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Nostalgia Train to run December Sundays

by Benjamin Kabak


The Holiday Nostalgia Train shown here in 2007. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Lately, as part of an effort to remember the city’s transit past while providing for a neat way to get more people interested in the subways, New York City Transit has rolled out the Nostalgia Train with some regularity. These retrofitted and well-maintained vintage subway cars have made trips to and from Yankee and Shea Stadium during their final games and up to the Bronx for the playoffs this year.

Yet, through it all, December has, for the last few years, been a time for Nostalgia Train rides, and this year is no different. Transit announced this afternoon that the Nostalgia Train will be running along the V line from 2nd Ave. to Queens Plaza on Sundays in December. The train will operate between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. with trips leaving every 90 minutes from 2nd Ave.

“With a little bit of luck and good timing, riders will be able to catch a ride on this classic subway train at stations along the V line between Queens Plaza and Second Avenue.” Steven Feil, MTA New York City Transit’s Senior Vice President of the Department of Subways, said.

The train set will feature cars that were in service between the 1930s and 1970s. All have been maintained by Transit, and most are kept at the Transit Museum. Among the highlights are Car No. 100, an R1-type that was the first car ordered for the opening of the IND subway line; Car No. 484, an R4 made by American Car & Foundry that received a PA system and bulls-eye lighting in 1946; and Car No. 1575, an R7 that was rebuilt after a crash as the prototype for the R10. With wicker seats and ceiling fans, these cars are definitely curiosities as compared with today’s modern rolling stock.

Yesterday, in writing about the MTA’s plan to run vintage buses along 42nd Street, a few readers started debating the merits of these gimmicky holiday specials. Although running Nostalgia Trains and buses makes for nice photo opportunities, critics argue, they don’t do much to push transit forward. I believe that these trains serve as a draw though. By bringing out cars that look different and are evocative of the past, people are interested in transit. Even if just for a few hours, a heightened awareness of what’s happening underground is well worth it.

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Abraham Moussako December 3, 2009 - 5:45 pm

at least there won’t be any arguments over carbon emissions here…

AK December 3, 2009 - 5:51 pm

Don’t get us started Abraham! 🙂

Alon Levy December 3, 2009 - 11:21 pm

Actually, the older trains were less energy-efficient than the newer trains. But I’m not sure there’s much of a difference between the R1 and R62 there – the innovations I’m familiar with are just for the R160, like regenerative braking.

Andrew December 3, 2009 - 10:54 pm

So you’re saying that these same cars ran to Shea Stadium? How, pray tell, do IND cars fit on the Flushing line?

(The answer, of course, is that there isn’t one single train called the “Nostalgia Train.” Quite a few old cars from various periods have been restored by volunteers and run on occasion. The train that ran to Yankee Stadium for the playoffs, for instance, was made of up IRT Lo-V’s.)

Benjamin Kabak December 3, 2009 - 11:11 pm

You answered your own question! I wasn’t clear about that, but Transit picks and chooses from their BMT/IND/IRT vintage rolling stock. For the Yankee Stadium/Shea Stadium trips, they send out a Lo-V set. For this one, they roll out a mix of wider IND cars.

Andrew December 3, 2009 - 11:42 pm

Glad we agree!

I suppose my snarky sarcasm failed, but I was trying to point out that your first paragraph implies that this very same train has been to Shea.

Alon Levy December 3, 2009 - 11:23 pm

Ben, I got on one of those nostalgia trains 2 years ago. Everyone on the train seemed to be a heavy railfan, and many people were regular posters on subway boards, like SubChat or Riders Diaries. Those are the people who’d ride the subway no matter what, not the people the MTA should be wooing, who are driving or taking taxis because the subway doesn’t serve their needs well.

Andrew December 3, 2009 - 11:47 pm

When I rode this train last year, it was packed with random riders who were thrilled to have found an old train. The same with the Yankee Stadium runs last month.

Maybe you rode at an off time, when none of the trains are crowded, so only the hard-core railfans were riding it. Try riding it at a busier time of day.

rhywun December 5, 2009 - 10:03 pm

Same here. When I (accidentally) caught one of these a few years ago, it was mid-afternoon, somewhere in Chelsea (where I lived at the time), and pretty much the usual mix of locals and tourists. I didn’t “sense” any railfan contingent.

rhywun December 6, 2009 - 10:23 pm

PS. I think the “nostalgia train” CAN woo non-riders. People are naturally attracted to the “unusual”. The idea isn’t to show them how great transit can be, it’s just to peak their interest.

KB December 4, 2009 - 12:29 pm

So the V train will run on Sundays this month – At hour intervals!

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Sara December 6, 2009 - 2:44 am

When I last rode it, it was a combination of railfans and thrilled, surprised riders. I loved seeing the looks on their faces!

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