Headend in PDF


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation

Winter 2013


In today’s world, mentioning “commuters” and “internal combustion” in the same breath evokes images of rush hour expressways jammed with automobiles. But commuting isn’t just a modern creation, and the internal combustion engine has been a part of the weekday ritual for a long time, and in interesting circumstances.

The Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway was one of several railroads serving Rochester a century ago, and while its freight business was profitable and its mainline passenger trains were classy operations, local-service trains tended to be a drag on the bottom line. The line ran several locals daily to serve outlying towns like Scottsville and LeRoy and, by way of Silver Lake Junction, Perry.

The BR&P connected Pittsburgh and the coal fields of Pennsylvania with ports in Buffalo and Rochester.

These trains carried relatively few passengers but required the same crew complement as the mainline trains, as well as the same labor intensive maintenance typically needed for steam locomotives. Despite the fact that coal traffic was the life blood of the railroad, the decision was made to explore cost saving alternatives.

If we think back to a hundred years ago, we recall two growing factors in transportation. One was the automobile, and the other was the interurban trolley. The former, for the most part, was powered by gasoline engines of various designs, with mechanical means to direct that power to the wheels. No boiler to stoke, no lineside coal and water facilities to maintain, and only one person to run the thing.

Meanwhile, the electric interurban trolley car was revolutionizing local and medium-distance travel, providing high speed, frequent service, utilizing clean electric power. Again, fueling and maintenance were minimal, and the car required only one operator.

It wasn’t long before creative thinking put the two concepts together to create internal combustion powered rail passenger cars, similar to interurban trolleys but ready to run on non-electrified railroads. For the BR&P, the provider of choice was the McKeen Motor Car Company, an off-shoot of the Union Pacific Railroad that had originally inspired the concept in its search for cost reductions on branch line trains.

BR&P 1001, nicknamed the “Comet”, poses for its portrait after arrival from McKeen Motor Car Company in 1910.

Number 1001 was ordered in May, 1910. The pointed front end of the carbody was designed to cut down wind resistance and enhance speed, and the round windows lent a modern flair. The interior was wood paneled, and there was even an observation area in the rounded rear end. The body of the car was painted red. Although the semi-official name was the “Comet”, to denote speed and modernity, number 1001 eventually became more popularly known as a “Hoodlebug” when its true character revealed itself.

The power plant for McKeen cars was simple enough. A six-cylinder gasoline engine that had found common usage in marine applications was mounted transversely on the front truck of the car. The motor pivoted with the truck, and power passed through a clutch to the front axle (only) via a chain and sprocket drive. There was no reverse gear, so backing up required stopping the engine and making an adjustment to the camshaft.

Operation of the McKeen cars might have been more satisfactory on the UP’s Midwest plains, but the hills on the BR&P made things more difficult. Especially with only one axle powered, 1001 had trouble keeping to the timetable, and was noted to have particular trouble with the Warsaw Hill grade in winter. A letter from Joe Brewer in the museum’s William Aeberli Collection tells of the road’s train number 6, the first-class day train from Pittsburgh to Rochester, being delayed 20 minutes at a meet with the 1001 as it struggled to make ten miles an hour on its evening commuter run. Needless to say, there was hell to pay.

Brewer was a dispatcher on the BR&P, and in his letter he recalls riding from Rochester to LeRoy with motorman Tom Donaldson. “Donaldson tried to tell me how she worked, but the DAM [sic] thing made so much noise I didn’t hear a word he said”.

In 1911, General Electric was given a chance when the BR&P ordered a second bug, number 1002, dubbed the “Meteor”. The GE design also included a marine engine, but a generator developed electric power for traction motors instead of the mechanical drive on 1001. But, the lack of sufficient traction and power, plus what turned out to be more maintenance than anticipated were a disappointment. Brewer allows as how the bugs “made a lot of work for us and cost the BR&P a lot of money in wages and delays to the freight trains”.

