Shading Car 505

Completed model of Car 505, shaded and placed in the working Terragen scene.

The exterior of the finished passenger car model is based on the original color scheme as delivered by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1909: Pullman Green body, Tuscan Red roof, Mandarin Red doors and sashes, gold lettering and stripes.

At some point the railway’s cars were repainted completely in red, but I haven’t been able to determine when that happened. But even if I learned that it happened before 1916, I’d be tempted to leave the original colors. They look pretty sharp.

A little rust on the trucks and undercarriage and a moderate amount of chipped paint and dust on the body has been added to show that the car has been in use for few years.

The model fits perfectly on the existing railway tracks in the Terragen scene. The image below shows the approximate final angle and framing of the scene with the car in place.

Wide-angle view shows the entire Terragen scene with the car in place.

Raising Car 505

Car No. 505
Car No. 505 stands in the yard at the Cincinnati Car Company before delivery to the BL&R railway. The trucks, trolleys, and electrical and brake systems are not yet installed. They will be purchased from other vendors and installed at the Rochester carshop. (Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

The Buffalo, Lockport and Rochester electric interurban railway began service in late 1908 with 15 passenger motor cars built by the Niles Car and Manufacturing Company of Ohio. The BL&R had experienced financial trouble during construction but the future must have looked bright: Six more cars were ordered and put into service the following year.

The new cars were built by the Cincinnati Car Company. Like the Niles cars these were high quality and comfortable, with mahogany interiors, plush seats, a separate smoking compartment, and room for 54 passengers.

Z Axis
Z-axis view of the front of the traction car model.

The cars, constructed of wood and measuring 51 feet 6 inches in length, were double-ended and painted Pullman green with gold trim. They were powered by four 140-horsepower General Electric motors, originally geared for speeds up to 80 miles per hour, later reduced to 60. (There are stories of BL&R cars overtaking steam locomotives on the parallel New York Central Falls Line.)

They were numbered 500-505 and remained in service until the company, later reorganized as the Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo Railroad, went out of business in 1931.

Marker Lamp
Mounted on the rear of the car, marker lamps displayed red and green lights to indicate the car’s direction at night.

Because of the huge online “railfans” community, historical railway information is plentiful and easy to find. This is especially true for steam railways. Electric railway information is harder to come by but is available. The Electric Railroad Dictionary, published in 1911, is a rich resource and is available on Google Books and as a 1972 reprint.

The model for my scene is based on Car No. 505. The overall shape and dimensions are guided by a fine set of drawings by C. L. Richardson, published in William R. Gordon’s Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo R. R. in 1963. The Dictionary and historical photos help fill in the details.

Trolley Base
The trolley pole will be mounted in this trolley base. Springs keep the wheel in contact with the underside of the overhead wire.

The model is more a collection of several models than a single piece. I’m not sure how much will appear in the final scene, or even what the viewing angle will be, so I’m erring on the side of too much detail.

Walkover Seat
Walkover Car Seat, No. 199-A, manufactured by Hale & Kilburn.

The most difficult part is the undercarriage, which is visually complex and difficult to see in photographs. But it’s possible to piece everything together with Richardson’s diagrams, the Dictionary, and a little patience.

In the process I learned a bit about how it all worked. The technology may have been crude, compared to today’s, but the engineers and designers were inventing a new form of transportation. The machines they built were ingenious, rugged, and beautiful. It’s interesting stuff.

Car 505 Model
Front and rear views of the completed model of Car No. 505. Shading will add color and more detail.

Electric Ghosts

Postcard photo taken at Adams Basin between 1908 and 1910 shows the general store and old Erie Canal arch bridge. The new interurban railroad line crosses from left to right in the middle foreground with a warning sign at the extreme right. By 1913, a new lift bridge replaced the arch bridge.

Work on the bridge scene has taken a few unexpected twists and turns. But few have been as intriguing as this.

It turned up very early. While searching for information about the area around the bridge, I turned to contemporary plat maps digitized by the local library. The maps, which show property lines, buildings, bridges, roads and railroads, were published in 1902 and 1924. The first one is too early – the lift bridge was completed in 1913. Here is a section of the 1924 map.

1924 plat map of Adams Basin names each property and shows buildings, roads and railroads.

Everything in this map was familiar except for the line labeled “Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo.” I knew about the New York Central rail line, also labeled. But what was this?

A bit of digging quickly turned up more information. The RL&B was an electric interurban railway that connected Rochester with points west. Built in 1908, it was part of a web of interurbans that spread across western New York and the rest of the country.

At that time it wasn’t at all apparent that the automobile would be the transportation mode of the future. Roads were narrow and rutted, automobiles expensive and undependable. Railroads were the way to go. A mania spread as investors sank their fortunes into the burgeoning interurban industry.

But instead of buying stock in interurbans, ordinary people used their savings to buy Henry Ford’s new Model T. Roads were gradually improved and the automobile industry expanded. Interurban ridership declined and finally the bubble burst. Nearly all of the rail lines were defunct by the early 1930s.

What’s left of the Buffalo, Lockport & Rochester right of way, next to the canal near Adams Basin.

The Buffalo, Lockport and Rochester Railroad had been sturdily built because it was expected to last for decades. Instead it was abandoned and literally ripped up: Cars, tracks, bridges, electric generating stations, and most passenger stations were simply scrapped.

The interurbans used traction cars, either singly or coupled in pairs, to carry passengers and some freight over standard gauge rails at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. These were not “trolleys.” They were light, high-speed electric railroads. Today, the fate of these innovative transportation systems seems to represent a missed opportunity.

Little survives. Traces of the overgrown right of way are barely visible from the air or on Google Earth. Some passenger stations have been preserved, and a derelict steel bridge crosses the canal in Rochester.

Photograph of a 1909 fire in Adams Basin inadvertently includes details of the interurban line, including the track and trolley wire.

Sometimes it’s impossible to pinpoint track and station locations. That’s the case with Adams Basin – the right of way vanishes in the immediate vicinity of the bridge. I feel like I’m chasing ghosts.

But it’s clear that the railroad must be in the scene. So, while the sleuthing continues, I’ve started modeling the traction car itself, starting with the “truck” or wheel assembly.

Model of a M.C.B. type Baldwin interurban railway truck. Two 140-horsepower General Electric motors (not shown) powered each truck. The traction car will include two of these.