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Annual "Parade of Trains" a Fun, Nostalgic Brooklyn Trip

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 29, 2019 22:15

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Along with hundreds of other train enthusiasts and curious New Yorkers, I travelled on a few antique subway trains in southern Brooklyn.

New Yorkers like to gripe about the subway trains: the noise, the dirt and litter, the crowds, trains taken out of service for obvious and strange reasons, passengers who take up too much room or are too noisy, and much more. Yet many of us are quite fond of trains, especially older models.

We can visit a selection of older trains at the Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn. But even more fun is actually riding on a few of the old trains. Each year there are special occasions when the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) rolls out vintage trains for riders. For the past few years (and at least a few times prior to that) the MTA has designated a special "Parade of Trains" weekend that allows riders to travel from the Brighton Beach station to the Kings Highway station along the Brighton line. In addition, there are Sundays in November and December when some old trains travel along the 2nd Avenue Line (F train) and occasionally for special events (sports related, special anniversaries, and the like).

September 28th and 29th made up this year's "Parade of Trains" weekend, and I decided to partake of the fun. It's especially easy for me (this is the train line nearest my home, and Kings Highway is my regular station). Perhaps most important, I've lived most of my life near stations along this line. 

Four old trains traversed the route this weekend, and I traveled on two of them: a 1940 train and a 1917 train. Both were well preserved and ran well, but compared to the modern trains they are noisier, bouncier, have less contoured seating, and smell of oil. But for the hundreds of people, of various ages, ethnicities, and interests who rode on them, they were a treat. I watched as young kids bounced in their seats, teens and adults roamed the aisles with cameras and cell phones, and a smattering of people came aboard wearing old-style clothing. Some people reminisced about riding on these trains way back when while others mused about commuting on these old-school models.

Part of the fun was also watching out the windows as the trains puttered by people on other train stations (Sheepshead Bay, Neck Road, Avenue U). Some seemed not to care but others gawked and snapped photographs of the rolling antiques.

In addition to these two trains, I stepped aboard the front of the oldest train, a 1903 wooden train that had been modified for electric travel. I even grasped the front wheel (but was shooed off by an eye-rolling transit worker).

All this was an only-in-New-York treat and it didn't cost anything but the price of one train ride ($2.75). 

What's the appeal for many of us? It's a gimmick, a trip to the past, a way to come up close to history. Public transit and travel are intrinsic to the life of our city, and these trains are a part of our lives.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 29, 2019 22:15

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Source: DNAinfo

There have been at least five derailments of subways and commuter trains in NYC since 2013.

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