A History of the IRT SMEE Cars, 1948-1964

From nycsubway.org


IRT WH R-12 5722 in its as-delivered paint scheme, at Allerton Avenue on the White Plains Road line (despite its #7 bulkhead sign). February 1964. Collection of David Pirmann.

A History of the IRT SMEE Cars (Delivered 1948-1966), by George Chiasson, Jr., 1988.

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Effective in June, 1940 the Board of Transportation of the City of New York assumed control of all IRT properties, and this resulted in an end to all independent IRT car design efforts. Engineering personnel were consolidated with those already employed by the City (and its own IND), as well as those integrated from the former BMT. Through this the die was cast in the uniform design of equipment, as based on the proven R-1/9 series. Such an approach would seem to be a logical progression, after 35 years of operation of five separate and basically incompatible fleets of cars. The biggest advantages of this approach were that it could aid in the reliability of service, and help to foster system growth. Expected progress in this area was then delayed by World War II, but as the conflict ended this group was at work developing a single, standard car design which in the right physical dimensions would be fit for service throughout the New York Subway system. Indeed, were it not for the physical constraints presented by the oldest parts of the IRT's subway, an overriding desire to develop one all-purpose car design might have been realized.

The new car design work was one response to the post-war political environment in the city, in which improvement and modernization were paramount in all public facilities, the subway being no exception. The IND, emerging as the embodiment of this attitude, became the testing ground and the prime beneficiary, with the results spreading eventually to the former IRT and BMT. In 1947, IND R-7 car #1575 became the BOT's post-war prototype, being rebuilt by ACF to post-war specifications following a collision. Its numerous features, adopted as the new standard of the time, included a new body constructed of welded sheet metal panels, the first of its kind in New York, and had an unusual rounded roof monitor, akin to that on the IRT's 1938 World's Fair Steinways. Interior fixtures were of stainless steel, strung with small bracket fans, versus the traditional porcelain. Lighting was provided by immensely brighter fluorescent tubes and velon seating supplanted the original rattan. Underneath was a conventional GE control system, to provide compatibility with the older R-1/9s. Indeed, the 1575 was quite a head-turner when it entered service on the E and F lines.


1938 Pullman-built R7A 1575, the body prototype for future Board of Transportation purchases under contracts R-10, R-12, and R-14. Part of the Transit Museum fleet, 1575 is shown here leading a fan trip service on the BMT Brighton line in 2004. Photo by David Pirmann.

In early 1947, even before the public was exposed to car 1575's relative magnificence, the Board of Transportation placed a production order with ACF under Contract R-10, calling for 400 similar units to be used on the IND. These, however, were to be technically superior to the older IND standard cars, with two 100 HP motors per truck instead of the traditional motor truck/trailer truck arrangement; a new type of outboard frame, roller bearing "equalizer" truck; and a new type of braking system called Straight Air Motor Car Electric-Pneumatic Emergency (SMEE), which introduced the concept of blended dynamic and air braking to the system, as had been practiced for years elsewhere.

Following later that year were agreements with ACF for two orders of IRT-sized cars of like design, 100 under Contract R-12, and 150 through Contract R-14, to be used on the Flushing line. To downsize the R-10 body to meet the shorter and narrower requirements of the IRT, straight longitudinal seats were prescribed, as well as the reduction of one door set. Corresponding modifications were made to interior appendages and the window arrangement, and noiseless electric door motors were substituted for the more traditional pneumatic type employed on the R-10s. The IRT cars were also divided evenly as to control group, as had been the R-10s, with half receiving Westinghouse Switch Group, and half arriving with General Electric PCM type. These would be common standards for the next several years.

The first train of R-12s entered service on July 13, 1948 under the watchful eye of Mayor O'Dwyer, and as they did the Flushing line officially became route #7. A slight drawback was that the R-12s could only be run in 8- or 9-car trains, because the platforms on the Flushing line were only extended for 10-car trains of Lo-Vs, which did not open the front or rear doors. This had been the case with the 1938 World's Fair cars as well. The R-12s were also prohibited from service on the Astoria line, which was still operated as an IRT route at the time. This aided in system plans to rationalize redundant operations from the predecessor companies, which eventually resulted in the modification of the Astoria route to accommodate BMT Subway trains.


Interior of R-14 5837 as seen in 1962. Collection of David Pirmann.

The R-14s began arriving on the #7 in August, 1949 and mixed in trains with the earlier cars. By this time, the R-12s were experiencing some problems (as were the R-10s), which necessitated a redesign of the emergency brake valves for all cars. Finally, the use of rubber in the heavyweight truck suspension assemblies was causing truck frame difficulties, and had to be modified with steel componentry. The R-14s received like modifications.