The curtain came down in 1917 when 1001 was sold to the Deer River Railroad and 1002 went to the San Diego & Southeastern. In fact, for a while as suburban development grew outside of Rochester, steam trains were needed for commuter service anyway. But throughout the system, including after the BR&P became part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the need for cost-effective service on branch lines continued and deepened. In 1950, a B&O gas-engined motor car, number 6039, was sent to Rochester to take charge of the commuter run to Perry. The 6039 experienced mechanical difficulties and was replaced that same year by diesel-powered 6040.

Number 6040 held down the evening commute to Perry for a few more months, and on August 4, 1951 made the last run of that train. Other railroads—including some in Rochester—and other manufacturers played the gas- and diesel-powered motor car game, and passengers and crew probably had lots of names for them too. But on the BR&P, they were “Hoodlebugs”.

The Strang Gas-Electric car

Although museum president Ted Strang denies any family connection, there’s a Strang footnote worthy of mention here. It seems that McKeen wasn’t the only company to develop gas powered rail cars, as William B. Strang, Jr. created the Strang Gas-Electric Car Company in a 1906 effort to harness gas power for railroad use.

Strang created the Missouri & Kansas Interurban Railway in 1904, a short line from Kansas City, Missouri, to Olathe, Kansas. This was at a time when electric trolley technology was developing rapidly, leading to large, fast, soot-free cars that could travel cross-country. However, to avoid the front-end cost of electrifying his line, Strang opted to create a car powered by a gas engine, and formed a separate company for the work.

The body of his first car, “Ogerita”, bore a strong resemblance to other interurban cars, with wood construction, stained glass upper windows, and high-end furnishings inside. And, in fact, the running gear also would be familiar to any interurban trolley fan, with two 50 h.p. truck-mounted DC traction motors. Unlike McKeen, with mechanical power transmission, Strang had his V-6 gas engine tied to a DC generator that supplied the power to the traction motors, in a system that presaged modern-day diesel-electric locomotives.

Further, he employed a large storage battery in the system, one advantage of which was using the generator as a starter motor to start the gas engine. With the gas engine running at a constant speed, the battery also worked as a kind of ballast, offering up extra power when needed, and storing power from the generator when lower demand was encountered.

Strang added three more such cars to his roster, each one more luxurious and technically sophisticated than the last, but eventually they proved inadequate to handle the rolling Kansas terrain. The decision was made to electrify the line, and by 1909, Strang had his cars running on overhead electric power. The grand experiment with a Strang version of a “Hoodlebug” drew to a close.


Rochester area residents no doubt learned over the past few years that (a) the swing bridge that carried the New York Central’s “Hojack” line over the Genesee River was designated a navigation hazard and had to be taken down, and (b) the aforesaid situation got a lot of people upset over losing yet another area landmark. The line over the bridge had not been used for years, and the Coast Guard instructed CSX to remove it, but a number of local individuals and groups raised their voices against the action.

Many ideas were floated for adaptive re-use of the bridge, although they didn’t address the fundamental claim that it was a dangerous obstruction to shipping. An estimate of $11 million to take the bridge down and re-erect it on land as an attraction effectively stopped any thinking in that direction, too. CSX, taking note of the significant but ultimately ineffective objections, made an effort to smooth things over by offering to salvage and donate several items from the control cabin of the bridge. The bridge itself would be lost to history, but at least part of the “heart” of the thing could live on, hopefully in an exhibit somewhere.

Our museum decided to put a request in for the items being offered: (1) The steam engine that originally powered the rotation of the bridge, noted on a layout of the control cabin as a 50HP double cylinder reversible link motion engine, built by the Lidgerwood Mfg Co.; (2) the control lever assembly; (3) the cast iron mount for the rotational dial indicator (dial missing); and (4) the original cast iron builder plates, one whole and the other broken long ago by a vandal. Later additions were the wedge indicator and a small overhead light.

Sixteen organizations and individuals were invited to the party, and although we don’t know how many submitted requests, our museum was selected to receive the items.

