John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2009 November 21 initial
 2009 December 29 current
    For about a year I am keeping track in PazMiniBits of the reefing 
project for retired subway cars in New York. This monthly review came 
from readers asking what happens to the hundreds of subway cars now 
being pulled out of service. To my surprise, the remote readers, away 
from the City with little subway experience, seem far more fascinated 
by this review than those who ride the trains regularly. 
    The cars so disposed, dozens per month, are under replacement by 
the new model R-160. These new coaches are rapidly filling the ranks 
of routes on the IND and BMT lines. The old cars are rapidly 
vanishing, to the point were certain models are completely extinct. 
    The IRT went thru a similar replacement program in the early 2- 
thous. It is now equiped with the newest of its own old cars and brand 
new ones. The fleet remains stable for the next couple decades. 
    Collaterally with the PazMiniBits news about the reefing 
project, I get occasional questions about how the old cars are 
displaced by the new coaches. I collected data on each model of coach 
from mid 2008 thru late 2009. All material is based on the work of Joe 
Korman, who runs the JoeKorNer website for New York transit. He has a 
massive library of articles, pictures, statistics about the subway. 
Brief history
    The New York transit system has continuously updated its fleet of 
coaches, sometimes bit by bit, at other times in grand supplantations. 
The tipping point seems to be when the fleet consists of a hodge-podge 
of many models, each requiring its own spare parts, manuals, tools, 
machines to keep in good running order. This was in addition to raw 
vintage when parts and service were no longer easily available. 
    The system still maintains the distinction of 'divisions', a 
legacy from the era when there were three separate transit grids in 
the City. There was the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, Brooklyn-
Manhattan Transit Company, and the City-owned Independent Subway 
System. These were, and still are, universally known by their 
initials: IRT, BMT, IND. 
    The IRT and BMT were consolidations of earlier transit interests, 
but just about everyone categorizes the subway by these two companies. 
In 1940, partly resulting from the Great Depression and political 
climate, the City acquired the IRT and BMT under municipal management. 
    The IRT was built to a 19th century standard of railroad design. 
It followed the design of the els from the 1870s with intent to run 
the same trains over both them and the newer underground segments. 
    The BMT els wre also, like the IRT's built to a 19th centruy plan. 
The newer els and the underground portions of the BMT were meant for 
the newer standard of wider longer cars and a newer level of signal 
and control. 
    When the IND was designed in the 1920s, it was intended to join it 
to the BMT network, not the IRT, as part of the political climate of 
the day. When the IND was under construction, its cars were tested on 
the BMT before commissioning on their own tracks. Behind the curtain, 
the IND studied BMT operations to ensure compatibility. 
    Trains of the IRT could operate on the BMT and IND but not the 
other way round. They do so under speicla cautions because certain 
technical features of the BMT and IND do not work with the IRT cars. 
    All trains have the same track gauge, 1435mm between the running 
rails, but the tunnels of the IRT are narrower with sharper curves. 
The signal system, trip-arm mechanisms, and other technical features 
were also different. 
    IRT trains do not run on the IND or BMT except for nonservice 
moves and excursions. In the peculiar exception of the Flushing and 
Astoria lines, IRT and BMT used to run joint service. To get around 
the constraint of different operations, the BMT kept a separate set of 
coaches made to IRT design. 
    The similarity of IND and BMT allowed for an easy transition, 
after the City acquired the BMT properties, to unite the two grids. 
Plans to do so were interrupted by World War II but resumed soonest it 
was over. These included the attachment of the BMT Culver and Liberty 
Av lines to the IND and a connection between the BMT 60th St line and 
IND Queens Bv line. 
    In 1967 the BMT and IND were binded together thru the Chrystie St 
connector, allowing thru routing of formerly segregated IND and BMT 
services. The City, thru its transit agency NYC Transit, promoted the 
divisions as 'A' for the IRT and 'B' for the combined IND and BMT.  
These names never caught on with the public. 
Earlier replacements 
    The IRT and BMT built or bought new cars as their grids expanded 
in the early 20th century and older ones became obsolete. The cars 
were known by the manufacturer's model name. The IND, being a brand-
new system, started from scratch with cars known by the municipal 
contract number, the 'R-' number. The first bunch of coaches came 
under contract R-1, then R-2, and so on. By 1940 the IND fleet was 
filled up to contract R-9. 
    Besides coaches, nonservice cars were needed. These were under a 
separate R-contract. R-3, for example, was for certain shop and work 
vehicles, not passenger cars. Some R-contracts were for spare parts, 
renovation or modification, design work. Others were cancelled or 
combined with other contracts. 
    After the City took over the IRT and BMT in 1940, it continued the 
R-series to start replacing coaches from the two companies. The first 
new batch came after World War II as the R-10 car for the IND.
    Because of the Great Depression, the IRT and BMT put off replacing 
their older cars. The IRT and BMT fleets were in poor condition. New 
cars were purchased, starting with R-12, by the hundreds, The R-16 cars 
of the mid 1950s began a new design that later were known as the 
Redbird fleet. 
