and back.

When the railroad wasn’t occupying Norm’s time in his retirement, he did part-time work at Andy Hale’s stamp store in Brighton, where he developed a topical section (stamps organized by topics, such as flowers, dogs, or…trains). Norm drilled into that latter category and wrote the definitive handbook on the subject. He also edited “The Dispatcher”, the newsletter of the Casey Jones Railroad Unit of the American Topical Association, and its “new issues” list.

Since Norm’s passing in 2011, Florence has taken over that list, keeping the Unit’s more than 200 worldwide members up to date as new train stamps are issued. She points out that many countries have jumped on the bandwagon, issuing stamps more for their appeal to collectors than for use in actual mailing. While many rail-theme stamps have been issued around the world over the years, the U.S. Postal Service has only done one true train series—the 1999 five-stamp collection featuring Ted Rose watercolors.

NYMT joined with the West Henrietta Post Office for a special event to celebrate the new train stamps, and to honor 162 years of railroad history in western New York State. Here’s NYMT’s souvenir cancellation from that event.

Stamp collecting was more Norm’s thing, but once all their kids were out of the nest Florence started collecting stamps featuring women. She has since moved on to collecting Christmas Seals and served as Secretary of the Christmas Seal and Charity Society. This group publishes a quarterly book to its 300 members (and guess who exercises her journalism background doing the proofreading!).

From the Orient to Rochester to Connecticut and back to Rochester; from journalism to the Town of Brighton Sewer Department to stamp collecting. Along the way, five children, several happy train trips with Norm, and a big model railroad in the basement. The latest turn in this long journey had Florence at NYMT representing the Casey Jones Railroad Unit last summer for our “Owney the Rail Mail Dog” event in conjunction with the Postal Service. She responded to our pleas for volunteers, and now does frequent duty in the gift shop. We’re glad her journey has led her to us, and we thank her for adding NYMT to her “itinerary”!


The museum gallery is an ideal location to install temporary exhibits of transportation images. Over the years we’ve held shows about the Rochester Subway, a hundred years of Main Street views, stereo images of early Rochester street scenes, and several exhibits of artistic works. The current exhibit demonstrates the artistry of the late William Aeberli.

A winter storm is gathering over the B&O’s engine terminal at Lincoln Park in this atmospheric work by Bill Aeberli.

Bill was a railroad enthusiast and history buff, but among many other talents were writing and pictorial art. He wrote two series for the Greece Post newspaper, one on the New York Central “Hojack” line, and the other on the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway. Thanks to his niece, Karen Mulcahy, his papers and railroad artwork are now part of the museum’s archives. The twelve water colors and oil paintings now in the gallery depict railroad scenes in Upstate New York, and are worth a visit to see.


From time to time the museum happily finds itself on the receiving end of item donations—things that enhance our collection, help us maintain our facility or contribute to the bottom line by re-selling in the gift shop. Here’s a rundown on the interesting additions at NYMT.

We can start with something that represents much more than is immediately apparent. A quick history: back in the late 1950s, a teenager with a special affection for transit and the then-abandoned Rochester Subway passenger service took it upon himself to save what he could from the defunct line. We told you in a past issue how John H. Eagle saved the station signs from Times Square and the outlying stations on the west end of the Subway as the facilities lay derelict and abandoned. John brought some of these home on his bicycle, and his parents kindly let him store the signs in the garage.

In 2006—the 50th anniversary of the end of Subway passenger service—John brought the signs to NYMT from his home in Ohio, donating them so they could be assured of safe keeping for future generations. The signs now adorn the main hall at the museum, and bring back memories for our older visitors.

Recently, John came for a family visit, and brought with him a stool to donate that was retrieved from Rochester Subway car number 2010.

John H. Eagle visits the Rochester Subway exhibit area with the donated stool in hand.

It’s not clear whether the stool was used by the motorman or the conductor, but we find a tantalizing clue in an interior photo of sister car 2002 taken during initial stages of scrapping:

In this view toward the rear of the car, we can make out the center door opening on the left, and on the right we note the curved railing behind which the conductor was stationed to collect fares. Against the car wall in that railed enclosure we see a round seat, provided for the conductor’s convenience, but it looks like it was hinged so it could be flipped up out of the way. A similar interior shot of car 2000, looking toward the front of the car, seems to confirm this, but perhaps 2010 had a different arrangement. We do know the motormen in the 2000-series cars operated from a seated position, so the stool could also have been in that service.