On December 26, just minutes ahead of a large snowstorm, the crew from BIDCO Marine Group (contractor on the bridge dismantling job) delivered the items to NYMT. With great help from Ted Strang and Rick Holahan, the 1-ton engine was convinced to enter the building, and everything was secured for the winter season.

BIDCO Marine Group brought a small excavator which did a good job of urging the steam engine into the building.

As part of the arrangement from CSX, a grant was offered to pay for exhibition of the artifacts. Jim Dierks created a design for the exhibit and submitted it with a bill of materials and other information required for the grant application, and on January 25 we received word that the request was approved. Work on the exhibit will begin in the spring.

We’ll have more to say on the bridge and its history, but for now be assured that any future history for the Hojack swing bridge will be written at the New York Museum of Transportation.

SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe

Track:The RGV track crew, led by Mike Dow and including Dave Scheiderich and Chad Timothy, removed the 3-inch lateral offset in the track at Reid’s Crossing. A backhoe was used to lightly tap on the rail at many spots, eventually moving the entire track structure to the east to achieve straight alignment. Dips here of as much as 2 inches in the west rail, probably caused by differential settlement, were also removed. Additional ballast was added, especially to the west rail, and the entire area was tamped using the RGV tamper. The work for this project was largely finished on November 12, 2012.

This work concluded the 2012 track work season. In November 2011, an historic track work agreement was reached between NYMT and RGV, a first. Several items of work were selected for both museums to accomplish. The ledger of work accomplished by both museums during 2012 has been:

Remelts-Giles Curve rebuilt under contract by NYMT (including 30 new ties)

Reid’s Crossing area re-aligned in-house by RGV (about 15 new ties)

Safety ties installed on east leg of loop track in-house by NYMT (26 new ties)

Safety ties installed under contract by NYMT between the R&E shelter and the NYMT loading area (28 new ties)

Additional ties installed in-house by NYMT on mainline (3 new ties)

Culvert replacement just north of switch 6 in-house by RGV (4 new ties)

Several (about 10) safety ties installed south of Reid’s Crossing in-house by RGV

Two headblocks at NYMT switch 1 installed in-house by RGV

This is a grand total of about 116 ties installed in the Museum Railroad during 2012, representing an incredible amount of work. All items of the agreed-upon work list were completed, and track work for the two museums was therefore equally shared during 2012.

In mid-November, a rail bond was found to have broken near Reid’s Crossing. This was probably caused by a widened rail gap at the joint. Dick Holbert and Jim Johnson devised and installed a temporary rail bond for use at this location. A permanent rail bond will have to be installed when warm weather returns in 2013.

New track bolts for the 80-pound Dudley-style ex-New York Central rail at the south end of the Museum Railroad have been ordered from Master Bolt of Elyria, Ohio. This company, a custom bolt manufacturing firm, started as a railroad track bolt company. A total of 300 bolts, lock washers and nuts, enough to replace all bolts on the NYMT section of Dudley 80-pound rail, have been ordered. A detail drawing of the bolt was made from bolts in hand at NYMT; Dudley bolts have not been manufactured for decades. Modern track bolts have an oval-shaped shoulder under the head which mates with an oval-shaped punched hole in the joint bars.

On Dudley rail, the hole shape in the bar is square, and the Dudley bolt has a matching square shoulder under the head, similar to a carriage bolt. When this section of track was constructed in the 1990s, undersized oval-section bolts were used with undersized lock washers. Now, under constant loadings from the trolley, these lock washers are breaking, leaving the joint bars loose. The new bolts will be used to replace all the undersized bolts and lock washers north of Midway.

Philadelphia and Western 161: Bob Achilles has taken a lead role in replacing bulkhead and end windows. Some of these were plastic replacements made late in the car’s SEPTA era and have fogged over badly. By mid-January, Bob had one bulkhead window replaced and several others out of the car. A glass company will install new end windows. The interior bulkhead windows will be tempered glass while exterior end windows will be safety glass. Once this work is done, the “railfan seat” on 161 will certainly be the place to ride.