    The R-series applied without distinction to cars of all three 
divisions. The main difference was that the cars for the IRT had to 
conform to the structural and mechanical constraints of that system 
while the IND and BMT cars fit the standards of those systems. 
    For one feature, IRT cars are 15 meter long and 2.7 meter wide, 
with three doors on the side. BMT and IND cars may be up to 22 meters 
long, 3 meters wide, with four doors. As it turned out, IND/BMT cars 
are today of either 18 or 22 meter length. All measures are rounded. 
    In the early 2000s the IRT went thru a mass program to remove the 
mixture of old coaches dating from the 1950s and 1960s. It kept the 
very newest of the older vehicles, the model R-62 from about 1990, and 
acquired the brand new R-142 car. 
Replaced coaches
    The BMT/IND began its replacement in 2007 with the new R-160 model 
to displace several old models of the 1960s-1970s. When complete in 
2010, the IND/BMT will keep only the newest of the old cars, the R-44, 
R-46, and R-68 cars of the 1970s-1980s. These are the longer cars of 
22 meter length. 
    The displaced cars now are the postRedbird cars, with stainless 
steel fuselages, rather than painted steel, and of a more (if minimal) 
streamlined contour. The first of the stainless steel coaches after 
the Redbirds were the R-32s, the Brightonliner cars, that replaced the 
worn-out BMT Standard model. A few more Redbird cars were built after 
the R-32 but by contract R-38 all cars had stainless steel bodies. 
    These cars, from the 1960s and 1970s, are at the end of their 
lifespan. In many cases their manufacturers are no longer in business 
and it is increasing harder to maintain and repair them. 
    The main objection to the new coaches, starting with the R-32, 
came from railroad fans! When cars are run on excursions, fans lean 
out of the windows to take pictures. The cars before R-32 had sash 
windows to open wide enough to get the head and shoulders thru -- a 
VERY dangerous act!! -- for better camera angle. Altho I never heard 
of a fan losing life or limb, heavy warnings were issued during 
excursions for riders to keep inside the window and not lean out. 
   Starting with R-32, coaches have sealed windows with a small flip 
panel at the top. Starting with the R-44 coach, some entire windows 
are one solid panel with no apertile section at all. This design 
favors air-condition, which was often wasted thru the open flip panels 
on the other cars. 
    It is impossible to lean out of these windows, very likely one 
intended purpose. An other likely purpose was to prevent the throwing 
of rocks, firecrackers, seat shells, bags of dog droppings, &c out of 
the windows. This was a severe problem on the els where the ejecta 
could, and did!, strike people on the street. 
    Excursions on the newer vintage cars, in the months before their 
removal from service, are not any where so much fun as before. Fans 
must now take pictures thru closed windows, often dirty or scratched. 
    The American East Coast is favored with a continental shelf that 
extends hundreds of kilometers from the coastline. This shelf is the 
habitat of marine life vital to the world's food supply. It also hosts 
marine recreational and sport activities. 
    Certain ocean creature live among reefs, naturally formed coral 
forests with places to nest and feed. As an attraction for more ocean 
life near the coast, artificial reefs are built by placing hulks of 
discarded vehicles on the ocean floor. These were commonly surplus 
military vehicles like trucks and tanks. 
    The vehicles are cleaned, stripped of harmful materials and 
fluids, than barged to the placement site. Cranes drop the hulks in a 
specific pattern into the sea, where they sink and attract sea animals 
to live in them. If they are close enough to shore, the reefs attract 
human divers to explore them. 
    When the Redbirds, then hitting 40 years on the rails, were about 
to be scrapped, several coastal states asked about buying them to add 
to their artificial reefs. Just the fuselages are used in this 
program. NYC Transit arranged for the sale of the retired Redbirds to 
several East Coast marine agencies for reefing in the early 2-thous. 
    There are now about one thousand[!] New York subway cars in these 
reefs, with hundreds more in the years ahead under the R-160 project. 
They are off the shores of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, 
Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. So far Florida, North Catolina, 
and the New England states do not have New York subway cars in their 
reefs. This is the table I update in PazMiniBits each month with the 
barges and fuselages on them. 
    The reefing cars are sent to the 207th St shops, in Sherman Creek, 
Manhattan, for 'undressing', removal of all parts that could dissolve 
in the ocean and pose hazard to fish or humans. Some of the parts are 
salvaged for use in other cars under repair but the bulk are sold as 
scrap metal. 
    The Weeks Barge company runs the barge service, taking 10-15 days 
from departure at 207th Street to return for the next load of cars. 
The schedule is roughly one barge per month because it does take time 
to gather the old cars and prepare them for the barge. 
The tables 
    The tables here cover the period May 2008 thru latest report. They 
give for each model the number of cars assigned in the transit system. 
