Archive for Rolling Stock

Is this an early glimpse at the cars delivered as part of contract R188? (Photo via Wikipedia)

The Internets were all abuzz today with word that the first of the R188s hit the Corona Yards last night with more to follow. The cars aren’t yet ready for revenue service, but they are sitting out in the open for shutterbugs to snap. Reportedly, the photo above from Wikipedia is the first glimpse we’ve had of the new order of rolling stock.

The R188 order is a strange one. The MTA is purchasing only a limited number of new cars while they’re converting a bunch of R142As into CBTC-ready sets. What you’re seeing here is a converted R142A. The new cars aren’t yet ready for delivery, and the 7 line isn’t yet ready for CBTC either.

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The R32s, seen here along the E line in 2008, will have to last a few more years. (Photo by flickr user gmpicket)

When the MTA first unveiled the 2010-2014 Capital Plan back in 2008, the rolling stock investment of course drew some attention. In that document, the MTA put forth its plan to purchase the so-called R179s that would replace the R44s and R32s. Optimistically, we even expected them early on in the five-year plan.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and as the MTA has struggled to get its financial house in order, the R179s have become a victim, for now, of the budget knife. In the three-year budget released this week, the MTA announced that the R32s, already 47 years old, will have to last until 2017 when the MTA can bring the R179s on line. Fifty-three year old rail cars will be a sight to behold.

The full text follows:

Due to the accelerated retirement of R44 cars caused by structural defects, the older 222 R32 car fleet is required to remain in service beyond their normal service life. The R32 cars are currently 47 years old and already well past the standard expected useful life of 40 years. Now these cars will be required to remain in service for at least another 6 years until 2017 when new R179 cars are delivered.

The R32 cars received their last SMS work in 2007 and require a new SMS cycle to maintain acceptable performance levels for the next six years. R32 car MDBF is the worst by far of any car fleet now in revenue service; in April 2011 12-month average MDBF for the R32 fleet was just 57,210 compared with a fleet-wide average of 171,553 for the same period. The failure to perform this needed SMS cycle would result in unacceptable further deterioration of this already low level of performance. The R32 SMS cycle will require an addition of 52 positions and costs of $7.9 million per year for three years.

Already, these cars are in poor condition, and riders along the C train have been complaining of failing air conditioners and generally decrepit cars. For another six years, we’re stuck with them.

For the past decade, the MTA has disposed of old subway cars through a reefing program. In fact, more than 2500 cars, stripped of their valuable and toxic parts, have been dropped to the ocean floor to create a home for ocean life and a destination for water tourists. (Check out a video on reefing here.) In a slideshow for The Times over the weekend, though, Michael Grynbaum reported on the end of the reefing program.

According to Grynbaum’s MTA sources, the newer cars aren’t fit for reefing. “After 10 years,” he writes, “the authority determined that its newer subway cars would not be suitable for this fate; those trains have more plastic parts than their predecessors, making them more expensive to prepare for reefing. The era of the underwater subway graveyard officially came to an end.” The authority will try to find a “more efficient manner of disposal.” The reefs then will stay as they are, and the photos of cars being sunk will remain as dramatic as they ever were.

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As first reported by Heather Haddon, the MTA will not be scrapping the R32s and R42s that currently run along the A/C and J/Z lines. To save approximately $1.6 million in 2010 and and around $2.4 million overall, Transit will retrofit these cars and keep this batch of 46-year-old rolling stock in use for a few more trips before replacing them later on in the five-year capital plan. The MTA still plans to spend $748 million in capital funds to buy 340 new B division cars before 2015.

As Haddon reports, “[These] trains have the worst record for breakdowns in the system, and are about seven times more likely to fall apart than the new cars on the letter lines, NYC Transit records show.” By keeping them in service and ending the reefing program, the authority can save money on transportation, hazardous material abatement and barging costs. I do wonder how much of those savings is offset by higher maintenance costs. Either way, the fish in the mid-Atlantic will be so disappointed, and we won’t be seeing anymore of those nifty photos of scrapped subway trains on barges.

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A few weeks ago, Transit announced that it had accepted the delivery of the final R160 units. With that order of cars, the next push to upgrade the rolling stock would involve the R179s, and the city’s fleet of subway cars is getting newer all the time.

Yesterday, in a great behind-the-scenes glimpse, the good folks at Transit’s NYCTSubwayScoop Twitter account published a series of photos concerning the new rolling stock. They traced the origins of the car from its production in Brazil to Hornell, New York, where the cars are assembled to the train yards in the city where the cars are put on the rails.

