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A nostalgic review of public transit in Rochester, New York, from horsecars to buses.

Collection of R. DuPuis
Postcard from collection of R. DuPuis
Sketch from an old NYSR weekly pass, collection of R. DuPuis

Located on the south shore of Lake Ontario in Upstate New York, Rochester has a rich and colourful history. Public transit here is no exception, with bona fide horsecar service having begun in 1863. Between that year and the end of urban passenger rail service in 1956, the medium-sized city was served by a remarkable array of modes, including horsecars, electric streetcars, interurbans, electric trolleybuses, and what might be called an early "light rail" line--popularly called the subway, and bearing some resemblance to the Newark City Subway in New Jersey.

The city's tram system faced its share of economic hardships in the post World War I period, and contemporary public opinion turned against the trundling old cars and their masters with a vengeance. The trolleybuses bowed out in 1932, followed by the last surface trams in 1941, and the subway in 1956.

Perhaps it reflects our community's deep sense of history, and our dedication to preserving our roots: representative examples of most significant types of tram, interurban, and "subway" car from the Rochester system going back to the horsecar era have survived; these relics are either restored or undergoing restoration locally, or at notable trolley museums. Not bad, when you condisder that no city, suburban, or interurban passenger car from the considerably larger Buffalo system (last car 1950), 70 miles to the west, is known to survive!

The focus of this site will be the city and suburban (surface) tram lines of Rochester in the 1863-1941 period, although the trolleybuses and the subway certainly won't be ignored. There will be pictures, to be sure, but my aim is to educate as well as to amuse. Much bibliographical and archival research will be incorporated into what I hope will be an informative account of the tram era here.

Watch this space for updates. 9 June, 1998