Trolley (1900 – 1929) – Page


The photos above are trolleys on Main Street Sodus in the early 1900s.

From 1900 to 1929, the Rochester and Sodus Bay Railroad ran trolleys from Rochester to Sodus Point with several stops in 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 Point cost $1.32 on the trolley.

The trolley was an important part of Sodus commerce for not only the tourists it transported but also for the freight it carried. Along with locally grown produce, it also carried mail to and from Rochester. The trolley used 60 lb. narrow gauge rails (the weight was from a 3 foot section) laid on gravel that came from the Glen Edith quarry near Rochester. Thirty five sidings were located approximately every mile for the expected traffic of one trolley every five minutes that was never realized. Business was such that a car ran every hour. The trolley used 625 volts DC current and required battery stations to boost power along the lines. Two of these stations were located at Webster and Williamson with substations at Ontario and Sodus.

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the trolley to Sodus. When it first came to town from Rochester, via Webster, Ontario and Williamson and onto Wallington and Sodus Point, many in the village felt that their village was finally being connected to the rest of the world. For many in the village, it was their first introduction to electricity. When the first trolley came to Sodus it was lit up like a Christmas tree. What an amazing sight that must have been! Not everyone liked the idea of a trolley coming down the middle of Main Street however:

Down town Sodus

In the summer of 1900, despite the predictions of many skeptics, the laying of trolley tracks was approaching Sodus. The arrival of the trolley was wildly anticipated in Sodus as it was felt they were being connected to the rest of the world. There was a problem however. Some of the Sodus folks heard that the trolley track was going to run right down the middle of main street and they did not want that to happen. An injunction began to stop this and was scheduled to be heard in local court on a Monday. The Railroad got wind of this and took the unheard of step of laying the track in the middle of main street on Sunday!

On the evening August 8th, 1900 the first trolley (a work car) ran up the middle of the street all lit up with electric lights and appropriately stopped in front of “Wat” Woods saloon where it was wildly greeted by a large and enthusiastic thong of men, women and even children. Rumor has it that several of the trolley workers also got “lit up” that evening.

The Sodus Trolley Barn

Trolley Barn circa early 1900s

This barn served two purposes. Repairs and maintenance was done on the trolleys which often required it. It also contained a power house to boost the power a s well. Two Sodus residents worked in this barn. One was “Bob” Forster and the other was George Barlow, one worked days and the other nights. Rumor had it although they worked together for several years, they did not speak to each other. Outside the barn was a “balloon switch” which could turn a trolley car all the way around and head it back to Rochester. This meant the conductor didn’t have to get out and change trolley poles and the fair and fragile sex were protected from having to invade that awful place on the car “the smoker” which was always at the head end going down to Sodus from Rochester. No one but real “brass” got on at the head end of a trolley.

The following information is from Sandy Hopkins

Located at 31 State St.in Sodus

The Trolley Barn was built in 1904 as a trolley barn and repair terminal.   It is located at the east end of town and was referred to as the “barns”.   It was used to store and repair trolleys in the village until June 28, 1929.  Just outside the barns was a wonderful invention called a “balloon  switch”.  You could turn a trolley around all the way and head it back to Rochester. The trolley line was called the Blue Line or the Apple Blossom Route.  It ran from Rochester to Sodus Point.  After the end of the trolley system the building was subsequently used by the Rochester Transit System to store their buses and by the Sodus School District  to house school buses prior to construction of the bus garage. The building was also used by GLF Petroleum Company for storage of Fuel  trucks and in the early 1950′s Robert Johnson, then the local Chevrolet dealer, operated a used car conditioning shop and a used car Lot  on the premises.  In 1960 it became a laundromat owned by John Buzzell  of Newark. John added the second and larger portion of the Building three to four years later. On April 28, 1977 the building caught on fire.  A faulty aluminum electric cable is believed to be responsible for the fire. The fire destroyed the  building . At the time of the fire the owner  was John Buzzell  Jr. also of Newark. The station stood empty for 15 years until the Hombergers  and  Hermanet‘s  bought it and opened Another  Laundromat and the Ice Cream Junction in January of 1992.

The Trolley Barn as it appears in 2017. Photo by Edith Farrington

Opening Day August 22, 1900  (This information is from “The Royal Blue Line”  Page 9 by William R. Gordon published in 1952)

“The Rochester & Sodus Bay electric railway was officially and formally opened on Wednesday, August 22nd. It was a grand, glorious day. Everybody  was happy-supremely happy. It was difficult to tell who really had the most happiness in his soul. All beamed.

“At nine o‘clock the christening ceremony took place at the Four Corners in Rochester. On car ’73, Clarence Carpenter, conductor, and Clifford Brown, motorman, the ceremony was observed. Illustrious Potentate George Loder of the Rochester Shriners broke a bottle of wine over the crowd of officials and christened the car “Margaretta”.

“Shortly afterwards the procession of seven cars, was started for Sodus. Each car was filled. Following the first car, which contained the 74th Regiment Band, came President ‘T. J. Nicholl‘s private car. The six royal blue cars and the special car formed a beautiful sight as they left the Flower City. Everywhere they attracted attention. On number ’73 was a ‘banner which told of the official opening of the road and the Shriners’ outing.

“As the different villages were reached the Shriners would alight from the car and the band would play. They were all welcome. The people were more than delighted to have the representative men of Rochester with them, if even for a few minutes only.

“When Sodus was reached a stop of nearly ten minutes was made. Most of the Shriners poured out of the cars. The band climbed the stairs of the band stand and rendered some excellent music.  The secret society men were the whole thing. Some of them started a cake walk, but the clang of the trolley bell caused them to scramble aboard. At this instant, President Nicholl asked a RECORD representative to accompany the party to Sodus Point in his private car, and the latter part of the trip was commenced. The ride from Sodus Point was uneventful, although a pleasant one.

Rice Trolley Pole Stop 117

On old Ridge Road at the western edge of the village of Sodus, two original trolley poles can still be seen. Near the top of on one of these poles (see below), can still be seen a sign for the Rice Stop # 117. Picture by Edith Farrington.

This pole is dated 1922 and named for the Rice Family that owned the property and had a house that was across the street. That house is said to have been part of the Underground Railroad and had a tunnel used to hide “freedom seekers”.

The house here now was built in 1930 and is the home of Stan and Dina Coppens. Stan has been maintaining the Rice Stop sign and has the original trolley stop sign (see below). We believe this is only one of two remaining original trolley stop signs left. Picture by Edith Farrington.

It is believed that produce was picked up at this stop and shipped to Union Hill in Rochester. An important part of the trolley system, in addition to transporting people, was the transportation of dairy goods and farm produce.

The end of the line for the trolley

So what caused the demise of the trolley in 1929 after 29 years in operation? No, it was not the Great Depression because the end came in June 1929 months before the start of the Great Depression in October of that year. Rather it was its inability to compete with the new bus services being offered in Rochester. At the best of times during its 29 years, the trolley business was not all that profitable and this was especially true during the winter months. The new bus system drove the nail in its coffin as it was quicker and cheaper for passengers. While thinking about this part of our culture that is now “gone with the wind” it is still amazing to think that over 100 years ago, people and freight were transported on an all electric vehicle to and from our village.