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The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Spring 2013

150 YEARS OF STREETCARS…by Charles Lowe

Rochester City and Brighton Railroad began construction of its system in 1862 but did not run cars until the following year. We pick up the RC&B story during the Battle of Gettysburg, just before the first cars were to run.

The first line of the Rochester City & Brighton horse car line, on State Street and Lake Avenue, was nearing completion just as news of the Battle of Gettysburg began to reach Rochester. For three hot and bloody days (July 1, 2 and 3, 1863), the Union and Confederate armies fought each other on what was transformed from pleasant farmland to a hell on earth of artillery and musket fire. At the battle, Rochesterian Patrick J. O’Rourke commanded the 140th New York, a regiment largely composed of men from Rochester and surrounding Monroe County. Hurried onto the battlefield on July 2, the 140th was directed immediately to Little Round Top, the left flank of the Union line. A Confederate assault was being made here which, should it have succeeded, would have probably caused a rapid and disorganized retreat of the entire Union army. With no time to recover from their march, O’Rourke’s unit soon found itself charging down Little Round Top toward the advancing Confederate forces. Leaping onto an exposed position and waving the regimental colors to inspire his men, O’Rourke was shot in the neck and fell dead on the ground. In spite of this loss, the 140th New York held its ground and materially contributed to the Union’s successful defense of Little Round Top. The climactic Confederate charge on the union center on the third day of the battle was also repulsed and led Confederate General Robert E. Lee to end the three-day battle by retreating south.

Gettysburg news, as well as news of the great Union victory at Vicksburg on July 4, pushed nearly all other news to the far corners, or completely off, of Rochester’s newspapers. As a result, we cannot be sure just when the first horse car operation took place in Rochester. Then ablaze with the gruesome details of Gettysburg, the Rochester Daily Democrat and American made the earliest known notice of the operation of a streetcar in Rochester on Tuesday morning, July 7, 1863 as follows:

STREET RAILWAY.— The cars on the street railway commenced to-day on the lake View and Mount Hope line. Two or three cars were placed on the route north of the Central railroad, for trial, yesterday afternoon.

Therefore, the trial runs made along State Street and Lake Avenue on the afternoon of July 6, 1863 most probably were the first streetcar operations in Rochester. The trial runs seem not to have been regular passenger runs but merely test runs, or for the training of drivers, but the runs made on July 7 seem to have been revenue runs.

On July 8, trial trips were made between Buffalo Street (later, Main Street West) and Mount Hope Cemetery. It was then thought that no regular cars would be run for several weeks. Another group of streetcars arrived in Rochester on Saturday, July 11, hastening the day when more complete service would be offered.

Soon, other reports noted revenue streetcar operations. The Union and Advertiser reported that on Monday, July 13, 1863, streetcars “were run half hourly…from the [New York Central] Depot on State Street to the terminus of the line at the head of Buell Avenue [near present-day Driving Park Avenue].” Receipts totaled an astounding forty dollars for the day at 5 cents a ride. It appears that this was when regular streetcar operations began in Rochester. The Rochester Daily Democrat and American stated that on July 13, “the street cars were placed on the lake View route,” suggesting that the service, with its half-hourly runs, was now considered a regular revenue operation, a decided improvement over the irregularly operated runs of the previous week.

Superintendent Randall, in charge of constructing the line, estimated on July 13 that cars would be placed in service on the Mount Hope section of the line “in a day or so.” On July 21, with work on a track across Main Street linking State and Exchange Streets, cars were running to Mount Hope Cemetery. Through service between Mount Hope and Lake View, though, seems not to have begun at this time.

Joseph Medbury, a man of influence who owned property on State Street just north of Mumford (later Andrews) Street, steadfastly refused to grant permission for streetcar operation in front of his lands. While a majority of State Street property owners had approved of the streetcar venture, Medbury stubbornly sought to stop the endeavor with an injunction. When cars started running to Mount Hope Cemetery on July 21, none were allowed to run past Medbury’s property. Through passengers were forced to disembark from the cars and suffer the indignation of walking the short distance past what quickly became known as “Medbury’s Gap.”

Driver Michael Eagan’s heavy coat attests to the rigors of operating horse cars in Rochester winters.

The novelty of the streetcars drew children into the street intent on placing such trinkets as pins, buttons and pennies on the rail in hopes they would be pressed into odd shapes. A group of children was engaged in such play on Lake Avenue on the afternoon of July 22 when car 2 came upon the scene. Unable to stop in time, the driver could not avoid running over a four-year-old girl’s leg. The child’s father, a Lieutenant Colonel just returned home that day on leave, sadly authorized doctors to perform the necessary amputation.