Dave Coon has undertaken the project of making repairs to the bus door. With Ted Strang’s assistance, a replacement operating rod was fabricated and installed. The original rod had been brazed at its mid-length, at which point it had cracked. Dave is also working to obtain and install new rubber seals for this door.

New York State Railways, Rochester Lines 437: Work continued on reinstalling the route sign box at the rear door. One upper window frame here was re-glazed, the wood frame having previously been repaired with epoxy. The upper windows are particularly difficult to re-glaze as the upper edge is curved.

TC-1 and Trailer, and work car 01: These three hard-working pieces of equipment were brought inside for the winter on a balmy January 13, 2013. In addition, tower car 021 was placed in front of 161 inside the trolley barn so it could be used with TC-1 in the spring for overhead inspection and maintenance.

Hojack Swing Bridge Steam Engine and Artifacts: As reported elsewhere in this issue, NYMT took delivery of these items on December 26, 2012. On January 17 and 18, a combined RGV-NYMT team cleared out all materials in the space along the milking parlor main aisle where the display will be located. Jay Consadine, Todd Consadine, Rick Holahan, Charlie Lowe, Tony Mittiga, Joe Nugent, Otto Vondrak and Robert Platt all assisted with the work. Jim Johnson and Dick Holbert now are able to continue their work of wiring for adequate display lighting in this now-uncluttered area.


Those beautiful display cases we reported on in the fall issue of HEADEND are now showing off some nice model autos, trucks and airplanes. Most are on loan from Don Quant, but there are several from a recent donation of 240 Solido brand 1:43 scale model automobiles. We appreciate receiving these model cars, from one of our founding trustees, and we have his permission to archive what we care to, and put the rest on sale in the gift shop. If you’re a collector of small die cast vehicles, stay tuned.

Five scrap books arrived, filled with clippings collected by a New York City resident and covering the Hudson River Day Line operations, as well as harbor tug boats, ocean liner calamities, and related news. Although scrapbooks usually do not contain original-source material, what they do provide is the ability to view the material all in one place, usually in chronological order. Groping around on the internet or in a library’s microfilm reels would take time and energy, but these scrapbooks lay it all out for easy research.

Some brief 16mm footage arrived, showing some street scenes in Rochester around 1940-41. Included are shots of streetcars on East Main Street negotiating the viaduct over the New York Central tracks. These are followed by a couple of views of that same part of East Main as the trolley tracks are being torn up and new concrete pavement is poured.

Sometimes the smallest, seemingly unimportant items can offer an unexpected look at history. A recent donation is a pair of fleece mittens worn by New York Central section man Ernest Pimm. Imagine Mr. Pimm cleaning out snow-clogged switch points or re-spiking a section of rail in a blizzard. These mittens surely kept his hands warm during the work, and they remind us of the hand labor that was, and to some extent still is, a hallmark of railroading.

Ernest Pimm’s mittens add another piece of information to our track work exhibit.

Our gallery presents a continuous showing of “The Steel Wheel”, a 12-minute color film showing the Rochester Subway in its last days. The picture is bigger now, thanks to the donation of a large projection TV set. In traditional hand-me-down fashion, this set was displaced by a wide-screen HDTV at the donor’s home, and we kept the tradition alive by sending the former gallery TV to the model railroad room, for a bigger picture there. Visitors enjoy the live images taken from the front of one of the trains as it traverses the layout, and we bet they like the bigger, brighter image in the gallery too.

Almost like being there…the Rochester Subway is long gone, but visitors can still take a virtual ride in the museum gallery.

Along with the usual donations of books and VHS tapes, all destined for discount sale in the gift shop, we received a bicycle seat for our bicycle-built-for-two that fits the era of the bike; three cap badges from British rail lines; a professional title for the gallery show of William Aeberli’s steam locomotive paintings; and artifacts from the Hojack swing bridge, covered in a separate article.

