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Midwest Rail Rangers on TrainWeb: New York City Subway Nostalgia Ride to Coney Island

Midwest Rail Rangers - New York City Subway Heritage Ride

A Article by the Midwest Rail Rangers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization presenting onboard educational programs on the South Shore Line and private rail excursions across the Midwest


Robert Tabern - President, Midwest Rail Rangers &
Kandace Tabern - Educational Officer, Midwest Rail Rangers

Published: August 10, 2019

Midwest Rail Rangers Education Officer Kandace Tabern prepares to board a 1917 heritage subway car for a ride on the main line

Before we ride the rails... we wanted to plug the New York Transit Museum.

If you are planning a visit to New York City, one of the “must do” activities is a visit to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. No, admittedly, it’s not quite as popular as visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island… or perhaps attending a Broadway play or shopping 5th Avenue over in Manhattan… but for transportation and rail enthusiasts, the time spent there can be as equally rewarding and exciting.

One of the most unique and interesting features about the New York Transit Museum is the fact it is actually located in a historical subway station. Not too many other transit museums anywhere in the world can make that claim. About ten years ago… before we became freelance writers for (somewhere around May 2009)… we had the chance to visit the museum and tour many of the historical subway cars in their collection.

The subway station that houses the museum features one center island platform and two tracks; it was originally named Court Street. It was only in operation between April 1936 and June 1946.  Even though not a single commuter has passed through the entrances or exits in 73 years… and most of the stairs up to neighborhood streets have been sealed for decades… it still technically is considered an “active” (all-be-it decommissioned) subway station. Trains are moved into and out of the exhibits at the New York Transit Museum using a tunnel between the station platforms and the outer tracks at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station… which still serves the very busy A, C, and G subway lines.

The New York Transit Museum has been in operation now for 41 years. It actually welcomed visitors for the first time on our nation’s bicentennial – July 4, 1976. Many patrons of the museum don’t realize the original plan called for the displays to be just a temporary… open for about two months. The original admission was one regular MTA Subway token!  The exhibits became so popular that it remained open and transitioned into becoming a permanent museum. Today, the museum provides an excellent overview history of the public transport system in New York City… starting with its early construction around 1900. There are heaps of information and photos. Plus, the ads from those earlier days really take you back.

Definitely add the New York Transit Museum to your next New York City trip – it’s located at 99 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Current hours are from 10:00am to 4:00pm Tuesday-Friday and from 11:00am to 5:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Note that the museum is normally closed Mondays and most holidays.  Admission is $10 for adults, and just $5 for children (ages 2-17) and seniors (who are 62+).


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Even though a visit to the New York Transit Museum is a fun thing to do any day… if you can time your visit to coincide to when one of their special “Nostalgia Rides” is being offered… you will be in for an extra special treat. Riding on a main line of the New York City Subway system in a car that is over 100 years old is almost guaranteed to be the highlight of your trip to the “Big Apple”!  It’s definitely out-of-the-ordinary and something your neighbors who visited New York City probably didn’t get to do. In full disclosure here… for out-of-town visitors who need to book flights many months in advance… it’s not necessarily easy to hit one of these rides, as they are offered once every few month. In fact, I have probably been to New York City about 20 times over the past 10 years, and have never seemed to be able to hit one of the museum’s “Nostalgia Rides” Days. You just have to keep watching the special section of their website that announces these trips (Nostalgia Rides - New York Transit Museum) and be a little flexible with your travel plans.

Luckily, that all recently changed for us… as we were able to head out and catch the New York Transit Museum’s special “Beach Bound: Coney Island Nostalgia Ride” on Saturday, July 20, 2019.  The “All Aboard” sounded and the train departed at 10:00am that morning from the 96th Street/2nd Avenue stop (which is the beginning of the Q Line). The station is located on the border of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and East Harlem Neighborhoods. The outbound part of the excursion took about two hours to arrive at the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue stop, which today marks the end of the D, F, N, and Q lines.  Passengers were given about four hours to walk over to Coney Island and explore the amusement park with its famed Cyclone roller coaster, the Wonder Wheel and Luna Park… and of course, the beach. A visit wouldn’t also be complete with eating a World’s famous Nathan hot dog. Those who rode the trip with the New York Transit Museum were given the option of either re-boarding the “Nostalgia Ride” at 4:00pm and returning to the city… or staying at Coney Island to have dinner and watch the sunset (and returning to the city on a regular subway train).


It was on the return ride that we met up with MTA Supervisor Bill Wall who oversees the historical collection, who spent time with us talking about the New York Transit Museum and the history of some of the cars on the train we were riding.

Most of our interview with Bill took place aboard one of the 1930s IND R1-9 cars.

Bill explained, “When the Independent Subway System (IND) opened its Eighth Avenue line in 1932, newly designed rolling stock went into service. The series was called R-1 because the cars were ordered under contract R-1, or Revenue Contract 1, and all subsequent cars ordered by the city were given an “R” designation followed by a series number.  Car 100 was the first of the 300 cars in the R-1 series to be delivered to New York City.”

According to Bill, the R-1 car combined the best feature of IRT cars (speed) with the best of the BMT (large passenger capacity).  The R-1 cars’ most notable innovation was the 4 sets of double doors on each side to allow for faster loading and unloading of passengers.  Devices making it impossible for passengers to hold doors open were also new and expected to further cut loading time and reduce passenger injuries.