A few days later, probably on July 24, cars ran through between Lake View on the north and Mount Hope Cemetery on the south. A newspaper article noted in particular that the Lake View—Mount Hope line was “uninterrupted” and the “passengers may make the through trip without [a] change of cars.” Medbury’s Gap was no more.

A brisk business on the line made every car “fully occupied,” and the Democrat wryly urged the RC&B to increase its service “to accommodate all who find it cheaper to ride than walk.” The novelty of the cars led to what the Union and Advertiser called a “rush for the street cars.” Hundreds of hopeful riders were seen on State Street on Sunday, July 26, and cars were “loaded to their utmost capacity” with even the decks [roofs] being covered with people, and yet thousands could not get passage who desired it.”

With Gettysburg obscuring coverage of local events, and the lack of some newspaper issues from this time, we may never know the exact date on which a horse car was first operated in Rochester. Suffice it to say that horse cars started running in July 1863 and became an important part of Rochester’s growth in the following decades.


It was another busy year for the museum in 2012. While the financial data is important to our long-term survival, as a museum open to the public we like to judge our success by the number of visitors served. The total for last year was 7,035, including ride-only patrons during Holly Trolley.

Compared with 2011, this was down quite a bit, due to the unprecedented surge we experienced with “Dinosaur Train” in May of that year. That surge was more than we could handle, and it highlighted the importance of matching event publicity to our capacity limitations. Although the total headcount for 2012 was on a par with that of 2010, we hope to pump up our attendance in 2013 by continuing to increase our awareness in the community, and by the addition of some “mini-events” you will see listed elsewhere in this issue.

We continue to manage our finances judiciously. As with all museums, while admission income was the largest single contributor (about 1/3 of our total income for the year), we also rely heavily on income from members through their membership dues and donations, and from sales in the gift shop. In 2012, donations of cash and in-kind items contributed over half of our total income.

On the expense side, maintaining our railroad in a safe and reliable condition was the largest single expense item, accounting for about 40% of our expenses for the year. As readers of these pages know well, the museum has been on an aggressive campaign to replace crossties and switch timbers, and the effort has been expensive. Another big cost for us is our liability insurance policy.

It’s interesting to note that the cost of electricity to operate our trolley rides is a small part of our expenses. We spent just over $1,000 for the almost 40 days of operation, including the Holly Trolley runs with the electric heat operating in the car.

Also of interest is the fact that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 85% of the electricity we buy from National Grid is generated by hydro, nuclear, natural gas, and non-hydro renewable sources. So, in addition to the relatively low cost per passenger mile of operating our trolley, we also come out very well on the environmental scale.

On a related note, at the urgent request of our partners at RGVRRM, we have reluctantly agreed to a significant admission price increase. The new rate will be $10 for adults, and $8 for students age 3 through 17, and seniors age 65 and over. This will apply over all our weekend operations, eliminating special prices for events. RGVRRM based their concern largely on the high cost of fuel for their diesel train that is a feature of our special event days. Also, RGVRRM has been struggling to gain control over their other expenses, and they also appear to be making progress in managing the work those expenses represent. As important partners in our summer and fall operations, we hope that progress continues. We also hope our visiting public will respond favorably to the new rates, recognizing all that we offer at our combined museum experience.


To a generation or two of Americans a gas station is a wonderland of fast food, lottery tickets, and cold beer. The process of fueling up the family vehicle is quick and incidental. Some of us, however, remember when such places were rightly referred to as “service stations” whose origins were humble and light years away from the pit stops of today. Plenty of nostalgic books have been written about the golden age of automobiles and the establishments that catered to their every need, but there’s always the local angle to explore. Let’s take a look…

A year ago, the museum was contacted by someone with a steel can he owned, seeking information (and a buyer). The brass label on the can said “Consumers Service Stations, Cons, Rochester, NY”. Although the owner figured this was a milk can, our thinking went more in the direction of an early gas station item. We were right.

The story starts on July 9, 1854 when Albert Henry Caward was born in Canandaigua, New York. Young Albert and his parents moved to Iowa, and after a 25-year career operating a general store, he caught a whiff of auto exhaust and in 1908 founded the Black Hawk Oil Company. The company soon changed its name to Hawkeye Oil Company and began selling Red Ball Gasoline and Faultless Motor Oils.