ROCHESTER STREETCARS......................... No. 65 in a series

Rochester City and Brighton Railroad Company
Photographer unknown

by Charles R. Lowe

Rochester’s first streetcar line opened on July 22, 1863, 150 years ago this summer. To celebrate this milestone, ROCHESTER STREETCARS presents this early-day view of horse car 39. Lettered “STATE ST. & LAKE AV.” and signed “FAIRGROUNDS”, car 39’s horse is just out of view at right. In the background is the Powers Building, and car 39, waiting for riders, is about to begin a run north on State Street and Lake Avenue to the end of the line at Driving Park Avenue. Located at the northwest corner of Driving Park and Dewey Avenues, but only a short walk from the end of the horse car line, the Driving Park fairgrounds contained a horse-racing track and a baseball field.

Car 39 was not one of Rochester City and Brighton Railroad’s original cars. Those cars were large and heavy double-end, two-horse, two-man cars, and their high costs helped force RC&B into a re-organization in 1868. A new company with the same name but a mandate to economize emerged out of this chaos.

New single-end, one-horse, one-man horse cars were soon added to the roster and provided the economies needed to make RC&B solvent. The new cars were nick-named “Bobtail” cars. While the front end of the car had a platform for the driver, only a small step for passengers was at the rear, giving the car a cut-off or “bobbed” appearance. Turning Bobtail cars was accomplished by installing diminutive turntables in the street. The car would be moved onto the turntable, and the horse would be used to turn the car 180 degrees, readying it for the return trip.

To forestall others from building its Bobtail cars, the John Stephenson Company, of New York City, was granted a patent in 1874. Based on its distinctive truck as well as its bobtail construction, car 39 surely was built by Stephenson. RC&B operated 18 to 20 double-end cars between 1863 and 1868. Beginning in 1869, the total number of cars slowly increased and reached a total of 40 cars in 1874. Some of the older double-end cars may have been scrapped in these years so more than 20 cars may well have been purchased. By 1878, perhaps about when our photo was made, RC&B had 58 cars, probably all Bobtail cars, and 178 horses.

Stephenson’s use of a plain deck roof on car 39 seems to have pre-dated the company’s adoption in the mid-1870s of what it called a “Bombay” roof. Stephenson, which first used the Bombay roof on an order of cars for that city in India, soon made it the standard roof provided for cars purchased in the early 1870s, perhaps as early as about 1872—1874. Our view of car 39, therefore, is one of the earliest known photographs of a Rochester horse car, made at the very dawn of the streetcar era. Its presentation now is a fitting way to pay tribute to 150 years of transit in Rochester.


Despite the heavy weighting at NYMT on electric trolley transportation, many area residents—even many museum members and volunteers—can’t claim a familiarity with this form of travel, given that the Rochester Subway has been gone for 57 years. But our spotlight this time is on Mike Rizzella, and he can tell you how life depended on the rapid transit lines he grew up with in New York City.

Mike was born in Brooklyn in 1941 and he lived there in the Dyker Heights neighborhood (Motto: “The Handsomest Suburb in Greater New York”) until graduating from college. His dad was a doctor, and although he wasn’t really a train fan, there was always time to take young Mike for a ride on the area transit system for trips into Manhattan.

Just a couple of miles from home, they’d board the BMT (Brooklyn—Manhattan Transit) at 86th Street and 4th Avenue and ride to DeKalb Avenue, then transfer to a South Beach express coming from Coney Island to cross the Manhattan Bridge over the East River into the city.

Mike says those trips were for shopping at the large stores in town as well as to see stage shows and other entertainment. But the most memorable destination was the Lionel store at Christmas time. Many New York City area residents and visitors can recall the wondrous sight of all those shiny, new electric trains traveling around the store, activating every one of the company’s accessories, whistles blowing, smoke chuffing out of the miniature smokestacks.

The enchantment was indelible, and soon little Mike started amassing his own rail empire. His sister just wasn’t interested, which probably suited Mike just fine, and he had the whole thing to himself—Santa Fe and Union Pacific diesels, steam engines, trains of both passenger and freight cars, and lots of accessories to add to the realism. Every Christmas, the tracks were set up around the tree, and each year the collection grew bigger and more elaborate.