During 1948, the BOT ordered 250 additional IRT SMEEs under Contract R-15. This order was actually split into four separate numerical groupings, to avoid car number conflicts with the BMT's D-Type fleet (6000-series). Mechanically, the R-15s continued to draw on post-war SMEE standards; but the carbody included major revisions such as a "turtleback" contour roof with indirect ventilation system, foam rubber seat cushions to supplant the velon, large ceiling-mounted axiflow fans, inside conductor's positions and a strange "porthole" appearance to the individual door leaves. Though compatible with the R-12/14 cars, the custom for many years after the R-15s began running in February, 1950 was to keep the two car types separate because of the operational differences at the conductor's position. Finally, cars 6216-6225 were the first on the system to be built with public address systems, long since adopted as a fixture throughout the subways.

Together, the three groups replaced all Standard, Steinway, and 1938 World's Fair cars in Queens, from which they went to the IRT Main Lines and enabled the extension of Locals from 5- to 10-car consists. Platform extensions to permit the full operation of 10-car "R-type" trains on the Flushing line were completed by 1953.


The R-15's porthole window design really stood out in the clean MTA blue and silver paint scheme. Here, R-15 6222 leads a train on the Woodlawn line at 167th Street in November, 1970. Photo by Joe Testagrose.

In 1951 the voters of New York approved a wide-ranging Bond Issue for the Board of Transportation, aimed at expansion of the system which would fulfill plans to complete the IND, as it had been planned before World War II. However, continued financial distress, which fostered creation of the New York City Transit Authority in 1953, led to a re-examination of the direction in which the agency was moving. By 1954, the prevailing sentiment was that the bond money would be wiser spent on rejuvenation of the existing physical plant.

One of the results of this policy decision was the acquisition of modern SMEE equipment to replace the original IRT fleet, now 40 to 50 years old. Hence, a total of 400 new IRT cars were ordered from St. Louis Car Co. under Contract R-17. As the R-12s had been, the R-17s were a miniaturized version of a sister order for the IND (Contract R-16), and had carbodies which were modified accordingly (3 door sets, longitudinal, foam-rubber seating, altered sash arrangement, etc). However, the GE-equipped half of the order, cars 6500-6699, ushered in use of the dual-cam MCM control group. This was a package which had been in development since World War II, as an outgrowth of work done by the Transit Research Corporation for PCC technology. The R-17s were also the first IRT cars to have stainless steel handstraps.

All 400 cars were initially assigned to the Lexington-Pelham Local, which thus became the #6, beginning on October 10, 1955. By late 1956 they had replaced all of the older Hi-V cars which had been operating there. Mainly of the "Gibbs" type, some went to the scrapper and others were transferred to West Side services. During this time, the NYCTA performed its first experimentation with air-conditioning, outfitting one R-15 (6239) in 1955, then an entire set of R-17s (6800-6809) in 1957. Both attempts were largely unsuccessful.

Following a reorganization of the NYCTA in 1955, another 250 IRT SMEEs were ordered from St. Louis Car under Contract R-21. A year later, this was extended by 250 more cars to be acquired under Contract R-22, which was further increased to 450 by delaying construction projects funded through the original 1951 bond issue. Together, these were to complete the replacement of all Hi-Vs, and enable retirement of the ex-BMT and MUDC wooden cars still running on the Third Ave. line in The Bronx. Both types were changed little from the R-17s, the only noticeable exterior differences being square-windowed storm doors rather than rounded. The R-22s were the first cars to be outfitted with sealed-beam headlights, and a new style of steel handstrap was used inside. Mechanically the cars were also similar to the R-17, though the last ten R-22s (7515-7524) were modified with lighter under-car materials and fiberglass seating to combat the persistent overweight nature of the SMEEs. Finally, both the R-21 and R-22 orders were divided equally between Westinghouse and GE control groups, with the final 20 Westinghouse units (7504-7524) receiving a modern cam system, which succeeded the older Switch Group, as well as an experimental static-state motor-generator aimed at reducing maintenance requirements.


The 1970s and 1980s were not kind to the IRT fleet. This R-21 (7189) nears the end of its service life at Dyckman Street in 1983. Photo by Steve Zabel, collection of Joe Testagrose.

The R-21s began operating on the 7th Avenue-Broadway Express (signed up #1) on November 7, 1956 and were increased in number through early 1957. Late in the year, they were joined by 80 of the GE R-22s (7525-7604), and in combination they replaced all Hi-Vs on the Broadway Express by April, 1958. The balance of the R-22 fleet entered service on the 7th Avenue-Bronx Express (#2) starting January 13, 1958 and the resultant car shifting led to final retirement of the last Hi-Vs in September. Meanwhile, the IRT SMEE fleet suffered its first losses in August, 1957 when R-17s 6673 (GE) and 6786 (WH) were badly damaged in a collision near Zerega Ave. on the Pelham line. Both cars were eventually scrapped.

On January 30, 1959, R-21/22s from the Broadway Express began wandering to the 7th Avenue-Broadway Local (#1) and 7th Avenue-Lenox Local (#3) in the advent of the "West Side Changeover". Under this massive service change, which took effect on February 6, the 7th Avenue-Broadway Express was eliminated, being replaced by conversion, of the 7th Avenue-Lenox Local into an Express, which was thus extended into Brooklyn. The 7th Avenue-Broadway Local (now the #1), became a full-time route to South Ferry. In the aftermath of these changes, R-21/22s from the Broadway Express were shifted to supply 100% of the service on the new #1 Local, while R-22s continued to supplement various Lo-V types on the #2-Bronx Express. Lo-Vs were used entirely on the 7th Avenue-Lenox Express.

