When it was a train: The Brown Diamond RBy
Generally, spotting an R train running from 95 Street in Brooklyn to Continental Avenue in Queens isn’t an occasion for a photograph. The R makes that run numerous times a day.
A few weeks ago, Evan Schweitzer spotted something off-kilter on the R. Instead of the familiar yellow circle with a black letter, his R train featured a white R in a brown diamond. What, Evan wanted to know, was going on here? The answer reaches all the way back to the current origins of the New York City subway’s naming conventions.
In the early 1960s, the current R train went by the moniker of RR. A few years later, after the Chrystie St. connector opened, the norther terminus of the RR shifted to Astoria, the current end of the N/W runs. A sister line used the Nassau St. Loop and went by the designation RJ.
Things grow slightly confusing after that. A few months after the RJ debuted in the late 1960s, the line was truncated with a northern terminus at Chambers St. and a southern terminus in Bay Ridge. From then until May 1985, this route was also known as the RR. In 1985, the MTA eliminated double letter designations and referred to this Bay Ridge-to-Chambers St. rush hour-only service as the R with a brown diamond.
The last brown diamond R train ran in on November 20, 1987, and since then, the MTA has worked to streamline route designations. Outside of the 5 trains in the Bronx and the A in Queens, no longer do two distinct routes share the same number or letter. Now and then, though, the roll signs are rolled incorrectly, and those brown diamond blasts from the past rear their heads.