After Operating for Nearly 60 Years, New York Subway to Retire its R-32s

(Photo courtesy MTA)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will officially retire its R-32s from service.

The venerable rail cars, nicknamed the Brightliners, have operated for 58 years, making them some of the oldest subway cars to operate in the world.

“These historic trains have witnessed decades of change in this city getting riders to where they need to go to all corners of the city,” New York City Transit Senior Vice President for Subways Demetrius Crichlow said in a news release.

To commemorate the historic occasion of the train’s retirement and its unique car design, New York City Transit (NYCT) will be placing one R-32 train into service to operate on four consecutive Sundays in December and early January.

“As we continue the work to modernize the transit system and improve the customer experience, it is truly bittersweet to say farewell to a fleet of historic R-32 trains that have served New Yorkers for nearly six decades,” New York City Transit Interim President Craig Cipriano said in a news release. “A significant amount of history goes along with these trains and we’re delighted that we are able to offer the opportunity to ride them one – or even a few – more times in their final days.”

The R-32s were the first large fleet of mass-produced stainless-steel cars purchased by NYCT, comprising a total of 600 cars. Built in Philadelphia by the Budd Company, they were nicknamed the Brightliners because of their washboard-like stainless steel exteriors.

The first revenue R-32 train ran on Sep. 14, 1964 on what is today the Q Line. In recent years, they have primarily operated on the A, C, J and Z lines.

The MTA retired many R-32s in the late 2000s, when the R-160 cars began appearing in the subway system. Many of the retired cars were sunk in the Atlantic Ocean as part of an artificial reef program.

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