Partly due to pressure resulting from the application of more advanced technologies on other systems (such as Chicago, Cleveland and the Hudson & Manhattan), and partly due to financial constraints, the NYCTA paused in its car acquisition drive in the late 1950s. Exactly how genuine the effort was on the part of NYCTA staff to utilize broader technological improvements remains unclear, but great resistance is evident, being rooted in the commitment to standardize on the BOT's post-war specification. The respite proved to be brief, as more car orders were pushed through before adequate evaluation of the possible use of these technologies could be performed. This fast-track approach stemmed from the anxiety of upper level TA management to retire the large and rapidly-aging IRT and BMT fleets, and the fiscal realities which dictated that as many cars as possible be ordered while the funds were made available, regardless of amenities. Inevitably, the result was several large orders (eventually totaling 210 units for the IRT and 550 for the BMT), which closely subscribed to the BOT's post-war standards, and by most measures of the time were primitive. Then Chairman Charlie Patterson, an advocate of the use of modern technology, was forced to defer a hoped-for test of such componentry to a later time.

To ease financing of the equipment acquisition, several orders were placed, spread over a period of years. First in line were 110 cars for the IRT under Contract R-26, followed up by an additional 100 units through Contract R-28. At the same time, 230 cars were slated from St. Louis Car Co., to be known as R-27s. In contrast to the previous SMEEs, the R-26/28s were arranged in semi-permanently coupled married pairs. Under this arrangement, pioneered elsewhere as early as 1923, each car was provided with an operating cab at only one end, being joined by a coupler at the "blind" end. In each pair, the even-numbered ("A") car had the low-voltage converter and batteries beneath, while the odd ("B") car was equipped with the air compressor. In this fashion, individual cars were incapable of independent operation, but any two could run together, sharing equipment, provided there was one A and one B car present. In theory, this concept would reduce the cost and necessity of fleet maintenance, as the number of these vital components could be halved. It was also helpful in reducing the overall weight of the carbody, but the real Achilles heel in this area, the heavyweight trucks, remained unchanged.

As usual, the R-26/28s were evenly divided between Westinghouse and GE control. However, the Westinghouse cars employed the same Cam control as had been tried on R-22s 7505-7524 in 1958, while the GEs were outfitted with that company's most up-to-date system, called Single Cam Magnetic (SCM). Electrically, the R-26/28s began the use of circuit breakers for low-voltage switches, replacing the outdated and sometimes hazardous fuses. Bodywise, they were similar to the last 10 R-22s, having fiberglass longitudinal seating, as well as a modern style of handstrap. On the exterior, they were the first to have a sealed window on the storm door, replacing the movable sash of the R-15 to R-22 series.


Brand new olive-drab R26 cars (7765 and 7784 and mates) await service at the East 180th Street yard. Collection of David Pirmann.

These new cars were assigned in their entirety to the #6 line between October, 1959 and early 1961. By mid-1960, they had freed up most of the GE R-17 cars, which were shifted to the West Side lines, where they mixed with R-21/22s. On the #2, this led to a marked reduction in use of Lo-V cars, and also permitted surplus SMEE trains to be used nights and weekends for a brief period on the Lexington-Jerome (#4) Express, as well as on a continuing basis on the weekend Lexington-White Plains Rd. (#5) Express. Integration of the GE R-17s into R-21/22 trains on the #1 yielded enough extra cars to operate a few SMEE consists on the #3 for the first time. That route was at the time limited to 9-car trains.

On January 4, 1962 an automated 3-car WH R-22 train, known as "SAM", was placed in operation on the 42nd Street Shuttle. This project had been enthusiastically backed by Chairman Patterson, and was seen as a long-term solution to the nagging problem of how to run this abbreviated service most efficiently. On February 4, ten more R-17s (the remaining GEs and WH cars 6700-6704) left the #6 for the West Side lines, and resulted in the introduction of short R-17/21/22 consists on the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central. Through this and the reduced amount of equipment required to cover service on the #2 line, all of the 1938 World's Fair Steinways were exiled to the Third Ave. line in The Bronx.

In early 1961, the NYCTA proceeded with its next level of equipment orders, following the series of acquisitions it committed to in 1958. First, agreement was reached with St. Louis Car Co., now a subsidiary of General Steel Industries, on an order for 236 IRT cars under Contract R-29. These were to be almost identical to the R-26/28 series, the only obvious differences being the use of a drawbar to join married pair sets permanently, and a bright red exterior livery, set off by a blue and orange City of New York seal. The first 118 cars were equipped with Westinghouse Cam control, the latter with General Electric SCM I. The GE half of the order also initiated the use of high-voltage circuit breakers on the cars, main panels. Finally, at the behest of Chairman Patterson four R-29s were outfitted with lightweight General Steel #70 trucks, to fulfill his earlier promise to explore a more advanced level of technological development.

