ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 56 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 018
Photographer Unknown


by Charles R. Lowe

By November, the month when the season’s first flakes of snow started drifting out of gray skies, Rochester’s street railway shop men had surely prepared the snow fighting fleet for action. Motors, controllers, resistor grids, brake rigging, compressors, air piping, air cylinders and other parts were cleaned and oiled. Consumable parts such as burning tips in controllers and seals in air components were replaced as needed. By the time of the first winter fury, snow fighting equipment such as RTC 018 shown here would be ready for battle.

Car 018 was the former S-12, a Ruggles-design electric rotary snow plow. Car 018 saw much action on the long side-of-road Lake Avenue line to Charlotte. This north-south streetcar line was prone to being plugged with snow drifts. Notice that instead of the single chopper fan used on interurban lines, 018 had two small chopper fans so as to more closely clean snow from the tracks. Once the fans had chopped the snow into chunks, the paddle blades would lift and loft the snow to either the right or left.

Captain George W. Ruggles of Charlotte, a Lake Ontario ship captain, must have been inspired by the action of ship propellers and paddle wheels as a means to keep the electric railway between Rochester and Charlotte open all winter. He developed his first electric rotary snow plow in 1890 and secured his first patent in 1893; improvements followed in succeeding years. Once the concept was perfected, Ruggles assigned the right to manufacture his plow to the Peckham Motor Truck and Wheel Company of Kingston, N.Y. Such plows were soon found on countless street railway and interurban properties plagued by snow in both the United States and Canada.

Car 018 was built by Peckham in 1900. As seen here, it was painted dark green with golden yellow car numbers and a barn-red canvas roof. This plow served faithfully for 40 winters until 1941 and was the last of several single-truck city rotary snow plows. Since the Lake Avenue line was part of the last surface streetcar operation in Rochester (last full day of operation was March 31, 1941), 018 remained on the property right to the end of Rochester streetcars. Our photo may very well show the car just after having been removed from service in 1941 since the door is blocked by an unpainted wood board roughly nailed in place.

Although preservation of 018 might have been a great way for Rochester to honor a local inventor, no one at the time was interested and 018 was scrapped in the summer of 1941. We are fortunate, though, that one Ruggles plow, from Montreal, is preserved at Shore Line Trolley Museum near New Haven, Connecticut.