Home Rolling Stock After 50 years, R42s set for final ride on Wednesday

After 50 years, R42s set for final ride on Wednesday

by Benjamin Kabak

When the R42s entered service on May 9, 1969, Richard Nixon was president, the eventual World Champion Mets were 12-15, and Neil Armstrong’s famous moon walk was still over two months away. Tomorrow, these venerable old cars, the last 60-foot married pairs made by the St. Louis Car Company and the first fleet to come fully equipped with air conditioning, will make their final rides with a ceremonial trip along the A line, hosted by the Transit Museum.

The last run of the R42s has been a few years’ coming, delayed by the problems with the R179s. Most of the R42’s married pairs were scrapped a few years ago when the R160s arrived and the MTA was still reefing old rail cars. The last to be retired have been replaced, haltingly, with those R179s as the 50-year reign of some of the system’s oldest cars come to a close.

Wednesday’s ceremonial ride is sure to attract a large crowd of rail watchers and eager photographers, and the MTA is making it a long one. The ride will depart Euclid Avenue at 10:30 a.m. on the way to Far Rockaway. The express ride from Far Rockaway to 207th St. is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m., and the final final run from 207th St. back to Euclid Ave. will depart at around 1:30 p.m. After that, you’ll just have to catch the R42s at the Transit Museum or immortalized on film in The French Connection.

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Robert Brown February 11, 2020 - 2:37 pm

They had a great run running the rails on the IND/BMT routes I will miss riding them and looking out at the front window.

Larry Penner February 11, 2020 - 3:55 pm

Many of today’s commuters are unaware that previous generations of both bus and subway riders survived daily commutes with no air conditioning. All they had for comfort were overhead fans. Air conditioned buses and subway cars that we all take for granted today were virtually non existent up until the time of the 1964-65 Worlds Fair. Air conditioned buses were still a novelty. It was not until 1966, that NYC Transit first purchased over 600 buses with this new feature. Subsequently, all future new buses would include air conditioning. By the early 1990’s, 100% of the bus fleet was air conditioned.

In 1967, NYC Transit introduced the first ten air conditioned subway cars operating on the old IND system (Independent municipal NYC built, financed and operated A, C, E. F & G lines). It was not until 1975, that air conditioned subway cars were introduced on the old IRT (NYC private franchised Independent Rapid Transit system operated 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Franklin Avenue and Times Square shuttle lines). Subsequently, this also included the old BMT (NYC private franchised Brooklyn Manhattan Transit system B, D, J, L, M, N, Q, R & Z lines), It took until 1982 to retrofit all the original IRT “Redbird” series subway cars. By 1993, 99% of the NYC 6,000 subway cars were air conditioned with the exception of a handful running on the #7 Flushing line.

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office)

Terry February 12, 2020 - 10:14 am

…and nothing to do with the topic…

Vinny O'Hare February 11, 2020 - 5:37 pm

I will probably go to my home station of Broad Channel and take video and photos. Spent a lot of years working on these.

Michael Glikin February 11, 2020 - 5:40 pm

IRT – Interborough Rapid Transit. Independent
is represented by the coty-owned IND

Warren Simon February 12, 2020 - 12:56 am

A couple of inaccuracies: first, some of the R-40’s had air conditioning. You could tell from outside by looking at the inside ends (as I did while on the platform). They had grab bars instead of handles to hold, as the evaporators were located there. Second, this wasn’t the last car to be bought from St. Louis Car. They also made the R-44’s. The R-46’s, made by Pullman, signalled the end of purchasing from St. Louis Car Co.

Benjamin Kabak February 12, 2020 - 9:56 am

Thanks, Warren. I’ve clarified that these were the last 60-foot married pairs (and not the last to be made by St. Louis). I do believe these were the first to be fully equipped with AC though. Not all of the R40s had AC upon delivery.

jfruh February 12, 2020 - 10:54 am

They’re still going to run on the Staten Island Railroad for a few years, though, right?

Kai B February 12, 2020 - 4:00 pm

Those are R44s, I believe.

LLggttbbQJ March 3, 2020 - 5:40 pm

why not offer sirt the r42’s, since they have heat?
and why don’t the staten island r44’s have heat?

SEAN February 12, 2020 - 3:28 pm

cant wait until all sets prior to the R-142 are removed from service as announcements are often inaudible in many cars & that is important to the visually impaired community.

smotri February 12, 2020 - 4:45 pm

Can’t agree with you more. Virtually anytime we must rely on the conductors to make announcements it means the announcements are either much too loud, much too quiet or too distorted.

IND Rider February 14, 2020 - 1:22 am

Wow, i don’t believe I ever thought this day would come. I just assumed I would keep riding the 42s (and the 60s? Whichever number is on the C) forever, as I get slowly older and older, and the cars stay the same age. (I do so enjoy seeing the tourists on CPW get on and marvel at their antique surroundings and then get jerked off their feet as the train starts.)
Ah, the 42s… and the 40 slants… and the Redbirds…

Larry Littlefield February 15, 2020 - 8:27 am

The important thing is given the amount of debt the MTA has it had better be maintaining its car fleet so they will last AT LEAST 50 years.

The fact that electric rail is robust enough to survive (with frequent delays and service collapses) long periods of disinvestment is the only hope we have. The Buenos Aires subway had trains running for a century.

Should the MTA be cutting back maintenance on the R32s and R46s? Maybe not.

Al February 18, 2020 - 12:25 pm

The original roll signs were great! You knew what train was coming from a mile away!

David September 29, 2021 - 5:08 pm

Now they need a final run with the R32s. Oh, the other preserved R42s are R42 4665-R40M 4460 and cars 4736–4737.


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