Headend in PDF


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Winter 2012


In our Fall issue we were pretty ecstatic about the year’s attendance up to that time. Well, the full-year figures are now in, and we’re still all smiles. Attendance for 2011 topped out at 8,849 people, a terrific increase of 24.3% over 2010. Just about half of this headcount showed up on our event days, including the seven Fall Foliage days and eight days of Holly Trolley rides. We’re pleased to note that our unique Trolleys by Twilight event attendance rose over 30%, while both Fall Foliage and Holly Trolley went up over 25%.

First-graders from Honeoye Falls Elementary School are all bundled up during their January visit, with a trolley ride.

Putting pressure on our numbers were group tours during weekdays. We hosted 35 groups during the week, but the total headcount fell by almost 15%. With most of those coming from schools, day care facilities and senior centers, we suspect the economy is pinching budgets and reducing field trips to places like our museum.

Holden Kiessel's cake is ready to roll!
On the brighter side, use of our museum as a destination for birthday parties continues to grow. The party host provides the goodies and pays admission for all the invitees, and we allow use of Northern Texas Traction car 409 (still set up with tables from its days at the local Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant) for the party. We welcomed 22 groups on Sundays in 2011, 13 of them birthday parties. These Sunday groups accounted for over 500 of our total headcount.

Helping to spread the word, there were seven off-site slide talks given in 2011, with a total audience count of 149 people.

Beyond the numbers, we are also delighted with the many compliments our volunteers receive. Our friendly attention to our visitors gets high marks, and “awesome” continues to dominate the visitor log comment section. Our volunteers know our purpose is serving the public. They enjoy doing it and they do it well. Nice going gang!


We haven’t had space to report on additions recently, so let’s do some catching up this time. As usual, some donations to the museum are destined for the collection—our archive of documents and physical items that are preserved as part of transportation history. Other things are donated as part of maintaining and repairing our facility, while still others are accepted for sale in our gift shop with proceeds going to the benefit of the visitor experience.

The gift shop did well with a number of significant donations during the year. A collection of toy train cars from the 1940s was reviewed by the model railroad crew with some retained for the collection and others destined for sale. Two kerosene lanterns arrived that were surplus to our collection, so they went into the shop. A New York Central Dietz brakeman’s lantern is still on sale, but the City of Rochester highway lantern has already been sold.

Sixty train-theme picture puzzles were donated for gift shop sale by a couple. They said she likes to do puzzles and he likes trains, so he buys these for her, she puts them together once, and then the puzzles take up space. Also, active volunteer Bobbie Corzine doesn’t limit her time to on-site work. She sewed up a number of train-theme pillow cases that sold like hot cakes.

More books and VHS video tapes arrived, with library duplicates going right into the gift shop inventory. And, a programmable digital scrolling sign was donated to help Gift Shop Manager Doug Anderson promote all these good things. For the collection, several transparencies and photographs were deaccessioned from the Minnesota Streetcar Museum and from a private collector, with images of the Rochester Subway, Rochester & Lake Ontario Railway, Ruggles rotary snowplows, and the Skaneateles Railroad. Similarly a Michigan friend of our museum has thinned out his slide collection and donated 117 images from the 1960s to early 2000s depicting various New York State rail sites.

An interesting antique railroad item arrived that just might find use in our track maintenance efforts. It’s a “spot board” once used on the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad. The device, literally a wooden board with attachments, is used to “spot” vertical alignment of rails to avoid dips and humps. Several vintage railroad engineering text books came in too…always of interest historically and useful even today.

Tools are always useful, and a late-summer donation brought us a tool box, various hand tools, and a “Little Giant” folding ladder…the kind with joints that allow it to be shaped to fit unusual spaces and areas.

Some readers might remember last year’s donation of about 12 cubic feet of miniature cars, trucks and buses. Another lot of these tiny vehicles arrived late in 2011 to add to our “fleet”. We are all familiar with Dinky Toys, Matchbox cars, Tootsie Toy vehicles, and the like, but to see so many variations on the theme by so many manufacturers around the world is stunning. Along with our new exhibit of 3-rail O-scale trains, maybe we ought to open a toy museum.

The life collection of William Aeberli was donated in December, including a dozen well done paintings of area rail activity. Mr. Aeberli’s talents also extended into writing about local history, and his files on the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad as well as the Hojack line of the New York Central contain photos, copies of articles he wrote for local community newspapers, and the first-person accounts of old timers. We’ll be installing the Aeberli paintings in the museum gallery in the spring.

