John Pazmino 
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2004 March 6
[This article was written prior to setting up the NYSkies website. 
Excess typos were removed but the text is otherwise original]
    In New York City on Sunday 22 february 2004 a mass realignment of 
subway routes went into effect. This rerouting makes use of all four 
tracks on Manhattan Bridge, when previously only two were in service. 
I mentioned this event in my NYC Events column for March 2004.
    There are two pairs of tracks on Manhattan Bridge, one on each 
outer edge of the lower level. The pair on the south (more like west) 
side connects various lines of the BMT system in Brooklyn to the BMT 
Broadway line on Manhattan. The north (east) pair join these Brooklyn 
lines to the IND 6th Av line on Manhattan. 
    This arrangement was implemented in 1967 when the first section of 
the 2nd Av subway, with its Grand St station, was opened. Within a few 
years, it was evident that the very bridge structure was aging into a 
dangerous condition. On and off since the 1970s one or the other track 
set was taken out of service for structural repairs. These were short 
interruptions, allowing both pairs to run for many months at a time. 
    Since 1986 -- during the flyover of Halley's comet! -- only a one 
or the other pair was operational. This situation decimated transit 
service on the Bridge. Finally in February 2004 the Bridge work was 
completed and the City once again has the full capacity of about 100 
trains per hour in each direction. 
march of Dimes
    The March of Dimes (MoD) runs many fund-raising events, typicly 
foot and bicycle races. Last year it tried something new. The City's 
Transit Museum has a fleet of vintage subway cars which are used from 
time to time for excursion rides. The coaches have to be exercised 
every six months or so to keep them in good running condition. It 
costs some myriad of dollars for each turn at this chore. 
    A long as the trains are scampering around the subway system, why 
not let the public go along for the ride? Railroad clubs and the 
Museum itself occasionally sell tickets and give the cityfolk a fun, 
even funky, time. 
    The nostalgic trains are also hired out for film and ad shoots, 
private parties and receptions, and official tours of the subway. The 
March of Dimes caught onto this idea and started its own excursions 
several times in 2003 as a way to raise funds. 
Crossing the Bridge
    MoD ran excursions on 28 and 29 February 2004 to celebrate the 
return of all four Manhattan Bridge tracks. The routing on the 28th 
was repeated on the 29th. Unless you were a railfreak, taking one of 
the two rides was enough to endure. I went on only the ride of the 
28th. Tickets were $40, with some cut going to March of Dimes for its 
fund-raising. I paid at the door to hedge against inclement weather. 
    I leave out the detailed itinerary, but the train crossed on both 
sides of the Bridge and ran over several of the lines which now feed 
into them. The route was custom made for this trip and involved 
diversions and switching not used for normal service. We departed from 
Columbus Circle, IND 8th Av, on the center unused platform at 10:30 
EST. The ride, with several stops, ended at about 16:30 at World Trade 
Center, IND 8th Av. 
The R-1/9 vehicle
    The train on the MoD trip consisted of four coaches from the 
series of contracts R-1 to R-9, built in the 1930s for the IND system. 
Since then, cars and other rail vehicles obtained for the subway 
continued the sequence. The first ones after World War II were from 
contract R-10; the newest fleet on the IRT is from contract R-142. A 
set for the BMT and IND is under construction as contract R-160 and 
will come into service in a year or so. 
    There are a couple gaps in the numbering because certain contracts 
were for work, utility, shop vehicles. This situation prevails among 
the new contracts, too. 
    The City designed the IND coach with intent to simply cookie-cut 
them as the IND lines were commissioned. However, along the way there 
were many design changes, which I will not bore you with here, so that 
a skilled railfan can tell exactly which contract a specimen of 
vehicle came from. In addition, once in service, modifications were 
made, so that within a contract there are subtile variations of 
features among its cars. 
    Never the less, the entire fleet of about 1,400 cars was basicly 
the same and constituted the archetypical New York subway car of the 
Art Deco era in America. Collectively the car is commonly called the 
'R-1/9' car. 
