Article From the Summer 2001 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
TROLLEYS RETURN TO ROCHESTER
After 26 years of trying, and almost half a century since the last trolleys ran in the Rochester area, NYMT and its partners at the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum have made it possible for the public to take a trolley ride. We’ve kept you up to date over the past several years’ worth of preparations. Now here’s the story of the event itself.
Last winter, after successfully operating our ex-Philadelphia & Western interurban car 168 at a RGVRRM fall gathering, the museum’s Board of Trustees decided we were ready to "go public" and include a trolley event in our summer event schedule. We and RGVRRM agreed this would be a great opportunity to expand general awareness of the museums, and to draw out traction enthusiasts to join us as we continue to expand our trolley operation and restoration work in the future. The weekend of June 30 and July 1 was selected…late enough to avoid spring rains (hah!) yet early enough to provide a publicity benefit throughout the season.
Car 168 pulls out from NYMT on another trip to Giles Crossing
Car 168 pulls out from NYMT on another trip to Giles Crossing
You would think that took care of the hard part, and that all we had to do was "just do it" come summer. After all, we had a car that proved it could run, a diesel generator that showed it could put out the power, and we had a couple of members who knew how to run a trolley. What else would be needed?
Plenty! For openers, our overhead ended at a point that made sense at the time, but turned out to be awkward for reversing the car: at the lower end of the 3.2% downgrade on the back straightaway. After lots of discussion about ways to secure the car safely during reversing on the grade, the construction crew decided to go ahead and extend the line several hundred feet to Giles Crossing. As soon as the late winter weather permitted, Scott Gleason led a team of NRHS and NYMT people in planting additional poles, attaching bracket arms, and stringing wire, extending the total overhead to about 1/3 of a mile, and allowing the ride to end at a safer, level spot. Neil Bellenger, Dan Waterstraat, Dick Holbert, Randy Bogucki, Dick Luchterhand, Charlie Lowe, Jim Johnson, Charlie Harshbarger, Bob Miner, and Don Quant were involved in preparing the overhead hardware and extending the line, and we were off to a good start.
But there was much more to do. The overhead wire is just part of the circuit that powers a trolley car. What goes out must come back, and the rails handle that job. To make sure that works, each rail joint must be bridged with a guaranteed connection to assure a clean circuit back to the generator. This is done with rail bonds, thick copper stranded cable welded to the rails on each side of each rail joint. Rand Warner led this task, not only on the line extension but also where previously installed bonds were found to be weak and needed replacing. Bob Miner, Dick Luchterhand, and Randy Bogucki were on Rand’s team.
And what of that diesel generator that we would be counting on for two solid days or more of trouble-free output? Neil Bellenger, Art Mummery, Dick Holbert, Jim Johnson, Charlie Harshbarger, Dan Waterstraat, Rand Warner, and Scott Gleason grabbed hold of this one in an all-RGVRRM effort, making sure that the generator, switch gear and DC rectifier were all up to the task. Included in this effort were installation of perimeter fencing to keep the curious at a safe distance, and construction of a temporary roof over the equipment for weather protection. Bob Mader finally got his scaffolding back from the line truck, but donated a screened tent for the comfort of the generator operating crew.
There’s one more element in the trolley circuit, and that’s the trolley itself. There wouldn’t be rides without a fully prepared 168, and Bob Miner rolled up his sleeves and waded into this task. Through the generosity of Tod Prowell at Rockhill Trolley Museum, Bob was able to pick up some brake shoes to fit 168, and he proceeded to dig a "pit" deep enough to swing his wrench and replaced a badly worn shoe. Bob also lubricated everything he could think of—journals, motor bearings, compressor, etc. He also became an expert on the car’s compressor governor, burnished contacts in the relay cabinet, and designed/constructed a shield that keeps the
handbrake chain from coming off its guide roller. Working with Charlie Robinson, Bob tightened the hand brakes at both ends for safe operation.
With two solid days of trolley operation in view, it was time to be sure that we had enough qualified operators to spread the work out. Charlie Robinson took responsibility for developing the training program for motormen/conductors. Charlie was the ideal person for this important task. He has years of experience as an operator at Seashore Trolley Museum, his technical background at Xerox helped him produce clear, carefully worded training materials, and his thorough nature made sure that this training program would leave no points not covered. During spring, Charlie created documents that covered operating instructions for car 168 and operating rules by which the crew would conduct themselves, drawing on similar documents from other museums, as well as from RGVRRM and NYMT. In a somewhat circular process, Charlie worked with Bob Miner and Jim Dierks as understanding of 168’s inner workings and plans for the weekend’s operations became clearer.