A recent gift of a 3-foot by 8-foot Kodak Colorama miniature is a poignant reminder of better times at our local company. For many years, travelers passing through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal were treated to giant images depicting American life and its interaction with amateur photography. For 40 years, these 60-foot-long transparencies were changed every 2 weeks. Our miniature is one of many produced for camera shop displays and it shows a Metro North commuter train headed by an FL-9 diesel/electric locomotive, passing Bannerman’s Island on the Hudson River. We’ll have to find an illuminator for this nice view!


“This little piggy went to market…” This toe-counting rhyme comes to mind as we reflect on yet another obscure corner of our transportation history. The story begins in an area known among railfans as “Wayneport”, established by the New York Central Railroad as a facility for refueling steam locomotives on freight and passenger trains. This servicing complex was a good distance west of the actual community of Wayneport, so named because it was the first westbound stop on the Erie Canal in Wayne County. The New York Central chose this spot because its mainline and West Shore line paralleled each other here, and there was sufficient space for the many facilities needed to service steam locomotives.

A New York Central passenger train takes on water at speed at the Churchville, NY pans. Ed VanLeer photo

The relatively flat landscape of the Central’s “water level route” allowed the line to use track pans to replenish steam locomotives’ water supply. The water consumption of a steam locomotive is about five times that of coal, by weight, so the ability to take up water on the fly from the pans eliminated many time-consuming stops to refill the tank in the engine’s tender. But the locomotives still needed coal, and the facility at Wayneport handled that job.

Another use for the Wayneport location was in icing refrigerator cars. Ice-cooled refrigerator cars were first developed in the mid-1800s. Just like the “ice boxes” that kept milk and other perishables fresh at home, the basic concept of the refrigerator car centered on keeping an insulated box cold by loading it up with ice. Stations along the railroad were developed to replenish the ice, and one such location was built by the New York Central at the Wayneport complex.

This view of New York Central’s Wayneport icing station looks west, with ice conveyors, water tank and long platform visible.

Of local interest, the Central’s East Rochester car shops built numerous refrigerator cars over the years. An interesting exhibit devoted to this history can be seen at our summer ride season partner Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Here’s a link to their exhibit:


The icing facility was taken out of service in the 1960s, made obsolete by mechanical refrigerator cars which control temperatures more precisely and don’t require the labor involved in harvesting or manufacturing ice, transporting it, and loading it into the cars. Over the following years, the icing platform structure and related equipment were slowly scrapped, and today all that remains of the facility are a few concrete footings and a sign at NYMT.

Now, about those hogs. One of the last items to disappear was an odd contraption located close to the mainline tracks that looked like a couple of water nozzles. Thanks to help from Fred Cupp and Roger Delthony, we find that they were indeed water nozzles, and we learned what they were for.

Mechanical refrigerator cars grew in popularity for transporting perishable fruits, vegetables and “dressed” meat carcasses, but live cattle, sheep, and hogs were often still carried in stock cars into the 1970s. There were strict Federal regulations and railroad rules governing the treatment of the animals during their excursion from the ranch to terminal destination. Stops were defined for feed, water and even exercise.

The nozzles in question were for watering the hog cars. We understand that the train carrying such cars would pull up at the nozzle station where the head brakeman would climb off and take charge of the watering. As the train then slowly passed, the brakeman would aim the nozzles at the cars, one nozzle for each of the two levels on the car. We can only imagine the mess, as water sprayed over the animals and whatever else had accumulated in the cars, and we can assume this wasn’t one of the brakeman’s more pleasant duties. As the end of the train approached, he would shut off the water, climb aboard the caboose, and at that point probably start considering other careers!


On a snowy New Year’s Eve, 1907, a drama unfolded in Rochester that established a new technique in the robbery racket. For what is believed to be the first time in the city, an automobile was used as the “getaway” vehicle from a heist. According to a look-back article about the event found in a 1952 Rochester Times-Union newspaper, the thieves made a clean getaway, but were eventually caught and the money returned to the victim…the Rochester & Sodus Bay Railway.

The trolley in question was carrying a money chest containing $2,859, probably from a sweep of stations along the line, bringing in the proceeds for the end of the year. The car pulled up at the Rochester Railway Company’s car barns on East Main Street, and when the crew went into the office for their orders, an automobile bearing two men pulled up next to the trolley, grabbed the money chest and sped off as fast as autos could travel in 1907.

