ROCHESTER STREETCARS......................... No. 73 in a series

Rochester Transit Corp. 50
Photo by Stephen D. Maguire

© Charles R. Lowe

As we have learned at NYMT, winter trolley operation can be difficult. Look, then, at this wintry scene from the past. It is a snowy and windswept day in February 1943, and rail photographer Steve Maguire is in town. Car 50, still in its art-deco paint, seems stranded in drifts of snow in front of the car house while a few cars at the right have poles up and are ready to brave the storm.

Many dangers exist for winter trolley operations. Derailments at snow- or ice-packed flangeways, especially at grade crossings, could easily blockade a line. High-speed ventilated motors, which relied on air passing through the traction motors to maintain cool operating temperatures, might suck in snow flakes that could cause flashovers with the motors, rendering them inoperable. Sleet on trolley wires or ice on rails could break the circuit of power, causing car stoppages. Cold brake shoes and wheels would have greatly reduced coefficients of friction, catching unaware motormen by surprise.

With proper care, a fleet of snow removal cars and a well-equipped shop, electric railway operations such as the Rochester Subway could battle through almost any storm. A 1944 storm idled buses in Rochester, but the Subway was able to maintain operation through the debacle.

The railfans, though, mostly stayed indoors during snow storms. Maguire was the exception. here, as in other known blizzard photos he made, Maguire risked the delicate bellows on his folding camera and made a classic photo evocative of the depths of winter.