While Mike’s immediate family didn’t have any career involvement with railroading, and vacation trips were always by car, there were many on the farther limbs of the family tree who made their livings on the rails. His uncle lived near Mike’s home and was a conductor on the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit). The man preferred the night shift, according to what he told Mike, as there were fewer people to deal with. In several generations on both sides of his mother’s family, there were Long Island Railroad employees.

Mike recalls a great-great uncle who was a conductor operating from Jamaica (a major junction on the Long Island Railroad in Queens) to Greenport at the eastern end of Long Island. This was an interesting run for a commuter railroad as it was almost a 100-mile trip from New York’s Pennsylvania Station. With no return run available, the train crew had to spend the night in Greenport.

Mike has service pins from the family members who worked on the Long Island, and someday they’ll be handed down to his grandson. Young Mike is 5 years old, and already is in love with trains. Of course, he has possession of Mike’s collection of Lionel trains, so another generation is on its way.

Mike attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and returned to Long Island where he met and married Mary Jane. At a school in Commack, near Huntington, Long Island, he taught chemistry, eventually working with students in grades 7 – 12. He was Chairman of the Science Department for a while too. Mike reports that his students were all well-behaved, from a generally upscale community, and as much as he enjoyed teaching, in 1997 the opportunity to retire came along and he took it.

Travel has been a big part of retirement life for Mike, with Mary Jane, and on his own after she passed away in 2009. Cruises to Bermuda and throughout the Caribbean were fun, but Mike enjoys describing his train trips too. He’s taken several—across Canada, via Amtrak to Seattle and Portland, down the west coast and from L.A. to Chicago, and he always travels in a bedroom. He says the Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada “go on forever”, and the Rocky Mountains are “outrageous”. Entering Denver westbound, as some of us rail riders know, the Rockies rise up seemingly out of nowhere, and after departure from Denver, the tortuous climb and passage through Moffat Tunnel are spectacular. In 2010, Mike experienced the train service in England, riding on a rail pass. He admired the clean, fast trains, with better, more frequent service than we’re used to here in the U.S.

Mike moved to our area to be closer to his daughter, Michelle, who lives in Honeoye Falls (his other daughter, Janie, is in New Hampshire). His interest in trains led to a visit at the museum and we’re glad to say he signed up as a member and volunteer after his first visit with us. At the museum, Mike has recently been part of the track crew that has been installing new ties on the line, and he can be seen riding the John Deere tractor on mowing duty as well. We’re happy to report that Mike’s currently in a “serious relationship” with a lady in Greece. We wish him well, and we’re sure that this new chapter in his life won’t diminish his love of trains or his dedicated volunteering at the museum.


While we’re busy enlightening our visitors about transportation history, we try to keep our receptors tuned in for the history that some of our visitors can provide. Case in point, one Thelma Johnson of Caledonia who stopped in the gift shop to tell us about the excitement surrounding her very first train ride.

Thelma Johnson had a story to tell when she came to the museum recently, and we were all ears.

In early March, 1932, Mrs. Ruth Miller was closing in on a date with the maternity ward at Strong Memorial Hospital. But a late winter storm had left snow piled up around her South Lima home, and she was getting worried: The Erie Railroad line through town, on which she planned to travel to Rochester, had been blocked by what the local papers referred to as a “towering drift at Fenners” (near Henrietta on the Erie line). In fact, according to a report in the Rochester Times newspaper, “nearly 100 passengers were marooned all night Monday” there. On Wednesday, March 9, with all signs starting to point to an urgent trip to Strong, the word suddenly came through that section crews had made a cut through the drift and re-opened the line.

The first train to make it to Rochester was to be number 467, scheduled for a morning trip from Corning to Rochester. Ruth and a friend, Winnie Reed, trundled down to the South Lima station after alerting the hospital by phone that they were “due” to arrive soon. With all the snow on the line, judging by a 1928 timetable, we suspect 467 was having trouble keeping time, as the two ladies are reported to have boarded the train a little past noon, which would have been over two hours late. Once on board, and with Engineer William White alerted to the urgency, the train set a record, shaving 15 minutes off the scheduled time on its fast trip north.

