50-year-old R-42 subway cars are finally being retired

Posted On Wed, February 12, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, February 12, 2020 By In City Living, Transportation

The final run of the R42 trains on the A line near Hammels Wye in the Rockaways on February 12, 2020. Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

The NYC subway rolls a little further into the 21st century today: The MTA is finally retiring its Nixon-era R-42 trains. The silver half-century-old R-42s, first rolled out in 1969 (the same year “Sesame Street” debuted), will make their last run today along the A line before being permanently retired, having already been mostly replaced by the R-160 fleet (h/t NYPost). The new R-179s cars will eventually replace them (h/t Gothamist). The R-42 cars were scheduled to disappear in December, but the R-179s were pulled from the system due to problems with their door-locking mechanisms.

The train’s cars, with their grey bench seating, were the first in the fleet to be launched with all cars air-conditioned. More fun facts:

  • The R-42s were featured in the famous “car vs. subway chase” in the 1971 film “The French Connection.”
  • The R-42 was the last design to feature “married pairs,” where two cars are linked together along the train.
  • Some of the retired R-42 cars are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as part of an artificial reef program.
  • Built by the St. Louis Car Company (now defunct), the first cars were used on the BMT Broadway Line.

A majority of the fleet was retired in the late 2000s, with about 50 cars still left in service on the J and Z lines. The R-42 is one of two post-war trains still in operation; the other is the R-32 which still runs on the A and C lines.

In a statement announcing the cars’ retirement, the MTA referenced a farewell salute from the popular Douglas Adams “Hitchhiker” series:  So long and thanks for all the trips.

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