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V is for Vintage

old1.jpg2007, meet 1937. (Photo: Kristen V. Brown)

Here's a dispatch on the Sunday vintage train rides from our intern, Kristen V. Brown, who also wrote a story about the cool trip back in time:

Like many other New Yorkers, I was confused this morning when a vintage subway circa World War II pulled up to the E/V stop at Lexington and 53rd. Also, like, many New Yorkers, curiosity forced me onto the train even though it wasn't the line I was actually waiting for.

Officials announced last Thursday that the train would be running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m every Sunday throughout December along the V line from Queens Plaza to Second Avenue. Waiting on the train platform, I encountered many passengers who had come out just to ride the train. I talked to one who had ridden the train all morning, gotten off to get lunch, and planned on riding it all the way up to 5 p.m. He was a member at both the Trolley Museum of New York and the New York Transit Museum, and was wearing a cap with several train pins affixed to it. On the train another man dug through a folder of old pictures of the transit system in New York and Chicago to show to other curious riders.

Others, like myself, were just sort of confused as to how they'd ended up here. Cliche as it sounds, riding the vintage "nostalgia" trains really is like stepping back in time. These particular trains are all models R1 though R9, built between the '30s and the '40s and taken out of service in the 1970s — long before I was even born. Unlike today's hard plastic seats, the seats on these trains are comfy wicker, which one enthusiastic 8-year-old pointed out to me are particularly "bouncy." The cars are equipped with ceiling fans, and the original ads from the time still line the tops of the cars. Many of the ads look like something I would probably pay good money for at an antique shop — brightly colored illustrations advertising products like Campbell's Soup and Wrigley's Gum, and ads from Transit encouraging riders to cover their mouth when they sneeze. The insides of some had the same fluorescent quality that today's trains do; but with dark, rich, floors and tungsten lighting, the older cars were actually kind of homey.

The conductors for the most part had all operated these trains back when they were in regular service, so for many working this shift brings back memories. They will tell you all sorts of random facts about these cars, swelling up with pride as they do. For example, one told me, the reason the lighting goes out periodically is that when the third rail switches from the left to the right side, older cars loose power for a moment. The operator, Steve Davis, had ridden these cars as a child when his father drove them, so having the opportunity to drive the same cars was in a way the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for him.

Each car in the six car train is different — a different model, different year, different ads and in some even drastically different decor. And though they may be a little hotter, a little shakier and a lot louder, it's still a nice surprise to take a detour back in time on your way to work.

-- Kristen V. Brown


More of Kristen's photos after the jump:

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