In 1918, Consumers Service Station Company was founded in Rock Island, Illinois, and through aggressive marketing it grew rapidly along with the increasing reliability and popularity of automobiles. The firm was noteworthy as an early advocate of standardization in the design of their service stations and the trade dress that advertised their wares. Their brand was “Go Gas” and their signs and stations featured a zippy black and white checkerboard pattern.

The Go Gas stations sold Hawkeye gas and other products, and in 1921 Consumers sold out to the Hawkeye firm. The founders of Consumers, including a Ralph Wharff who remained on the Hawkeye board of directors, took their money and moved to Rochester, starting over with the same marketing concept in the more populous eastern U.S. An on-line search doesn’t turn up any information connecting Mr. Wharff with Mr. Caward locally, but it does seem more than coincidental that Canandaigua and Rochester are only a few miles apart.

We’ll sidestep the details of the Hawkeye story in the 1920’s. The decade was one of rapid growth of the oil industry, and Hawkeye bought, merged, created subsidiaries, and renamed itself several times as a major independent player in the business. The firm became part of Producers and Refiners Corporation (Parco) in 1923, with that company continuing the Hawkeye name, products and service stations. Parco eventually succumbed to the Depression and by 1935 was part of the Sinclair Oil Company.

But here in Rochester, Consumers Service Stations, Consolidated established itself using its Go Gas brand. From its general offices in the East Side Savings Bank Building at Main and Clinton, the firm continued the “semi-cooperative” franchise system the former company had grown with in the Midwest. Newspaper ads were placed in cities throughout upstate New York, touting the opportunity to grow and prosper with the company. Through glowing descriptions of their stations and the quality service they provided, the ads even threw in an appeal to a sense of home town pride. Prospects paid $500 to become part of the Go Gas family, and apparently there were lots of takers, as Go Gas stations spread rapidly to almost 100 locations in the first year.

The February 1, 1922 issue of “Petroleum Age” offers an expanded description of the service stations where motorists could fill up on Go Gas. Taking their cue from the customer-friendly, standardized designs of five and dime stores, the stations were all of a common configuration. Avoiding the extreme concepts that some other stations adopted, such as Gothic architecture, the red brick buildings relied on that black and white checkerboard pattern to catch the eye. This was used to trim a pergola that kept cars and attendants out of the rain. The glass “visible-measure” pumps were placed on an island in the middle of the pergola-protected area so that cars could access them from either side.

Amenities included a clean restroom furnished with wicker chairs and potted plants, and the emphasis throughout was on a pleasant consumer experience. One ad for the franchise stressed that “Bill” (the imagined owner/attendant) was right there to serve you, not out back repairing a car or otherwise occupied. This point alone illustrates the dramatic change taking place from old, blacksmith-style shops that only incidentally sold gasoline, to modern dedicated facilities aimed squarely at service and wrapped around with name-brand recognition.

Inside the Go Gas station building, sale of “geegaws” and novelties was avoided, with concentration only on the motorist’s important needs—spark plugs, inner tube patches, auto body polish, etc. To save on floor space, a system was devised of overhead drums for the various oils required in cars of that era. The materials were pumped to the overhead drums by the air pump that also provided free air to inflate customer’s tires.

By 1925, Go Gas had been created as a separate company and had taken over the Consumers firm, but things hadn’t gone all that well for the fast moving company. Financial reversals put the Go Gas Company in receivership in February of that year, and in 1926 its assets became part of the Warner-Quinlan oil empire. During the Depression, W-Q’s own losses led to its purchase by Cities Service in 1937, as the steady march continued toward fewer and larger oil companies that refined, distributed and sold their products all under one banner.

Museum member and volunteer Gary Morse fills in a little more of the Go Gas story for us. Gary’s father, Herbert H. Morse, was an early employee of the company soon after it got started in Rochester. He was employed as an auditor, traveling to the various stations to check up on quantities of oil and gasoline sold, check inventories, etc. According to Gary, apparently there was a lot of cheating going on in the “semi-cooperative” arrangement, with company headquarters struggling to keep a handle on things in their far-flung empire.

Mr. Morse drove his “trusty Model T Ford” back in those days, and the long, slow drives were so boring he taught himself to play the harmonica to while away the time. Roads at that time were often rutted dirt paths, such that he could take both hands off the wheel and let the car run along in the ruts. At that rate, he probably could have taught himself to play the piano!

As the popularity of the automobile grew, with the gasoline business along with it, Mr. Morse threw his hat in the ring and in 1926 opened the first of three service stations he would eventually own in Rochester.

