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“The next train arriving at this station is not in service. Please step away from the platform edge.” As I eagerly awaited its arrival at 42nd street with my friend, those not familiar with HBO’s newest promotional stunt grabbed their confused children and backed off into the unknown. Those of us who knew, many adorned with mustaches, bowler hats, suspenders and age-old suits, rushed forward.

Seconds later, subway car 5290 roared into the station straight from the 1920’s. Conductors grabbed the heavy doors and slid them open with all their might as a well-timed “all aboard’ echoed through the terminal. We entered a train plastered from head to toe with literature from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Normally, I’d be upset at such blatant advertising. But it’s hard to be angry at a company who spent years painstakingly falling into MTA’s good graces so they could pull off a stunt like this… buying an old 1920’s subway car, fitting it with Boardwalk Empire ads and unleashing it on Manhattan. In fact, it’s hard not to be giddy about it.

A Medley of Boardwalk Empire Ads

It wasn’t all ads, though. HBO went to great lengths to recreate the atmosphere of the age-old subway commute, and outfitted the cars with old news stories and trinkets (look, look!).

Ancient maps, announcements and fire warning devices

Ironically, and perhaps sadly, the 90+ year old subway car actually managed to perform better than any subway I’ve ever been on. It was the fastest car I’ve ever been on, and its open windows created a breeze that dwarfed the most air conditioned of MTA’s trains. Why we’ve spent 90 years regressing is anyone’s guess. If only Nucky Thompson was around. As a man of the people, he’d whip Bloomberg into shape and get these cars back up and running full time in no time. And if he didn’t listen? Well, Nucky has friends. Bad friends.

If you haven’t checked out Boardwalk Empire, you’re wasting your time reading this. Seriously, your time would be better spent catching up on season one. If nothing else, give HBO a reason to see this as a resounding success (I think it is), so we’ll get more amazing real life promotional campaigns like this in the future. The world deserves a bit of fun every once in a while.

Last holiday season, Untapped also took a ride on another MTA vintage train  and one in Paris.

This piece is also posted on Untapped correspondent Luke Kingma’s blog, TwelveBitterPeaches.  

1 Comment

  1. Valerie NYC says:

    “As a man of the people, he’d whip Bloomberg into shape and get these cars back up and running full time in no time. And if he didn’t listen? Well, Nucky has friends. Bad friends.”
    You bet! ,-)
    Fantastic. I so missed this ride, literally, and wished I hadn ´t. As a former HBO `person ´ I know the company goes to great lengths when it comes to quality out of the box creative services and promotions.

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