Readers Write: Take nostalgia subway ride back in time

Readers Write: Take nostalgia subway ride back in time


For the cost of one swipe of either a Metro or One Metro New York (OMNY) fare card, you can participate in the New York Transit Museum Nostalgia Ride on the holidays. There is still time to join your neighbors and come aboard on Sundays, Dec. 4, 11, and 18  between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Your journey to the past takes place aboard the train as it runs along the NYC Transit No. 1 local track on Manhattan’s West Side. It will be running express between the Chambers St and 137th St – City College St stations. The trains are made up of 1960s series R33 and R36 subway cars. It is a great trip into long forgotten past history.

Riding old subway cars will remind you of a time decades ago when it was common to find both penny gum and soda machines dispensing products at many subway stations. Clean and safe bathrooms were readily available. It was an era when people respected authority and law. Previous generations of riders did not litter subway stations and buses by leaving behind gum, candy wrappers, paper cups, bottles and newspapers.

No one would openly eat pizza, chicken or other messy foods while riding a bus or subway. There were no acrobatic performers swinging from inside subway car poles while you were seated during your journey. Most everyone paid their way and there was very little fare evasion.

Previous generations of both bus and subway riders survived daily commutes with no air conditioning. All they had for comfort were overhead fans. Air-conditioned buses and subway cars that we all take for granted today were virtually non-existent until the time of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Air-conditioned buses were still a novelty. It was not until 1966 that NYC Transit first purchased over 600 buses with this new feature. Subsequently, all future new buses would include air conditioning. By the early 1990s, 100% of the bus fleet was air conditioned.

In 1967, NYC Transit introduced the firstn10 air-conditioned subway cars operating on the old IND system (Independent municipal NYC built, financed and operated A, C, E. F & G lines). It was not until 1975, that air-conditioned subway cars were introduced on the old IRT (NYC private franchised Independent Rapid Transit system operated 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Franklin Avenue and Times Square shuttle lines).

Subsequently, this also included the old BMT (NYC private franchised Brooklyn Manhattan Transit system B, D, J, L, M, N, Q, R & Z lines), It took until 1982 to retrofit all the original IRT “Redbird” series subway cars. By 1993, 99% of the NYC 6,000 subway cars were air conditioned with the exception of a handful running on the  No. 7 Flushing line.


Larry Penner

Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.

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