Rochester Industrial and Rapid Transit Railway

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Rochester Subway
Reporting mark RSB
Locale Rochester, New York
Dates of operation 1927–1956
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Rochester, New York
Car 68, Rochester Subway, via Rochester Municipal Archives.jpg
Rochester Subway
General Motors
Driving Park
B&O to Charlotte
NYC to Charlotte
Kodak Park
Dewey Ave surface connection
Edgerton Park
originally Felix Street
Lyell Avenue
NYC connection
tunnel portal
Oak St Loop
B&O connection
Main & Oak
storage tracks
City Hall
Broad Street Bridge
over Genesee River
tunnel portal
Court Street
LV connection | South Ave Loop
former shops
East Avenue
RS&E connection
NYC connection
R&E connection

The Rochester Industrial and Rapid Transit Railway (reporting mark RSB), more commonly known as the Rochester Subway was an underground rapid transit line in the city of Rochester, New York from 1927 to 1956. Contemporary photos show it used single streetcars, like Boston's Green Line, as a light rail line, with a large portion underground. It ran on its own private, grade-separated right of way through its entire length.


In 1918, the Erie Canal was re-routed to bypass downtown Rochester, and in 1919 the abandoned portion of the canal was bought to serve as the core of the subway. The subway was built below, and the subway's roof was turned into Broad Street. Construction was completed and operations began in 1927.[1][2] Only two miles were in the tunnel, the rest of the route in open cut. The term "subway" did not refer to the tunnel, but to the route being grade-separated and operated as rapid transit. Connecting interurban lines were routed into the subway and off city streets, easing developing traffic congestion. The segment over the Genesee River utilized the former Erie Canal: Second Genesee Aqueduct.[3]

When the Utica streetcar system was abandoned in the late 1930s, New York State Railways transferred the relatively new steel cars to Rochester to replace the 2000-series center-door cars that had been in service since the opening of the subway. The Utica cars ran until the end of passenger service on June 30, 1956.[4] Car #60 was saved for preservation, and is undergoing restoration by the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. L2 has been rescued, and has had restoration begun on it by the New York Museum of Transportation.

The subway from Court Street to Rowlands was replaced by the Eastern Expressway in 1956. Limited freight service operated by connecting railroads lasted on the subway route from Court Street to General Motors until 1976, when the City of Rochester elected to fill the cut to eliminate the numerous bridges. Rail freight deliveries in the subway tunnel continued until 1996, when Gannett Newspapers moved their printing operations to another location.

Rolling stock[edit]

Revenue equipment[edit]

  • L-1 locomotive - 1200V General Electric electric locomotive - 1928
  • L-2 locomotive - Plymouth Locomotive Works of Plymouth, Ohio - 1937
  • 46–70* Cincinnati Car Company SE Interurban Cars 1916 - all steel cars; acquired 1937
  • 2000–2018* J.G. Brill SE Interurban Cars 1902 - wood cars built as trailers and converted to motors; acquired 1927
  • Even numbers only.

Work fleet[edit]

  • 014 Single-truck rotary plow
  • 0105 Jackson & Sharp Line car
  • 0200 Single-cab motor Differential flat-car
  • 0205 locomotive - Jewett Car Company of Newark, Ohio - 1903
  • 0214 Single-cab flat motor car
  • 0220 Single-cab Differential dump car
  • 0330 Differential dump car trailer
  • 0331 Differential dump car trailer
  • 0343 Work and tool car
  • 2002 Flatcar trailer
  • 2006 Flatcar trailer


  • Driving Park Avenue barn and repair shops 1941
  • Main Street East Repair Shops
  • Storage track between Oak Street and City Hall Stations

Future of the tunnel[edit]

The subway sits abandoned. There is much controversy over what should be done with it. In the words of Laurie Mercer, "It’s either a giant hole waiting to be filled with dirt or an impressive asset in a city that needs to revitalize its downtown."[1]

Rochester officials want to do something with the tunnels, because it costs an estimated $1.2 million in repairs and shoring up every year to maintain them.[1] There were proposals to use some of the tunnels in a new rapid transit system. Another proposal was to transform the Broad Street Aqueduct into an underground walkway connecting the Rochester Riverside Convention Center with the Blue Cross Arena. A component of this walkway would include a Rochester Transportation Museum. Some suggested filling the remaining subway tunnel with water, re-routing the Erie Canal and restoring the aqueduct to its original purpose.

Rochester city officials decided in 2004 to fill the remaining subway tunnel with earth. This decision caused public outcry, since residents regard the subway as part of their history.[1]

On June 15, 2006, the city promised to form a committee to investigate all possible options. In July 2008, the city voted to fill in a portion of the tunnel, citing safety concerns. The westernmost end of the tunnel was filled as part of the Broad Street Tunnel Improvement project. Work began in spring 2010 at a cost between $14 and $16 million. The city removed the Broad Street section from East Main to Brown Street and filled that section of the subway tunnel, but rebuilt the former B&O ramp into what remains of the subway, making that ramp the western access point into the subway.[5] The remains of the Rochester Subway run from the B&O ramp just east of East Main Street to Court Street.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Mercer, Laurie (October 31, 2007). "Rochester Ponders Future of Once Vibrant Subway". Construction Equipment Guide. Retrieved January 8, 2008. 
  2. ^ Middleton, William (2003). Metropolitan Railways: Rapid Transit in America. p. 90. ISBN 0-253-34179-5. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  3. ^ Cornelia E. Brooke (May 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Erie Canal: Second Genesee Aqueduct". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2009-11-01.  See also: "Accompanying three photos". 
  5. ^ "Subway Tunnel To Be Filled. This time they mean it. Probably.". 2009-10-10. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  • Gordon, William Reed (1975). Ninety Four Years of Rochester Railways: Volume Two. Rochester, NY: William Reed Gordon. p. 336. ISBN 0-910662-12 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  • Amberger, Ron; Barrett, Dick; Marling, Greg (1985). Canal Boats, Interurbans & Trolleys: The Story of the Rochester Subway. Rochester, NY: Rochester Chapter, National Railway Historical Society. p. 128. ISBN 0-9605296-1-6. 

External links[edit]