The Evolution of NYC Subway Cars

By Jordan • September 21st, 2017

In case you have been lamenting the state of the subway cars on your current commute, take a look at subways past and realize how great you have it–and learn how much better we’ll have it in the future. If you think your daily commute brings on a headache, consider the very earliest subway cars. These open-air cars pretty much resembled cattle cars, as pictured above, chugging through the City Hall station in 1904–imagine the fumes. The wooden crates were abandoned in 1918 after one crashed, killing 93 passengers. (Sidenote: to see the now-abandoned City Hall station, you can take the 6 and stay on after Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall and look out the window as the train makes a U-turn.)

This “standard” subway car with a steel body was rolled out in 1915.

Back in the day, there were 3 competing lines running the subways: the IND, BMT, and IRT–which explains why the lettered cars and tunnels are wider than the numbered cars and tunnels. They were built by different companies, for different trains. In 1932, when the IND was formed by the City to compete with the two private subway carriers, they introduced this R-1 car. Painted a dull-green, these “nostalgia” trains still make a comeback during the holiday season, and are well worth tracking down!

In the 1950s, comfort kicked in (think Mad Men) with the introduction of air-conditioned cars.

But in the 70s and 80s, the subway system went downhill, fraught with graffiti and crime.

Today, you can get wifi and cell service on the trains–and in the future, you’ll be looking at USB ports, digital route displays, and wider doors.

Source: Curbed


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