It’s a momentous day. The last R-42 train of subway cars is running along the A train today. A very packed first car, mostly full of teenage rail fans, is currently en route up to 207th St in Manhattan, having departed from Far Rockaway. The train was decked out inside with signs reading “FINAL RUN” along with information about the R-42 trains, and the conductors were making announcements connected to the history of train cars.
19-year-old Anthony John Regner from Woodside, Queens was in that first car today, telling us he was taking this last ride because it will be his first and last time on an R-42 train. Another young man wore an A train t-shirt, while documenting the event of his SLR camera. A group was singing and recounting places along the A train route to check out.
The last route for this train left at 10:30 AM this morning from Euclid Avenue towards Far Rockaway. At about 1:30 PM (technically later because there was a little delay in Brooklyn) it will make its last Manhattan to Brooklyn run from 207th Street to Euclid Avenue. The train will make all stops on the A line, so you can catch it at any A train station, if you can fit into the packed cars of fans!
The R-42 cars have a steel exterior and have those gray bench subway seats. They were the first cars in the system to be completely air-conditioned and adorably, the last to be delivered linked together as “married pairs.” They entered service in May 1969 on the BMT Broadway line (now known as the N train).
The R-42 once had painted blue accents, most notable on the exterior front of the train, which were intended to be coordinated with the new logo and corporate colors of the MTA, which was formed in 1965. You may also remember the R-42 trains in a scene from French Connection.
The R-42 cars were entirely rebuilt in the 1980s at the NYCTA overhaul shops, where the cars are stripped down to their shell and their systems get rebuilt. The General Overhaul program originated with the Redbirds, and you can learn about this program at the Reign of the Redbirds exhibit currently at the New York Transit Museum. While there, you can also see an R-42 train car on display.
The R-42 cars have already mostly been replaced by R-160s (with the powder blue benches) — but of course, more than occasionally you would get a ride on the R-42 (and likely be amazed they were still running). Most of the retired R-42 cars were transformed into artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, and when that program ended in 2010, these cars were sent to Sims Metal Management for scrapping. The last R-42 cars will be replaced by the newer R-179 cars, which started to enter into service in 2017.
A conductor of an A train just in front of the last R-42 trains joked with us as the train stopped at Nostrand Station in Crown Heights: “Nobody cares about the R-44s!” Some day, we responded.