New York’s Oldest Subway Cars, Beautiful Symbols of a Sad Decline

PenneyVanderbilt

In 1964, the New York City Transit Authority introduced the shiny, stainless-steel R32 subway car. “There was a very special inaugural trip that took place on today’s Metro-North line into Grand Central Terminal, welcoming the trains into New York,” James Giovan, an educator at the New York Transit Museum, told me recently. The R32s were dubbed Brightliners. By 1965, six hundred had been built. With their brilliant corrugated bodies, they bore little resemblance to other cars. They were praised for having the clearest intercom system. Their plastic benches marked the end of gritty rattan-wicker seats. The R32 was the train of the future, offering a vision of what mass transit would look like in fifty years—literally, as it happens, because, against all odds, roughly two hundred of the original R32s still operate on New York City’s C, J, and Z lines. They are the oldest subway cars still in service…

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One thought on “New York’s Oldest Subway Cars, Beautiful Symbols of a Sad Decline”

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