You know them well — they resemble a washboard, typically have blue seating, give off an old-timey creaking noise, and look like they’ve seen some stuff, ya know? They’re the R-32s, and they’ve been a part of our transit system since the 1960s, when they arrived as state-of-the-art cars that weighed 4,000-lbs less than the older train cars of the time. In January, however, they’ll be taking their final ride on the city’s rails — it’s been a long time coming, as their original retirement announcement came a decade ago.
This time it’s for real — the MTA has announced that after 58 years of service, the last of the R-32s (nicknamed the Brightliners) will be retired. They note these are “among the oldest subway cars to operate in the world,” and are notably “the last subway car class in service to have a front window that passengers can look out of.” Sure, they’re no R-46, but let’s send them off in style.
As much as New Yorkers love to complain about these clunkers, they deserve a last hurrah — starting this Sunday, there will be some celebratory final rides for all of us transit nerds.
“To commemorate the historic occasion of the train’s retirement and its unique car design, New York City Transit (NYCT) will be placing one R-32 train into service to operate on four consecutive Sundays in December and early January,” the agency announced. Here’s the schedule, with final rides on December 19th, 26th, January 2nd and 9th on the D, F, and Q lines:
According to the New York Transit Museum, the trains have “the second-longest service life in New York City subway history.” There are a pair of R-32s, #3352 and #3353, that the museum has preserved (though they are not currently on view) — these “led the first train of R-32s on the fleet’s ceremonial inaugural trip in 1964.”
That trip, the museum describes, started at “New York Central Railroad’s Mott Haven Yard in the Bronx and ended at Grand Central Terminal, where they were greeted with a 20-piece Transit Authority marching band.” They were the first to travel that route and Joseph O’Grady, chairman of the NYCT, “chose the route to show that ‘subways are railroads too.'”
The trains ran on the Q, but in more recent years have been found on the A, C, J and Z lines.
“These historic trains have witnessed decades of change in this city getting riders to where they need to go to all corners of the city,” said the NYCT’s Demetrius Crichlow. “We are committed to improving the subway system by replacing aging infrastructure with a modern fleet of trains … the retirement of these trains is just one part of that journey, and we hope that New Yorkers take advantage of these final runs before we say goodbye to them early next year.”
According to NYCT, the trains — built in Philly by the Budd Company — were the “first large fleet of mass-produced stainless-steel cars” they purchased, and at one time there were 600 of these stainless steel beauties out there. …….