Until we find better photos, or hear from a reader, we are at least glad to have another part of the history of the Rochester Subway. The message here is that sometimes seemingly small and insignificant things can become valuable parts of the bigger picture. Let’s all keep that in mind when it’s time to “clean house”, sorting out our own things or handling the estate of a relative who has passed away. And, remember the museum in your estate planning, assuring that your collection of transportation images and memorabilia will have a safe home for the future.

R&E 157 tidbit

Back at Rochester’s East Ridge High School a half-century ago, Mr. Eagle turned his friend, Ed Faust, on to trolleys. Ed has since become a dyed in the wool traction enthusiast, and is a trolley modeler. Years later, Ed’s older brother, Eugene, bought a home near Irondequoit Bay that had been the summer cottage of Msgr. Edelman of St. Louis Church in Pittsford. The good father was a trolley enthusiast too, and had bought the car body of Rochester & Eastern 157 as a guest house. Eugene Faust realized the trolley body had to be removed to make way for expansion of the home, and the car body stood the risk of being destroyed. Quite possibly having been sensitized by his younger brother’s deep interest in trolleys, contact was made with Ed Blossom, then at the Magee Transportation Museum in Bloomsburg, PA, and the car body was saved. 157 is now the “crown jewel” of NYMT’s collection, resplendent in dark green paint, gold leaf, and polished mahogany. Perhaps a high school friendship played a part in assuring that the car will someday ride the rails again.

So what else has arrived, thoughtfully donated for the benefit of the museum and its visitors? A set of eight metal signs turned out to be destination signs, and one “no smoking” sign, from 1920’s-era electric trains of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway.

According to NYMT member Otto Vondrak, who maintains an informative website about the NYW&B, 2012 is the centennial year for the line, although its operations ceased in 1937. Do check out Otto’s website to learn more about this interesting railroad, and note one of the photos that shows how these signs were positioned in windows beside the entry doors. Go to http://nywbry.com/gallery_people.php, and thanks, Otto, for the identification of these signs.

Another sign arrived, reported to have originally come from a shop on Lyell Avenue in Rochester. Although Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo interurban cars ran into and out of the city on Lyell Avenue, we’ll have to do some digging to learn more about this sign and where it was used.

The mystery sign awaits further research, but represents yet another small but valuable glimpse of transportation history.

For gift shop sale, the museum received donations of 13 VHS video tapes, two dozen books, and eight model automobiles. Anna Thomas, our resident seamstress, donated six stuffed bears dressed in railroad outfits she made by hand.

Our 3-rail O-scale model train exhibit case is now complete with the arrival of a Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 electric locomotive and a New York Central Aerotrain. Finding a place on exhibit in the museum are two antique spike mauls, a Dietz “Jr. Wagon Lantern”, and a collection of Cairn Studios “woodspirits” complete with documentation.

Popular collectibles in the 1990s, each of the Cairn railroad-series “woodspirits” demonstrates a connection to trains.

Member Steve Hamlin, one of the original founders of the museum came by with a folder of papers pertaining to the mid-1970s, including some interesting correspondence pursuing a foreign source for an operating trolley at the museum. A 2-wheel baggage dolly, six model ships, a book for our library, and a framed 1895 certificate from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen have all joined the museum collection and will do their part in enlightening our visitors on transportation history.


In part II of our history of Rochester’s James Cunningham, Son & Company, we described the firm’s struggle to keep up with changes in the automobile marketplace that eventually led it to pursue other fields entirely. One such direction was prompted by the post-World War II boom in suburban home building, suggesting manufacture of equipment for lawn and garden maintenance.

The company designed a walk-behind tractor with large pneumatic tires, and in 1946 announced it in the form of a sickle bar mower and a tractor that could be fitted with plowing and tilling attachments. It’s ironic, given Cunningham’s early years as a maker of fine carriages, that the walk-behind concept was actually a throwback to the era of horse-drawn plows. Given their design and size, the Cunningham machines found less favor with homeowners than with commercial operators.