The crew of the pillaged R&SB trolley pose for the camera.

Rochester Times-Union photo

The crew saw what happened and immediately gave chase as the auto headed west on Main. According to the account, the auto “was being driven at a terrific speed”, and the crew got their last look at the distant perpetrators when the trolley topped the Main Street bridge over the New York Central Railroad. They were able to follow the auto’s tracks in the freshly fallen snow until they reached Clinton Avenue “where they were covered by other vehicles”.

Apparently the auto was an early rent-a-car, and the renter was quickly identified, found and arrested. We’re not sure what the trolley crew would have done if the driver had had the presence of mind to slip down any side street not equipped with trolley tracks. Perhaps he was too excited about setting a new precedent in Rochester crime history…the use of a getaway car.


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 John Cunningham, Son & Company. Here’s the story of this significant Rochester firm.

Before its stellar role in automobile manufacturing, the Cunningham company made a name for itself as a builder of horse-drawn vehicles of the finest quality. This reputation could be traced back directly to John Cunningham himself and the love of design and respect for craftsmanship that he brought with him to Rochester.

A Canadian of Scotch-Irish stock, Cunningham crossed Lake Ontario from Cobourg, Ontario, in 1833, where he had been apprenticing as a woodworker. After a failed attempt to find work in New York City, and seeing better prospects in Rochester on his return home, he decided to seek employment here. The Erie Canal had arrived 10 years earlier and the city was growing rapidly; 18 year old James Cunningham quickly found work with a manufacturer of mail coaches. The following year he moved to an apprentice position with George Hanford and J. H. Whitbeck who had recently started a similar coach building business. In fact, Hanford & Whitbeck had built the coaches for the Carthage Railway here, the horse-drawn line that bypassed the Genesee River falls to permit transport between the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario.

After four years at Hanford & Whitbeck, eventually achieving the rank of journeyman, Cunningham decided he wanted to be his own boss. Joining with two of his fellow workers, James Kerr and Blanchard Dean, he bought the company. While his two colleagues attended to blacksmithing and painting, Cunningham was responsible for woodworking. He also took the lead in the design of their product line. The buggies and sleighs produced by these young men had an especially graceful appearance, matched by designs that insured durability and long life.

The depression that followed the financial panic of 1837 took its toll on Kerr, Cunningham and Company, and by 1842 a debt of over $6,000 caused the partnership to break up, with Cunningham taking over both the firm and its debt, borrowing the money at 18% interest.

But Cunningham’s gift for and dedication to quality put his struggling company in a unique position. In a rapidly expanding country, construction tended to favor haste rather than thoughtfulness, and Cunningham’s products stood out in a field of competitors whose goods often were shoddily made and lacking in refinement. Cunningham also avoided advertising in favor of personally demonstrating his vehicles. He would couple several new buggies together and trailer out to the countryside, often returning on horseback having sold the lot. Seeing was believing.

This physician’s phaeton was the first vehicle produced by Cunningham in 1838.

By the early 1850s, Cunningham’s business was growing and his reputation was spreading. A fire destroyed his original factory in 1848, and he was able to quickly replace it with a larger facility. This building still stands, on Canal Street at West Main. The increasing quantity of production came from a growing country, but also from a universal recognition of Cunningham quality. In 1852 it was reported that a man in Chicago had a carriage built by Cunningham carrying a $1,000 price tag.

Cunningham finally began to advertise, and in his ads he always stressed “All My Own Work”, meaning that all the components were designed and made on the premises rather than subcontracting or using ready made parts. Throughout, the Cunningham products were exemplars of fashion and beautiful design, resplendent in glossy varnish, bright colors, and polished brass and nickel silver fittings.

Elegant and graceful design is evident in this 1870 “vis-à-vis” sleigh with facing seats for the passengers.

The Cunningham operation wasn’t totally without troubles. The financial panic of 1857, caused by the collapse of the railroad boom and subsequent bank failures, forced the Cunningham firm into bankruptcy. But there was a silver lining in this cloud, in the person of Rufus Keeler, a former mayor, who was appointed receiver for the company. After reorganization, as a favor to Mayor Keeler, Cunningham took on the man’s nephew, Rufus Dryer, as an office boy. Young Dryer grew with the company and contributed valuable financial expertise. He eventually married Cunningham’s daughter and became a partner in 1875.