It’s Opening Day, June 12, 1926, at Morse’s station #1 on Smith Street in Rochester. That’s Kodak tower in the upper left.

Yes, that’s right…20 cents for a gallon. And they pumped it for you and cleaned your windshield too!

The Morse station didn’t align with any national brand at first, and gasoline was purchased in bulk. It was delivered in a railroad tank car that the New York Central spotted on an adjacent siding until pipelines were constructed in the post-World War II era. Station #2 in the Morse operation came on line in 1930 on West Broad Street, and was also operated by Herbert Morse. A third station, providing only gasoline, opened shortly after on St. Paul Street next door to the Case-Hoyt printing plant. By 1950, the growth of national brands made it desirable to link up with one of them, and Morse signed on with Amoco. That connection was followed by Sunoco after Amoco ceased operations in New York State.

The open-air service area at Smith Street was adjacent to the railroad siding where gasoline was delivered by tank car.

From 1949 to 1957, the Morse business included home heating oil, for which a new Studebaker truck was purchased. Gary tells us that his brothers Ted and Richard drove the truck all the way to Ohio to have the tank installed.

The 1926 opening day photo shows a service pit, so that Go Gas idea of “Bill” only standing by to pump gas was already fading in the middle 1920s. Service stations were beginning to re-define “service” to include car maintenance and repairs. The glory days of the full-service gas station—complete with multiple bays for just about any work one’s car needed, but still accompanied by at least a teenager to pump gas, check oil and wipe the windshield clean—peaked in the 1950s and 60s.

And so the cycle has changed again. From the “full-service” blacksmith shop, to the dedicated gasoline store, to the “full-service” gas station, we are now back to a gasoline dispenser that sells those geegaws and novelties. Whatever will come next will probably have electrical outlets to charge batteries on electric cars, but to a small extent, the Go Gas company and the Rochester people who made it work will be watching… with a smile.


In addition to our regular, year-round Sunday operations, we step it up a notch (that’s trolley talk) with special events during the summer, fall and winter holiday months. Be sure to mark your calendar and plan to be with us for all the fun!


Antique buses, including a 1957 transit bus from Regional Transit System and Bob Malley’s 1950s Flxible highway bus, will be on display opening the ride season at NYMT. 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.!

June 2 (Sunday) – SCOUTING DAY

We salute the volunteers and members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who work hard to make a difference in our communities. All youth (under 18) Scout members in uniform are admitted free with paid adult admission (limit one free Scout per adult). Come and enjoy trolley and track car rides, and learn about service projects and troop camping opportunities available at both museums. (PLEASE NOTE: If your entire troop wishes to visit the museums, please make a reservation so we are sure we can accommodate you. Please contact NYMT tour coordinator Jim Dierks at (585) 533-1113.)

June 16 (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.

June 30 (Sunday) – BASEBALL DAY

What's more American than trains and baseball? From teams using trains to travel from city to city, to baseball fans taking the train to the game, these two American traditions have been intertwined for more than 100 years. Come and enjoy trolley and track car rides while you spend the day exploring our two museums. Kids won't want to miss a visit from Spikes, the mascot of the Rochester Red Wings!

July 20 (Saturday) – TROLLEYS AT TWILIGHT

The New York Museum of Transportation recreates an evening at an old-time “trolley park”, complete with hot dogs, ice cream and the sound of the calliope wafting across the Genesee valley countryside. The Pittsford Fire Department band will provide entertainment too, performing between 5 and 6:30 p.m. A diesel locomotive with two cabooses will meet the trolley to continue the trip to the Rochester & Genesee Valley R.R. Museum. 4 p.m. - dusk

August 18 (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!  10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

September 15, 22, 29; October 6, 13, 20, 27; November 3 (Sundays) – FALL FOLIAGE BY TROLLEY AND TRAIN

Enjoy the beauty of autumn in western New York State from the window of an authentic 86-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

November 10, 17, 24 (Sundays) – TROLLEY RIDES

What better way to enjoy the beautiful Genesee Valley countryside than with a trolley ride!  The museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the 20-minute rides depart at 12:00, 12:30, 1:00 and 1:30.  Reduced admission prices prevail:  $5 adults, $4 kids under 12, ride included.

November 30; December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 (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.

Bill Chapin

1927 – 2013

We mourn the loss of a man who has been a mainstay of the museum for many years and in so many ways. Bill Chapin originally joined us to be a part of our model railroad activity. In this part of the museum’s public operation, he was always there on Sundays but also faithfully appeared for every weekday group visit to run the layout for our visitors. His model train expertise was invaluable as he joined the rest of the model railroad crew in maintaining the locomotives and rolling stock on the layout, and keeping the track, switches and miriad electrical components in good operating condition.

