Photo Series Captures Three Years of NYC Subway Cars Being Dumped in the Atlantic Ocean

January 20, 2015

Who knew that the graveyard for decommissioned NYC subway cars was at the bottom of the ocean? If this is news to you, then you don’t want to miss this photo series by Stephen Mallon, who documented the train cars being dumped into the Atlantic from Delaware to South Carolina over three years. But before you call 311 about this seeming act of pollution, let us tell you that it’s actually an environmental effort to create artificial reef habitats for fostering sea life along the eastern seabed, which was started over ten years ago.

Stephen Mallon, NYC subway cars, Next Stop Atlantic

Mallon considers himself an “industrial photographer,” shooting subjects like abandoned ships, plane crash wreckage, and power plants. His photo series is called Next Stop, Atlantic and showcases stacks of subway cars on barges, action shots of the trains being tossed into the ocean, and strangely beautiful images of the subways floating in the ocean. It’s quite surreal, as the trains are stripped of their windows, doors, seats and steel wheels.

Stephen Mallon, NYC subway cars, Next Stop Atlantic

An article in Brooklyn Rail notices the two most striking features of the photos– “there are no people in the images, and the subway cars retain their old working insignias.” The lack of humans furthers the sense of abandonment, while the logos give each car its own identity.

Stephen Mallon, NYC subway cars, Next Stop Atlantic

Stephen Mallon, NYC subway cars, Next Stop Atlantic

The environmental effort is based on the fact that marine organisms attach themselves to hard surfaces–like the metal frames of the train cars–serving as food for other sea creatures and creating an overall healthier habitat. Since the MTA began the initiative, close to 3,000 cars have made their way into the ocean.

Stephen Mallon, NYC subway cars, Next Stop Atlantic

Photos from the series will be on view at NYU’s Kimmel Galleries from February 6th through March 15th as part of the exhibition Patterns of Interest.

[Via Reframe]

All photos © Stephen Mallon


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  1. B

    Any photo of them as the reef they were sent down to make…….
    Cheers Bob

  2. S

    I bet some architect could have found a way to make homes out of these cars.

  3. J

    I would like to see that as well Bob.

  4. D


  5. G

    Great idea. They have and are sinking boats on the west coast of British Columbia to creat marine life habitat. Also a divers dream to go exploring.

  6. N

    What happened to recycling them. They tried that trick off the coast of Florida with tires, but it failed. The tires were being moved around by the ocean currents and hurricanes, causing more problems.

  7. S

  8. J

    There a tons of people that would have bought several of them, including myself, to turn in to tiny homes.

  9. N