If you read Finding NYC on a regular basis, you know I’m a fan of public transportation. So when I heard that MTA was running vintage subway trains every Sunday during December, I was first in line to check it out. The trains are made up of R1/9 subway cars; the car I rode was an R6. (From my research, I’ve discovered that R6 cars were built in 1935 and 1936. Some remained in regular service until the 1970s.)
The outside of the cars sets the tone for for the experience. They are riveted metal, painted dark green with “City of New York” stenciled in gold. It was fun pulling up to each station and watching the reactions of people who were waiting for the train. You could always tell when people had no advance warning that the vintage trains were running because of the surprised looks on their faces.
There are many aspects that make riding in these vintage subway cars very different than the usual subway riders’ experience today. The overhead light bulbs would occasionally flicker, and ceiling fans kept the air circulating throughout the car. The seats had cushions filled with springs, making for a slightly bouncy ride. Vintage advertising stretched overhead – although the form is similar to what riders still see today, the content reflected days gone by. Another reminder that times have changed: the vintage subway cars have no intercom system, and subway workers stepped out on the platform each stop to announce, “This is the M Train to Queens Plaza! M Train to Queens Plaza!”
Here’s one of the route signs for the vintage subway train – it’s not correct, as the train started at the 2nd Street F Station, not the Houston-2nd Avenue Station, and it ended at the Queens Plaza Station, not Forest Hills.
There were quite a variety of riders, from those who hadn’t known that vintage trains were riding but still hopped on when they had the opportunity, to families with children and train aficionados. I also saw a couple of young women dressed in vintage outfits, like this one here.
If you have the chance to ride one of the vintage trains, I definitely recommend it. The ride was a lot of fun, and it costs the same as any other subway ride in New York City – $2.75. The MTA website has the list of departure times and stops. (It also mentions the vintage buses that are serving the M42 route on certain days this month!)
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