More IRT cars were ordered from St. Louis-GSI later in the year, using capital funds and a portion of the proceeds obtained through an October, 1962 bond issue. These consisted of 540 cars under Contract R-33 and 424 additional units through Contract R-36. As before, there was controversy regarding the lack of advancement in technological level of the designs. One of the larger points of contention was the Transit Authority's reticence to use air conditioning, something which it claimed would have required a major re-design effort and result in delivery delays. Amenities was another focal point, which was not really addressed. Unfortunately, the passing of Chairman Patterson, the strongest advocate of advancement, resulted in a stagnation, if not downright rejection, of efforts to bring the Transit Authority's equipment standards beyond the basic parameters of 1940. In 1963, this was changed somewhat when the Budd Co., which specialized in stainless steel car construction, and had been proposing that the New York system explore this avenue since the 1930s, was awarded a 600-car order for the BMT/IND under Contracts R-32 and R-32A. It was too late to be of consequence to equipment in the pipeline for the IRT, however, which was of sufficient quantity to completely replace the pre-World War II cars still in service on the main lines.

A trial run was made with the first R-29 train on April 29, 1962 along the #7 Flushing line. The next day, they were placed in #1 7th Avenue-Broadway service, separate from the R-17/21/22 consists. Through the summer, the R-29s gradually supplanted the older SMEEs on the #1. In turn, the R-17/21/22s grew in number on the #2 and #3 lines, so that by early July it was no longer necessary to use Lo-Vs to fill schedules. The old cars then became concentrated on the East Side Expresses, enabling the last Flivver cars to be withdrawn from the Lexington-White Plains Rd. line as of August 10. In early September, 1962 R-17s 6650-6704 were shifted back to the #6 from the West Side Expresses, forcing the return of a few Lo-V trains to these services.

This was indicative of expanded fleet requirements, which induced the general mixture of SMEEs throughout the system to enable them to cover as many trips as possible. Thus, as of October 1 there were R-17/21/22 cars mixed with R-29s on the #1, R-29s joining R-17/21/22s on the #2 and #3, and new cars (R-17/21/22/29 sets) in base service on the #4 Lexington-Jerome Express. In addition, the general intermixing of R-17s and R-26/28s commenced on the #6. SMEEs, now in mixed R-17/21/22/29 consists, were still being used nights and weekends on the #5 as they had been since 1960.

To provide extra equipment for the start of 11-car trains, GE R-17s 6500-6549 were transferred from the West Side IRT to the #7 Flushing line as of November 1, 1962. Two weeks later, their absence was compensated by the arrival of the first "Main Line" R-33s. This group was comprised of the first 500 cars produced under Contract R-33, 270 equipped with General Electric SCM, and 230 with Westinghouse Cam. The Main Line R-33s were virtually identical to the R-29s, their only innovation being the substitution of plywood sub-flooring for the more traditional aluminum or steel framing. The huge number of cars took several months to enter service, being assigned among all IRT Main Line routes except the #6. This included the #5, which was gradually assigned enough mixed SMEE consists from the #2 and #4 lines to severely curtail its need for Lo-Vs.

As of March, 1963 the R-29s and Main Line R-33s had begun mixing in #6 trains. On March 18, the first R-12/14/15 cars were transferred off the Flushing line, appearing briefly on the East Side routes (#4, #5 and #6), then finally migrating to their full-time assignment on the #1. By May, the ex-Flushing cars were also running of the #2 and #3 lines, with 30 more GE R-17s being traded to #7 service, where they were sometimes trained with R-15s. When they became gradually intermixed with other SMEEs on the West Side, the R-12/14s were not to be in the conductor's positions because the conductor's controls were on the outside. As a result they were often observed on the ends of a train. At last, with the influx of new cars on the #6, 70 R-17s (6650-6719) were freed up and distributed to the other Main Lines, providing enough equipment to permit removal of all Lo-Vs from Lexington-White Plains Rd. service by July 8, for the remainder of the slack summer period.

On September 26, 1963 the first trains of "World's Fair" R-33 and R-36 cars were operated on the #7. This was a special fleet of 430 cars, destined for permanent assignment to the Flushing line in commemoration of the 1964-65 World's Fair, to be held at Flushing Meadow Park. Adorned in a distinctive aqua and blue livery, they included the final 40 cars of Contract R-33 as single units, equipped with Westinghouse Cam control, and 390 cars of the R-36 contract in married pairs (split into 178 Westinghouse and 212 GE). Despite their special status, the World's Fair cars were fully compatible with previous IRT SMEEs, and offered no marked technological improvement other than the use of single-pane "picture window" sash to replace the traditional two-piece lift type. This had required some fairly simple structural modifications to the standard carbody design.