Each 60-foot-long car contained 60 seats in a mixed pattern of cross and lengthwise seating, and room for a total of 280 passengers.  Cars built for the IND throughout the 1930s (R-1 through R-9) retained the same basic design and mechanical systems. The R-1’s riveted shell and utilitarian green paint epitomized the somber, industrial look of the Depression years.  Yet the train also inspired a classic swing number, composer Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train.”


After experiencing the 1930’s IND R1-9 cars… Bill also gave us the chance to experience the oldest cars on the train --- the 1910’s BMT B-Type Standards. It was not really safe to walk between the two different styles of cars, so when the train stopped at the 175th Street stop (on the A Subway Line) to let the rest of the passengers off… Bill brought us up to the BMT B-Type Standards by walking the station platform.


While pretty much having the 1910’s cars to ourselves as we rode between 175th Street and the 207th Street Yards… Bill also expounded on the history of these gems that the museum owned.

The B-Type Standard Cars were built in the mid-to-late 1910’s for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. The equipment would become part of the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT) Corporation in 1923 following the previous company’s bankruptcy. BMT grew during the 1920’s and 1930’s, operating the greatest majority of the rapid transit and streetcar lines in Brooklyn… with extensions into Queens and Manhattan. In June 1940, BMT sold all of its transit operations to New York City, which wanted to have all subway and elevated lines municipally owned and operated. When they were rolled out for the first time, the B-Type Standards were considered very innovative… as they had glass all around the car body, including door pockets and the off-side front panel. Drop benches could provide additional seating by closing off door panels during off-peak service and end doors could be opened throughout the train from the conductor’s position.


Midwest Rail Rangers Education Officer Kandace Tabern enjoyed the ride… saying, “It was like going back to that era --- the 1910’s and 1930’s --- and experiencing a time gone by. The “clickity-clack” of the wheels, the lights flickering every once in awhile… and yes… there was even no air conditioning on one of the hottest days in New York City this year. But it was actually bearable to ride in these historic cars because they had fans and enough cross ventilation. Being able to ride in these historic cars was such an amazing trip. We would like to thank the museum and the hard workers that made these trips possible.”

It’s not only the passengers on this excursion and us who were impressed with the cars… they are regularly used for movies that are filmed in New York City. In fact, some of the cars that we were riding on were going to be cleaned up for a movie shoot planned for the following Tuesday (be sure and watch out for these cars when “In the Heights” is released on June 26, 2020!)


Following our arrival at the 207th Street (the end of the A Subway Line), we were delighted to partake an impromptu tour of the MTA’s 207th Street Yard/Maintenance Facility and Overhaul Shop. The outdoor yard, which was originally constructed for the B Division, extends north from 207th Street to 215th Street. It serves as the home yard for the R32s, R46s, and R179s that are used on the A and C. There is a car wash here.  The 207th Street Shop is one of two heavy overhaul shops in the New York City Subway system (the other being the Coney Island Yard in Brooklyn) and it provides for the overhaul and rebuilding of some A Division cars as well as most B Division rolling stock. The yard stores cars that are being retired or awaiting scrapping, and it also restores cars designated for the New York Transit Museum. It also contains a garbage transfer station. Formerly, the retired cars that were stored at the yard were stripped of usable parts such as seats and doors, historic memorabilia such as roll signs, and toxic materials such as lubricants and asbestos, after which the cars were scrapped or sunk into artificial reefs

South of the yard, connecting tracks lead to the IND Eighth Avenue Line. A separate connecting track and flyover leads to the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line. A major rehabilitation project for the yard took place in 2016.


Perhaps your future travels to the New York City area can include one of the New York Transit Museum’s “Nostalgia Rides”.

Upcoming excursions include a trip on Sunday, August 18, 2019 (“Remembering the Myrtle Avenue Elevated”)… Saturday, September 28, 2019 and Sunday, September 29, 2019 (“Parade of Trains at Brighton Beach”)… and Friday, October 6, 2019 (“Woodlawn Cemetery”).  “Nostalgia Rides” are also traditionally been offered some weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Even better why not become a member of the New York Transit Museum?  Membership levels begin at just $40 for students and seniors… $60 for individuals... $75 for couples… and $90 for families.  For more details, check out: Become a Member - New York Transit MuseumOne benefit of membership is the opportunity to get tickets for the museum’s members-only tours of the Old City Hall subway station and other historic sites. These tours go on sale several times a year, typically in January, April, and August. Tour tickets sell out extremely quickly. The next round of tickets for tours and excursions will go on sale to members on Wednesday, August 14th.

Besides Bill Wall, we would like to thank Chelsea Newburg and Kendra Syke

We hope you enjoyed this article/trip report from Midwest Rail Rangers on If you did, we hope you are also interested in learning more about the Midwest Rail Rangers. We are an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides on-board educational programs on private rail excursions, Amtrak coach charters, regular runs of the South Shore Line on select weekends, and we make appearance at various outreach events such as TrainFest and MadCity Rail in Wisconsin. Our group of experienced Interpretive Guides have also written a series of railroad route guidebooks, e-books, and MP3 podcasts for the various passenger train lines across the Upper Midwest and across the United States. Check out our website at for more information and our listing of upcoming excursions and trips!


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