From the Historian: East Rochester’s own train station from 1896 to 1950

Jim Burlingame
East Rochester Train Station, located on the corner of West Maple Avenue and North Main Street.

At one time, East Rochester had its own train station. It was located at the end of Main Street on a small knoll at the corner of West Maple Avenue. It was the oldest building in the village being constructed shortly before the village was founded in 1897. The building was a brick structure designed by the famed architect Claude Bragdon. It had a tile roof and a fireplace-warmed waiting room with solid oak benches. It also had a freight department, which replaced the old Penfield station on Washington Street. Old-timers recalled many of the first residents of the village, known as Despatch at the time, getting on and off the several passenger trains stopping daily at the busy community. At its height in the 1920s and ‘30s, 26 trains stopped here daily, both passenger and freight.

In the station’s early days, you could ride the train to Rochester back to this village for 5 cents. Railroad addicts prize old schedules that indicated the stops here by trains moving between New York and Chicago. Back then, mail was delivered to the village by a speeding railroad train that deposited the mailbag on a hook hung from a pole next to the station. Many a time, the stationmaster had to go down the tracks and pick up letters and packages from the bag that had missed the hook. The reverse of this was picking up mail from the village the same way, from a bag on a pole, this time the hook was on the railroad car. That process was eliminated when the trolley cars came to the village, traveling down West Commercial to East Commercial Street and on to Fairport starting in 1905. They carried the mail from Rochester to East Rochester. Later, they, too, were replaced by motorized trucks. The trolleys last run through the village was in 1931.

It was also the place where immigrants coming to Despatch, later called East Rochester, got off at their journey’s end to be greeted by friends and families they had said goodbye to earlier in the old country. It was also the last stop for the mail that was destined for Penfield and Pittsford.

The station died after the village turned down an offer from the Railroad to sell it to them for $1 in 1950. If you walk down to the end of Main Street and look carefully, you can still see some of the remains of the long-gone platform up on the hill next to the tracks.

In my next article, I will write about an earlier train station before the village was established called Penfield Station and was located on Washington Street.

Jim Burlingame is historian for the town/village of East Rochester.