New York subway 101: A guide to train car types Do you know your R188 from your R32? By H. Frishberg

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New York subway 101: A guide to train car types Do you know your R188 from your R32? By H. Frishberg
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, July 26, 2018 7:26 AM

New York subway 101: A guide to train car types

Do you know your R188 from your R32?

By Hannah Frishberg  Jul 24, 2018, 10:00am ED
 Newer R188 subway cars run on the 7 line. Max Touhey

Welcome to Subway 101, a new series in which we attempt to demystify the complex, enormous, and often-frustrating New York City subway system. First up: a guide to NYC Transit’s various subway cars.

Even the most oblivious straphangers knows that not all subway cars are built alike; the differences between the older and newer cars is quite obvious.

But not everyone knows what, exactly, differentiates one dated car from another,

or why so many types of subway car run throughout the transit system.

While the nitty-gritty details of subway car types may seem tedious,

the quality of your commute often depends on it;

the next time you’re stuck in a tunnel during yet another delay, 

the knowledge that you’re inside an R62 might improve the situation by a small amount.

The past

To understand where subway cars are now, it helps to understand their history.

The earliest underground subway cars were wooden,

The change of material to steel was, which began in 1904, was accelerate ed by the 1918 Malbone Street Wreck, one of the deadliest train crashes in U.S. history,

in which over 100 were fatally injured. Before it was controlled by a singular state agency, there were multiple private companies in charge—namely, the IRT, IND, and BMT

—which ran many car models on the tracks over the course of the 20th century.

Some of the more memorable among them were the D-Type, or the Triplex trains,

the short-lived Green Hornet, the blue and white BMT Bluebirds and IRT Redbirds

(one of which saw a second life as a rarely visited Queens tourist center before 

closing in 2015).

The New York Transit Museum, located in a disused subway station,

is home to a fleet of vintage trains that the public can wander through.

Every so often, these older models will run on the live tracks

—during the holidays and for tours and baseball games—as the Nostalgia Train.

The Frankenstein-d assortment of cars is usually composed of R1, R4, R6, R7A, and

R9 models, all in the Arnine family—a fleet of similar cars manufactured for the IND lines in the 1930s to 1950 and used till the late ’70s.

There are also quite a lot of subway cars swimming with the fishes; many retired

models are recycled by way of being sunk in the Atlantic, to form an artificial reef.

 An R-42 car, which dates back to the 1960s, runs on the J line. Max Touhey

The current rolling stock

Excepting only a limited number of non-passenger cars, the modern R-model trains are used across the system today. The “R” number classification entered use in 1931,

when the first batch was purchased for the IND.

There are 15 different models running in the MTA’s current fleet of passenger trains,

their R-numbers ranging from 32 (the oldest cars in the system, dating back to the

1960s) up to 188.

The observant straphanger will notice that the rolling stock that runs along

the lettered lines (formerly the BMT/IND and officially known as the B Division),

are significantly wider and longer, at 10 feet wide, than the numbered line trains.

Those were once part of the IRT and are now known as the A Division;

they’re roughly 8-1/2 feet wide.

Those paying attention will also realize that the car models can be grouped into

three main aesthetic categories:

There are newer cars with blue seating and brighter lighting;

these began with the R142s, which run on the 2, 4 and 5 lines,

and were built starting in 1999.

There are slightly older cars with multi-colored seats and jaundiced lighting,

with their model numbers all under 100.

And then there are the old R32s, with their corrugated exterior,

most commonly found along the A, C, J and Z lines.

(A fun fact about the R32s: Along with the second oldest models,

the R42s, they’re singular in their dated seat layout.)

For train aficionados,

there are a slew of ways to recognize not only the obviously different subway models, but also the minutiae that differentiates, say, a R142 and a R142A.

The r/nycrail subreddit abounds with discussion of these nuances;

many railfans can even recognize the differences between models

based on the sounds they make when they roll into stations

and open and close their doors.

An entire YouTube subculture has been developed around it.

While a casual observer won’t get to the railfan level of knowledge overnight,

here are some ways you can spot different subway car models, courtesy of a trivia r/nycrail mod:

The front LED sign of the R142 (2, 4, 5) is more recessed than the one on the R142As

and the R188s (4, 7).

The car numbers of the R68 (B, D, N, W) are in the 2000s,

while the R68A (A, B) have car numbers in the 5000s.

They also use different fonts for the numbers (Akzidenz-Grotesk for the R68s,

Helvetica for the R68As).

The front/rear cars (A cars) of the R188 (7) have CBTC equipment near the cab,

taking up what was empty space on the R142/As.

R143s have tri-color LED displays inside,

while R160s will either have an art poster or a full color LCD display in its place

This one might be obvious,

but the destination display of R142s turns off between text transitions,

while the R142A doesn’t.

The exterior door lights on R160Bs have plastic caps that stick out of their metal enclosure, while the R160A doesn’t.

The R179 is slightly boxier than the R143 and R160s.

For further reading, the Wikipedia pages for subway rolling stock are known to be exceptionally thorough and accurate—thanks, in part, to two truly dedicated and knowledgeable teenaged Queens straphangers 

who have together edited hundreds of pages.

The future

While the subway’s decayed and aging signal system has deservedly been more in the spotlight lately, the MTA often appears more focused on modernizing its rolling stock.

 A prototype of an open gangway subway car. Scott Lynch

Open-gangway cars are the way of the future:

In late January, the MTA announced its formal approval of the R211 model cars,

“535 state-of-the-art, next-generation” subway trains to replace older models on the lettered lines and the Staten Island Railway.

