Would you like to see a real trolley car? You can in the train shed at the New York Museum of Transportation eight miles south of Rochester on the East River Road in Rush. Exhibited there is Rochester streetcar #162, built in 1893, and considered to be one of the oldest electric-propelled streetcars in the world. It is not too different from its horse car predecessors.
Nearby it in the Museum is another streetcar that operated in Batavia until 1927, one of a fleet of five cars that were painted orange, brown and silver. One man controlled the car and collected the 5¢ fare.
One of the last wooden interurban cars made in this country is housed with the Museum's collection. It weighs twenty five tons and was capable of 60 m.p.h. speeds when it traversed the Chemung River Valley as car #307 of the Elmira, Corning & Waverly.
Standing on an adjacent track is the more than 32 ton interurban car #157 built in 1914. This car ran between Rochester and Geneva at speeds up to 70 m.p.h. It made its last run for the Rochester and Eastern Railway on July 31, 1930, and is now being restored to original appearance with many coats of new paint and gold striping. The walnut interior woodwork is being refinished, and the window sash and upper panes of opal glass are being reglazed.
There is also in the exhibit a sweeper car that was used to brush snow from streetcar rails. It was built for service in Philadelphia and was the first major restoration project of the Museum's dedicated volunteer crew—a 14 month job.
Alongside is a Genesee and Wyoming caboose with bunks for the trainmen and a cupola you can climb into and imagine what it was like to watch a long string of cars ahead in the train.
Also in the building is a saddle-tank steam locomotive, a model boxcar built in 1947 by employees at the Despatch Shops of the New York Central to celebrate the 50th anniversary of East Rochester, handcars, cutaway models of diesel engines, and a model of the subway system that replaced the Erie Canal in Rochester and was then superceded by I- 490.
The tracks under the display rolling stock run outside and join with a mile and one half of standard gauge track that encircles the whole Museum area. From mid May through October volunteers offer 20 minute rides around this rail loop on the kind of equipment that track crews rode. Along the route are station stops complete with baggage carts and signs.
The Museum has other road vehicles as well as railway cars. One is an early International farm truck. On June 14 the Museum will be host to a tour of antique truck enthusiasts.
The New York Museum of Transportation is operated entirely by dedicated volunteers who contribute their skills and efforts to constantly improve the exhibits. Every year members on the Museum Board develops a "to do list." Choosing the projects for 1992 is described in the Spring newsletter: "We started the process by soliciting suggestions from the crew of dedicated volunteers who keep us open every Sunday of the year, and also included input from the customer surveys we inaugurated in 1991. The items were then ranked by the crew; a composite list of priorities was the result. We then estimated the cost of each item (in dollars as well as in that even more precious commodity, volunteer hours, and made the cut at the level we thought we could afford. The resulting list contains over 100 items and is budgeted for $3000 and 2,000 volunteer hours."
Among the active volunteers of the Museum are: Ted Strang, president of the Board; Karen Gibson, who comes every Sunday to greet people in the visitor's center; Nancy Holland, who is treasurer; and Bill Holland who has taken the responsibility of plowing snow from all the roads and parking lots; Stephen Huse who inspects and repairs equipment; Charles Harshbarger who carries on track construction and maintenance; Lawrence Kastner who operates the track car rides; and Bob Miner who leads group visits. Then there is Paul Monte who does photography work for the Museum, and Vince Reh who is cataloguing the archives for the use of serious researchers. Shelden King prepares and gives slide presentations. Doug Anderson manages the gift shop and prints the newsletter. Eric Norden has done much of the restoration work on the Rochester & Eastern car #157. Rand Warner is an active volunteer and is also on the Board of the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. James Dierks edits HEADEND, the quarterly newsletter that keeps all the members informed about activities at the Museum. The volunteers support each other with help and take part not only in the work on exhibits but also with the house work of painting buildings, laying linoleum in the visitor's restroom, and filling pot holes in the driveways.
Right now they are preparing for July 26 when a ceremony will mark the completion of phase I of the restoration of Car #157, and a new slide show on the Rochester & Eastern will be presented. 1992 looks to be another great year for the New York Museum of Transportation
The NYMT is open every Sunday from 11 to 5. Admission for adults is $1.50; children under 12, 75¢. Rail car rides are 75¢. Special arrangements for weekday group visits can be made by calling (716) 533-1113.
The Museum is at 6393 East River Road at the Rush - Henrietta Townline Road, southwest of Thruway exit 46, and northwest from I - 390 exit 11.