ROCHESTER STREETCARS......................... No. 66 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Rochester City and Brighton Railroad, forced into the economy of small one-horse, one-man “bobtail” cars in 1869, did not return to larger two-horse, two-man cars until the late 1880s. Here, in the late 1880s or very early 1890s, a 150-series car is seen after having arrived at the end of a northbound trip to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Avenue, somewhat north of Ridge Road and just north of what would soon become Kodak Park.
With a little imagination, we can read a “one” and a “five” on the dasher of this car. Bill Gordon gives us a photo of “R.C.& B. trailer 158” in a photo on the pioneering Rochester Electric Railway, with the car number showing up clearly (Ninety Four Years of Rochester Railways, vol. 1, p. 50). The Brill order book (found on-line at http://streetcarstelcen.com lists March 30, 1887 shop order #1683 for two open double-end trailer cars built for RC&B. At this time, Rochester was solidly in the Stephenson camp for its horse car needs, the “Bombay” roofs of which were distinguished by particular rounded ends to the clerestory roof. Our car and identical car 158 are deck roof cars typical of what Philadelphia car builder Brill was producing. One can therefore surmise that our car’s number is 157, 158 or 159.
RC&B had obtained a franchise for a single-track extension to its Lake Avenue line from Driving Park to Ridge Road in 1885. A franchise for a second track followed in 1888, and it seems that both tracks were built in 1888. Meanwhile, Rochester Electric Railway built its line from Ridge Road to Charlotte in 1888 and 1889. While our photo shows no trace of the overhead trolley line which would begin powering electric streetcars on July 3, 1889, it may be that we cannot see it for all the trees. RC&B, or successor (in early 1890) Rochester Railway Company, may have arranged to run horse cars from downtown Rochester to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery for the summers of 1889 and 1890 before the lake Avenue line between Rochester and Ridge Road was electrified in 1890. Our photo probably dates from 1890 rather than 1889, judging by the condition of the dirt around the streetcar tracks that would not be quite as “worn in” when the track was brand new in 1889.
This image has had an interesting journey to these pages. The original negative and any original prints now seem lost, as does the print Bill Gordon used in his book (Ninety Four Years of Rochester Railways, Vol. 1, p. 38). Luckily, a small print on a photographic post card sent out as a Christmas card in 1954 by Rochester railfan A. W. Crittenden wound up in the late Shelden King’s collection where it quietly survived for decades until being scanned for your enjoyment now.