Trolley coming down West Main St. in Sodus about 1910 with motorman Mike Keyes. Photo courtesy of Reliant Community Credit Union.
This information is from “The Royal Blue Line” by William R. Gordon published in 1952.
From 1900 to 1929, the Rochester and Sodus Bay Railroad ran trolleys from Rochester to Sodus Point; a distance of 44 miles. It had several trolley stops in and around Sodus. It was known as The Royal Blue Line due to the fact that at first, all the trolley cars were painted a royal blue color. In the month of May it was often referred to as The Apple Blossom Line as many special cars took hundreds of people along the Ridge Road to see and smell the apple blossoms. In 1901, a trip from Rochester to Sodus cost approximately $1.00 on the trolley. Some commuter tickets were sold for as little as 2 cents/mile.
The trolley was an important part of Sodus not only the tourists it transported but also for the freight it carried. It carried mail to and from Rochester and locally it carried milk to Union Hill (near Webster) that came from the Rice farm. The milk was picked up from the Rice Stop (just west of downtown Sodus on Old Ridge Road.
Rice Stop #117 is one of only 2 of the trolley stops that still has the original trolley pole and a trolley stop sign on it. Photo courtesy of Edith Farrington.
Stan and Dina Coppens now own the property for the Rice Stop. Stan has been maintaining a replica of the Rice Stop trolley sign for many years. Here he is pictured with the original Rice Stop sign which is believed to be one of only two original signs left. Photo courtesy of Edith Farrington.
Leslie Robinson wrote a great article about the trolley in Sodus that appears in the “The Royal Blue Line” by William R. Gordon published in 1952:
SODUS BAY TROLLEY
Leslie F. Robinson
Buffalo, N. Y.
Around the turn of the century, vague rumors began to trickle into the little hamlet of Sodus, where my family resided, that Rochester promoters were going to build an electric trolley line to our village. Many scoffed at such a fantastic idea, “Why would Rochester people want to come down to Sodus?” Every man, woman and child in the village of 1200 souls had a longing to some day visit the great metropolis of Rochester, but as for Rochesterians coming to Sodus, ridiculous! But finally there appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle an article telling about the proposed road and stating that a franchise had been granted by the State. Then there was a lapse of silence, but soon rumors began anew, rumors that they were actually working up around Webster, grading and laying track. “Well”, the scoffers said, “that’s as far as it will ever get, you see.” But the rumors persisted, they were at Ontario; they had reached Williamson; excitement mounted; now they were at East Wiilliamson- and finally you could drive out the Ridge Road and actually see the construction gang working. Then Greens Corners was reached and to the horror of all, they laid the track right up the center of Main Street. Wires were then strung and on the evening of August 8, 1900, the work car ran up Main Street and stopped in front of “Wat” Wood’s saloon where it was wildly greeted by a large and enthusiastic throng of men, women and even children. Everybody turned out and everybody cheered. The trolley line had arrived but it would never go to Sodus Point, the skeptical asserted, but it did.
You have no idea how much ado that first car created by its arrival at Mr. Wood’s at the unheard of hour oi‘ 10:30 P.M, and, of all things, it was all “lit up.” You could see it for miles–electric lights. Yes sir, electric lights on it, the first electric lights Sodus had ever seen. In those days, public lighting consisted of one oil lamp on a pole at the Methodist Church corner, Main Street and Belden Avenue. No wonder the men, women and children stayed up so late and cheered.
Even the conservative Sodus Record threw away its dignity as it described this world shaking event under large headlines as follows: ‘Cars here”, big type – “The first electric car reached Sodus Tuesday night“. “On to Sodus Point”, the slogan. Part of its description of the affair deserves quoting: ‘After a few minutes, during which time the track was cleared for the first trip through the village, all was ready. The signal was given! Amid a flash of electricity the car gained movement and the first trip through Main Street had commenced. Despite the fact that the track was in bad condition and the car heavily loaded, the car did not stop at once. She kept gaining in speed and as she drew near the Wood crossing, the cheers rang out. In a. moment she was at a standstill. The first car had reached the village“, so saith the Record. I have often wondered what caused the stately Record to fix the gender of trolley cars.
