ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 60 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 0343
Photographer James J. Buckley


by Charles R. Lowe

[This is the fourth and final installment in a year-long tribute to Kodachrome. The last shop still handling the film ceased processing it on December 30, 2010.]

Only three work cars are known to have survived the end of historic street railway and Subway operations in Rochester. Sand car 0243 survives in a disassembled form inside the main exhibition hall at NYMT and awaits restoration to its original form as passenger trolley 162. The Subway’s gasoline-mechanical track car “Casey Jones”, superbly restored by NYMT volunteers about a decade ago, remains the only fully restored car from Rochester’s electric railway systems. One other work car, gasoline-mechanical Subway locomotive L-2, is stored in a disassembled form at NYMT, awaiting the time when it can be restored. It is therefore safe to say that no electrical Rochester work car will survive the test of time as a work car.

Line car 2 (ex-SEPTA C-125, later Pennsylvania Trolley Museum line car 2), currently still dressed in a chalky and peeling coat of the garish red paint used by Pittsburgh work cars, sits outside in desperate need of paint. Rochester Streetcars then hatched a plan. Perhaps the total loss of Rochester’s electric work cars could somehow be compensated with the repainting of line car 2 in the colors used on Rochester’s work cars.

Again, it was Kodachrome to the rescue as the many black-and-white photos of Rochester work cars only reveal a somber, dark toned paint scheme. Refer, if you will, to our photo of wreck car 0343, made in 1948 at the Rochester Subway’s yard near its car house. All the detail which could be desired is set forth, from the dark olive green body color, to the sienna sash color, to the dull red roof canvas, the black bumpers and, of course, the golden yellow numbers.

Car 343 had a varied history before arriving in front of our photographer near the Subway’s car house in 1948. Purchased in 1891 as (probably) a single-truck 200-series car, the car was lengthened and rebuilt as a double-truck passenger car in 1903 or shortly thereafter. Displaced by the then-new 1200-1249 Peter Witt cars in early 1917, car 343 was rebuilt into wreck car 0343 later that year. Wreck cars were used to haul disabled streetcars back to the car house for repair, and for various maintenance tasks. Car 0343 served on city lines until it was transferred to the Subway, probably in the 1930s. After 1950, when the ten 600-series cars stored since 1941 for possible Subway use were scrapped, 0343 became the last former city passenger streetcar in service in Rochester. Remaining in use right to the end of the Subway, 0343 was scrapped in the summer of 1958 along with nearly all the rest of the Subway’s work and freight locomotive fleet.

Perhaps, though, with the help of the long-lived magic of Kodachrome and our view of 0343, at least the colors of Rochester’s work car fleet can live on with a repainting of line car 2. Such a project would be a fitting tribute to Kodachrome.