As the World's Fair cars were phased in on the Flushing line, they were regularly mixed with R-17s to form 11-car trains, because there were not enough single-unit R-33s to impact the schedule. The GE R-17s on the #7 began filtering slowly back to the Main Lines (except the #6) as more World's Fair R-33s were placed in service on November 4, 1963. This ultimately resulted in the return of 100 R-17s (6620-6719) to their home on the #6 by mid-1964. In turn, the R-12/14/15 cars replaced by the arriving World's Fairs were transplanted to the #1, #2 and #3 routes until November 30, 1963 when the entire group was reassigned for a time to #4 service to aid in removal of all Lo-Vs. The last of the oldest IRT SMEEs left the Flushing line by April 17, 1964.

A few Lo-V trains were restored to #5 service in late September, 1963 to usher in the fall schedule. The continued influx of Main Line R-33s and finally the assignment of the R-12/14/15s to the #4 in late November led to their complete withdrawal from both East Side Express lines as of December 23, 1963. On the #2 and #3, a handful of Lo-Vs hung on through late February of 1964, by which time delivery of the Main Line R-33s was nearly complete.

On March 15, 1964 the TA reassigned 40 Main Line R-33 cars to the #7, to fill greatly expanded schedules for the Fair, until the remaining World's Fair cars could be delivered from St. Louis-GSI. Used on a temporary basis, they had paper signs taped in the front windows to avoid having to install new roller curtains. This group was generally mixed with at least one of the remaining Flushing R-17s to make an 11-car consist, occasionally being blended with their sister World's Fair R-33s for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, the Transit Authority's worst subway fire in history, at Grand Central on the 42nd St. Shuttle on April 21, 1964, destroyed a total of seven SMEE cars. Apparently ignited under the automated SAM train, which was slated for re-conversion to manual operation, it spread through the terminal by feeding on oil-soaked wood and thickly-painted steel. The good fortune that there were no fatalities is reflected by the immense damage inflicted. SAM WH R-22s 7509, 7513 and 7516 were incinerated; GE R-17s 6595, 6597 and 6601, and GE R-22 #7740 were also beyond repair. When reopened three weeks later, the 42nd Street Shuttle was still using short R-17/21/22 consists.


Aftermath of the fire in the 42nd Street shuttle, April 23, 1964. Photo by Herbert P. Maruska.

The final batch of new cars, the "Main Line" R-36s began service on the #2/4/5 lines July 24, 1964. These final 34 cars of the R-36 contract, were again unchanged from the Main Line R-33s, having Westinghouse Cam control in entirety to account for the electrical imbalance in the World's Fair R-36 order. The delivery of this last order for the IRT brought the final number of cars procured since 1947 to 2,450 (less the nine units lost in various mishaps). It should be noted that the Main Line R-36s did offer one giant step in the direction of progress, for in early 1965 they were the first cars to be equipped with functioning radios. By June of 1964, the R-12/14/15s had begun wandering onto all IRT Main Lines, being used but briefly on the #6.

In July, the Transit Authority began experimenting with the use of SMEEs on the Bowling Green-South Ferry Shuttle. This mini-route had been running since 1909, and had a small platform hewn into the inner loop at South Ferry, located in a tight inside curve, tailored for the use of door spacing appropriate to its customary Lo-Vs. At first, a pair of ex-Flushing GE R-17s was used, with warning given to passengers about the hazards of the tight spacing and large gap at the center doors. In succeeding weeks, these were replaced by two GE R-14s, Lo-Vs once again, a GE R-12/14 pair and two WH R-17s from the #6. Finally, the lowest numbered R-12s (5703-5706) were permanently assigned as of September 6, with the middle doors rendered inoperative. This was no small feat considering the SMEEs are designed to share door motor drives on alternating panels.

In January of 1965, the final few GE R-17s were returned from Flushing to the Main Lines (except the #6). By May 31, when the Main Line R-33 and R-36 classes were assigned to specific routes to provide at least one radio-equipped set in each train, the first real IRT SMEE assignment took shape:

#1/#3R-12s 5745-5802, R-14s 5803-5952; R-15s 5953-5999 & 6200-6252; R-21s 7050-7299; R-22s 7300-7399
#2/#4/#5R-17s 6500-6699; R-22s 7400-7749; R-29s

8570-8805; R-33s 8806-8999 (#5); R-33s 9000-9199 (#4); R-36s 9524-9557

#6R-17s 6700-6899; R-26s 7750-7859; R-28s 7860-7959; R-33s 9200-9305
#7WF R-33s 9306-9345; WF R-36s 9346-9523 & 9558-9769
42 St. ShuttleR-12s 5730-5744
Bowling Green ShuttleR-12s 5703-5706 (as modified)

WH R-12s 5707-5729 were at this time placed exclusively in Work Service, being effectively the first IRT SMEE retirees at 17 years of age. While this assignment had not yet taken on the familiar characteristic of dividing car types by equipment type (WH or GE), there are indeed the beginnings of SMEE assignment tendencies which lasted for many years hence.