    The R-1/9 car remained purely an IND coach until 1967. In that 
year the BMT and IND were merged by the new Grand St station mentioned 
above. Since then, until final retirement in the 1970s, R-1/9 trains 
ran on assorted lines of both systems. 
Special services
    Because this trip was a special excursion on a vintage train, 
there were extra services provided to the riders. For starts, the 
ticket sales were held to the number of seats; every one had a seat. 
On my trip about 2/3 of the seats were filled, allowing for frequent 
shifts to talk with other riders or explore the train. 
    On board were Transit Authority crew, members of local railroad 
clubs, and railroad preservationists. They explained the nuances of 
each of the four cars on the train, which as a set is a good cross 
section of 1930s railcar arts and science. 
    A souvenir brochure was handed out, but curiously, it contained 
only a detailed article about an other curio of New York, the Boynton 
Bicycle Railroad. Normally the brochure talks about the special trip, 
its routes, the cars used, some history, maps, pictures, and such 
other keen stuff. Not that the Boynton contraption wasn't fascinating; 
it just had nothing to do with the train or trip to hand. 
    The train crew also pointed out special wayside features. A 
special treat on this trip was a rollthru in the new Coney island 
terminal, not yet open for full service. We got good views of the 
construction, which will turn this hellhole of a station into a 
European-style gare centrale. The frames to hold the solar panels were 
one highlight here. 
Photo stop 
    Much of ride consisted of an orthodox subway routine. You moped in 
your seat. The train operated practicly nonstop over its route, 
skipping station after station as it weaved from track to track to 
bypass regular trains ahead of it. There were for this trip, common on 
excursions, two types of special stop  
    First is a 'photo stop'. The train stops at a station and lets the 
riders get off. They walk -- run! -- down the platform to take 
pictures of the train. Depending on the station, you can take pictures 
from a stair or mezzanine looking down at the train or from the 
opposite platform to get a full length view. This stop lasts only a 
couple minutes because regular trains are backing up behind the 
special train. A whistle blast calls the riders back on board to 
resume the trip. 
Movie runby 
    The other is a 'movie runby'. This gets a little complicated with 
chance for foulups. The excursion train lets you off at one station 
where you board a regular train on a parallel track. Ride this train 
to a station downrange and get off. The excursion train runs by this 
station so you can get movies or videos of it in motion. Excursion 
train continues to a certain station ahead and waits for you to catch 
up on a regular train. 
    It takes a bit of attention and good luck for this trick to work 
smoothly! The most common mishap is to forget the catchup station and 
miss the special train waiting there. Result is loss of the rest of 
the trip unless you chase after the train via taxi on the street. 
    On my trip there was s goof. We got off at the jumpoff station and 
rode to a downrange station. I fixed to cross over to the opposite 
platform. Soonest we stepped off of the regular train, the special 
roared thru the station. No one got any pictures! Lots of harsh words 
ricocheted thruout the station while waiting for the next regular 
train to bring us to the catchup station. 
Some astronomy 
    Having grounding in astronomy is a major aid on these trips! Many 
of the stops are on the el or other opensky portions of the system. 
The train is then illuminated by sunlight according to the hour of the 
day. When you factor in the alignment of the stations or tracks for 
each stop, it really, like really, helps to anticipate the sunlight to 
plan a good viewpoint for photography. 
    On this trip a proper itinery was not provided in the litterature 
but with intimate knowledge of the system, I sussed out the routing 
and where the Sun would be for each stop. 
    It is a bit comical, yet sad, to see the nonastronomy riders get 
zapped by a wrong choice of platform and get blinded by the Sun. Or to 
pick a position where the train is all in shadow. You may wish for a 
cloudy day. The daylighting is far more even and there is no Sun to 
interfere with you! 
Mellow lights 
    I don't here try to elaborate on the features of the R-1/9 vehicle 
but offer a few general comments. If you're new to the City by age or 
shift of residence, you probably never rode these cars in regular 
service. Until the 1960s these were the archetypical IND car with very 
few newer models yet commissioned. 
    Interior illumination was by small incandescent lightbulbs. These 
were peppered all over the ceiling to cast a warm shadow-free light 
thruout the car. It was bright enough to read and retrieve dropped 
coins with. But against the fluorescent lamps on the stations the car 
was weirdly dim. 
