DVD Review: The End of the Line

Reviews LogoReview by Mike Roqué

Passengers board an eastbound car at City Hall station

The Rochester Subway, a single-line underground trolley system, served the city of Rochester and surrounding areas for only about thirty years from 1928 to 1956, yet its memory still lives on today almost 50 years later. The folks at Animatus Studio in Rochester have released The End of the Line, remastering a documentary on the subway originally produced in 1994 as well as adding new features that add up to a one-of-a kind portrait of a one-of-a-kind rail system.

After the Erie Canal was rerouted around the city of Rochester, The Rochester Subway was built in the canal bed to provide trolley service in downtown Rochester without hindering rapid and safe travel as well as provide a connection between the various railroads in town. While the service was fast and efficient, and the burden of World War II renewed its utility, it simply could not compete with the rise of the automobile and the corresponding trend towards suburban living. Although there are remnants of the line downtown, today interstates 490 and 590 have replaced much of the right-of-way.

The End of the Line captures the story of the Rochester Subway in a 45-minute documentary with a variety of interesting media, including over 150 historic photographs, videos, and documents (Newspaper headlines, posters, etc.) as well as interviews with subway operators, historians, and preservationists. The narration and original musical score done in period style provide an intrinsic sense of the era, and three new features help bridge the gap between the past and the present:

  • The Steel Wheel takes us for a ride on the subway as it existed in the 1950s.
  • Prodigal Son – Rochester Car 60 shows us the last remaining subway car and an interview with one of the last motormen.
  • Motherless Child – Remnants of the Subway includes video of the Rochester & Southern Railroad serving a customer on the last active segment of the subway as well as a video walkthrough of the remaining subway right-of-way.

The DVD also includes a small map of the subway route as well some amusing interview and filming outtakes.

Overall, this is an excellent DVD with professional production, high-quality imagery, and a compelling story told with a nostalgic tone. Although the DVD mentions that there are no plans to restore car 60, the Rochester Chapter NRHS currently has the car in its possession, and it is undergoing restoration at the Chapter’s museum and restoration facility in Rush, NY.

Otherwise, at $29.95, this unique DVD is certainly worth adding to any Rochester railfan’s collection.

The End of the Line
By Animatus Studio