Of these, only 20 will actually be open gangway,

(the rest the familiar “closed-end” variety) and constitute a pilot program.

These new poop trains will hit the tracks starting in 2020,

but prototypes have been making highly anticipated debuts since December.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 2:22 PM is an excellent site for the above information and a host of other things about the NYCTA rapid transit operation.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 6:07 AM

My former acoustical consulting firm partner, Larry King. reports to me that subway service has recently improved, faster, far fewer delays, and more frequent.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, April 11, 2019 5:08 AM

Subway Performance Continues to Show Dramatic Improvements, Reaching Highest Weekday On-Time Performance in Five Years – Subway Action Plan and Enhanced Operations Efforts Are Working


On-Time Performance in March Reached 78%, Up from 65% Last March and Highest Since November 2013; Number of Delays Fell 40% Since March 2018, to less than 38,000; Major Incidents Fell to 50, Down 40% Since Last March; Substantial Improvements Seen Across Broad Range of Metrics 

Subway Action Plan Launched by Governor Andrew Cuomo‎ in 2017, and Funded by Governor, Legislature and City to Stabilize and Improve Aging System

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye, Managing Director Veronique Hakim and NYC Transit President Andy Byford today announced new statistics showing the continued dramatic subway performance improvements that have been achieved since the launch of the Subway Action Plan and the Save Safe Seconds campaign.

On-Time Performance continues to be significantly improved over 2018, and major incidents are declining steadily, while customer-based performance numbers are also pointing higher, and track fires have significantly decreased. MTA officials today said that these results show the Subway Action Plan and NYCT’s Save Safe Seconds “back-to-basics” approach are continuing to pay dividends for riders across the system.

The improved performance statistics are being felt by subway customers.  The latest quarterly customer survey results to be reported in next week’s Transit Committee meeting at MTA headquarters will show that subway customers say they are seeing positive changes, with improvement in overall service ratings. 

The Subway Action Plan was launched at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo‎ in July 2017, and funded by the governor, legislature and city, with the goal of taking extraordinary measures to stabilize and improve the more than 100-year old subway system.

“These latest performance results are another reminder that investment in the system, and smart operations by dedicated, hard-working professionals, yield real, tangible results,” said MTA Chairman Patrick Foye.  “They’re also an assurance that the additional funding we’ll be getting through central business district tolling will be money well spent – we’re showing the potential our team has, and a huge new capital boost will only drive performance up even further.”

“We have a long way to go, but getting back to the basics of both maintenance and operations through the Subway Action Plan and Save Safe Seconds campaign is bringing the subway up to a much better baseline from which to modernize the system,” said NYCT President Andy Byford.  “We are working to squeeze every drop of performance we can out of this system and the funds promised by central business district tolling will ultimately allow us to deliver the service that New Yorkers need and deserve.”

Weekday On-Time Performance (OTP) for March was approximately 78.2%, a significant increase from 65.2% in March 2018, and the highest OTP since November 2013. MTA officials noted that Weekday Major Incidents totaled 50 for the month of March, down 40% from 84 in March 2018. Weekday Delays in March were 37,667, a reduction of 40% from March 2018.  This reduction meets President Andy Byford’s recently announced goal of reducing average monthly delays by 18,000; the previous goal was 10,000.

Positive numbers were also realized in many of NYCT’s customer-focused metricsincluding Service Delivered, Additional Platform Time, Additional Train Time, and Customer Journey Time Performance. All trended higher than March 2018 and higher than their 12-month averages. Most notably, Additional Train Time – the average additional unanticipated time customers spend onboard the train due to various service issues – dropped 27% from March of last year.  Customer Journey Time Performance for March was 82.9%, an increase from 79.3% last March.

A contributing factor to the reduction in delays has been the significant progress made in reducing track debris fires, which are significantly down since NYCT started attacking this problem with new equipment in 2017. This has included clearing debris at an unprecedented rate using new platform-based mobile vacs, and vacuum trains that move around the system picking up trash. Year to date this year, track debris fires dropped 42% compared to 2018, from 111 to 64, and over the last 12 months, track debris fires dropped 34% from the prior 12 months, from 444 to 294.

Since the mobile vacuum effort began in 2017, mobile vacuum crews have removed 350,000 bags of dirt and trash weighing over 8.75 million pounds by heavy scraping and cleaning. Furthermore, the overall effort to improve track cleaning resulted in increase of trash and debris collection from 11.4 million pounds in 2016 to an average of 15.5 million pounds per year since then. The effort has included cleaning of all 418 miles of underground subway track by the end of 2018.

Overall service satisfaction, obtained by asking customers to evaluate individual subway lines and then weighting the results by ridership, increased by 6.1 percentage points to 61.4% this quarter. More detailed results from the quarterly “Customer Counts” survey will be available in the Transit Committee report to the MTA Board later this month.

On Time Performance (OTP):

Month  Weekday OTP Weekend OTP
Mar-18 65.2% 63.9%
Apr-18 67.7% 71.2%
May-18 66.3% 69.7%
Jun-18 68.0% 67.9%
Jul-18 66.6% 65.5%
Aug-18 68.8% 70.8%
Sep-18 69.4% 75.1%
Oct-18 70.3% 79.0%
Nov-18 69.9% 75.3%
Dec-18 72.6% 78.7%
Jan-19 76.7% 83.1%
Feb-19 76.4% 79.9%
Mar-19 78.2% 82.7%
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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, April 11, 2019 8:16 AM

Revisions in speed limits and in speed-control signals

"D" means diverging (curved) route only.

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