During June, the power generation team cooperated as Charlie and Jim ran brake tests, and final decisions were made for safety procedures on the 4% grade. Charlie conducted a series of classes and hands-on sessions, starting June 8 and extending over the following three weeks. Less than a week before the big event, he had graduated our first six motormen: Doug Anderson, Randy Bogucki, Tom Dunham, Charlie Lowe, Bob Miner, and Charlie Robinson.
Early in the spring, Jim Dierks took on the job of event coordinator, eventually creating a four-page outline of tasks, personnel needs, and schedules for the various days involved. It was decided to hold an NYMT members’ night as a dress rehearsal on Thursday, June 28, and a press preview on Friday, June 29, just before noon. Every detail anyone could think of was included in the outline, from trimming of tree limbs and cleaning the rest rooms to inviting dignitaries and roping off the boarding area. As always, many volunteers stepped forward to handle assignments and offer suggestions.
Charlie Lowe did a "walk through" with Jim to identify ride needs, and as a result Jim designed an elevated loading platform for easy entry into 168, and Charlie wrote up schedules for both 15- and 20-minute cycles. John Corzine built that platform over a weekend, and it served us well!
RGVRRM people agreed with the NYMT decision to not operate our usual track cars in any way that would provide a risk to riders, either from the electric overhead or from collision with 168. Their solution was to set up one of their cabooses just south of Giles Crossing—to serve as a safety buffer as well as an attractive and interesting waiting area—and operate the track car rides from that point south to RGVRRM. To help visitors reach this boarding site, their newly obtained 14-passenger bus would be put in service, connecting the NYMT back office area with the track car loading site. That site, incidentally, needed a platform for visitor convenience, and that was put together by Neil Bellenger, Scott Gleason, and Dan Waterstraat. The job included new culverts, brush clearing, and stone for the bus route and the visitor walkway. Dale Hartnett was named coordinator of this specially-arranged track car operation, with Tom Tucker to handle the bus runs, along with several other RGVRRM people.
In early June, close to 100 invitations went out to friends of the museum across the country to attend the press preview and to enjoy the weekend with us. Included on the guest list were local politicians, people who made significant donations of equipment, time or talent, and several people who were instrumental in getting NYMT started in the first place. A press release was prepared and faxed to all local newspapers and TV stations, and a "press pack" full of background information was assembled for each anticipated attendee. Among the materials were a map showing that there are only three other operating trolley museums within a 200-mile radius of NYMT; photos of museum activities and of the overhead line work; our museum Vision statement and a copy of the aerial view of the museum as we envision it in the future; and the four-page overview of Rochester’s history of transportation that we include in the museum’s teacher kit.
Also in the press pack was a brochure, "Trolleys Return to Rochester", created by Otto Vondrak. Complete with photos and nifty graphics, the brochure was printed up so everyone to attend the weekend would have a capsule history of trolleys in our area, including our own history-making achievement! Otto also prepared several retro-design car cards to add atmosphere in 168 and in our other trolleys. Colleen Anderson and Chris Hauf created additional designs, and Chris and Doug Anderson had them printed.
As we counted down to the big week, there was still much to do. Paul Monte designed and installed supports for all the windows, to avoid any dropping on unsuspecting little fingers. The interior of 168 was cleared of parts and debris that had been there since Keokuk days, and received a thorough cleaning. Slit seats were re-taped. Ted Strang provided grease for all the tight curves and the guard rail that pinches. Paul, Bob Miner, Ted, Randy, Jim, Charlie Lowe and others mowed the entire complex, finished trimming brush, and policed the area, collecting barrels of discarded tie plates, trash, traffic cones and other visual pollution. The large and cumbersome stairway that used to lead to the MDT refrigerator car was right smack in the way, so an impromptu moving party took place one Sunday, involving Charlie Lowe, Trevor James, Bob Miner, Doug Anderson, two track car operators and a museum visitor! Kathy Mielke and her mom, Mary, did their green thumb thing, assembling (and donating!) three large half-barrels of petunias to decorate the passenger platform.
And the work still wasn’t done. There was Charlie Lowe’s photo panel, showing car 437 (otherwise hidden under a green tarp); there was Neil Bellenger’s down-at-eye-level bracket arm and hardware demo, and arrangement to park the RG&E bucket truck as part of the exhibit; there was Doug Anderson’s tape of trolley sounds for the sound system and a few tons of copies he made; there was the trolley fare box soliciting donations; there was Doug’s "Got Juice?" T-shirt and new coffee mugs, both featuring Jim’s drawing of 168; there were Doug’s (again?) three dozen "Trolley Crew" T-shirts for all those who would be on duty; there was Jim’s planning and set up for both the members’ night and the press preview; there was Rand Warner’s arrangement for Rush Ambulance Volunteers, and he and Bob setting up the NRHS refreshment trailer, Ted renting a port-a-potty, assembling safety vests for parking attendants and crossing guards, and on and on….
