Hopefully you caught yesterday’s story, “Rochester’s Adventure in Optimism” about the defunct Rochester subway. If you missed it give it a read. Originally published in the City Newspaper in 1983, the article mentioned the sole surviving subway car, car #60, and the effort to bring it back to Rochester and restore it to working order. Yesterday I received a more detailed explanation of those restoration efforts from Otto M. Vondrak, one of the trustees of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in Henrietta, NY. Here’s the story of subway car #60 from Otto…
“When Subway passenger service ceased in 1956, the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society approached RTC about acquiring a Subway car for preservation. Chapter president Sam Grover requested Car 60, since it was the one most often used by the group for charters and excursions over the Subway. Rochester Transit Corp. agreed and donated the car, but the chapter had no museum facility at the time, so arrangements were made to display the car at Rail City, a developing railroad museum and attraction up in Sandy Creek, New York.
In 1968, New York State approached Rail City about using the Subway car in an planned exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany. Those plans never materialized, and the car languished in an outdoor shed at a Thruway maintenance facility outside of Albany. While under cover, the car was exposed to the elements for nearly 30 years.
In the meantime, volunteers from Rochester Chapter had established the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in 1971 as a permanent home for Rochester’s railroad history. By the mid-1990’s, the museum’s collection included many historic pieces of railroad equipment from the Rochester area, with several pieces restored and operated for the public’s enjoyment. Around this time, the chapter decided they were in a position to bring Car 60 home, and began negotiations with the New York State Museum to return this historic to Rochester.
In 1998, Car 60 was returned to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, and an elderly Sam Grover was present to accept and sign for the delivery, completing the circle of a story that stretched more than 30 years to the Subway’s final days.
Upon Car 60’s arrival at the museum, the car was the subject of an intense inspection by our volunteers. While the majority of the old car was intact, there were signs of rot and fatigue under the surface. Car 60 is quickly approaching its centennial, as it was built in 1916 by the Cincinnati Car Co. for use on the Utica streetcar system. When the Utica lines shut down in 1936, the cars were considered surplus and put into storage. In 1937, the fleet of 12 cars was moved to Rochester and reconditioned for use on the Rochester Subway, replacing a fleet of wooden-bodied cars that dated from the turn of the century.
The majority of the car was disassembled only to discover major structural components had been damaged or had rotten away during its years of outdoor storage and display. Some initial repairs were made, but progress eventually slowed to a crawl. A combination of overwhelming restoration tasks combined with a shifting focus in the museum’s mission had led to the Subway car being placed on the back burner (but this time under cover and inside our Restoration Building).
Today the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum is an independent organization, and there is renewed interest in completing a cosmetic restoration on Car 60 in time for its 100th anniversary in 2016. At this time, a full restoration to make the car operational may be beyond our reach, but it is a shared dream of ours to one day run the car on the railroad we share with neighbor New York Museum of Transportation. We are fortunate that Car 60 is not the only piece of railroad equipment saved. NYMT has in their collection a full restored gasoline-powered inspection car used on the Subway, nicknamed the “Casey Jones” which is operated on special occasions. They have also rescued locomotive L-2, which was the Subway’s small diesel-powered switching locomotive which was used to switch freight customers that did not have electrified sidings. The L-2 is currently stored at NYMT awaiting a future restoration.
Currently the management of R&GVRRM is putting together a new proposal and a plan for fundraising and restoration work to make Car 60 presentable to the public once again. We look forward to sharing this plan with everyone soon, as we would really enjoy the public’s support to return this valuable historic artifact to the public eye and offer our visitors tangible evidence that Rochester once boasted its very own rapid transit system.”
-Otto M. Vondrak, R&GVRRM Trustee
Please consider making a donation to R&GVRRM online , or send check payable and mail to:
Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum
P.O. Box 23326
Rochester, NY 14692-3326
Tags: City Newspaper, history of Rochester, Jim Dierks, National Railway Historical Society (NRHS), New York Museum of Transportation, New York State Museum, NYMT, Otto M. Vondrak, Rail City, Rochester, Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, Rochester City Newspaper, Rochester history, Rochester NY, Rochester Subway, Rochester subway car 60, Rochester Subway photos, Rochester Subway tunnel, Sam Grover
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at 8:06 am and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester News, Rochester Subway, Rochester Subway Stories, Train/Railroad Stuff, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.