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Train lovers reminisce as R42 subway trains take final ride through Brooklyn & Queens

Train enthusiasts absorbed every last detail of the last R42 gliding into retirement on Feb. 12. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

BY MARK HALLUM AND ROBERT POZARYCKI

The Queens-bound platform of the Euclid Avenue station was filled with train enthusiasts old and young Wednesday morning as the MTA officially retired the R42s after more than 50 years in service.

The MTA and New York City Transit Museum gave the public one last look at the end of the morning rush.

“These cars have served the MTA well as a reliable fleet over the last 50 years,” said Sally Librera, senior vice president of the Department of Subways for New York City Transit. “As technology advances, we’re looking to modernize our fleet of subway cars to best serve New Yorkers.”

Librera along with MTA Chair and CEO Pat Foye, and outgoing New York City Transit President Andy Byford, went along with Librera, train enthusiasts and regular commuters for the final R42 ride.

Some long-time straphangers remembered the cars covered in graffiti while former operators looked back on the R42 as the “Cadillac” of trains in the MTA fleet, being the first with air conditioning starting in 1969.

“It’s the end of an era,” a Coney Island resident by the name Richard said. “I remember all the different color schemes… They remodeled the interior. The seats were green, the doors were green and it had like this tan trim. The windows were longer.”

The R42s were a visual staple to Richard, who says grew up next to the train yard where they were stored.

“They were always nice and comfortable. The windows gave them a nice airy touch,” he added.

Anthony Errante is retired train operator who started in 1973 and retired in 2006.

“In the hot summer, we used to call them Cadillacs,” Zelazo said.

Later air conditioning would be installed on other models such as the R32, but the R42 was the first fleet owned by the MTA to give customers and operators the comfort of cool air, instead of just having fans.

The A and C lines were the last lines using R42 cars, and the MTA had purchased new R179 cars to replace them. Originally, the MTA had officially retired the R42 car on Dec. 30, 2019 — but door issues on the R179s forced the authority to shelve the new cars for inspections, and bring the R42 cars out of retirement for one more run.

Once the R179 door issues were resolved, the cars were reintroduced to the A and C line, paving the way for the R42s’ permanent retirement.

The final run of vintage-1969 R42 subway equipment on the A line near Hammels Wye in the Rockaways on Feb. 12, 2020. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

What’s the next stop for these trains? More than likely, the scrap yard.

While most of the previously retired R42s were deep-sixed into the Atlantic Ocean for new lives as artificial reefs in the last decade, the reefing program ended in 2010. Since that time, the retired cars were sent to Sims Metal Management for dismantling.

But two R42s will remain for future generations at the New York Transit Museum, according to its director, Concetta Bencivegna.

“Two of the R-42 cars will continue to live here at the Transit Museum, where they will be used to educate the public about the city’s mass transportation history, and visitors will get the chance to come aboard and travel back in time,” said Bencivenga. 

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