ROCHESTER STREETCARS.............................. No. 62 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Overhead trolley wires require constant repair. Wire-breaks from cold weather, wear on wire frogs and at section insulators, and broken insulators, to name a few problems, all required attention at an elevation of eighteen feet above the pavement. Getting to the wire has never been easy. At first, ladders and towers on horse-drawn wagons were used. In areas where tracks were not in pavement, cars which rode on the rails were fitted with ladders and towers. Eventually, electric motors were applied to line cars so they could whisk their way out to trouble spots. Such line cars were not well suited for city use as they would blockade too much of a busy city street. As the motor age dawned along with the twentieth Century, gasoline-engine trucks soon came into use. By the 1910s, street railway companies were fitting ladders and towers to such trucks, allowing their horse-drawn predecessors to drift into retirement.
Rochester first invested in motorized line trucks in the mid-1910s with the four GMC 2-ton trucks, numbered 1 through 4, shown in our photograph. So proud was New York State Railways of its line trucks that all four trucks and what looks like the entire overhead line crew posed together in 1921 at State Street Station. Trucks 1, 2 and 3 were retired by 1930 but truck 4 lasted until shortly after 1930. Eventually, two trucks of more modern design soldiered on to close out surface street railway operations in Rochester in 1941.
Meanwhile, the Rochester Subway continued in operation under wire until 1957. Former Sodus line car 105 was used to maintain the Subway overhead until the end. The story of line trucks and line cars in Rochester, which restarted in 1996, has continued at NYMT with RGVRRM’s bucket trucks. NYMT’s line car 2, with a fixed platform, is a fixture on NYMT’s main barn lead tracks. Completing the circle back to New York State Railways’ line trucks of yore is NYMT tower car trailer 021 from Cleveland, Ohio. The tower in 021 was used for decades on a truck only a little more modern that the pioneering line trucks of Rochester.