Bill also operated track cars for us in Sunday operations as well as for group tours. His career background with the New York Central Railroad made him a valuable source of original information on the line and railroading in general. Many times his knowledge contributed to accuracy in these pages as well as enlightenment of our visitors and in archive research inquiries.

Despite his “steam road” background, Bill was interested in all steel wheel modes of transportation. As Charlie Lowe tells us: “Bill was our ‘man on the spot’ on the very last day of the electric freight operation on the Rochester Subway (August 31, 1957). He took the photos of the crew that day, the very last trolley crew in Rochester until NYMT started running trolleys. He took tons of Subway photos and shared some with me, especially rotary snow plow 017, formerly Rochester and Eastern 017”. Bill was the one who saved the builder plate from Subway electric loco L-1, passing it to Tom Kirn who later donated it to the museum where it is on display.

Bill helped out in any way he could at the museum, and this included weekends on end, during the construction of our substation in 2005 and 2006, assisting Dick Holbert and Jim Johnson.

We’ll remember Bill for so much more…from friendly words as he made his routine stop in the gift shop for a candy bar, to his remembrances of life on the railroad, to his devotion to all we do at the museum. And we will miss him very much.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS......................... No. 66 in a series

Rochester City and Brighton Railroad Company
Photographer unknown

by Charles R. Lowe

Rochester City and Brighton Railroad, forced into the economy of small one-horse, one-man “bobtail” cars in 1869, did not return to larger two-horse, two-man cars until the late 1880s. Here, in the late 1880s or very early 1890s, a 150-series car is seen after having arrived at the end of a northbound trip to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Avenue, somewhat north of Ridge Road and just north of what would soon become Kodak Park.

With a little imagination, we can read a “one” and a “five” on the dasher of this car. Bill Gordon gives us a photo of “R.C.& B. trailer 158” in a photo on the pioneering Rochester Electric Railway, with the car number showing up clearly (Ninety Four Years of Rochester Railways, vol. 1, p. 50). The Brill order book (found on-line at http://streetcarstelcen.com lists March 30, 1887 shop order #1683 for two open double-end trailer cars built for RC&B. At this time, Rochester was solidly in the Stephenson camp for its horse car needs, the “Bombay” roofs of which were distinguished by particular rounded ends to the clerestory roof. Our car and identical car 158 are deck roof cars typical of what Philadelphia car builder Brill was producing. One can therefore surmise that our car’s number is 157, 158 or 159.

RC&B had obtained a franchise for a single-track extension to its Lake Avenue line from Driving Park to Ridge Road in 1885. A franchise for a second track followed in 1888, and it seems that both tracks were built in 1888. Meanwhile, Rochester Electric Railway built its line from Ridge Road to Charlotte in 1888 and 1889. While our photo shows no trace of the overhead trolley line which would begin powering electric streetcars on July 3, 1889, it may be that we cannot see it for all the trees. RC&B, or successor (in early 1890) Rochester Railway Company, may have arranged to run horse cars from downtown Rochester to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery for the summers of 1889 and 1890 before the lake Avenue line between Rochester and Ridge Road was electrified in 1890. Our photo probably dates from 1890 rather than 1889, judging by the condition of the dirt around the streetcar tracks that would not be quite as “worn in” when the track was brand new in 1889.

This image has had an interesting journey to these pages. The original negative and any original prints now seem lost, as does the print Bill Gordon used in his book (Ninety Four Years of Rochester Railways, Vol. 1, p. 38). Luckily, a small print on a photographic post card sent out as a Christmas card in 1954 by Rochester railfan A. W. Crittenden wound up in the late Shelden King’s collection where it quietly survived for decades until being scanned for your enjoyment now.


The Board of Trustees is pleased to announce election of a new member of the Board, Bill Randle. Bill has had a long- time interest in the museum, frequently seen on Sundays with his grandson in the model railroad room.

Bill is President and Chief Operating Officer of Facilicare, a local firm that serves a host of area companies. The firm offers snow removal, building maintenance and cleaning, and landscape maintenance services, and according to Bill the company is on a continuing growth curve.

We were grateful to Bill for his own efforts at plowing snow at the museum this past winter. Given the museum’s structures and land area, we’re sure Bill’s expertise will be a valuable resource for us. We welcome Bill for that, as well as the time he plans to devote to the model railroad operation. And, of course, one more voice and a new perspective will be valuable additions to the Board of Trustees as we continue to serve the public with our unique offering of trolley rides and museum exhibits. Welcome aboard Bill!