This timetable from the October 1928 “Official Guide of the Railways” covers the Erie’s Rochester-Corning service.

But not fast enough. Somewhere between Industry and West Henrietta, 7-pound Thelma took her first breath in the baggage car of the speeding train. Engineer White brought his train to a screeching halt at the Erie’s Court Street station, and Conductor J. R. Austin, of Rochester, assisted in the transfer of mother and daughter to an ambulance that had been dispatched there. All of them (presumably including the conductor) ended up just fine.

Thelma tells us when she was a young child, whenever her mother took her along on train trips to Avon and Livonia, the conductor always asked, “Is this the Erie Baby?”

She also says she’s not sure of the number on the baggage car…either 436 or 346…and we’ll leave it to Erie historians to set us all straight on that. We’re sure Thelma would like to know. After all, what is she supposed to tell the border police when they ask the traditional question, “Where were you born?”!


We often point out that the museum’s trolley ride is the only such operation in New York State, but recently we were surprised to discover other “traction action” in our area.

Credit Don Quant for this shot of a 5000-series car, one of over 700 such cars being built in Plattsburg, NY by Bombardier for the Chicago Transit Authority. The car is riding on one of Silk Road Transport’s special extended trailers equipped with “rails” to accommodate the standard gauge of railroad and transit cars. Museum members may remember that shipment of our two operating trolleys, Philadelphia & Western 161 and 168, came to us in 1996 from their home in Keokuk, Iowa aboard Silk Road trailers. The company operates from their home base in Arkport, NY, a short distance south of Rochester. Their large fleet of trucks and trailers are set up for this service, hauling new transit cars as well as ones on their way to places like Hornell, NY for rebuilding.

A new transit car destined for Chicago’s “L” is seen on Rt. 104.

Why was the truck on NYS route 104 instead of the Thruway? Our understanding is that the Thruway, constructed before the Interstate highway system was begun, doesn’t meet current Interstate standards for clearance under some bridges and overpasses. We learned about this when our trolleys were delivered. The driver reached us via the Southern Tier Expressway (I-86) and north on I-390, and told us the bridge clearances would have been a problem had he used the Thruway.

Now, if we could manage to get just one of these cars to stop at NYMT. Over 700 cars…would CTA ever really miss it?


Making up for last winter’s warm, clear conditions, we got our first big snowfall on the day after Christmas. A big thanks to museum member Bill Randle, President of facility maintenance company Facilicare, for responding to our plowing S.O.S. so we could be open the following Sunday. Snow plowing must be a job for presidents, as our own, Ted Strang, has also been putting time in driving the museum’s truck and plow.

It’s actually kind of pretty after all the hard work is done.

Thanks to Jim Johnson and Dick Holbert for electrical work so the lights in our new showcases can illuminate the models on display, with further wiring to support the planned swing bridge exhibit.

A crew from our model railroad room, led by Doug Anderson, handled the donation, dismantling and delivery of the G-gauge track and train that had operated over the check-out lanes at a shuttered Tops Family Market in Greece, NY. Al Emens, Vern Squire, Bob Nesbitt, Kevin Griffith, Jerry Doerr, and Roger Harnaart joined Doug in the effort to bring these valuable components to the museum. Doug reports that over 250 feet of track mounted on a heavy-duty overhead structure were accompanied by two diesels, five freight cars and a power supply, making for a very generous and welcome donation from the folks at Tops.

Easy does it as Al and Doug take down another heavy section of track with Vern and Bob supervising. Photo by Roger Harnaart


We pause to remember the epitome of luxury and service offered on the New York Central’s “Water Level Route”, as 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the streamlining of the famous 20th Century Limited.

First inaugurated in 1902, this famous train was always positioned as an expensive-but-worth-it travel proposition between New York City and Chicago. From the start, the train offered special amenities like a barber shop and, as covered extensively in the Winter, Spring and Summer 2011 issues of HEADEND, the services of an on-board secretary.