In 1882, workers at the plant stuck over wages and the strict shop rules that governed employees. Interestingly, one of the especially galling rules governed punctuality; the plant gates were locked each morning at starting time. Times had changed, and the journeyman who felt fortunate to have a job was evolving into an employee seeking better working conditions and pay that would let him share in the country’s bounty. The strike was quickly settled, and shortly after the firm was incorporated as James Cunningham, Son and Company. It had grown to be the manufacturing enterprise in Rochester.

In the mid-1980s James Cunningham’s son, Joseph Cunningham, and Rufus Dryer had taken over as President and Vice President respectively, so after James’s death in 1886, the business continued without altering its devotion to the founder’s belief in quality design and workmanship. The firm’s elegant coaches and monumental, hand-carved hearses were known throughout the world.

At the 1884 Louisiana Cotton Exposition, the ”draped” (all carved wood) funeral car was a game changer for Cunningham.

The company’s product line continued to comprise variations and embellishments of basic carriages, buggies, ambulances, hearses, and other standard vehicles that had been around for many years. Just as today’s motor vehicles can be sorted into SUVs, vans, convertibles, etc., the horse-drawn world had its dog carts, breaks (and brakes), phaetons, gigs, coupes, landaus, victorias, berlines, and limousines.

One new development came from the growth in the latter part of the nineteenth century of an American leisure class. Wealthy aristocrats were a new concept in our country, without traditions to exercise, so a lifestyle was borrowed from England with the coaching tradition. Playboys of the era learned to handle four horse teams pulling “tally-hos”, the decorative coaches we still see depicted in Christmas cards. Cunningham was happy to oblige and built tally-hos for this demanding, wealthy class.

A connection to these people would become valuable to the company as the century turned and Cunningham cast its corporate eye on a new form of transportation just making itself known…the automobile. We’ll cover this part of the story in the Spring issue of HEADEND.


Browsing through our collection we noticed this shot showing the rear of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway’s General Office Building on Washington Street next to the Erie Canal. The abandoned houseboat reflects not only its own image in the still water but also the loss of canal business taken by the railroads.

Erie Canal management in the early part of the last century decided to compete by means of a major upgrade, and to improve cost-effectiveness through the use of larger barges, the canal was widened. In cities like Rochester many buildings such as the BR&P structure were built right up to the canal edge, so for this and other reasons the canal route was relocated out of town.

In Rochester’s case, as most of us know, the abandoned canal ditch became the route of the Rochester Subway, and in the city center a mile-long deck was installed covering the line and creating Broad Street. Today, the canal no longer witnesses any significant commercial traffic, but it is a major recreational and tourism feature in the state. For that matter, only a few vestiges of the BR&P, later part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, remain. But one of them is the old office building, looking like it could still be with us after another century.

The Erie Canal route through Rochester is now Broad Street, part of New York State route 31.



By Stephen T. Gilboy

(1887 – 1977)

Mr. Gilboy was employed by the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, and his recollections of that career are now in the museum’s archives. The following is one of his interesting glimpses of life long ago.

A diversion comes to mind regarding the old Erie Canal, which passed through the heart of Rochester before it became known as the “Barge Canal”. I worked at various times in the General Offices of the BR&P, located at that time in a very fine building on the corner of West main Street and Washington Street, and known as 155 West Main Street. This building housed the headquarters of the railway and was the focal point to which reports of all of the operations of each day’s work came by telegraph each evening, generally starting at around 6:30 p.m. These nightly reports were in addition to the general routine business.

Sometimes the routine business slowed down before the nightly reports started coming in from Punxsutawney, DuBois, East Salamanca, Buffalo and some of the less important points.

On these quiet summer evenings when the weather was nice, I recall most vividly the pleasure of sitting on the window sill of a large window looking down directly from the height of four stories onto the decks of the old Erie Canal barges as they passed westward toward Buffalo. They were frequently halted, waiting for the raising of the West Main Street lift bridge known affectionately as “Old Calamity”. Sometimes not so affectionately if one was in a great hurry and could not get across until the last canal boat had gone under the bridge. I have also seen quite a string of streetcars held up at one time when a large convoy of boats had to be allowed to go under the bridge.

However, that was not my worry of an evening when I could steal a few minutes and watch the people on these canal boats. It was worth the time to see the workers and their families carry on. Sometimes a violin or guitar player would send his musical notes climbing up to my window, sometimes two or three couples were dancing, sometimes the “women folk” were hanging out washing, and at all times there were kids playing at all sorts of games on the decks. These barges, sometimes singly, other times several tied together, were drawn by mules or horses that trod the tow path.