    When the train crossed a gap in the third rail, like at switches or 
a power section, the lights blinked off and the motors cut out. 
Inertia carried the car to the next powered rail so there was really 
no impediment to operation. Just a little jolt when the motors got 
their juice back and grabbed the wheels again. 
MTA - Moving the Air 
    Paddle fans on the ceiling cooled you in summer; they were not 
running on this trip for the air was still a touch chilly, yet not 
cold, The tall riders were thankful for that! 
    The other air-moving mechanism were the apertile windows and end 
doors. The vintage vehicles moved air from the tunnels thru the end 
doors, which were latched open for this trip so we could freely walk 
around the train, and thru large drop panels for windows. 
Rumble, bobble
    Shock abatement was shared between the trucks, the heavy frames 
housing the motors and wheels, and the seats. The seats were covered 
in rattan atop large coilly springs. It was funny to see the riders 
bob and quiver when the train hit a bumpy part of track! The ride 
while standing was rumbly with sway as the car librated on the rails. 
    Riders had straps to hang onto. These hung from the ceiling over 
the front edge of the seats as porcelain-covered metal loops. As the 
train swang one way and that, the loops swivelled under your grip. 
    Which is why New York subway riders are called straphangers! 
    Technicly, these weren't true 'straps'. The very early transit 
coaches, displayed at the Transit Museum, had real leather, erm, 
straps. The term today for these devices is 'handholds'. 
Breath of filth 
    While the open doors and windows let in 'fresh' air, they also let 
in all the filth and dirt floating around in the tunnels. You got good 
and soiled after leaning out of the window to take pictures or watch 
the passing scenery. Just sitting in the car, away from the windows, 
got you a bit messy from the slipstream coming thru the end doors. 
    The dirt was greasy, mixed with aerosol oil. It clang to you until 
washed off after you left the subway. A lot of this stuff consists of 
steel and other metal dust from the friction and wear of all the 
machinery and rails. You ended up breathing in this influx of 
contaminated air, likely to no great benefit to your health. 
    Some models of car, not the R-1/9, had a drop window on the end 
door thru which you got the wind on your face. As much fun as this 
was, it was a oneway ticket to the bathtub when you got home. You were 
'blowtorched' with greasy dirt. 
Fantasy role 
    The R-1/9, like all prewar vehicles of the IRT, BMT, and IND, had 
a picture window on the end door. You could stand by it and see the 
same view, with some parallax, as the train driver. That fellow was 
cooped up in his closet on the right side of the car. Every New York 
kid played 'motorman' at this window, pretending to drive the train 
thru the tunnels. The door handle was the 'throttle'; panel latches on 
the left side of the car were the 'brake' and assorted other gadgets 
in the motorman's booth. 
    On this trip, like on all excursions, this front window was hogged 
by photographers. If you asked gently, they did step aside to let you 
get in a shot or two. Because the train reversed direction repeatedly 
during the excursion, both 'front' and 'rear' windows were crowded. 
    One peculiarity of the R-1/9 car was the lack of wipers on the 
driver's window. The IND was supposed to be a fully underground 
network. There would be no rain on the cars! As the 1930s wore on with 
the Depression, economies were taken to include elevated sections. 
After the war, certain BMT el lines were attached to the IND as 
extensions. The R-1/9s were retrofitted with hand-wiggled wipers 
    I may note that in olden days only men worked on the trains, so 
'motorman' was a respectable title for the guy who drove the train. In 
the 1980s women started entering the transit service. The obvious name 
for them, 'motorgirls', didn't quite earn favor with feminists. The 
neutral 'train operator', or 'T/O', is today the formal title for both 
male and female drivers. 
Fatal attraction 
    The open windows by their very nature they attract trouble and 
danger. It is SOOOooo easy to lean out a window! Kneel on the seat; 
the dropped window pane is chest high. Perfect for resting the arms or 
elbows on. The utter peril is that wayside apparatus can swiftly shoot 
by and severely injure or even kill you. The crew constantly 
admonished the riders to keep head and hands inside the car, but when 
interesting parts of the itinery approached, bingo!, riders straight 
away hung out of the windows. 