The cars are allotted to various specific routes. routinely they are 
shuffled among the several home depots to work a this or that route. 
As example, the R-62 cars, for the IRT, run on routes 1, 3, 7, and 
42nd St shuttle. The R-142 car works routes 2, 4, 5, and 6. However, 
specific cars may be shifted from one route to an other to follow 
traffic patterns. 
    One fantstic ability to shift the newer cars from route to route 
is their electronic roll signs. When a train enters its termnal on one 
route, it can flip its signs and leave as a train of an other route. 
    Part of the reason to keep the fleet so arranged is to simplify 
maintenance. At the depots only those equipments, tools, crews, parts 
for the particular models homed there are needed. 
    The count of assigned cars is a bit different from the actual 
number of cars on the system. Some cars may be under repair, given to 
nonservice use, or are still under test. 
    The count is not the total number of each model that entered 
service. Some cars, believe or not, were lost in accidents. Because 
they can not be replaced in kind with the same model, they must hope 
for eventual replacement by a future model. 
    Mr Korman tries to gathers statistics twice per month. The spacing 
of these reports is irregular. I picked from his data those reports 
near the middle of each month but some months are wanting. 
        2008   2008   2008   2008   2009   2009   2009   2009   2009 
 Model  May18  Jun27  Sep01  Dec21  Jan11  Feb20  Mar20  Apr26  May08 
 -IRT-  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
 R-62    1139   1139   1139   1139   1139   1139   1139   1139   1139 
 R-142   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630 
 R-32     552    532    474    290    290    282    272    270    270  
 R-38     194    194    194    194    130    130     68     24      0
 R-40     246    244    244    243    243    236    229    182     185  
 R-42     273    273    273    253    253    246    237    236     235
 R-44     272    272    272    272    272    272    272    272     272  
 R-46     752    752    752    752    752    752    752    752     752  
 R-68     625    625    625    625    625    625    625    625     625  
 R-143    212    212    212    212    212    212    212    212     212  
 R-160    431    514    624    830    840    875    970    992    1070  
        2009   2009   2009   2009   2009   2009   2009
 Model  Jun12  Jul16  Aug17  Sep15  Oct15  Nov14  Dec15 
 -IRT-  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
 R-62    1139   1139   1139   1139   1139   1139   1139
 R-142   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630   1630
 R-32     266    256    246    240    242    240    236
 R-38       0      0      0      0      0      0      0
 R-40      75     55      0      0      0      0      0
 R-42     225    191    168    160    142    100     50
 R-44     272    272    272    272    272    272    272
 R-46     752    752    752    752    752    752    752
 R-68     625    625    625    625    625    625    625                           
 R-143    212    212    212    212    212    212    212
 R-160   1130   1180   1230   1270   1320   1370   1410
The R-160 program
    The model R-160 is similar to the R-142 (IRT) and R-143 (BMT, 
dedicated to route L), with many internal and nonobvious upgrades. The 
intent is to supplant all of the older 18m cars and keep the 22m cars. 
The R-160 contract is humongous by American transit norms. It by 
itself would equip the largest other transit system in the country, 
probably Chicago. 
    The scheme migrated the older cars to other routes as they are 
pushed out by incoming R-160s. This is why readers notice that their 
lines have an altered mix of car model. The strangers come from routes 
now worked by the R-160s. 
    The worst in condition of the older cars are candidates for the 
reefing project. A few are held for nonservice use, like work trains 
and museum specimina. Some are too far gone to fix up for reefing and 
are scrapped. 
    Some models have flavors, like the R-40. One is original build 
with a slanted fiberglass end bulkhead. The other is a overhaul with a 
flat bulkhead. Riders often think these are two different models. 
Korman's statistics track both flavors. I combined them here to 
simplify the tables. 
    An other distinction is that some purchases are in phases or 
options, each given a group designation. The R-68s have an plain R-68 
group and a R-68A group. Kornna keeps the groups separate but I 
combined them under the main contract name. 
    The decline in certain models is obvious while the R-160 cars 
increase over the months. See how the R-38 model zeroes out in May 
2009, followed by the R-40 (both flavors) in August 2009. On the other 
hand, the R-32 and R-42 cars are removed more slowly. 
    Once in a while the number jumps UP a few cars. This means that 
cars removed from service in the last month were restored to service. 
This happens to meet a shortage of cars as transit ridership continues 
to rise, even with the Depression in force. 
    The new cars are vastly more durable and dependible than the old 
ones. Runnage between breakdown is in the hundreds of thousands of 
kilometers, occasionally exceding the distance from Earth to Moon! 
They use more efficient motors and brakes to conserve energy. Their 
parts are interchangeable in larger modules for off-car repair. 
    All in all, what ever may be the prevailing opinion of the R-160s, 
this is the mold from which all new cars will be cast for the first 
half of the 21st century. In a year or two, NYC Transit may go to bid 
on a similar coach of 22 meter length to replace the current set of 22 
meter cars.