The first trolley to carry passengers to here was manned by “Yank” Gloor as motorman and “Shorty” Winslow as conductor. Quite a few Sodus men eventually became conductors and motormen; Wilson DeBrine, Bert J. Sergeant, William Pullman, Gordon Doville and others. One of the most popular conductors was “Tommy” Waldorf, popular with the school children at least, for one day during the first winter, his car arrived at the village just as school in the old Academy was letting out. It so happened that Main Street and the trolley tracks were covered with ice and sleet, and his car, for some reason, could make little progress, so Tommy invited all of us children aboard, and then the car moved. I guess our added weight crushed the ice and the “juice” got through to the tracks. You figure it out.
In the early years of the Sodus Bay trolley, holidays such as the 4th of July, Decoration Day and others produced a lot of business and excursions from Rochester to the Point were very popular. They even ran “double-headers”, filled with cheering and sometimes jeering Rochesterians. In those early days, for no apparent and certainly no good reason, the young blood of the village and some older ones too, made it a practice on the night of July 3 late that night, to go around the village raising, what might be properly termed “a little hell”. They raided the rear of the stores and other places and accumulated large numbers of bones, crates, boards, etc. with which they built an enormous bonfire at Main and Mill Streets; drank a little; engaged in fisti-cuffs; roamed around the village plucking gates, fences, steps, as well as outhouses, using the baggage truck at the trolley station for hauling them.
On the 4th of July morning, the sun came up in all its glory, not a cloud in the blue sky and we all looked forward to strings of trolley cars from Rochester packed to the steps with enthusiastic vacationers from that city. We were not disappointed-—only chagrined! Lo and behold, some of these local pranksters during the previous night had laboriously collected and deposited on the front lawn of the Methodist Church, thirty feet from the trolley tracks about six prime outhouses. Along came the packed trolleys. Surprise on the faces of these visitors in a. few seconds changed to amazement, then to unrestrained, uproarious shrieks of laughter and guffaws which could be heard all the way up Main Street; to the great mortification of our lovely little municipality. Eventually, red-faced owners claimed their own, and by noon, the grounds of that edifice were restored to their habitual dignity. Another occurrence that now and then transpired in the winter time and created a great deal of interest, if not excitement, was the arrival of a snow plow, a “rotary” after Sodus had been snowed in for 24 hours or even more without news from the outside world, or newspapers or mail. Some of the more nervous citizens would sit up late at night “waiting for the plow to get through”, for one or more trolley cars would surely follow it with shivering passengers, the mail and tidings as to how the outside world was going. Satisfied that all was well, oil lamps here and there, one by one would flicker out. No telephones (for most people) in those days, you know.
At the east end of the village was the car “barns”, a single long structure which contained a power house as well.
Sodus Trolley Barn as depicted in the Town Of Sodus Mural
Trolley Barn today which is a laudromat but the stone architect remains. Photo courtesy of Edith Farrington.
Among the Sodus residents working there were two I remember, “Bob” Forster and George Barlow, one worked days and the other nights, and rumor had it that they did not speak, although employed there a few years. Just- beyond the car barns was a wonderful invention—a “balloon switch”. You could turn s. trolley car all the way around and head it back for Rochester. This meant that the conductors didn’t have to get out and change trolley poles and the fair and fragile sex were protected from having to invade that questionable place on the car – the “smoker” which was always at the head end going down to Sodus, No one but real “brass” got on at the head end.
Eventually Henry Ford and his co-conspirators overtook the old Sodus Bay Trolley and “Yank” Gloor and his old car No.111 had to give up the ghost. That happened, I believe, in the summer of 1929. Good old “Yank” was the salt of the earth, one of the kindliest men who ever lived, beloved by all, especially those living along the line. Having driven the first trolley, he also drove the last car of the line to Sodus Point, clanging his gong practically continuously, bidding goodbye to all of his old friends who turned out at all stops and between stops. Oddly enough, the dying gasp of the old line was spent in cheerful, friendly atmosphere.
I now recall that when they laid the track up Main Street in Sodus, to the horror of all, they laid them on Sunday. There were inklings of an injunction and it seems Court didn’t sit on Sunday – those smart railroad lawyers. There were some who opposed the line, but it doesn’t make much difference now, does it?