These were part of a change in the basic philosophy of how IRT SMEE cars should be best distributed, for no longer was it paramount that the newer cars be spread about so as to obviate the need to use Lo-Vs, or to accommodate a new lengthening of trains. From this point on, the fleet was rationalized mainly on the basis of maintenance and operational requirements. Thus, crews could become accustomed to a predictable assortment of equipment, and cars could be grouped at given maintenance facilities to enable some type of uniformity in required spare parts, as well as maintenance procedures for the 24 distinct series of IRT SMEE cars. Such had also been the apparent policy of the Interborough Rapid Transit Co. in earlier days, as there was always an attempt to keep some car types on given lines (such Standard and Deck Roof Hi-Vs on Broadway and Lenox; and Gibbs Hi-Vs on the Pelham).

Thus, under the emerging assignment guidelines, the #1 and #3 routes were merged, with maintenance being performed at 240th St., and the small yard at the former 147th St. Shops being used for the storage of the Lenox Expresses. All equipment used on the #6 took advantage of the large facility at Westchester Yard. The #2/#4/#5 and 42nd St. Shuttle routes, which comprised the largest part of required service on the system, had most repair work performed at the East 239th Street facility in the Bronx, being supported by three smaller carbarns at New Lots Ave. in Brooklyn, Mosholu Yard off the Jerome Ave. line and the medium-sized East 180th Street Shop at the junction of the Dyre Ave. and White Plains Rd. lines. Routine maintenance and storage of the World's Fair fleet on the #7 was carried out at Corona Yard east of 111 Street. Major repairs for these cars, as had been the case since the 2nd Avenue-Queensboro Bridge connection was broken in 1942, was performed at Coney Island Shops of the BMT. Repair of the four cars on the Bowling Green Shuttle was generally performed in the shuttle track at that station.

In September, 1965 the 200 WH R-17s from the #6 line were swapped to the #2/#4/#5 lines (some leaving the Lexington Ave. Local for the only time in their service careers), and in exchange the top 200 R-22s (GE cars 7550-7749) began running for the first time on the #6. These assignments lasted only for a few months, and would not be repeated for nearly 20 years. Also at this time, GE R-17 #6580 became the 10th SMEE to enter premature retirement following a bad derailment along the #2 line on September 25, 1965. By late November, the presence of red "GE" and blue "WE" stickers was being noted on the cab sashes of all IRT cars. Toward the end of January, 1966 it was becoming evident that car groups were being shifted, the goal evidently being their redistribution based exclusively on electrical equipment. Finally, on February 16, the SMEEs assumed their "permanent" assignments, which set a pattern followed, in many ways to the present time.

IRT SMEE Cars by Group (As Built), 1966-1991

Following the rationalized car assignment of February 16, 1966 it became possible to track the whereabouts of each car as it progressed through its career as one piece of the biggest and busiest rapid transit system on the continent. Thus, each of the 24 groups is hereby broken out for analysis.

1. WH R-12s 5703-5752 consisted of three sub-groups: the first four cars as assigned to the Bowling Green-South Ferry Shuttle (5703-5706); those used for Work Service since 1965 (5707-5729); and the remainder (5730-5752), which were operated on the #1 and #3 lines. By this time, all R-12s (and R-14s) were exhibiting a solid red paint on the exterior, which had gradually covered the original (two-tone gray with an orange stripe at the belt) since the cars were transferred in from Flushing service.


R-12 5703 assigned to the Bowling Green-South Ferry Shuttle, seen here in December 1970 at Bowling Green. Photo by Doug Grotjahn, collection of Joe Testagrose.

Likewise, the cars' interiors had been modified from a purplish gray color to light blue, and the original velon seat cushions had been supplanted by gray fiberglass in the wake of vandalism attacks. When the cars were transferred back to the main lines in 1963-1964, small movable handstraps were added to the standee stanchions over the seats on these as well as all other R-12, R-14 and R-15 series units. On the subject of colors, the early 1970s saw the beginning of application of the MTA Standard silver-and-blue on the R-12s exteriors. Concurrently, car interiors were redone in a dull shade of light green, which blended with the gray seating to form a generally bland tone. After an incident in early 1970 which found fault with an inability for crew communication in the oldest cars, all R-12s (as well as R-14s and R-15s) were banned from being on the operating ends or conductor's positions until they were retrofitted with P.A. systems by early 1971.

Cars in the 5707-5729 group were restored to passenger service along the #1/#3 in February, 1967 to enable the R-17 through R-22 classes to go in for their 10-year overhauls. The 50-car group then remained intact until 1970, when the full return of all cars permitted the Main Line WH R-36s to be transferred to the #1/#3. The resultant equipment surplus led to the withdrawal of R-12s 5707-5713, which resumed their Work Car duties. Four cars of this group (5709-5712) were eventually converted to the system's "Pump Train" while another (5713) wound up being based at Corona Yard on the Flushing line. In 1984, this car was inadvertently repainted in the TA's new Fox Red "Redbird" livery, becoming the only one of the entire R-12/14/15 series to enjoy this privilege. The car had long since been reduced to part-time status, however, and as the error was discovered it was quickly re-covered in the traditional yellow Work Car livery. Cars 5707 and 5708 were converted to Revenue vehicles R-701 and R-702, lasting until they were scrapped in 1987 and 1988, respectively.

