Soon, a generation of New Yorkers won’t know there was once a bar car on the Metro North and Long Island Railroad trains. (And even fewer will know there was once a champagne car on the New York City subway!). Even more consigned to history would be the jungle tiki bar car on Metro-North, if not for the robust fan group on Facebook, The Unofficial Metro-North Railroad and its stalwart members. Paul Pesante, one of the group’s 5500+ members, posted his photographs of the Tiki Bar Car from 2008 and its evolution a month later, the Jungle Tiki Bar Car.
Both were advertisements for Westin Hotels, a complete takeover of the train that you often see on the S shuttle line between Times Square and Grand Central. The car itself had a wraparound bar, tiny circular tables attached to the subway poles with built-in cup holders (convenient!), and dare we call it…a lounge area with banquette seating. For the tiki bar cars, the interiors were plastered over with bamboo-printed decals, and sunset and palm tree backgrounds (which evolved into jungle vista later).
The former Metro North employees commenting on the photos shared their nostalgic memories as well as the challenges of having a bar car on the trains, including the smell of alcohol, unwelcome insect guests, and inebriated guests. One commented that he remembered a drunk passenger trying to pry a drink off the decal (it was merely a printed drink, alas). But overall, there was a sense of a lost amenity. “The bar cars were fun!” someone wrote, “The best ever,” said another, “So miss these,” yet another.
These Tiki Bar photos were taken as the train arrived back to Grand Central from New Haven, whereas the Jungle Tiki Bar Car photo was taken in New Haven Yard. The last bar car ran in 2014, after which they were no longer compatible with the newer trains. As to where the bar cars have gone, Pesante comments that they have gone to the scrap yard, unfortunately. Who votes to bring them back?
Curious about more Grand Central and train history? Join us on our next tour of the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal!
Next, check out 11 Vintage Subway Amenities That Should Be Brought Back