My favorite shot is the one atop this post. The new car is wrapped so nicely, and when the engineers at Transit open it up, they’ll find one of 1662 new subway train cars awaiting service.

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The era of the new R160s is officially over as New York City Transit announced that they have received the final units of the 1662-car order. The new cars are in use on the E, F, N and Q lines, and the technology behind the R160s — including the underutilized FIND signs — should keep this series of rolling stock on the rails for the next four decades.

Transit officials have spoken glowingly of the new cars as they now average approximately 370,000 miles between mechanical failures. “A lot of work went into the development of the R160 fleet and these cars have allowed us to retire hundreds of subway cars that first entered service in the mid to late 1960s, Carmen Bianco, senior vice president of the Department of Subways, said. “These cars are state-of-the-art, and designed to provide customers with far more information and comfort than older models and they are designed to last at least through mid century.”

The R160 order wraps up the MTA’s rolling stock expenditures under the 2005-2009 capital plan, and the next order — the so-called R179s — will come under the next five-year plan. Current plans for the R179s include a 290-car order for 60-footers that will replace the remaining R32 and R42 sets. The R188 order for the 7 line will start arriving in 2012, and the R211s are slated to arrive in 2015 to replace the R46s.

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Wrapped subway cars, the world’s best present. (Photos by NGC/ Hoff Productions)

Tonight at 8 p.m. the National Geographic channel will go behind the scenes of the subway car manufacturing process. The latest installment in the Ultimate Factories series, tonight’s show will follow the manufacturing process for one of the new R160 cars as it goes from France to Brazil to upstate New York before arriving in our subway system.


Neil Genzling, TV critic for The Times has already seen the show, and he praises it for the clips of the reefing process.

For regular users of the subway what’s likely to get the heart really racing comes near the end, when the program takes a brief detour to show what happens to retired subway cars. That’s when we see the gray monstrosities being deep-sixed 20 miles off the Maryland coast to create an artificial reef for marine life.

Watching those cars going under feels like revenge, or vindication, or something, for all those appointments missed because the R and the N — the Rarely and the Never — didn’t show up, or because an indecipherable intercom failed to convey that the E train was going to skip the next 20 stops, or insert your own subway nightmare here.

For those further interested in the companies that make the trains, Infrastructurist’s Yonah Freemark has published a series of posts about train manufacturing companies. He started with Alstom, moved on to Bomardier, then examined Talgo and looked at the Japanese newcomers. Good stuff.

After the jump, a four-minute video preview of tonight’s show. Read More→

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Kawasaki is currently hard at work prepping an order of M-8 cars for Metro-North to replace the aging rolling stock that heads into Connecticut. The original order, placed in 2006, called for delivery of 210 cars beginning in 2010 at a cost of $713 million with an option for 90 more at $170 million. With delivery looming, a slight problem has emerged: They cars failed their first stress test. According to Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie, one of the M-8s “buckled ‘slightly'” when subjected to 800,000 pounds of force.

Both Metro-North and Connecticut Department of Transportation officials did not express much concern over the failure and noted the results were fairly minor. Delivery of the cars will not believed, but officials are looking for an explanation as to the cause of the buckling. For more on the new rolling stock, check out Station Stops’ 2008 profile of the M-8’s. Apparently, these cars include power outlets for every seat.

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In January 1968, the gleaming new R40 car made its New York City debut along the F line. These cars designed by Raymond Loewy became rail fan favorites. With their familiar front slants and large windows, the R40s provided straphangers with a clear view out the front or back of the trains. Today, though, the era of the R40s is over. Already, most of them have been replaced by R160s, and according to Rail Fan Window via a Subchat poster, the last R40 will roll off the line at around 8 p.m. tonight. The Transit Museum will receive a pair of cars, rumored to be 4280 and 4281, but for one final ride, catch it on the A.

Photo by Doug Grotjahn/

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Where do old subway cars go when they do? The ocean off the coast of Delaware, of course. On Friday, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control added 44 more old subway cars to its extensive artificial reef off of the Delmarva coast. This latest group of cars bring the total size of the Redbird Reef to 934 old trains. It is 1.3 square nautical miles in size and is located 16 miles off of the coast. According to the Delaware DNREC, 13,000 anglers a year visit New York’s old rolling stock, and the site has become a haven for marine life.

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