When a family background in area railroading combines with an interest in local history, the result is another dedicated volunteer at the museum. Let’s introduce you all to Nancy Uffindell.

Nancy’s a born-and-bred Brighton lady who made the scene there in 1950, and she still makes her home there, within earshot of the CSX mainline. She worked in a variety of local companies in the field of production control, putting herself through night school courses at Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology. The MCC studies were in marketing, and at RIT the focus was on both business administration and production management. She liked the PM work, and says, “We even designed a pizza factory”.

One of those production control jobs got Nancy involved in a little “women’s lib” situation. At Monroe Forgings, the position of shop expeditor became available, and although the president of the company urged her to take it, others in the management chain resisted. The all-male shop—including some men on work release from jail—was hot, dirty and dangerous, but Nancy took the job and became the first woman allowed out in the shop.

Nancy also has this to say about another of her encounters with discrimination: “Dad was a Shriner, and for over 20 years I sold souvenirs with him at the Shrine Circus.  At the time, women were not really involved – usually in the background, getting toys ready to be sold, installing batteries, etc, in the back room.  One year, they decided that women were not going to be allowed, but quickly changed their mind when Dad told them that if I couldn’t work the stand, he would not either!  The last time I went to the circus (a couple of years ago), there were many women helping out in many ways.”

After her studies at RIT, Nancy joined Delco Products with responsibilities in inventory control, scheduling, and materials management. Over her 23 years at Delco, ownership went from General Motors to ITT and on to Valeo. The latter firm closed the operation in 2008 and moved it overseas, so Nancy took the opportunity to retire then.

But as most of us know, retirement doesn’t always mean “sitting around” and Nancy’s interests and energy have kept her involved in many things. She’s always been interested in learning more about her family background, and although she and her sister haven’t been able to find much information, she can offer up some interesting things about her father’s life on the rails.

Nancy’s dad, Leland Uffindell, went to work on the New York Central firing steam as a young man prior to World War II. After service in the Bougainville campaign in the important march up the Solomon Islands chain in that war, he returned to engine duty. Aspiring to be an engineer, he took correspondence school courses and eventually received his promotion. Mr. Uffindell wanted to stay close to home and his young family, so he remained in freight service in District 18, the Rochester area. This work took him as far west as Suspension Bridge on the Falls Road and east to Geneva, New York, and assured him that he wouldn’t be gone for more than one day at a time. In bad weather, Nancy tells us her dad was always the one called for the Suspension Bridge run, as the other qualified engineers didn’t like it.

Other family members involved in railroading include Nancy’s great uncle, who was killed in an on-the-job accident in the Nickel Plate’s Lackawanna yard during his career as a railroad detective for the road. Nancy’s grandfather was an engineer on the Lehigh Valley, and the story goes that when her dad was a hard-to-control teenager, Grandpa took him to Rochester Junction and had him sell tickets at the station.

Nancy’s Grandpa Uffindell poses in the cab of his Lehigh Valley ten-wheeler.

Besides Nancy’s interest in family history, she also has a growing fascination with the history of the Rochester area. It all started 17 years ago, she says, when she took a guided tour of the city’s venerable Mt. Hope Cemetery. The group passed by the grave stone of a man with a significant local story, but the guide wasn’t aware of it. So, Nancy jumped in and explained the man’s accomplishments…and the hooks were in. She was then trained as a guide at Mt. Hope and continues in that service to this day, along the way joining the board of trustees there and serving as secretary for 11 years.

After enjoying a talk by museum member Donovan Shilling about Rochester’s lakeside resorts, Nancy bought his books and joined the Irondequoit Historical Society. We know how the story goes from there: first she became program chair, then vice president, and she is now president, while also carrying responsibility for public relations.

As if that isn’t enough, attending a program by Historic Brighton concerning an old town cemetery convinced Nancy to join that group where her interests led her to public relations, website management, a seat on the board, and writing the newsletter.

When all that isn’t taking up Nancy’s time, she’s a docent in the Landmark Society’s annual house tours. She was the Secretary for the planning committee for the 2010 World Canals Conference that was held in Rochester (the only city to host that conference more than once!) and she continues to work in that capacity with the group that would like to bring the World Canals Conference back a third time.  Nancy’s a member of the Canal Society of New York State and of Corn Hill Navigation, and she enjoys cruises and kayaking on the Erie Canal. She’s also cruised her way from Kingston, Ontario to Quebec City, Quebec, aboard the Canadian Empress. “And of course I enjoy train rides”, she adds, having traveled throughout New York State, Pennsylvania and as far away as Colorado.