We knew we had caught the interest of the media when they started calling us for details and to set up coverage. Wednesday, with everything else bubbling, WROC came out at 5:30 a.m.(!) to broadcast a series of live clips with Jim direct from the museum. The local papers came for photos, and we were covered from Batavia all the way to Geneva.
Members’ night went without a hitch. A nice, warm evening brought out a good crowd and we ran several trips throughout the evening. Our motormen were getting good at spotting the 168 at that 10-foot platform, and all the equipment worked well. We hope you had a chance to join us for a great time!
Friday morning, Jim and Dick Luchterhand showed up early, and set up chairs and a podium on the passenger platform next to the building. The day was warm, but clear. Ruth Magraw came to welcome invited guests and hand each a press pack, souvenir coffee mug, and 25-year pin. TV crews mingled with the volunteers and members who could get away from work for awhile. Cathy McCabe (Henrietta Town Council), Jack Driscoll (Monroe County Legislature and also representing State Assemblyman Joe Erigo), Chuck Moynihan (Director, NYSDOT, Region 4), and many other guests began to arrive. We were especially pleased to see Henry Hamlin and his wife, Nancy, come in, and soon after see Mike Storey arrive. Henry was the prime mover of NYMT when it first got started and is still a solid supporter of our work. Mike was the museum’s first Director, and he came all the way from Baltimore to be with us for the celebration.
At 11 a.m., Jim welcomed the assembled group and gave a brief outline of the history of moving people and things. He touched on the massive changes that have occurred in just a few lifetimes, and expressed his feeling that we were writing a chapter in Rochester’s transportation history this very day. Cathy, Jack, and Chuck offered brief congratulatory remarks. Museum Certificates of Appreciation were then presented to Henry Hamlin, Mike Storey, and Rand Warner, all of whom were "here at the beginning" and
Saturday, June 30 (45 years to the day since the subway quit) was another hot one, and the visitors wasted no time lining up to enter at 11 a.m. Suddenly, every part of the plan was in real life test. Ted Strang’s parking lot attendants got the lines started right; the modified ticket system worked smoothly; the rope line to separate waiting passengers from disembarking ones "sort of" worked; the boarding attendant quickly learned what to say and do to keep waiting visitors happy; our motormen/conductors looked snappy in white shirts and dark ties; and soon it was time to board our first passengers. Somehow, Dierks’ Great Plan forgot to include
Even more: with 52 seats in 168, the car gobbled up all the waiting passengers and left us with no line waiting for the next trip. All that rope! All that hammering steel stakes into the concrete that passes for ground around the museum! Even with some passengers opting for a second trip (they were allowed to ride as many times as they wanted) we never really had a crowd control problem. Let’s see: two operators and two track cars to carry 22 adults versus a motorman and conductor to carry 52. Hmmmm…. (continued on page 4)
We quickly switched to the every-20-minutes departure schedule, and held to it throughout the weekend, giving us plenty of capacity for the steady flow of visitors. Consternation surfaced when it was discovered that the Plan hadn’t included synchronizing watches among the Officer of the Day, the Ticket Desk, and the trolley crew, but that was quickly remedied. Throughout the afternoon, the visitors
If Saturday was a real life test of the Plan, Sunday gave us some experience at what can go wrong. It was another warm one, and rain was due. On the return of the first trip, the generator had to be shut down due to a wire that had vibrated loose in the diesel control system. The passengers were rescued with the shuttle bus, Ted Strang made an excellent field fix, and we were back in business just in time for the heavens to open up in a huge gully washer! The power crew were grateful for the roof over their heads, and our visitors were amazed at the din created by a hard rain on a tin roof. About a half hour later, the rain let up and then stopped. We resumed the rides in noticeably cooler air and under a clear blue sky. Perhaps the midday monsoon caused some potential visitors to change their plans, as we were busier than Saturday, but not as busy as we expected. Nevertheless, our parking lot attendants had their work cut out for them and the driveway crossing guard was kept busy in his important safety task. Among the many who helped in these duties were Paul Monte, Jerry Gillette, Ted Thomas, Jay Newberry, Tony Mittiga, Sean Brown, Steve Huse, Scott and Brian Gleason, Ira Cohen, and Dee Mowers.
Toward the end of Sunday, 168’s control gear started acting up, and we shut down slightly early, around 4:25 p.m. The Sunday visitor count came to 334, for a total over the four days of 678, and Gift Shop income in four days over $1,100.
With 168’s handbrakes set and wheels chocked, the generator was shut down and an eerie silence filled the area. The combined efforts of over fifty volunteers from our two museums had created a memorable experience for our visitors and joined in celebrating a major milestone in our own history. Exhausted and exhilarated, we departed that evening looking forward to more great experiences the next