Jim Hall, age 62, of Farmington NY, recently stumbled upon RochesterSubway.com and was immediately taken for a ride down memory lane. So much so that he decided to share with us a few of his fondest memories of the Rochester Subway—his final ride on the very last day of service, and of his grandfather who was a streetcar conductor during the Great Blizzard of 1900! Jim says he and his two older sisters were brought up with a healthy fear of the subway because he was told of a tragic story where a ‘boy lost both legs’ being a bit too close to the tracks. As Jim points out, “it seems strange these days that memories stick with you.” But they certainly do. And the fun part is, we never know which ones will stand out in our mind a half century from now. Here’s Jim’s subway story…
“My memories of the Rochester Subway were at my Grandmothers house on Curlew Street in Rochester New York, where we had the best of both worlds with a branch of the B&O Railroad in her front window across the street, and just up the street, the subway. When I was very young and my grand parents were sitting for us, my sisters and I would wait patiently for grandpa to come home on the subway, walking from the subway station up the street. We were always at our grandparent’s house seeing as they were close to our home on Lexington Avenue, and we were always looking out the windows—looking for new exciting things to tease our young minds. “Go run to the window!” was one of my favorite past times there. And seeing the back yard light up as the streetcars’ mast to the electric connection (pantograph) would spark with a flicker of light. One time we raced to the windows to see a moving snow storm as the snow blowing turbine went by, and made all the tree’s near the subway shower with a vale of white.
As kids back then we were interested in the subway very much and had a chance to ride on the last day of service in Rochester. We boarded the last train at Lexington Avenue and Curlew Street station, down a long slanting staircase to a waiting platform next to the tracks. We were told exactly where to stand for over there were the tracks where the little boy lost his legs as he got too close to them. Our eyes were wide open. We’d always look to see if we could find any blood on the tracks—or maybe a missing limb.
As we traveled on that red coach that day, the inside was full of advertisements of the times, from Camel Cigarettes to riding the subway to where ever you wanted to. To our amazement the subway ducked under city streets in a blur of smells and light and we knew the ride would be ending soon. We were all eyes on the conductor. And he was doing his best to give his all in those last moments of having a job—giving a blow-by-blow of our location at every stop.
As the change bounced in the box, and the car sped forward, we saw other streetcars with their belly full of passengers. Rail Fanning was popular back then and many people were out taking pictures that day as well. Some men got off and took pictures of the subway car. The conductor did his best to show off for them.
Memories are funny things. I remember my sisters and I came across a real live hobo once back near the tracks one day—we left him alone. We were just spy-ing on him. Being at the location we were at, that same Curlew-Lexington Avenue platform was also a part of the barge canal way back in history. Seems that site was noted for canalers that liked to fight and play chicken with thier boats. (I will have to look in my mothers records of that time as well, her grandparents lived on Emerson Street, and she walked along the subway to thier house. Again, I’m not sure what years the subway was in operation, but if it was around during Edgerton Park being the site of the fair back then I have accounts of the fair there as well). Seems I come from a lot of old memories handed down from my parents… My father loved ice skating at Cobbs Hill and always took the subway out.
In an interesting note, my Grandfather on my father’s side of the family was a streetcar conductor for many years. Everyone knew Badge #834 and how he had to retire at age 60 due to failing health. During a snow storm* in the year 1900 the snow fell so fast that twenty-seven inches fell in one day. My Grandfather was noted in Rochester rail history for he stayed at his post all day that day, pushing through the snow with his streetcar, only to have to be pushed back to the barn by car #401. Throughout the storm he delivered his passengers to their homes, while many had to wade through the snow hip-deep. Anyone who went looking for a loaf of bread that day would be out all day trying to get it. And many people were stranded with no way home but the streetcars.”
Thanks for the stories Jim! Your free Rochester Subway poster is on it’s way. You’ve earned it 😉
*Febuary 28 – March 2: Snowstorm hits Rochester with 43.1 inches of snow.
Tags: B&O Railroad, Badge #834, Car #401, Curlew Street, Jim Hall, Lexington Avenue, old photos of Rochester, Rochester, Rochester history, Rochester NY, Rochester Subway
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