NYMT has in its collection one of Cunningham’s sickle bar mowers that was originally used by Herbert H. Morse at one of three filling stations he owned in Rochester. Morse’s Broad Street location had an adjoining half-acre lot, and the mower was used to keep the weeds down to the neighbors’ satisfaction. Morse’s son, Gary, bought the mower, used, in the early 1960s and restored it to operating condition. In 1976 he sold it to a local Pierce-Arrow auto enthusiast who wanted the mower saved as a piece of Cunningham history. The mower was donated to the museum about ten years ago.

Gary Morse is a long-time NYMT member who did that great restoration of our Casey Jones speeder from the Rochester Subway, and Gary’s son, Steve, is also a member, working at the ticket desk and producing our annual financial statement. Gary’s brother Ted is also a member, and he handled the delivery of the mower to the museum.

Imagine wheeling this mower around in your front yard...

As great as the sickle bar design was, especially for tall, tough weeds, reel-type mowers were the norm for home lawn care in the 1940s and 50s, and several companies began selling motorized versions. Your editor recalls his family having such a machine made by none other than the Fairbanks Morse Company of diesel locomotive notoriety. Of course, today motor driven reel mowers for home use have been supplanted by rotary mowers, and Cunningham’s role in the struggle to keep grass under control is just a memory. Perhaps someday we’ll find the time and space to properly display this sidebar to transportation history, and maybe even use it to keep our own weeds down to a dull roar.


At Midway, Rich Fischpera puts up the pole by lantern light as 161 prepares for its return run to NYMT. photo by Chris Playford

We have another “Trolleys at Twilight” event under our belts (literally, for those who enjoyed the delicious ice cream that Scoops had on sale), and a lot of visitors went home happy after experiencing the Genesee valley countryside in the cool of the evening. Over 200 attended, keeping the trolley crew busy. Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum’s diesel train crew were busy too, meeting the trolley at Midway for the continuation of the trip to that museum on our shared rail line. The weather cooperated and everything went smoothly.

Scoops owner Bob Singleton serves up cool treats for Tom O’Donnell and grand-daughter Alex (great granddaughter of NYMT volunteers Bob and Marie Miner).

A regular feature at our Twilight event is NYMT’s calliope, but operating it live can be problematic. It’s so loud as to be painful unless parked far away from the building (remember, calliopes were originally the way circuses announced their arrival and they were designed to be heard all over town). So this year we decided to play a recording of our calliope on the PA system, which preserved both the ambience of a trolley park on a summer evening and the hearing of our guys in the model railroad room.

Our calliope can be played manually, but it’s also a “player” machine—like a player piano—and came to us with a number of large paper rolls of old-time popular tunes and marches. Charlie Lowe and his father recorded the calliope playing this music and we have two CDs of the tunes for sale in our gift shop. Stop by and pick them up. Volumes I and II sell for $15 each, or both for $25 (and remember your 10% member discount).


Not all of the railroad track at the museum is the 80 or 90 pounds per yard variety in use on our mainline. There are roughly 5 scale miles of model railroad track in service too. The guys in charge of our three layouts are not only keeping up with maintenance of these lines, but are actually adding mileage to enhance the visitor experience in the model railroad room.

Kevin Griffith installs a barrier to inquisitive fingers, while Will Lafferty, Bill Chapin and Roger Harnaart troubleshoot a switch.

There’s always been an unsightly gap between the ramp and the end of the HO layout. Vern Squire put forth an idea to extend the layout to close off the gap and add new interest for our visitors. A multi-track freight yard was then designed that provides a way to demonstrate switching freight cars. The yard also serves as one end of a point-to-point set up so trains can be made up in the yard and operated over to the other yard near the passenger station.

With the new yard close to the ramp, an acrylic window has been installed to keep busy fingers from interrupting the rail action. Along with all this, additional scenery has been created by Kevin Griffith, with lots of tiny details to capture the imaginations of our visitors.

One secret to growing our visitor headcount is continually refreshing our exhibits and adding new features. All the additional “trackwork” on the HO layout does just that.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Track: By mid-June, all 26 ties on the east leg of the loop track were spiked in place with only ten or so requiring additional ballast. Two ties were inserted on the mainline in the S-curves to replace two that were in such poor condition they did not lift when the track was re-ballasted last year. Among those participating in this work were Rich Fischpera, Rick Holahan, Mike Rizzella, and Tony Mittiga.

