This cartoon is not too far removed from reality. It is possible to get the motorman’s view in some of NYC subway’s cars. The trick is finding the correct train model.
Train cars built in the sixties and earlier had a “half-width driving cab”. This means that the motorman’s cabin took up only a part of the front car leaving a nice window in the front of the car and some space for seating on the left. I was so used to seeing the full width cabs that completely block the view that I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a handful of trains with a window in front.
Passengers can look through the middle window in the first car of the R32 train:
R68 train also has a window in the middle, but there is a painted door behind it that cuts off the view.
The experience of looking through a front train window is similar to looking at stars with Televue eyepiece and a good telescope: it’s kind of like a spacewalk.
Now, here’s a neat way of figuring out a model of your train: look for a unit number on the wall (it’s usually a sticker on the back wall of conductor’s cab). Using this web site you can convert that unit number into a model name. Actually this is a prime candidate for a handheld application. Maybe I’ll tackle that when I have the time.
This is a good site with pictures of different train models.