Last revised: May 9, 2023
By: Adam Burns
The New York Museum of Transportation, located near Rochester focuses on not only the State of New York's rail history but also its transportation history in general as well.
Its exhibits range from railroading equipment and trolley cars to historic vehicles and carriages. In terms of their on-site rail equipment, they have mostly preserved rare interurban cars, some of which are operational and the museum provides rides aboard them.
Whatever you may be interested in there’s a good chance you will find it at the museum. Along with train rides (including trolleys) they have available the museum also features a large operating HO layout, gift shop, and other events ongoing throughout the year.
The New York Museum of Transportation is open year-round.
However, if you're interested in catching a ride to the nearby Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum these trips, which cover a distance of just under two miles, are only available during the summer season between May and October.
Along with track car rides the museum also offers rides on its two restored trolley cars, #161 and #168, originally owned by the Philadelphia & Western Railroad. These trips cover about a 1/4-mile of track and can be taken as many times as you would like during your visit.
Interurbans and trolleys were most successful from the late 19th century through the 1930s and can best be characterized by the "Dot Com" boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, they flourished for a moment and then died out.
Being regional and local in nature trolleys and interurbans simply could not compete with the automobile once it debuted in the early 20th century and then was aided by the development of better highways and roads.
By the 1950s most interurbans were out of business due to high capital costs and low ridership, although some were able to hang on until the early 1960s.
Aside from the two operating interurban cars the New York Museum of Transportation's fleet of railroad equipment includes:
Buffalo, Lockport & Rochester Railway Trolley Car #206 (Originally built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company in 1908).
Elmira, Corning & Waverly Railway Trolley Car #107 (Originally built by the Jewett Car Company in 1911.)
Genesee & Wyoming Wooden Caboose #8 (Originally built as Delaware, Lackawanna & Western #614 circa 1930.)
Hornellsville Electric Railway Snowplow #34 (Built by the J.G. Brill Company in 1905.)
Philadelphia & Western Railroad Interurban Car #161 (Operational. Originally built by the J.G. Brill Company in 1927.)
Philadelphia & Western Railroad Interurban Car #168 (Operational. Originally built by the J.G. Brill Company in 1929.)
Philadelphia Rapid Transit Trolley Line Car #2 (Built by J.G. Brill Company in 1925 as #C-125.)
New York State Railways Trolley Car #157 (Originally built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company in 1914).
New York State Railways 0-4-0 Gasoline-Powered Switcher #L2 (Originally built by the Plymouth Locomotive Works in 1937.)
NJ Transit PCC #7 (Under restoration, originally built by the St. Louis Car Company for the Twin City Rapid Transit system and later worked on the Newark Subway.)
Northern Texas Traction Company Trolley Car #409 (Originally built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1919.)
Philadelphia Rapid Transit Snow Sweeper #C-130 (Originally built by the J.G. Brill Company in 1923 as snowplow #E-217. Rebuilt in 1925 as a snow sweeper.)
Rochester Railway Company Trolley Car #162 (Originally built by the John Stephenson Car Company in 1891.)
Rochester Railway Company Trolley Car #437 (Originally built by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company in 1904.)
Rochester Railway Company Trolley Car #1402 (Originally built by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company in 1904.)
Solvay Process Company 0-4-0T #47 (Originally built by Alco's Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works in 1920.)
Warren Street Railway Trolley Car #33 (Built G.C. Kuhlman Car Company in 1911.)
The New York Museum of Transportation began life in the early 1970s to preserve former Rochester interurban equipment, which was in need of a home after a museum in Pennsylvania closed its doors.
The collections slowly began to grow and the museum was able to acquire unused rails and ties from the former Rochester subway system to use on the grounds.
Through the 1980s restoration work continued and by 1993 the museum had completed a small two-mile stretch of track connecting it with the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum.
Both facilities now greatly benefit from this new connection, which has become a popular attraction within itself. Later in the 1990s the museum was able to acquire three interurban cars, two of which were still in operation.
Those two which are still in operation, #161 and #168, regularly ferry visitors back and forth on the restored 1/4-mile electrified track on the museum's grounds.
While the museum does not carry a large collection of "traditional" railroading equipment such as freight cars or locomotives it does have a fine collection of interurban equipment if you are a historian or interested in such.
The bottom line is that it is quite impressive what the New York Museum of Transportation has been able to accomplish when it began life as little more than a means to save a few interurban pieces back in the 1970s.