If you’re curious what the New York City subway system looked like the 1980s, check out this video of Times Square-42nd Street in 1986. The rail and photography enthusiast runs a German website called Pacific Railroad and shot this footage during a trip through the United States and Canada. While living in Canada, he was inspired by the North American railways, he writes on the website.

In this video, which is more a series of montages than a narrative video, you see what are now the A/C/E tracks under the Port Authority, with reference to the double lettered trains like the CC, which were retired in 1985 (but still appear in the stations in 1986 apparently). There’s also the K train, which was replaced by the expansion of the C train in 1988.

Besides trains with graffiti, pretty much everywhere, you’ll see vintage advertisements from the station, the bizarre underground mall that still exists under the Port Authority, old turnstiles, a mix of old signage and the new Helvetica style introduced by Massimo Vignelli. You’ll hear buskers singing “Let it Shine”–that much hasn’t changed. 2 people worked in the token booths (gasp!), a far cry from today where many booths have been removed all together. You may also catch some great ’80s shoulder pads.

Now head on over to see the abandoned level that’s below all of this, where you’ll see some of the same great vintage signage from the video. The platform was discontinued in 1981.

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.

One thought on “Visit the Graffiti-Ridden NYC Subway in 1986 [Video]

  1. Graffiti, missing roll signs, no air conditioning (look at all those open windows) and cars running their entire route with no interior lights. I turned 21 in 1986 and was all over the subway then. Can’t say I miss those days much. Amazing how the IRT cars got the worst of it. The difference between that ratty, graffiti-covered 2 train and the newly painted 3 train at Times Square reminded me of the first time I rode a non-graffiti covered IRT train. The entire platform was in shock as the train pulled in, and everybody looked around for the hidden camera, like it was a joke the MTA was playing on us!

    One thing I do miss is those old signs, many of them hand-lettered. Some amazing workmanship back then.

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