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Craftsman Boomer Trail - June 2010

The R&IT at Brown Street

Early morning on March 12, 1984 catches The Rochester & Irondequoit Terminal's bicentennial-themed caboose as it clears Brown Street, while a road train rumbles by on the mainline, headed for Syracuse. Located in upstate Rochester, New York, this scrappy regional railroad operates segments of cast-off Conrail lines between Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. The R&IT is also the club road of the Rochester Institute of Technology Model Railroad Club.

That 70's Railroad in Rochester

by Otto Vondrak/photos by David Scheiderich

The coming of Conrail in 1976 heralded the end of an era. Picking up the pieces from six bankrupt Northeastern railroads, it was Conrail's job to rebuild and start over. Part of the process included the abandonment of hundreds of miles of track that were deemed unprofitable. From this process emerged the Rochester & Irondequoit Terminal Railroad (R&IT).

The earliest history of the R&IT can be traced back to its roots as a high-speed interurban line providing fast service between the upstate New York cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. It was quickly absorbed by competing roads looking to expand their empires. At one time, the B&O, the Nickel Plate and the New York Central all had controlling interests in the line. By the end of World War II, the R&IT came under the complete control of the NYC, quickly followed by the end of electric operations and going freight-only.

Over the years, the R&IT had been marginalized to the point where only a few industrial tracks remained in the major terminals, and the connecting mainlines had been largely abandoned. With the coming of Conrail, additional lines were in danger of losing their rail service forever. Looking to preserve and grow its local industries, New York State arranged to purchase cast-off properties between Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, and reactivated the old R&IT name to operate them.

On April 1, 1976, the Rochester & Irondequoit Terminal was once again an independent line. During those early years, the "Genesee Route" operated with a wild variety of first-generation EMD and Alco power. As business improved in the mid-1980s, these were slowly replaced with bigger power, including second-hand GP-38's and Alco Centuries. As the "home road" for the Rochester Institute of Technology Model Railroad Club, the R&IT has provided years of enjoyment for its builders and operators. Join us as we take a fond look back to the late 1970s and early 1980s...

Rochester Goodman Street Yard

We start our look back at Rochester Goodman Street Yard, a facility shared with Conrail. On Septmeber 15, 1979, A bedraggled F-unit prepares to run around its train for the trip to Buffalo. Our unique Alco C-413 (a C-415 shortened to fit on an SW frame) idles on the switch lead, waiting to receive its cut of cars. The yard tower in the background was kitbashed from AHM and Kibri parts.

Passing through Scudderville

Our F-unit has been paired up with a Geep on the westbound road train, seen here passing through Scudderville, about 30 miles from Buffalo. The train is passing by the local Agway grain co-op, which serves the many farmers in the area. Agricultural traffic is a big part of the R&IT's business. The house is a slightly modified Model Power kit.

Smith Street Tower

Evening falls on Rochester's west side as an ex-BN GP40 and an R&IT Geep hustle a road train past the derelict Smith Street tower on hot, sticky June 24, 1983. The tower once controlled a junction between the interurbans and the New York Central. The crews have nicknamed this area "Red Onion" for the nearby Red Onion Foods, a steady customer of the line. The tower was kitbashed from an Atlas kit, and was inspired by a similar structure in Tonawanda, New York.

7404 entering the Rochester Subway

The R&IT operates a section of the old Rochester Subway, an old trolley and freight route built in the bed of the Erie Canal. Down to a single track, the R&IT uses the Subway tunnel as a shortcut to customers on the east side of Rochester, avoiding crossing over the busy Conrail mainline. Here we find 7404 with some boxcars passing a squatters' camp just before entering the tunnel at Smith Street on February 8, 1978.

Three-way at Brown Street

As day breaks on March 12, 1984, we catch a lucky three-way meet at Brown Street! Oddball C-413 7413 pushes an old boxcar to the freight house, with the bicentennial caboose bringing up the markers. Meanwhile, two R&IT road trains meet at CP ROHATSCH up on the Conrail (ex-NYC) mainline. Newer Geeps with dash-2 technology are starting to replace the venerable antiques that helped the R&IT begin operations back in 1976. The signals are fully functional, and were designed by Integrated Signal Systems.

R&IT and Conrail at Brown Street Freight House

In the early 1980s, it was still common to find first-generation Geeps as local power on both the R&IT and Conrail. Freshly painted 7404 shuffles cars at the old Brown Street freight house while a Conrail local hustles cars up on the mainline.

R&IT wreck train

On one of its last assignements before retirement, R&IT's lone F-unit teams up with7404 to drag the wreck train to Buffalo for servicing on July 22, 1982. A relic from another era, the wreck train was inherited from several sources and was based in Rochester. It was rarely called out, and was eventually retired in 1988. Goodman Street Yard is unusally empty in this rare mid-day scene.

R&IT power at Rochester Roundhouse

An eclectic collection of equipment is found at the old Rochester roundhouse in 1985, including a Geep, an F-unit, a GP38, an Alco C-424, an SW-8, and two more GP40s. A special lend-lease program developed by the New York State DOT allowed for the R&IT to acquire newer, more reliable power as overhead traffic increased. We hope you enjoyed this brief look back at the Genesee Route. If you're ever in Rochester, make sure you stop by the R&IT yard office to sign a release and say hello!

The RIT Model Railroad Club was featured in the October 2006 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.


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