ROCHESTER STREETCARS......................... No. 67 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Several features of our photo, provided by NYMT Trustee Bob Sass, are hauntingly familiar. We are told that this scene is on Main Street in Canandaigua, New York, in the early to mid-1910s and, sure enough, the store fronts on a companion photo confirm the locale. So, this little single-truck car has come in on the Rochester and Eastern from Rochester, and is running out a few final miles of passenger service as one of the two or three cars kept at the Canandaigua car house for local service in that community.
Then there is the car number. On close examination of the photo, at first it looked like “249”, which was exciting enough in that this 200-series car was not previously known to have operated in Canandaigua. Given the chance to practice his computer skills, however, NYMT motorman Dave Gardner confirmed a hunch and demonstrated that the car number actually is “243”.
At this point, car details start to enliven the story. Nine side windows between doorways is a lot for a short single-truck car, and much more than the six found on the Gilbert-built 200-299 cars from 1890-91. The rare three-quarter elliptical springs on the ends of the truck frame are a giveaway that this is a MaGuire Columbian truck of the 1890s. The deck roof on 243 is not at all like the railroad roof on the Gilberts, either. This led to an inspection of the 1941 railfan photo of sand car 0243, which is identical to 243.
Thus, it turns out that our photo of car 243 is the earliest known photo of NYMT’s sand car 0243. In 1918, the lone survivor of the 161-165 series of Pullman city cars built for Rochester Railway about 1893, was converted to a sand car, charged with taking loads of dry sand out to boxes at end-of-the-line loops where conductors could refill sand boxes on their cars during their layovers there. It seems that this car must have been renumbered from its original car number of 162 about 1908 to vacate numbers which were to be used by R&E interurban cars. As the 200-series was then dedicated to single-truck cars, 162 was assigned its new number, 243, from a Gilbert car which had already been scrapped. As such, 243 was repainted in the yellow paint scheme of Rochester cars from 1904 to 1916; evidence of this can be seen on surviving parts at NYMT. It is possible that 243 was used until the 1917 arrival of new cars for Canandaigua, or simply was kept in storage in the vast recesses of the Canandaigua car house as a backup car. The car’s 1918 rebuilding—which included the installation of large sand bins, roof holes for filling and a repainting—curiously did not result in affixing the preceding zero to sand cars 243 or Gilbert-built 240, a practice employed to denote most work cars in Rochester. This addition would not take place for over a decade, probably when the two little service cars were finally repainted for the last time.
So, our photo is the rarest of all photos: an in-service shot of a car preserved at a museum. What’s more, this may well be the very oldest such photo of a museum car anywhere; offhand, none older readily come to mind. To think that a 100-year-old snapshot shows one of NYMT’s first four cars in service is just amazing.