ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 64 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Railfans have a way of preserving interesting information about long-lost streetcars. Witness car 425, photographed in shining new paint in front of its birthplace, the St. Paul Street shops. The year is 1903 or 1904 but certainly not much later. Let’s have early-day Rochester railfan A. W. Crittenden, who wrote to Shelden King on June 15, 1958, tell the story. “I remember well,” wrote Crittenden, “when the 355-399 and the 400-449 type [cars] arrived at the Erie freight house on Exchange Street about 1905, but I think this 425 was one of the old ‘bowling alleys’ of the 450-489 type. You will note that this one [car 425] had 16 windows, even longer than 479. This car was painted a sort of chocolate brown, which was even before the orange and yellow colors were adopted.” Thus, we learn the car’s original color, a fact that has eluded historians for decades and which is not possible to divine from a black and white photo. Crittenden then adds in his note to Shelden the all-important “you may keep this print if you wish…” Luckily for us, both letter and print were preserved together as part of Shelden’s trolleyana collection.
Our history of car 425 remains sketchy despite having a photo. We are guessing that the construction date for the car was 1904, but it might easily have been a year earlier. Whether the car was built from scratch or included parts of other cars is now unknown. From about 1899 to 1904, Rochester Railway Company used the low 400s to number its double-truck cars. This was a ramshackle collection of cars, with some built by car builders and others the product of Rochester’s St. Paul Street shop which had opened in 1901. The building behind 425 is the St. Paul Street shop, and our view of 425 may well be a builder’s photo.
The great increase in streetcar riding in the early years of the 1900 decade prompted Rochester Railway Co. to purchase a great many new double-truck cars starting in 1904. The next available block of numbers above 425 started with 430. The initial twenty double-truck, ten-window, semi-convertible cars (including NYMT’s 437), ordered in late 1904, were numbered 430-449. A group of double-truck cars, 450-461, had been so numbered when they arrived in 1902, blocking the use of numbers above 450. Additional ten-window semi-convertibles, therefore, were numbered down, eventually reaching 355. This necessitated renumbering the old low 400s. Some were renumbered into the low 500s while other, such as 425, were renumbered into a new 462-487 class. We know car 425 was renumbered 465; its extremely long body length, about 40 feet, matches only 465 as listed in rosters of the 1910s.
Air brakes were installed about 1912; it boggles the mind that this behemoth was hand-braked until that time. Two of the 462-series cars were gone by 1916. Surviving 462-series cars were repainted from yellow to green-and-cream about 1920. By 1927, with a vast array of newer city cars plying the streets of Rochester, many cars of the 462-series, including 465, were scrapped. The last of the series, the Bombay-roofed 479, survived as a railfan curiosity in Blossom Road Yard until it was scrapped in late 1935, ending the era of 462-series Rochester-built cars.