    With the retirement of all cars with apertile windows by the 
1970s, much newer wayside apparatus had been placed a mite closer to 
the car. This apparatus is a major hazard for excursions even if you 
just poke your head out. So far in all my previous trips, i never 
witnessed an injury or death from window hanging, but I do hear that 
it happened. 
    A sensible and sane compromise is to wait until the train is on a 
curve. From a window on the inside of the curve, look out while 
keeping your head inside. You see the rest of the train sweeping away 
from the window so you can safely get pictures of it. 
    There was no acoustic treatment on the R-1/9 car. All the motor, 
pump, and other mechanisms send their noise thruout the car. It was 
hard to have a convo across an aisle, a feature exploited by those who 
want to speak privately with a seatmate. 
    In addition, thru the open doors and windows you were assailed by 
the rumbling of the car, grinding of the wheels, clanging of the rail 
joints, battering at the switches, hissing of hoses and valves, blowing 
of circuit breakers. 
    A weird bit of Star Trek trivium. When the early Star Trek series 
were filmed, a sound was needed for the revving and whining of the 
Enterprise engines. (Never mind that in the far off future they didn't 
invent silent engines!) At that time the R-1/9 trains still ran in 
regular service on the BMT 14th St line. Sound recordings were made of 
this train as it raced thru the tunnels under the East River. That's 
what you hear in the older Star Trek episodes! 
Subway's comet 
    This was a fascinating, and a bit scary, part of the trip. The 
current cars are pretty clean in that they do not spill obnoxious 
substances into the air. Now we got this one specimen of a prewar 
train scudding around. At photo stops underground, there was a 
noticeable fog in the air BEHIND the train, as compared to the 
relatively clear air AHEAD of it. 
    This fog was an aerosol of various oils in the machinery that 
ablated into the air and trailed the train! The train was a comet!! 
This trail would not have been obvious in the era when all the IND 
trains were R-1/9s. The fog would have permeated the entire tunnel and 
station with no evident specific source. It was then treated as just 
an other odious feature of underground railroads. 
Just passing thru 
    One of the funniest aspects of an excursion are the people at the 
stations. As we approached a station, the passengers waiting there 
stepped toward the platform edge. Then they shrank back! What the hell 
is THIS thing rolling thru?!?!
    Sometimes we stopped in the station for a photo stop. The doors 
opened with a pwisssh of pneumatic pressure and weird characters with 
cameras poured out. Who are THESE people?!?!?! 
    The older folk recalled the train but wondered what it's doing off 
of its normal line. Others were freaked out that such contraptions 
ever existed. We let them look inside thru the doors to gawk at the 
primitive fittings and furnishings. 
    Some pointed out that the roll sign was wrong. Yes, they are, from 
being out of the mid 20th century. Some got really wigged out; they 
thought our train was on one of the new routes just changed on 
February 22nd! 
It's your turn 
    These nostalgic coaches until now are used for special trips, like 
this one for the March of Dimes. With 2004 being the centennial of the 
first subway line, the Transit Authority is refurbishing them to run 
with the current cars. You may ride them on your regular fare, not the 
premium ticket! 
    The crew didn't know if there'll be timetables so you can meet the 
train. If so, you can have some fun watching out for the R-1/9 train 
at Broadway-Nassau at 15:33 on Wednesdays. Otherwise, you just have to 
be lucky as it rumbles into your station unannounced. 
    The crew also didn't know how the roll signs will be treated, 
since they were printed for routings now mostly extinct. 
    The Authority has vintage trains for the BMT, the 'Triplex's, and 
IRT, the 'Lo-V's. They will roam their system's lines to round out the 
three divisions of the City transit network. 
    One thing I should note. The centennial marks the first 
UNDERGROUND subway, which was the initial section of the IRT on 
Manhattan. New York had elevated or aerial railroads since the 1870s, 
some of which are still running today. So we're celebrating the 
SUBWAY, not transit, centennial.