ROCHESTER STREETCARS................................ No. 58 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 56
Photo by A. O. Wilson


by Charles R. Lowe

[This is the second installment in a tribute to Kodachrome, the railfan’s choice of film for decades. Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009, and the final photo shop still handling the film, Dwayne’s Photo of Parsons, Kansas, ceased processing, as planned, on December 30, 2010 when its supplies of color dyes and chemicals were exhausted.]

Railfans were slow to adopt Kodachrome in the years just after its introduction for home use in 1938. A flaw in the product’s chemistry, which turned slides red with time, was not corrected until mid-1939. During World War II, many railfans were busy fighting the war or, if at home, could not obtain Kodachrome. After the end of the war in 1945, though, railfans began using Kodachrome in ever increasing numbers.

Among the earliest of Kodachrome slides is a series probably made by an A. O. Wilson who apparently was on a visit to Rochester in 1947. At least, Wilson’s name was on the processing envelope for the slides.

One of the best of Mr. Wilson’s slides shows car 56 approaching Rowlands loop. Just beyond the car is the track used by Rochester and Eastern interurban cars between 1927 and 1930 as they left the Subway. In the foreground is the concrete platform for the Rowlands terminal station.

What makes this view fascinating is that we have a great look at the green color scheme used on Rochester Subway cars from sometime during World War II to early 1951. Gone are the pinstripes of a previous green paint scheme, and the fancy Art Deco scheme applied to some Subway cars, all victims of wartime austerity.

The paint scheme on car 56 is the work car scheme used for years in Rochester. A rich green body color is accented by sienna-colored doors and window sashes. The roof canvas remains the barn red used since the late 1916 introduction of green-and-cream as Rochester’s street railway color scheme. Detail colors used on car 56 are the golden yellow of its car numbers, the bright red “safety first, be careful” design at the doorways, and basic black for equipment such as the headlight, trolley pole and under-car apparatus.

Although car 56 is moving slowly, Wilson’s bright sun light condition was not enough help in freezing the action. So blurred is the front of car 56, where its movement is most registered by the film, that we can hardly read the number. But, such a defect is of little importance in such an important view, and we can be grateful for Mr. Wilson being our man on the spot.

We didn’t receive any objections to the color scheme we guessed at for the museum’s Batavia Traction Company 33 in our Fall issue, so we’ll stick with our presumed orange and mahogany design, based on literature and paint samples found on the car. We ran out of room to include this black-and-white version of 33, and we offer it here in case there’s someone in the family who would like to try their hand at coloring. Trolleys in the early days featured a variety of bright colors, and perhaps if the Batavia line had had more money to spend they would have tried something even more eye-catching. So, get out those crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc. and offer the company some suggested schemes. Send us your best effort and it just might find its way onto our entryway bulletin board for all to enjoy.