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  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:11 pm on November 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , conductor, , , , , , Q, , , stainless steel worms, steel panels, subway systems, , , , Vintage Train New York Transit Museum   

    Catching the Vintage Train 

    New York Transit Museum operates a special subway train made out of a ragtag selection of vintage trains.  Normally these trains are used as a stationary exhibit, sometimes as a vehicle for special events (like the Old City Hall station tour), but sometimes all straphangers are in for a treat: the train operates on normal subway lines.

    Most people view subway trains as uniform utilitarian objects, stainless steel worms that swallow them in point A and if everything goes well spit them out in point B. But in reality the modern NYCTA system is made out of a hodgepodge of different train models, a legacy of three different subway systems. Many old train models have been retired, like the beloved “Redbird” trains. And by retired I mean dumped into the ocean to become artificial reefs in NJ. I remember riding redbirds, and sometimes used to encounter other old trains before they have been scrapped in favor of the more technologically advanced, but poorly designed R160-style trains. The museum train is a special case of this.

    The rivets and a mishmash of large windows and steel panels give the old R1 cars look of living prehistoric creatures. Graffiti writers of the 70s hated these cars because they did not have a lot of flat surface to cover in paint and called them “ridgys”. Modern train cars mostly do away with the front windows, cutting off the whole front for a spacious machinist’s cab.

    This unfortunate design decision leaves less space for passenger and does not allow kids of all ages to get “machinist’s view”.


    These trains don’t sound like the new ones: they don’t make the “ding-dong” sound when the doors are closing, but produce a pleasant “ksssht-pfft” noise of a pneumatic actuator. Instead of whining a few melodic notes like the R160s, R1s roar like propeller planes.

    One unique feature is the lack of large plastic American flag stickers that were added to all trains after 9-11.

    Helvetica was not dominating the typography of the subways yet. In fact, it was not yet created.

    The alternate reality feeling permeates the cars. Dangerous looking ceiling fans, exposed incandescent lightbulbs and vinyl seats were from an era less concerned with vandalism.

    State of the art pre-war climate control: rider-accessible vents

    and futuristic fans


    The tiny little rattan seat behind the machinist’s cab and the completely different design of the hand strap.

    One of the biggest difference with the modern trains is how the conductor works. He operates the train with the two hand grips while standing precariously between the cars.


    Here’s a video that shows this a little better

    One of the coolest parts is the fact that you can ride between the cars (something that is against the modern MTA rules. “<a href=”http://www.deadprogrammer.com/looking-at-the-things-flashing-by/”>Looking at the things flashing by</a>” normally gets you a ticket, even if it’s an amazing experience.


    Here’s a video:

    Gold and pinstripe “CITY OF NEW YORK” signs are gorgeous, but the ad reproductions are more entertaining than authentic.

    A friend of mine who remembered these trains from his youth told me that the part that he hated the most about them were the rattan seats: they tended to fray and fragment into pin-sharp pieces of fiber. Rattan seats look beautiful and are extremely comfortable when new, but I indeed sat down on one seat that had a broken section that was uncomfortably sharp. On the other hand all of these trains feature “conversation-style seats” turned 90 degrees to each other instead of the horisontal rows of benches that are the standard today.

    Some dubious advice, although I’ve seen this happen.

    I’m pretty sure this patent ran out by now.

    Currently this train operates every Saturday through January 19th. This page lists the schedule of departures. A round trip to Queens takes about an hour. The best way to catch the train is to arrive on 2nd Avenue stop of the F line in Manhattan. The train spends about 10-20 minutes standing in the station there, so it’s easier to catch. In Queens it does not stand on the platform, but the departure times are pretty accurate. If it’s more convenient, you can just spend a 15 mintues to half an hour waiting along the weekday M train stops, like 47-50th Street/Rockefeller Center.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:50 am on December 14, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: backup handling systems, , conductor, , , mainframe tape retrieval systems, , , , ,   

    Another Disjointed Post In Which The True Owners Of America’s Senior Citizens are Revealed 

    I have about 30-40 very exciting posts planned, but don’t have the time or willpower to actually sit down and write them. Besides, I should really be working on two very interesting projects.. Three very interesting pro.. No, actually five. The Spanish Inquisition should really give me some Ritalin. Anyways, meanwhile I need to dash off a small observational post. I mean without these and cat pictures a blog is not a blog, right?