And—most importantly for us—she willingly serves in the NYMT gift shop, capably handling duties in the shop and at the ticket desk. We suspect with a little urging, she’d like to help Doug Anderson with some of the chores of gift shop management, too.

So, the happy colliding of interest in history and railroading in the blood has brought Nancy Uffindell to our midst. We’re sure grateful. Glad to have you with us, Nancy!

A Runaway Train

Trains running off on their own have spiced up the plot for several movies, most recently the Denzel Washington thriller, “Unstoppable”. But these things really do happen, and Leland Uffindell played a part in one right here in our area.

On October 26, 1962, it was past midnight as a sheet-metal worker on the New York Central went about his duties at the diesel fueling station at DeWitt yard. His task was to check the sand boxes and piping on diesels being readied to take hotshot NC-1 west, to be sure sand could freely flow to the rails if extra traction was needed. The Two GP-20s and two GP-30s idled softly as the young man went about his duties in the second unit.

When the locomotive started to move forward, he at first thought this was just part of the routine. But then, he and the ground crew were astounded to see the hostler who had been running the diesels lying on the ground in a daze as the engines passed by him. The engines were at full throttle, heading west toward Rochester, with no one aboard except the sheet-metal man!

Quick communication to the Rochester dispatcher cleared the mainline as the runaway locomotives gathered speed, 8,500 horsepower easily overcoming the drag from the brake shoes that had been in applied position back at the fueling terminal. At first panicked over the situation, the unintended passenger on this wild ride eventually started pushing buttons and moving handles in the darkened cab of the second unit, desperately trying to bring things to a stop. Nothing seemed to work.

Meanwhile, the dispatcher side-tracked westbound freight BF-3 and called for that train’s engines to be uncoupled and try to chase down the runaway, couple on to it, and bring it to a stop. But the errant diesels flew past in an 85-mph blur, and the rescue units couldn’t catch them.

Leland Uffindell was in command of a yard switcher at Wayneport, about 14 miles east of Rochester, and he was told to prepare for a similar task…couple on, get to the cab of the lead unit and shut it down. Fortunately Uffindell never got the chance to risk his life on this dangerous maneuver, as the sheet-metal man eventually started to find success in his attempt to control the runaway diesels. He found a switch labeled “ENG RUN”, and flipping it shut down the diesel prime mover in the unit he was riding.

But the other units were still roaring west toward certain disaster at the 40-mph curve over Allen Street in Rochester. So he climbed out on the end platform of the diesel, crossed to the number 3 unit and shut it down. Then he repeated the act on unit number 4. The lead unit was still pulling hard, though, so he groped his way forward and shut it down too. With brake shoes almost gone, the locomotives slowly coasted to a stop just three and a half miles outside of Rochester.

Uffindell and his yard switcher pulled up to the dead diesel units, coupled on, and took them to the Rochester yard. The exhausted and shaking hero of the night was James Gerace. He rode back to the yard with them, but in Uffindell’s diesel. He’d had enough of those mainline units.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Track: Several long jumpers and cross bonds at the Loop Switch, and another cross bond nearby just to the south, were damaged over the winter. Track inspection also revealed two rail end Cadweld bonds which were cracked or tearing away at their attachments, greatly reducing their conductivity. Dick Holbert and Jim Johnson have been leading the way in repairing these problems. In late March and early April, new cables were fabricated with the assistance of Alstom employee John Sakala who had worked on building the test track apparatus several years ago. Dick and Jim fabricated and installed two temporary jumpers at the partially broken bonds. With help from Tony Mittiga, Vin Steinman, Jack Tripp, Rich Fischpera, Rick Holahan and Charlie Lowe, the remaining replacement bonds were installed and buried for security. All this work was completed as of April 13, allowing resumption of electric car operation.

Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: Bob Achilles led a successful project replacing bulkhead and end windows on car 161. Exterior end windows and bulkhead windows were replaced as needed on account of cracked or fogged panes. Dave Coon continues making repairs to the bus door and is obtaining new rubber seals. In early April, Bob Miner, Steve Huse, Tony Mittiga, and Rick Holahan spent several hours on various days oiling the motor bearings and journal boxes on 161 and 168 so they would be ready to go for training runs.

