New YorkNews

50-year-old ‘workhorses’, R42 subway cars, retires by MTA

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday bade farewell to the last of its R42 cars, which first came into service in 1969. Straphangers say goodbye to one set of NYC Transit subway cars that predate the moon landing. The cars labeled “workhorses” by transit officials because of their durability recorded hundreds of millions of riders. They outlasted seven mayors, eight governors and 13 MTA chairmen.

Dozens of subway fans attended the final run of an R42 train set on Wednesday morning. It traveled along the A line from Euclid Ave. in Brooklyn to Far Rockaway, Queens. The train then headed back up to 207th St. in Manhattan.

Emine Morris, 17, of the Upper East Side, got permission to take the day off from school to take the ride.  My mom understands that I have a passion for trains, so for once she let me skip school, stated Morris. She loves the R42s because they’re very, very spacious.

The MTA bought 400 R42 cars in the late 1960s from the St. Louis Car Company, a Midwestern manufacturer that went out of business in the mid-1970s, shortly after the order was finished. The MTA retired the bulk of the cars between 2006 and 2009. As of last week, 50 were still in service.

Standing here today is a great reminder of the tremendous responsibility that we have to care for our system, to invest in it, and to make sure we’re setting it up for success well into the future, Sally Librera stated, NYC Transit’s senior vice president of subways.

The retired R42s will be replaced by much newer models called R160s, which are less than 15 years old, and brand new R179s, which were yanked from service earlier this year due to a problem with their doors. When the R42s started out, they also had problems similar to those of the R179s, said MTA supervisor and subway buff Bill Wall.


Believe it or not, these reliable workhorses, as we call them, were very unreliable at the beginning, as new cars tend to be, Wall said of the R42s.

These cars had AC problems, brake problems, said Wall. They were notorious for injuring crew members. The MTA is looking ahead to a new generation of even more modern “open gangway” subway cars that will let passengers safely walk the length of a train. The MTA will test 50 of those cars this summer, and plans to purchase hundreds more over the next five years.

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