    I am using SharpMT, a very nice little Movable Type client, to write this. I hope having a client that is similar to awesome Semajic will improve my blogging frequency. But I am very much annoyed at the fact that in this day and age almost all of what The Joel calls “real-time spell checker(s) with wavy red underlines” do not understand html markup and wavy-underline all a href= ? I mean, the spellchercker in this MT client is bad enough to not understand the word “blog”, but Outlook and Outlook Express are not any better.

    Hmm.. Where was I? Oh, right, observational post. Last Monday was a miserable rainy day. I was already a little late for work when I boarded my train. The train was slow as usual – people who are already late are not in a hurry, right? And then the conductor uttered the two words that make every NYC Subway rider groan. “Sick passenger”.

    You see, if somebody faints on a train the train usually stays in the station until an EMT arrives. The EMT arrival times are amazingly fast in NYC and MTA even has a few of its own paramedics stationedat major stations, but the delay in getting the “sick passengers” of the train makes the trains stack up and forces the dispatchers to rerout them sometimes causing major delays. There is a passage about the “sick passengers” in Randy Kennedy’s awesome Subwayland : Adventures in the World Beneath New York. One of the interesting observations there is that the highest percentage of “sick passenger” incidents happens on Modays. Amen to that.

    The train that I was on was rerouted to Penn Station. I got out right next to the theater that plays “Monty Python’s Spamalot”. The street was full of actors dressed up as knights and there was a SPAM truck involved in distribution of free Spamwitches. As I was already pretty late I did not even have time to indulge in taking a picture with the knights or in free luncheon meat.

    Later in the week I finally had a big ol’ titanium screw screwed in where I used to have a tooth before. Now I have a titanium wedding ring, titanium watch, titanium glasses, titanium coffee tamper and a titanium implant.

    Next day I was standing in front of a drugstore counter waiting for my antibiotic and painkiller prescription to be filled out. The drugstore had a really cool ScriptPro Robotic Prescription Dispensing System. It works kind of like one of those mainframe tape retrieval systems – a robotic arm moves around in a glassed in cabinet, scans compartment barcodes and dispenses pills into bottles. To think of it, I think I’ve seen modern backup handling systems like that too. I always wanted one of those for my bookshelves.

    Two oldtimers seated in the corner were obsessively discussing their prescription plans. What drew my attention was an interesting choice of words they used to describe their relaionship to the plans – it was always “belong to”. Not once did they say “what plan did you have” – it was always “what plan did you belong to”.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:25 pm on October 28, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , BMT Astoria Line, Catch me if you can, , City Hall station, conductor, , , , , McClellan, middle car, , steel dust, Subway Centennial   

    Happy Birthday Dear IRT! 

    Empire State Building is lighted Red/Gold/Red today. Handy ESB lighting schedule tells me that this is in honor of Subway Centennial. A better color would have been a rusty gray-brown, the color of steel dust that covers the tracks and most other subway surfaces, but I guess they don’t have lights like that, do they?

    To celebrate Interborough Transit Corportation’s 100’s birthday I decided to try and sneak a peek at the fabled City Hall station, the one where Mayor Bloomberg and a bunch of bigwigs recreated Mayor McClellan’s ride 100 years ago. It’s nice to be NYC’s Mayor – you can fly NYPD helicopters and drive antique trains.

    Unfortunately the restored City Hall station was not open for regular shmoes, but I tried the old trick – taking 6 train through the last stop. Number 6 loops through the old City Hall station without stopping. I asked the conductor to let me stay, but since it was around 8PM she said – “not at this time of night” and kicked me out. I went for a walk around City Hall and took this picture of the pretty entrance to the current City Hall station.

    When I took the train back I saw the most upsetting sight – there was an intoxicated bum sleeping in a middle car with the conductor not paying any attention to him. He was holding an empty popcorn bag an there was small sea of popcorn and other rat attracting garbage around him. Apparently he went through the loop unharassed, although the old City Hall station was of no interest to him. I guess next time it would probably be a good idea to try asking a few conductors – maybe some are not as strict.

    This is like living in Manhattan – Donald Trump in his tower, a bum in a box on church steps, a low income person in a housing project. Middle class not allowed.

    On the bright side, tomorrow the special museum train will be making regular stops on the B/Q line between 10AM and 3PM. They call it “Catch me if you can“.

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