Eventually traffic on West Main Street would slow down to a point where the operator of the bridge would clang a large bell and the bridge slowly would start to rise. The drivers of the mules or horses on the tow path would rouse their charges to activity and the boats would slowly get under way. Sometimes a string of these boats would pass at one time, with an occasional motor boat or other water conveyance. Sometimes the telegraph instruments would come alive anxious to get the daily reports started, and my daydreaming would suddenly end.

As I recall those days in 1907 and 1908, I’m reminded that the Erie Canal crossed the Genesee River on an aqueduct. I also well remember the weighlock bridge from which Harry Houdini jumped into the canal heavily shackled one noon time. Most of the very large crowd watching the event thought he would never come up alive, but after a too long delay under water he appeared all smiles and was picked up by row boats. I watched that event at close range and was scared to death at his long delay in coming to the surface.

Taking a look at the other side of the coin, I well remember how “Old Calamity” used to bug me and make me late for duty sometimes, as I lived in the Town of Gates and rode an Indian Motorcycle to work. If the bridge was up, I could not cross, although pedestrians could walk over the bridge on the raised sidewalk reached by steps on the side of the bridge. My motorcycle was too heavy to get up the stairways and down again, so “Old Calamity” would once again be responsible for my late arrival. We all understood the situation and covered for each other without any “gripes”.


A few years ago, local author and historian Donovan Shilling donated 16 finely crafted miniature scenes in HO gauge (about 1/8 inch to the foot). Don refers to these items as “modules” rather than “dioramas” since they are meant to be viewed from all sides, rather than only from one point. With the talents of Ted Thomas and Eric Norden, we created a table that accommodates two modules at a time, with each one on a turntable that the visitor can control so the many exquisite details can be enjoyed to their fullest.

Periodically we change out the modules to provide a fresh experience for our visitors. Installed in December, the latest exhibit is made up of two of Don’s standard-sized modules (22” by 24”) linked together, and it’s called “Train Haven”.

Inspired by visits to rail museums at Steamtown (at that time in Bellows Falls, Vermont) and the Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Don decided to construct what he could imagine as a circa 1920 railroad museum featuring a steam locomotive event. Instead of engines from the 1930s and 40s as we would expect at a museum today, Don’s steam spectacular includes some real antiques from the earliest days of railroading.

That’s the DeWitt Clinton, the first steam train to operate in New York State, in front of the museum depot and gift shop.

Besides artistry and painstaking attention to detail, considerable thought goes into producing Don’s modules. For example, the tracks at Train Haven are elevated a bit reading from front to back so that trains in front don’t block the view of those farther to the rear.

Construction materials included ¼” plywood, ceiling tiles, Styrofoam insulation board, and Hydrocal plaster. For structures, due to the limited space Don decided to include only those required to run steam and to serve the public. A vintage freight house and two passenger depots were positioned for visual effect and to carry the rail museum theme forward. Most of the buildings are commercially available kits, and visitors are often surprised to learn that each structure has a completely detailed interior.

Don exercises his talents for imagination, visualization and story telling with each module, as well as hand craftsmanship, and it’s all there in Train Haven. The details abound and the realism impresses, from autumn tree leaves to tiny fences, signs, and picnic baskets. There are 100 miniature people, cats, dogs and horses in this module, each one hand painted by Don.

Don Shilling makes last-minute adjustments to “Train Haven”.

As Don often points out, many wonderful model railroads spend their lives relatively unseen, languishing in the modeler’s basement. Such work needs to be seen, and that’s one of the reasons Don built his modules, so they could be portable for viewing at train shows and other events. We’re pleased that the results of his careful craftsmanship have found a home at NYMT for the enjoyment of our visitors for years to come.


Our hard-working gift shop manager, Doug Anderson, with the able assistance of Beth Adams, has come up with a great new design that will appeal to all trolley fans. The T-shirts and sweatshirts pay homage to the Rochester Subway and feature the “double wing” RTC logo that Rochester Transit Corporation once used on the Subway cars. Colors of the shirt and logo match those of the equipment.

