ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 50 in a series

New Your State Railways, Rochester Lines 437
photo by George Votava

by Charles R. Lowe

For this 50th installment of the Rochester Streetcars column, our photo is one showing a car in NYMT’s collection of historic street railway equipment. As it sits now, car 437 does not attract too much attention in the main car house. It is, however, the Rochester city car in the nearest-to-running condition anywhere, and thereby warrants our attention on this anniversary.

In fact, NYMT's association with car 437 began about the time of the beginning of this column, back in 1997. During the winter of 1996-1997, the late Ben Minnich offered NYMT one of two Rochester city cars he had rights to at lake Lamoka, observing that "a trolley museum in Rochester ought to have a Rochester city car." The only stipulations were that we had to rescue our car first, which was not easy considering the two cars were melded together to form one cabin, and that we had to help Ben when it came time to move the other car to Seashore Trolley Museum. Ben even gave us our choice of cars since they were about equal in condition.

The NYMT Board agreed with Ben and authorized the move of the car to NYMT. Tony Mittiga and your author spent many weekends preparing the car for its journey, having selected 437 since its window posts were all intact. Partner car 394 had a much better roof, but was missing two window posts, a problem we agreed would be tougher for NYMT to repair than the roof on 437. With Silk Road engaged to move the car, the journey to NYMT took place on August 4, 1997. How odd it was to follow behind a 1904 streetcar barreling down I-390 at 50 miles an hour! Within three weeks the car was tarped at its new home.

About this time I approached our HEAD" editor, committing myself to a quarterly regimen of writing "Rochester Streetcars” as my effort to make sure at least one story about Rochester’s electric railway history made it into each issue. Author, readers and 437 have traveled a long way since 1997. We have been able to sample from the great railfan photographers’ efforts and learned about a variety of Rochester’s cars, from the earliest horsecars to the single-truckers of the 1890s, to the double-truckers such as 437, and finally to the Peter Witts and Rochester Subway cars of 1916. Likewise, car 437 has journeyed as well. In 2003, it was placed on what are arguably the best pair of trucks with motors in the museum’s collection. In 2005 it finally burst out from underneath its tarp and was rolled into the museum’s new car house. Finally, when the restoration of P&W car 161 was declared finished in 2006, car 437 swapped places and was rolled onto the shop track in the main barn.

The journey of car 437 is to end when it reaches the condition shown in our present photo. The photographer, George Votava, was a New York City railfan but had come to Rochester hoping to sample the city’s fleet of deck roof cars. He was not disappointed. Having positioned himself at the intersection of Main Street East and Union Street on the morning of March 25, 1936, a parade of cars returning to East Main Street Station after the morning rush-hour rolled into his viewfinder. When 437 appeared, trailing behind a peter Witt 1200-series car, it must have been about 10 o’clock or so, based on the sun angle. One rider, seemingly intent on his newspaper, can be seen. The sign EAST MAIN STATION indicates that while 437 had been on the North Goodman route (as shown by the car's train number and roll sign), it was one of the many cars returning to the barn where it would wait until the evening rush-hour traffic began.

Having enjoyed this view of 437 in action, let's all redouble our efforts and make an in-service shot of 437 on the museums' railroad the subject of this column as the 100th installment in December, 2021 - or before!