9. Not All Subway Trains Are the Same Size

Did you know that numbered and lettered trains in New York City are different sizes? The reason has to do with the consolidation of the three railroad companies that once formed the MTA in the 1900s.

Originally, the MTA consisted of three railroad companies: the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT), and the city-owned Independent Rapid Transit Railroad (IND). However, they were all taken over and consolidated by the City in 1940—and their sizes haven’t changed.

In 1953, the state created the New York City Transit Authority, now the MTA New York City Transit, as a separate public organization to operate and manage all subway, bus, and trolleys owned by the city. Today, BMT and IND trains are longer and wider than those from the IRT lines. Accordingly, a BMT/IND train also can’t fit into a tunnel made for IRT trains. However, an IRT train is able to fit into a BMT/IND tunnel, although it is not safe due to its narrower size. Read more here.

Next, check out our Cities 101 column to learn more about how New York City operates.