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The Final Ride on the R-32 Subway Train

Ellen Levitt

Posted on January 9, 2022 18:35

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An iconic NYC subway train is being retired, and I was one of the riders on its final day.

Subway trains are an integral part of life in NYC. NYC's subway system has the highest ridership, the most stations, and dates to 1904. Movies, songs, books and other pop culture have been based on the trains here.

Many types and makes of trains have traversed the tracks here, and occasionally certain cars have been retired, sometimes to much fanfare. When the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) decided to retire the R-32 trains which were introduced in 1964, they advertised special Sunday "retirement runs" of these trains along a few train lines. January 9th, 2022 was selected as the "Final Farewell to the R-32s."

I decided to be one of those last riders.

This train model was introduced in 1964, the year I was born, and it originally ran on my local train line. Although in more recent years it was swapped into different train lines, I would occasionally find myself on one of these trains, nicknamed the "Brightliners." 

The first stop of the day was actually south of my station, Kings Highway, so when I walked up to the northbound platform, I noticed a few people pacing about, with their cameras ready. Several minutes after 10AM, the train roared in, and we snapped away. A sign had been placed on the front of the train. As I walked into the train, I looked around. I snapped a few selfies with two signs I'd made ("I'm As Old As This Train" and "The R-32 and I are Vintage 1964." I could see that most of the passengers were like me, slightly thrilled to be on this final train run. (One older man asked if he could take a photo of me with my signs, and I agreed to it.)

Then I sat, and rode to the last stop on Manhattan's Upper East Side, 96th Street. It was fun and a bittersweet to watch people come in, leave, walk around, snap photos and videos. 

Although I've long realized that most "train nerds" are male, there were many women who boarded the train and were happy to come along for the ride. I watched a young African American woman who got on at 96th Street, who sat near me and propped up her cellphone so that she filmed the duration of the ride. 

It was definitely a hodgepodge of New Yorkers: from senior citizens to youngsters, men and women. People who were white, black, Latino and Asian. So many took pictures. Many wore clothing and accessories with MTA insignia. One teen boy had a red leather jacket with an "MTA" patch at the elbow. He and a few others were swapping stories about members of their families who had been train conductors and engineers.

The train was loud (as always), and there were signs up to explain the history of the cars. Occasionally riders walked in, confused about the vaguely party-like atmosphere.

This train ride was nostalgic for me, a fond farewell. A tribute to our durable subway system!

Ellen Levitt

Posted on January 9, 2022 18:35

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Source: CNN
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