The RGV track crew began its season of tie replacement in mid-June with the installation of a mainline tie just south of Reid’s Crossing. Previously, this crew had been working for several weeks replacing and tightening track bolts. In July, the crew installed three new ties just north of Reid’s Crossing. The RGV track crew works primarily on Tuesday nights as has been a tradition for many years.

The major track project for 2012 was completed in early June. The story of this work is given in a separate article in this edition of HEADEND.

A final track project for the season was developed as we were going to press. It was decided to have 25 ties installed on the loop track between the R&E shelter and the loading area. On Thursday, August 2, a load of ballast was slung onto this section of track in preparation for this work.

Electrification : In late June, Bob Achilles and Charlie Lowe installed the span wire, backbone attachments and downguy for the two pairs of poles just south (railroad south) of Forest Lane.

Philadelphia and Western 161: Bob Miner and Tony Mittiga lubricated journals on the axles and traction motors. Bob also inspected the brake shoes and worked on rebuilding power contactors. Dave Coon replaced some metal screws on the loose paneling above the bus door in late June. A severe bend in the trolley pole on one end of the car was repaired by Ted Strang, Charlie Lowe and several other volunteers.

Charlie Lowe and Ted Strang insert the straightened pole in the base atop car 161. photo by Dave Mitchell

Genesee & Wyoming caboose 8 : Boards at both ends of the roof were found to have rotted where the ladders were bolted to them, so replacement boards were cut using the old boards as patterns, and secured with proper square-headed bolts.

Don Quant and Bob Pearce test fit a new roof end on Genesee & Wyoming caboose 8.

Track motor car TC-1: The all-important brake shoes on this car reached the end of their working lives and were replaced on August 2 by Rich Fischpera.

It has to go, but it also has to stop. Rich Fischpera installs new brake shoes on the TC-1 motor car.


Nick Giambatista's track crew was hired for four days in early June to improve the alignment and condition of the curve between Remelt's Stop and Giles Crossing. This curve was at the bottom of a long 3% southbound downgrade and required work on a safety as well as condition basis. The curve was sharp and averaged about 24 degrees throughout. A major kink, located about halfway through the curve, was so sharp it was noticeable inside the trolley car at even moderate speeds. Superelevation was uneven and, for the lower two-thirds of the curve, practically non-existent. Ballast was thin, especially unfortunate in that heavily ballasted shoulders are needed to hold the curve. Tie condition, even after the spot replacement of 10 ties in 2011, was still poor in general. Rail joints were failing, with inside joints causing under-gauge measurements as low as 55 inches and outside rail joints causing over-gauges of 58 inches.

The decision was made to install gauge rods at every rail joint and at intermediate locations where needed. Push rods were used at inside-rail joints and pull rods were used elsewhere. The NYMT track crew installed these rods loosely prior to the arrival of Nick’s crew. Building up low shoulders with ballast and marking the 30 ties slated for replacement was also accomplished in advance.

Roosevelt Greer rakes ballast while Matt Ventura and Doug Munn have the superelevation set with track jacks.

Nick’s crew was scheduled for four days’ work. A total of 30 new ties and 40 tons of new ballast were used in this project. All old ties were removed and new ones inserted. At this point, the gauge rods were all set at the desired gauge. A few spikes on adjacent ties had to be removed to obtain smooth gauge throughout the curve. Once gauge was set, ties were tamped and spiked. With new ties in place, the curve was smoothed with the use of the backhoe by pulling or pushing on the ends of selected new ties. The final step was to increase superelevation by lifting the outside rail with track jacks and tamping additional ballast in place. The few ties which did not lift with the rail were individually lifted, tamped and re-spiked as needed.

As completed, the Remelts-Giles curve has the following characteristics:

Gauge widened to 56-7/8 inches +/- 1/8 inches

Curvature of 24 degrees (radius of about 239 feet)

Design speed of 15 miles per hour

Superelevation of 3-3/4 inches

Now that’s what a curve should look like!

Photo by Rich Fischpera

No improvement was made on the average curvature, and the curve continues to be approached by a steep grade. The design speed, and therefore the required superelevation, was selected to permit motormen to be a little more aggressive running uphill and to reduce fears of overturning by a southbound runaway car. Of course, the new ties, gauge rods and ballast all added stability to the track structure which will ensure that the work performed will have a long life.