Doug tells us the shirts are in Gildan Ultra Cotton, and come in a variety of adult sizes. The T-shirts are priced at $16.95 plus tax, and the sweatshirts are $27.95 plus tax. Doug will accept mail-order requests from out-of-town enthusiasts. Such sales will also be charged for postage and handling, so anyone interested should email us at info@nymtmuseum.org for the total cost. We can not accept credit cards by mail, so payment can be by personal check only.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 61 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 620
Photographer unknown

by Charles R. Lowe

State Street Station closed to all streetcar activity in 1937, save one operation of little-known use. Fortunately, it was occasionally photographed by a handful of railfans.

After 1931, the interurban freight terminal behind State Street Station was converted to a truck-only operation known as Bradley’s Motor Truck Terminal. Most of the rail connections were removed, but the two tracks which were located on the open area north of the terminal were left in place. One ran alongside the terminal but the other ran on the north side of the open area, next to the concrete block building owned by Wright and Alexander Co., Contractors.

The open area lined up with Dean Street, which ran east-west and which intersected Oak, Kent, John and Verona Streets and Plymouth Avenue North. Sometime in the 1930s, the open area became an extension of Dean Street, extending to and connecting with Otsego Street. It never continued on the one further block to State Street.

Our present photograph shows Rochester Transit Corp. 620 sitting on the north-most of the two sidings located in Dean Street between Plymouth and Otsego. The lack of a train number in the holder just left of the word “Front” on the red-and-white front entrance sign confirms that the car’s NOT IN SERVICE sign is correct. The pole is up so that the car is ready for making a run at a moment’s notice. Since this is a winter view, the car’s electric heaters may well be running, too. This car is here because Dean Street’s sidings were the one place in the downtown area, after 1937, where a car could be stored ready to run. Invariably, streetcar lines experience delays. Having a fill-in car ready keeps these delays to a minimum. By 1937, East Main Station was the only active car house in Rochester, but it was far away from several streetcar lines. Storing one emergency car on the Dean Street siding made it ready for quick use on any of Rochester’s remaining streetcar lines.

In this photo the photographer is looking west northwest along the north edge of Dean Street and is standing about halfway between Plymouth and Otsego. Plymouth crosses Dean in the background; the tall brick building and the shorter, light-colored building just in its front, once comprised Rochester City School No. 5. The nearer, lower building was a school annex which, by the time of this photo, housed the Rochester Chapter of the American Red Cross. The main school building is closed, as a new building (still in use today) was built a few blocks to the north in 1927.

From the generally run-down condition of the siding, one suspects this photo might have been made during the winter of 1940-1941, the last for Rochester’s surface streetcars. Soon, the Dean Street sidings will be removed along with the rest of the Rochester streetcar network. Car 620, though, became part of a never-used reserve fleet of ten 600-series cars for the Rochester Subway, eluding the scrappers until 1950.


After much volunteer effort by our colleagues at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, freight and passenger cars in their collection have been relocated. These tasks have cleared the way for important work planned for the loop track

RGVRRM’s GE diesel EKRR 6 once used to shunt cars around Kodak Park enjoys a brief return to freight service. Charles R. Lowe photo

at NYMT. By repairing the track here and installing overhead

wire, we’ll be able to turn our trolley cars to even out wheel wear, and gain electrical efficiency by shortening the overhead distance from the substation to end-of-wire.

On the afternoon of Sunday, November 13, RGVRRM’s former Kodak diesel EKRR 6, in the command of Mike Dow, arrived to remove the four freight cars that for the past several years had occupied the loop track just north of the loop switch. The cars had been spotted there in order to make room at RGVRRM’s yard for their train of passenger cars that had to be moved from a siding in Sodus, NY.

Before the freight cars could be moved, a “skate” had to be removed from under the wheel of the hopper car. With the cars located on a downgrade, they had to be prevented from rolling onto the mainline where our trolleys and track cars operate. While a chock is a simple wedge placed between a car wheel and the rail head, a skate has an extension that the wheel rides up onto. In order to remove the skate, the train of four heavy freight cars had to be pushed uphill, off the skate. The problem was that the GE diesel, the only available unit that could be allowed through the S curves, didn’t have the power to do that.

The solution was to bring the diesel into position, couple it onto the train of cars to hold them in place, and then use a jack to raise the wheel off the skate so it could be removed. All went well, the air was pumped up, and the freight train departed with no damage to train or track. The RGVRRM crew stored the cars on the mainline just south of Midway, and put EKRR 6 to bed.