In October, 1972 WH R-12s 5714 and 5715 were taken out of service, being converted to "Signal Dolly" cars E45 and E46. These utility vehicles were prone to turning up just about anywhere on the system (all three divisions) at any time. Their time was limited, however, as the TA's acquisition of replacement work cars made them surplus by 1986, and they were finally scrapped, well after most of their sister cars, in 1988.

As the #1/#3 lines were already operating on tight equipment requirements, and were less affected by NYCTA cuts in response to the city's famed fiscal crisis, the WH R-12s were able to withstand the massive fleet reductions of 1976. When the Bowling Green Shuttle was dropped in February, 1977 the four R-12s were taken out of service temporarily. After a few months though, they had their doors restored to normal operation, and by August were plying the 7th Avenue Subway once again. The remaining number of WH R-12s was gradually whittled down starting in 1980, as the fleet was approaching its estimated useful life of 35 years, and was beginning to require expensive maintenance. As of August, 1980 cars 5718, 5722, 5723, 5735 and 5738 had been turned over to the Garbage Train, while 5746 was used as a Revenue Car. All remaining cars were out of service by August, 1981, with the very last cars having received the red tape under their number boards, initially used to denote equipment assigned to #1/#3 service. This practice has survived to the present time. Some WH R-12s were used briefly in work service, but all except 5704 were scrapped by the end of 1983 in the advent of R-62 deliveries. This car was last known to be an office at Westchester Yard.

In their latter three years of life, the R-12s were usually burrowed deep within many consists serving the #1 and #3 routes. They were still banned from being used in the conductor's positions, and for some reason seemed also to be rare on an operating position, typically hiding as the third, seventh or eighth car of the string. They were also exhibiting definite signs of neglect, evidenced by an inspection of #5741 at Lenox Yard in February, 1980 which revealed disabled doors, a lack of heat and super-thin brake shoes. Some cars managed to survive to the end with their original floors of design composition, which marked out an area for seated passengers.

2. GE R-12s 5753-5802 were assigned in entirety to the combined #2/#4/#5 lines and the 42 St. Shuttle (denoted for some time as route "SS"), remaining unchanged for 3½ years. For a brief period in early 1968, they and the other GE R-14 thru R-22 series cars were used on the #6, to fill in for the WH SMEEs out of service for overhaul. Beginning on August 30, 1969 the entire GE R-12 group, less cars 5773, 5775, 5781, 5789 and 5800, was shifted to service on the Third Ave. line in The Bronx, where they replaced the final Lo-Vs, including Standard Trailers, Steinway Motors and 1938 World's Fair cars, as of November 3. The #5781 was later converted to TA Clearance Test car XC875, the other retirees being used in work service, then placed in storage shortly after, and removed from the property in the late 1970s.

The 45-car mini-fleet survived another 3½ years running in short 4-car trains along the Third Ave. line. This service was carried on public maps as the #8, but identified on the SMEEs as simply "Shuttle". Through this time, many cars were redone in the MTA silver and blue, though several survived to the end in faded and/or dirty red. Car 5784 was laid up in 1972, then the remaining 44 cars were taken out of service with the close of service on April 29, 1973.

Each of the cars operated through the end of Third Ave. service was used in work service for varying times, and several were converted to special purpose cars. These included five Revenue Cars, five Locker Cars, two Welding Cars and one special Hydraulic Lift car for use in clearing derailments (5802). About half of the class was retired and scrapped in late 1983/early 1984, with only five surviving into recent history. Car 5758 was known to be acting as a Yard Office at the East 239th Street facility, 5760 was restored to original condition at Coney Island in 1976 and remains in the New York Transit Museum, 5781 (as Clearance Car XC875) was stored at the BMT's 36th Street Yard in Brooklyn, the body of 5782 was sitting on the grounds of Coney Island Shops as a Maintenance-of-Way Fire School, and Lift #5802 remained available for duty as late as 1987.



The disposition of the R-12 fleet included conversion to work cars, scrapping, and preservation. Top: R-12 5802 was coverted to a hydraulic lift car, seen at the BMT 36th St. Yard in 1981 (Steve Zabel photo, collection of Joe Testagrose). Below: Transit Museum R-12 5760 leads a fan trip working at 181st Street on the West Side IRT in June 2003 (Brian Weinberg photo).