The total cost of this project was about $9,500 and constituted by far the largest single expense for the museum this year. Having a contractor perform the work, in concert with preparation work by volunteers, insured a rapid completion of the project that would not have otherwise been possible. The improved riding quality of this curve, coupled with the improvements to the track structure and to safe operation, will benefit the museum and its visitors for years to come.


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

The Tony Mittiga Picnic Table has been given new legs by the Thursday team. Group tours and Sunday visitors give our three tables a good workout, and we’re glad to have the “heavy one” back in service.

Thanks to Phil McCabe, we have a replacement for the north face of our highway sign. The Thursday team will be installing this in the next few weeks.

Doug Anderson is working with another Eagle Scout candidate, and the project will be restoration of the crossing shanty at Forest Lane. This will be our eighth Eagle project.

Dick Holbert has completed installation and testing of voice and data wiring, including Cat5e data drops in the Office, Model Train Room, Gift Shop, Crew Room and Gallery.


With the passing of Shelden King, our museum and the world of traction history at large have lost a unique treasure trove of knowledge in a man dedicated to sharing that knowledge. Here’s a personal remembrance from Charlie Lowe.

SHELDEN S. KING (1931-2012)

I met Shelden King, trolley fan extraordinaire, in 1981. Bill Gordon was leading a trip along the route of the Rochester and Eastern. Bill had intended to run the trip the year before, on the 50th anniversary of the cessation of R&E operations but ended up delaying the trip one year. I had already gotten on the bus, and sat down in the back, when I saw a white-haired man working his way back through the bus, introducing himself to those he didn’t know and saying hello to those he did. It turned out that Shelden sat down across the aisle from me. Once the ride began, I noticed that the trolley fans, almost none of whom I knew, were talking about all manner of fascinating trolley subjects. I felt I was in the midst of experts!

As we drew near to Bushnell’s Basin, the bus hushed a bit. Here, it was hard to see traces of the line. I knew the way and pointed out an embankment here, or noted the tracks would have been in the pavement there, as we passed through the Basin. Here, at least, I could hold my own with the experts since I had grown up in the area. We departed south on route 96 but then suddenly and unexpectedly we veered to the right and went down Park Road into Powder Mill Park. I recall calmly mentioning to Shelden that this was definitely not along the route of the R&E, to which Shelden observed that it would be interesting to see Bill get himself out of this mess! As it turned out, Bill figured out he should have turned right onto the next road beyond Park Road, but ever after that Shelden and I always referred to a tour host lost in his way as “pulling a Gordon.” And that was how I met Shelden.

My quest at that time was to write a history of the R&E. Shelden took great interest in the project and helped me early on with information and photos. Shelden was all about sharing what he knew and had in his collection. I have never known a more generous railfan than Shelden. Over the years, he was always aiding rail historians with their projects. It would be a fascinating study to find all the books in which Shelden King has been listing in the acknowledgements.

One of Shelden’s recent such efforts was aiding the late Jim McFarlane with his epic TravElectric. This book, the story of the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern as well as associated lines, was Jim’s life work as a rail historian. Shelden knew that Jim had not lived in Upstate New York since the 1940s, and eagerly formed a local team of reviewers which included Charlie Robinson and me. Together, I think we materially aided Jim. It was yet another example of Shelden’s legendary generosity.

Shelden loved factual correctness. If you read one of his books or articles you could be 99.99% sure what you were reading was correct. He set very high standards for himself in hunting down the facts. Shelden’s research methods rubbed off on me. I think I spent a total of several years’ worth of evenings reading through microfilm editions of every newspaper along the route of the R&E during the years 1903 to 1930. Shelden, of course, told me several times how he really preferred the ancient books of newspapers which were a staple in libraries during his youth.

