ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 46 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 2010
Authors collection


by Charles R. Lowe

One of the most fascinating streetcar operations in Rochester was the Dewey Avenue surface-Subway line. The outer end of the Dewey line was a loop on the east side of Dewey Avenue near West Ridge Road. This was near the “back door” to Kodak Park, the Lake line serving as the primary transit line to what was Rochester’s most important manufacturing center. In addition to such benefits as removing interurbans from streets, allowing easy interchange of steam railroad freight cars and providing a local passenger service, the Rochester Subway was intended to serve as a rapid-transit entry to downtown for some surface streetcar lines. While several ramps were built which could have been used for such purposes, only one, near Emerson Street for the Dewey line, was so used.

In the late 1920s, Dewey was still through-routed with the Park line to form the Dewey-Park route. In the early 1930s, Dewey was paired with the Portland and Sea Breeze lines. Before 1936, when the Sea Breeze line was bused, some cars made the long journey south on Dewey with the jog at Driving Park; another jog on Lyell and turning south onto Plymouth Avenue North; east on Main Street; north on North Street and Plymouth Avenue to Ridge Road; east on Ridge Road to a private right-of-way; and north on the private right-of-way to Sea Breeze Park. What a railfan’s delight that trip would have been! After 1936, Portland-Dewey cars turned on the Portland loop at Norton Street.

On March 18, 1929, a new service on the Dewey line was instituted. During rush hours, several Dewey runs were operated on Dewey between Ridge Road and Emerson Street at which point they accessed the Subway via connecting tracks. From here, express runs were made to the downtown stations on the Subway. Cars were turned at the South Avenue loop just south of Court Street. This loop was located on an elevated concrete structure and was reached by a ramp; Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo Railroad interurban cars also used this loop. In the days of the Dewey surface-Subway operation, a five-and-a-half-day work week was the norm. To accommodate this, the Dewey surface-Subway line was run mornings and afternoons, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday morning. Regular 2000-series cars were used in this service; this remained the case after the arrival of the 46-series subway cars in 1938.

The 2000s were former Utica Lines cars built in 1902 and rebuilt as center-entrance cars. In 1927, ten such cars were transferred to Rochester for subway use. After some rebuilding at Rochester’s St. Paul St. shop, all then entered service in early 1928. Electric railways in Rochester, Syracuse and Utica comprised New York State Railways from 1909 to 1938, so shifting equipment between divisions was commonplace.

In our present view, we see car 2010 signed COURT STA. and making its way south at an unknown location on Dewey Avenue. Based on the car’s paint scheme, this photo seems to date from about 1940. The barren trees give the photo a late winter setting, a fitting background, as the line was soon to be abandoned. While the Dewey surface-Subway line was at first intended to be retained after the end of all other surface streetcar lines in 1941, the attractive image of being America’s largest city with no streetcars may have been tempting to local officials. Thus, when the Portland-Dewey line was abandoned, so too were the Dewey surface-Subway cars. The last Portland-Dewey cars ran in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 11, 1941; the last Dewey surface-Subway cars ran during the evening rush hour on the 10th. Some of the 2000s were scrapped shortly thereafter, having been preceded by a few others in 1938. Car 2010, though, remained in service on the Subway with a few other 2000s, became the last survivor of the series and happily evaded scrapping until 1956.