Random Subway Memories from Curlew Street

Random Subway Memories from Curlew Street

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published September 11, 2010 and can be found here.

Subway tracks from Lexington Avenue bridge near Curlew Street (1940's). [PHOTO: Rochester Municipal Archives]

   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...

Jim Hall would often stay at his Grandmother's house where he and his siblings would watch the B&O trains roll past the front window. In this satellite photo the B&O Railroad line runs north/south, while the Rochester Subway ran northwest/southeast under the railroad tracks and Lexington Avenue. The right-of-way is still clearly visible.

"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.

Red and cream colored Rochester Subway car 50 at Rowlands Loop, 1951.

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.

Here's a look inside of a Rochester Subway car. This one is empty. The car Jim would have been riding on the last day of service was undoubtedly full. [PHOTO: Wallace Bradley Collection]

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.

People walk along the snowy sidewalk on North Water Street after a snowstorm. This storm was 1914 (not the 1900 storm that Jim's Grandfather battled). The piles of snow between the sidewalk and the road are higher than people's heads. Sleds and wagons on sled runners are parked on the sidewalk. Visible business signs include Brewster, Gordon & Co., grocers, 39 North Water Street; Robertson & Sons, shoemakers, 38 North Water Street; Morrison Press, book and job printing, 60 North Water Street. [PHOTO: Rochester Municipal Archives]

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.

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA