Abandoned Aqueduct Subway Rochester mural cover

Erie Canal Aqueduct & Subway: Rochester’s Transportation Heritage

A brief history of the Erie Canal aqueduct. Before the Erie Canal was diverted to its current course through Genesee Valley Park, it flowed right through the city using the aqueduct to cross the Genesee River.

In 1918, the canal was re-routed and the city began to use the vacated basin for public rail transportation, with passenger service ending in 1956, and freight traffic ending in 1970.

Broad Street runs atop the abandoned underground today.

Ever since, there has been lively debate over what to do with the decaying infrastructure. This is one of the most comprehensive articles I’ve read on the development of “ROC the Riverway“. It looks to have a decade+ timeline, with quick wins along the way. Broad Street has been the piece I’ve been most fascinated by, with so many solutions debated. I’m excited to see it come to life!

Abandoned Erie Canal Aqueduct
Abandoned Aqueduct Subway Rochester peeking in
under broad street

Sneak a peek

The old subway and canal tunnel under Broad Street is still accessible to urban explorers, but not easily to the general public. Rather, you can still take a peek in from the bottom of the stairs next to Blue Cross Arena & War Memorial.

“Child’s Basin” mural was painted by Cazenovia College Art Professor Corky Goss. Looking out through a stone archway is the first Mayor of Rochester and son-in-law of Nathaniel Rochester, Jonathan Child (1795-1860).

Abandoned Erie Canal Aqueduct
Dinosaur Bar B Que
Dinosaur Promenade at Erie Harbor
Abandoned Erie Canal Aqueduct

You used to be able to walk inside

The main entrance that used to lead under the Rundel Library building has been closed down as a part of the city’s revitalization efforts along the river. 

Re-live Rochester’s Rich Transportation History

There are several excellent places around Rochester where you can interact with historic machines and listen to the stories of Rochester’s beginnings:

New York Museum of Transportation trolley maintenance

New York Museum of Transportation

The New York Museum of Transportation is open on Sundays from 11am-5pm all year long, with special events and trolley rides during the non-winter months. Their impressive collection and engaging events are managed by dedicated volunteers who are excited to share stories of Rochester’s rich transportation history.

Rochester and Genesee Valley Train Ride
Photo courtesy of Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad

Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum

Volunteers at the Rochester Genesee Valley Railroad Museum actively acquire, restore and preserve New York’s largest collection of historic railroad equipment. Spend a day riding the train and checking out their Rochester-centric collection!

Sam Patch interior
On board the Sam Patch

Sam Patch Erie Canal Packet Boat

Sam Patch Erie Canal Tours are a great way to experience the canal, the locks, and learn about its history along your narrated cruise.

Edgerton Model Railroad cover
Edgerton Model Railroad

Other transportation & innovation museums around Rochester

Rochester Genesee Valley Railroad Museum

Learn more about the historic Erie Canal Aqueduct & the Rochester Subway:

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Have you been to see the Erie Canal / Aqueduct?

Please share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. Your insight and experience are invaluable!

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Author Debi Bower is the Founder and Creative Director for Day Trips Around Rochester, NY.

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