Now, about those passenger cars. RGVRRM owns seven cars from the New York Central’s streamlined Empire State Express that was inaugurated on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. The train’s history goes back well before that date, however. In 1891, already famous for high speed and luxury, the New York Central & Hudson River’s Empire State Express hit 112 miles per hour near Batavia, New York. The locomotive that accomplished this historic feat, 999, is now enshrined at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Over the years, the train’s western destination was moved from Buffalo to Cleveland and Detroit, and with the 1941 revamp, the New York Central provided the ultimate in day-train travel.

The Empire State Express lays down a smoke screen, westbound through Churchville, New York in the late 1940s. Ed VanLeer Collection, NYMT

RGV’s Empire State Express cars had been used in fall foliage service between Sodus and Newark, NY, but had been moved to their Rush site several years ago. Over these recent years, RGV members had been constructing a siding west of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad’s mainline to store the cars. With completion of the siding in late fall, 2011, the cars could now be moved and the upper yard at RGVRRM could be freed up (to store those freight cars!).

Looking south, the cars are on their new siding, Railway Postal car “Alonzo B. Cornell”, foreground, Industry Depot far left.

Charles R. Lowe photo

Charlie Lowe was on hand to watch the action and has this report: On a cold January 15, RGV members worked a long Sunday session and moved all seven of the former New York Central Empire State Express cars onto the new West Siding. The ESE cars were brought down the Hill Block one at a time with locomotive 1654 and pushed out onto the mainline where Rick Rubino, LA&L Trainmaster, used RGVRRM locomotive 1843 to gather the cars into a train. Once this was done, the cars were hauled north until they cleared the West Siding switch, at which time the siding's switch was thrown and the train shoved into the siding.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Track 1 Switch: In November, during a test run of car 161 just prior to this year’s Holly Trolley runs, the Track 1 Switch was run through against the set of points. This bent some parts but Charlie Lowe and Rick Fischpera made sufficient temporary repairs to permit operations. On November 29, a Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum work crew consisting of Mike Dow and Pete Gores installed two new headblocks (the 15-foot-long switch timbers at the tip of the points which hold the switch machine) and installed a Racor 20B spring switch machine. These items were from stock at RGV. Using the RGV loader, the bulk of the work was done in one day. With the new machine in place, the Track 1 Switch is now in essence a spring switch, so any further run-throughs will do no damage to the points or control bars as had been the fear with the old tall-stand switch machine.

Overhead Maintenance: One of the problems with running our trolley line through a picturesque forest is that trees may fall on the line. Sometimes the wire will hold the tree, but if the wire breaks a difficult wire splicing operation would be needed before the line could be re-energized.

In early January, Dave Scheiderich was inspecting the RGV freight cars stored on the mainline near Midway and discovered that a tree had fallen on the trolley wire in a recent windstorm. A large crew was assembled for work on January 7, 2012, the first Saturday of the new year and the first good opportunity for a work crew since before the holidays. Warm temperatures in the 40s, dry ground and some pleasant sunshine all combined to make for good working conditions.

The first order of business was to clear the tree that had fallen onto the wire. Dave Coon brought his chain saw and other assorted tools. Scott Gleason brought the RGV bucket truck, and Dan Waterstraat brought the RGV loader. Also on the crew and ready for cleanup duty were Bob Achilles, Rick Fischpera, Mike Rizzella, Rick Holahan and Charlie Lowe.

Crew and equipment stand by as Scott attacks the tree.

Dave Coon photo

Scott went up in the bucket truck, sawed off the end of the tree just beyond the wire, and then yanked the wire out from under the leaning tree. It came down with a crash, and soon was chopped into chunks which were tossed over the bank.

With that success, a nearby broken and leaning 60-foot-tall Scotch pine was eyed next. Dead for maybe twenty years, it was broken a third of the way up its height and posed a threat to the trolley wire. Rather than wait for the next windstorm, the crew decided to take the tree down. A chain was attached to the tree just above the break, and Dan used the loader to pull it over. With a sickening “snap” the tree started to fall right toward the trolley wire! Luckily the wire held, the tree being so rotten that it broke where it hit the wire. During the entire process, Dick Holbert provided substation supervision while work was underway, ensuring that the overhead was grounded and that power would not be turned on.

An even larger (1½-foot diameter, 70 feet tall) dead Scotch pine was noticed on the west side of the track just south of Midway. It posed a threat to the line, but by the time it could be worked on by the crew, a west wind had arisen and the effort was called off for the time being. On January 21, Scott and Dan felled this tree. A cable attached to the tree’s trunk halfway up its height was then affixed to the RGV backhoe. After cutting most of the way through the trunk near the ground, the tree was pulled to the west by the backhoe.