Roadway: A large work crew descended on the section of track along the north property line. This area had become badly overgrown late last year, with several small branches brushing the side of the cars on every trip. Jay and Todd Consadine, Dave and Kevin Coon, Tony Mittiga and several others made short work of the tree branches and bushes here, trimming everything back to the face of the trolley poles. Dave Coon maintained a lock-out of the substation for this work detail.


…and a lot goes on at the museum “behind the scenes”…

Jim Johnson and Dick Holbert have completed the wiring of our new display cabinets in the auto aisle. The lighting brightens that area and really shows off the display items. Come see the current exhibit of model cars and airplanes.

Jay Consadine is always good for a miscellaneous clean-up job, most recently picking up more of the wood from the high-level trolley boarding platform that he and son Todd took down. Jay also took his turn at filling potholes in the driveway and collecting windblown branches from the willow tree.

The Thursday team has secured the loose roof panel at the windward corner of the main barn, and they’ve laid out the details for construction of the Hojack Swing Bridge exhibit.

Clear, low-wattage light bulbs were purchased and installed in the row of light fixtures in the ceiling of Rochester & Eastern 157.

Bob Achilles doesn’t just do windows (see “Shop Reports”). He is also working with his contact, getting our brochures printed, gratis.

Steve Huse keeps us legal and safe, routinely inspecting the many fire extinguishers throughout the museum.

Kevin Griffith, Rob McCulloch, and Laura Evans are the ones to thank for collecting trash and recyclables and cleaning the gift shop, gallery and restrooms.

Roof leaks in the milking parlor are playing havoc with the model railroad room and other places in the building. Until we find an affordable solution, we’re left with placing drip pans and covering delicate model railroad items.

Dave Coon is scheduling mowing; Bob Miner reports the equipment is ready, and we’re getting valuable help from BOCES training classes (until school is out in June).


Your museum is proud of the fact that we are entirely volunteer operated. From the first friendly greeting our visitors get at the ticket desk, through the demonstrations in the model railroad room, to the smooth operation of the trolley and the attentive service in the gift shop, every part of the experience is in the hands of museum volunteers. We’d like you to join us in the fun!

The range of opportunities covers all skill and interest levels, and for any role you’d like to play, there’s a training program and experienced guides to assure that you’ll be able to handle your responsibilities with aplomb.

Isn’t this the year to get involved and discover the great feeling of fulfillment that comes from helping a good cause? You’ll join a great bunch of people who have already discovered that feeling, and you’ll enjoy helping our visitors…families, kids, seniors…all looking for some enlightening entertainment.

Give us a call at (585) 533-1113 or email us at info@nymtmuseum.org and we’ll take it from there.


A number of donations arrived over the winter months, each one sure to make its contribution to the well-being of the museum. We appreciate the thoughtfulness behind each contribution of gifts in kind, as well as the financial donations to keep us solvent. Here’s a brief run-down of recent arrivals:

A decommissioned home model railroad layout led to the donation of several sheets of 3/4-inch plywood and a dozen 2x4’s. Some of these items will be useful in construction of our Hojack Swing Bridge exhibit this summer.

A relatively “antique” tool box with tools for changing automobile tires was donated. There’s at least a whole new generation of motorists, perhaps two, for whom “changing automobile tires” probably sounds as strange as “soaping leather harnesses”. Today’s tires are so less likely to suffer blowouts and flats that a lot of us may never have had to change a tire (more correctly, change a wheel rim and tire). These tools may find utility at NYMT, but they’ll at least join our other auto artifacts, such as oil cans and tire chains.

There’s a couple in our area that have a routine that works for them and for us. She likes doing train-theme picture puzzles and he likes giving them to her. Also, she doesn’t like to do a puzzle twice, so periodically the couple show up at our gift shop and donate all the puzzles that have accumulated at home since their last visit. Their most recent appearance was accompanied by 23 next-to-new puzzles, ready for resale.

Books and magazines find a home either in our rapidly growing library, or in the gift shop stock for sale. Railroad books abound in the shop, so if you’re on the lookout for a tome on the subject, stop by and browse. Prices are generally in the $10 range, although some rarer items are priced higher. There’s something for all ages and interests.

Thanks to Mary Lu Cassin for dropping off a carton of her late husband Mike’s fire truck muster awards. Mike donated our Brighton “quad” fire engine, and these items of recognition garnered by Mike during his stewardship of the truck help complete the vehicle’s history.

We can’t resist one more of Gary Morse’s shots from his dad’s gas station. Looks like one of “Rochester’s finest” has stopped by to impress the locals with his motorcycle.


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, © 2013. 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