Goodbye Brightliners: MTA’s oldest metro cars bid farewell in their last run after nearly 58 years


Dozens of railroad enthusiasts jumped aboard a final ride in the nearly 58-year-old R32 subway cars during their last run on Sunday, January 9, before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority permanently retired the models.

Vintage trains nicknamed “Brightliners” for their shiny corrugated stainless steel hulls traveled along the Q Line from Brighton Beach to the Upper East Side for their final passenger celebration service after first hitting the tracks almost six decades ago.

“It’s the end of an era,” said rider Zorick Johnson, who showed off a model-sized R32 and donned a train conductor’s hat. “It is an honor for me to be here on this final round to say goodbye to an MTA workhorse.”

The same year that the British invasion brought the Beatles to America and the World’s Fair opened in Queens, the R32 debuted on September 9, 1964 in the New York City subway with a celebratory ride on commuter rail tracks from Mott Haven Yard to Grand Central Terminal.

The train was greeted by “the Transit Authority 20-piece gang in green and gold uniforms,” ​​the New York Times reported at the time.

Railfan Zorick Johnson shows off a model R32 car on the farewell ride to the nearly 58-year-old R32 metro on January 9.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The Sunday featured the original two front cars of this ride with blue painted doors and a front banner marking the initial order of 600 cars from the Transit Authority.

Built by the Budd Company of Philadelphia, the R32s were the first mass-produced stainless steel cars purchased by the TA and weighed about 4,000 pounds less than other models at the time, but it was the shiny exterior. that made them unique.

“It’s one of the coolest, exterior cars we’ve ever had,” said Jodi Shapiro, curator at the New York Transit Museum. “Even on a day like today, when it’s cloudy and overcast, they still look fantastic.”

Inside, the R32s have a sleek, minimalist design, with only rows of fiberglass benches on either side, along with analog traffic signs indicating the route.

A front window allows straphangers to have an unobstructed view of the front of the train, a popular feature that newer cars lack.

“You don’t see trains like this anymore,” said runner Sydney McGinn.

(LR) Wessley Willsey, 10, with his mother Amy, father Will and brother Emmet, 5, traveled from Wappingers Falls, New York, to the Five Boroughs to see the R32 subway cars on January 9.

Trains began to run on what is now the Q line, and MTA has more recently deployed them to lines A, C, J, and Z.

They originally had a lifespan of 35 years, according to the Times report, but passed that two-decade deadline when they last scheduled passenger service in 2020.

“They’ve been through snowstorms, graffiti, violence, scratches on the glass, and the cars are still going, they’re still strong,” Johnson said, knocking on the door glass to make his point. of view.

The MTA – itself a year younger than the R32s – has twice planned to retire the old trains in 2010 and 2020, but brought them back to replace the faulty new models.

The Transit Museum has organized four retirement weekends starting in December, the first three on Line D and the last Sunday tour on its original route.

The museum almost called off public events after vandals took over the irreplaceable and original seats on the first weekend.

Many fans young and old were happy to see the organization keep the show on track so they could bid farewell to the trains.

Wessley Willsey, 10, came down from upstate Wappingers Falls with his family, including his brother Emmer, 5, his mother Amy and his father Will.

The youngster said he liked the R32 for its “sound, the noise, the look”.

“I can imagine how it works,” he added.

MTA (LR) bus operators Javi Batista and Ismael Santos have switched from roads to rails to take the R32 metro one last time.Photo by Kevin Duggan

A pair of MTA bus operators moved from the roads to the rails to see the subway trains they had used since their childhood.

“I grew up riding them and like them better than other models,” said Javi Batista, who joined the ride with fellow Queens bus driver Ismael Santos. “I just wanted to see them for the very last time, before they left.


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