EVOLUTION OF NEW YORK SUBWAY CARS ------------------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc firstname.lastname@example.org www.nyskies.org 2009 November 21 initial 2009 December 29 current
Introduction ---------- 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.
Operations -------- 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.
Reefing ----- 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 -BMT/IND------------------------------------------------------------ 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 -BMT/IND----------------------------------------------- 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.
Conclusion -------- 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.