The train was a favorite of the well-to-do and those who just wanted to taste a little of the good life. Competing with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Broadway Limited”, the train was kept in top condition and offered attention to the wealthy traveler’s every need. The dining car served multi-course meals that rivaled those of the finest restaurants, and the club car was the place to see and be seen. Business deals and entertainment contracts were sealed over drinks in the open-platform observation lounge car or in the comfortable private sleeping compartments.

By the 1930s, however, modernization was informing the designs of automobiles and home appliances as Depression-weary Americans found comfort imagining the wonders that the future might hold. On the rails, several new “streamliners” began operating by 1935, setting records for fast timing and passenger patronage. The Century’s wood-paneled, heavyweight sleeping cars were starting to look dated by contrast.

In response, the New York Central engaged industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss to create a totally new complement of light weight, streamlined cars for their flagship train, and the result was announced to the public and put in service on June 15, 1938. The Art Deco design featured blue and grey colors with dramatic silver stripes down the window line, accentuating the smooth streamlining and heralding a new emphasis on speed.

Along with the new passenger cars, the railroad ordered ten new J3a Hudson steam locomotives from the American Locomotive Company to make good on that promise of fast running. The engines featured Dreyfuss’ stream styling too, with a “bullet” nose and central fin that evoked the hair style of the Mohawk Indians through whose native territory the new train would fly.

Artist Leslie Ragan found favor with Central executives, with good reason. Here, his talents promote the all-new Century.

The train was an instant hit, with its chic design (Dreyfuss carried his theme all the way through to the dinnerware, tickets and paper napkins in the club car) and the elimination of open berths, resulting in the “First All-Room Train in America”. For years to come, the 20th Century Limited reinforced its image and continued to be the way to travel between New York and Chicago, for movie stars, executives, society bon vivants and gangsters alike.

Just ten years later, a whole new set of equipment was delivered, to keep attracting this top shelf clientele, and the train continued to live up to its storied name.

This 1948 postcard in the museum archives bears the message: “Dear Ben, the new Century is a dandy. New & gleaming. Best regards, Walter”. Looks like these ecstatic folks agree.

Sadly, as we all know, times changed, and the advent of superhighways and modern airplanes gradually made luxury overnight train travel obsolete. First, the train was downgraded to include coaches. Then more stops were added. For a while, the Century made money, but it eventually fell victim to management’s legitimate concern over financial losses from the company’s extensive passenger service. Late in 1967, the 20th Century made its last run, and a chapter in the saga of land transportation in America ended.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have the memories, so happy 75th anniversary…and here’s to Henry Dreyfuss, to New York Central’s visionary management, and to the famous 20th Century Limited!

With the passing of his wife, Marie, Bob Miner extends his gratitude to all for their many expressions of sympathy:

I thank everyone for your support in my time of sorrow. I was touched by the number of friends who attended Marie’s wake. I am overwhelmed by the number of contributions to Marie’s memorial fund. Thank you.

Bob Miner


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.


We are sad to mark the recent passing of a friend of the museum, Robert McKnight. Bob was a major benefactor who admired the things we accomplish, especially the planning and organization with which we manage our many projects.

Throughout his life, Bob’s generosity found many outlets, from large donations to universities to the less remarked, yet really remarkable incidental ones. At his memorial service, the story was told of a day when Bob was shopping at Sibley’s department store in Rochester and he encountered a nun with a broken teakettle that the store was refusing to take back. Bob just picked up a similar teakettle, bought it and handed it to the surprised sister, and that was that (and he was an Episcopalian).

Bob will be remembered for his considerable knowledge and expertise in the field of railway signaling. He wrote many technical articles on the subject and during his 40-year working career was editor of two major periodicals in the field and a director in the Association of American Railroads’ Communication and Signal Division. In retirement, Bob amassed a library of materials on railway signaling, and at the time of his death was proof-reading his forth-coming book on highway grade crossings 1830 to 2009.

Beyond his many career and publishing accomplishments, Bob McKnight will also be remembered for his kindness and support, always insisting on anonymity. He will be missed.


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