East Leg of Loop Track: In December 2011, three ties were installed on this section of track just north of the Forest Lane grade crossing. Mike Dow, using the RGV backhoe, inserted 7 ties just south of the crossing. On January 7, Tony Mittiga, Rick Fischpera, Dave Coon and Mike Rizzella used TC-1 to move the remaining 15 ties stored at the S-Curves and distribute them to their locations along the east leg of the Loop Track. Also that day, Charlie Lowe and Rick Holahan spent some time cleaning out a tie crib just north of Forest Lane. The badly-polluted Lehigh Valley RR ballast which was removed was used to fill potholes on the entrance driveway. Rick then wrestled the tie into place, readying it for ballasting, tamping and spiking. This tie was ballasted and spiked on January 14. Work continued on February 4 when a tie crew cleaned five cribs and inserted the ties. At present a total of 4 of the 25 safety ties to be installed on the east log are now spiked and ballasted in position. These safety ties are the beginning of the track upgrades necessary for use of this track in trolley passenger service.

The tie crew puts some hustle into it as they upgrade the east leg of the loop track preparatory to its electrification.

Steve Davis photo

Philadelphia and Western 168: In December, Jim Johnson and Dick Holbert completed the necessary motor work on the truck nearest the barn doors, and the car was lowered back onto its trucks. Blocking and the jacks were moved to the end of the car away from the doors to prepare that end for lifting. Pete Gores and Bob Achilles raised this end of the car on January 7, after which Jim Johnson arranged everything for a work session on the two motors made accessible by the lift of the car body. Jim is cleaning, securing and painting the internal electrical parts including the all-important brush holders and other nearby motor components.

Genesee & Wyoming Caboose 8: Since work on car 168 must proceed over the winter, caboose 8 is spending the winter outside on track 2 just in front of the trolley barn. One of the roof tarps had been shredded in a recent windstorm, so part of the Thursday crew—John Ross and Jim Dierks— installed a new tarp to keep the car dry over the winter.

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 1402: Rand Warner and Pete Gores wrestled the heavy green south-end tarp back into place on the car on December 31, 2011. It had blown partially off the car in a wind storm a year earlier, leaving an opening to the weather. This car is the only known former Rochester open car in existence.

Track Car 3 Trailer: An RGV crew, consisting of Rand Warner, Jeremy Tuke and Norm Shaddick showed up at Midway during the tree cutting on January 7. Their objective was to move the trailer for TC-3 south of the freight train and passenger coaches stored on the mainline just south of Midway so that the trailer could receive some much needed paint and repair over the winter. Rand used the forklift brought along for the purpose, lifted the trailer off the rails, and “portaged” it around the railroad cars.

Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo 206: On January 7 Rand Warner, Bob Achilles and Charlie Lowe re-tarped the north end of this car, another victim of recent windstorms. The tarp had been blown off and had been stored indoors earlier in the year. After about two hours and a trip to buy more line, the crew finished the job by moonlight around 6 p.m., concluding a busy work day. Unfortunately, a 70-mph windstorm in late January pulled the north-end section of tarp partially off again, requiring repairs scheduled for spring.

Electrification: Work continued on electrification of the unwired 800 feet of the loop track. Completion of this project will improve power supply to the south end of the wire and permit occasional turning of the PW cars to equalize wheel wear. The relocation of the NYMT telephone line into underground ducts was completed in November, removing the last obstacle from the path of the trolley wire on this east leg of the loop track. Dick Holbert was in charge of the phone line relocation, assisted by Jim Johnson and Bob Achilles.

Detail plans for this electrification were prepared by Charlie Lowe in January. These plans show the exact locations of all fittings. Crews can now begin dressing the poles with sub-assemblies as time and weather permit. In mid-January, Bob Achilles and Charlie Lowe began the task of cleaning and organizing the overhead work area in the milking parlor. Sorting parts, tools and pre-made overhead assemblies, as well as clearing the area of non-overhead items, will greatly aid in erecting the overhead on the loop track during spring and summer 2012.

On February 4, 2012, an overhead crew set three poles immediately south of Midway. About 12 poles total will be set this winter between Midway and Switch 6, along with necessary ground anchors. Over the next year, the surrounding soil will harden, allowing overhead to be placed in 2013.

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