Shelden thought of himself as a late first-generation trolley fan. He was around early enough to have seen and ridden many streetcar lines which would not make it to the temporary prosperity of World War II. One of my favorite Shelden stories was of his adventure at age 8 with Grandpa King. The elder King worked in Syracuse for the New York Central, and had an employee pass. Shelden, one of his brothers and Grandpa King journeyed from Syracuse to Rochester on the mighty NYC at which point they all took a streetcar ride on the long Lake Avenue line to Charlotte. This was during the summer of 1939, near the end of surface streetcar operations in Rochester. Shelden recalled riding north in one of the sleek Peter Witt cars but returning south in a 600-series deck-roof wooden car with brakes that grabbed and made a horrendous screeching noise with the lightest application of air. Be that as it may, Shelden actually rode one of Rochester’s legendary wooden deck-roof streetcars! Another memory Shelden had of that trip was of an orange car on a railroad flat car in Goodman Street yard. No doubt, Shelden told me, this was one of the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville’s Bullet cars being shipped west to Utah for continued use on the Bamberger Railroad.

So while Shelden was not around at the origin of the trolley era, he was able to see and remember the last fragments of the old order. Remembering was one of Shelden’s great gifts. I think he might have been able to recall by car number the entire all-time roster of New York State Railways (Rochester, Syracuse, Oneida, Rome and Utica) as well as those of all predecessors. Shelden was a vast compendium of knowledge which approximated a walking, talking encyclopedia of trolley history. A conversation with Shelden was liable to be filled with facts and take you on rides of long-gone trolley lines.

Shelden traveled in his time to faraway places with trolleys such as San Francisco and Chicago. During his Chicago trip in 1962, Shelden enjoyed an 80-plus mile per hour run over the North Shore in one of that line’s famous Electroliners. But it was Shelden’s trip of 1955, just before beginning college in librarian school at Geneseo, which always amazed me. His trip was in the form of a vast loop, taking in electric railway operations in Rochester (August 23), Cleveland (August 24), Pittsburgh (August 24 and 25), Johnstown, Pa. (August 25), and Philadelphia (August 26 and 27). Philadelphia, especially, fascinated Shelden; he was always happy to have seen and ridden the Philadelphia Transportation Company’s system just before its classic cars were replaced with PCCs or buses.

Shelden’s great legacies are his many friends, the many books he wrote and the countless photos he made on all those trips. His great collection of trolleyana is temporarily being enjoyed by me. However, there are several of Shelden’s works which remained unrealized at the time of his passing. There were three book projects at least partially underway: a history of the Rome-Utica-Little Falls interurban, started by Bill Gordon; Chemung Valley Trolleys, telling the story of the electric railways centered at his long-time home of Elmira, N.Y.; and Route of the Black Diamond, an epic study of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Perhaps these can be finished and published someday as a tribute to Shelden.

Shelden spent much time in his later years at NYMT cataloging archival materials in the archive room, and a new and improved library room would be a lasting memorial to him. Bob Sass and Jim Dierks have joined with me to form a “Library Committee” to look into housing NYMT’s “paper” artifacts in a manner which will best preserve the items and be most suitable for serious research. Such an arrangement would be a fitting tribute to librarian, trolley fan and friend, Shelden King.

Tom Dunham

We were saddened to learn that long-time volunteer and friend, Tom Dunham, had passed away on June 22. Tom was involved in NYMT activities for twenty years, originally helping out wherever needed, and eventually settling on track car operations for weekday group tours. A Navy man and a former volunteer fireman, Tom also loved boating at his cottage in the Finger Lakes. But very special to him was the track car routine and sharing the fun with the children who came on group tours. Tom’s work with us benefited the museum and his track car ride passengers, and we’re sure it enriched his life as well. Our condolences go out to Tom’s wife, Jane, and their family.


As we’ve seen in this issue, time marches on and our museum continues to lose dedicated volunteers. We also recently marked the passing of Lawrence Sass, father of NYMT trustee Bob Sass, and an enthusiastic trolley fan.

As we reflect on these life transitions we note the generosity of friends and families of the deceased. Memorial donations made to the museum have provided welcome financial support, and represent the thoughtfulness of both the donors and the families involved.

Our sincere thanks go out to them all, and we especially remember those who have passed on, not only for their years of service to the museum and our visiting public, but also for caring enough to designate us as recipient for memorial donations.

As the busy whirl of museum activity continues to grow, it’s well to be reminded of the importance the museum holds in each of our lives. We find gladness in knowing the enrichment that museum work brings to our volunteers, even as we mourn our losses.

Have a comment? Suggestions for 2013 events? Want to volunteer for one of the twelve(!) positions required to operate our museum on a Sunday? Email us at info@nymtmuseum.org or give us a call at (585) 533-1113. We look forward to hearing from you!

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