3. GE R-14s 5803-5877 joined the GE R-12s on the heavy #2/#4/#5 lines and the "SS"-42nd St. Shuttle, where they remained generally undisturbed for many years. Car 5815 was the first casualty, being retired following a collision in December, 1969. On April 29, 1971 cars 5803-5806 were loaned to the Third Ave. Shuttle to fill in for some slowly failing R-12s, being returned to their former assignments in 1973. Effective on January 29, 1975 GE R-14s were no longer used on the 42nd St. line, being supplanted by several specifically allotted GE R-17s. As of October 22, 1976 the city's fiscal crisis-induced fleet cutbacks hit this group especially hard, grounding all but six cars (5811, 5813, 5818, 5823, 5838 and 5866) which remained in service on the #2/#5 lines. Most of the retired cars sat in storage for several years before finally being scrapped, but some 29 were converted for other uses, including 11 Work Motors, 10 Rider Cars, 4 Yard Offices and 2 Revenue Cars. Some were used temporarily on the Trash Train, including 5871, the body of which was still at Coney Island as a Maintenance-of-Way School. Car 5864 was converted to a Track Geometry vehicle, filled with sophisticated instruments and video scanning equipment, until it was replaced by the Japanese-built "TGO1", and was eventually scrapped in 1987.

Cars 5818 and 5823 were removed from service in 1978, as many of the GE R-21/22 cars, which had been stored in 1976, were returned to service. The final four cars were loaned to service on the #3 route when car assignments were separated on January 10, 1983, remaining there until September, at which time they were relegated to duty on the #2 line. The first car to be withdrawn was #5813, taken out of service in May, 1984. After surplus R-17 cars from the #4 (where they were replaced by R-62s) began serving the #2 in July of that year, the oldest cars were gradually taken out of service. The last GE R-14 (#5866) was retired from the #2 on September 14, 1984 and scrapped shortly thereafter. Of the final six GE R-14s, only #5823 lived on as RD-328 into the late 1980s.

Sharing a like factory paint scheme with the R-12s, the R-14s were also repainted, to red in the mid-1960s, then silver and blue through the early 1970s, being gradually accented by a coat of graffiti and grime. In May of 1981, the GE cars assigned to the #2/#5 began turning up with green strips of tape beneath the number panels. This color remained as the identifier of #2 cars after the January, 1983 split-up. Application of the grime-fighting all-white exterior livery encompassed all #2 line equipment between March and July, 1983. This bland "scheme" was also desecrated after a short time, and was the condition in which the four surviving GE R-14s were scrapped after withdrawal in 1984.

4. WH R-14s 5878-5952, like the WH R-12s, were used on the #1/#3 lines through the end of their service career. Car 5885, badly damaged in a derailment, was retired early in 1968, but the remainder of the class was untouched until 1982, at which time #5895 was converted to Rider Car RD333. This left 73 cars in service, which were allocated to the #3 line with the January, 1983 fleet segregation. A handful of other units were transformed for utility duties in 1983 and early 1984, including 5881, 5944 and 5950. Routine removals of WH R-14s from #3 service began with cars 5912 and 5941 in May of 1984. These were accelerated as more surplus SMEEs were transferred onto the #3 from other routes, first some WH R-33s in July, then gradually the 6700-series WH R-17s from the #4 beginning in mid-September. There remained 26 WH R-14s in the fleet after December 3, 1984 with all but five of these out of service by December 24. The last sighted WH R-14 in passenger service was the 5911, which slithered through 34 St.-Penn Station as New Year's Eve revelers moved in droves to the traditional festivities in Times Square on December 31, 1984. All of the WH R-14s, except the three converted to Rider Cars, were scrapped within a short time of their removal from service. The last of them finally left the property via Bush Terminal in Brooklyn in April 1985.


Some R-14 cars remained on the work service roster through 2004. Here's Rider Car RD322 (ex-5842) in Coney Island Yard, February 2004. Photo by David Pirmann.

The WH R-14s shared generally the same history of paint schemes as the GE cars, but were redone in all-white somewhat later, between September and December of 1983 with the other cars running on the #3. As part of this work, some cars of the various groups (R-14 through R-22) were treated to revised interior colors of off-white, orange and beige to try and counteract the ravages of graffiti. Also, the WH R-14s had blue #3 line identifying tape after January, 1983, which succeeded the red strips of the former joint #1/3 assignment. Finally, most of the WH R-14s which survived to the end of 1984 gradually had their headlights relocated from the carbody sides, within the pantograph gates, to the more common area above the lower tail lamps. Added in 1963, the headlights had been located at the edges of the car fronts because the conductor's foothold was right on top of the tail light box. As the R-14s were never used as conductor's cars, this need was obviated and the headlights relocated for better illumination. Such a modification was to prove folly, as several cars only lasted another month or two beyond completion.

5. WH R-15s 5953-5976 & 6200-6225 were assigned in total to #1/#3 service in February, 1966 but the 26 6200-series cars were replaced by the WH Main Line R-36 class in 1970, and transferred to the GE-dominated #2/#4/#5 lines. Car 5962 became an accident victim in 1971, while 6202 and 6223 were retired from #2/#4/#5 service with the October, 1976 cutbacks. In 1982, WH R-15 #5965 was converted to Rider RD336, joined by #6214 as RD338 the following year. Both of these cars were still on TA property through the late 1980s. With the January, 1983 reassignments, the 5900s were placed on the #1, while the 6200s found a home on the #2. In September 1983 cars 6200-6210 (except 6202) were transferred to the Broadway Local, enabling the movement of cars 5953-5963 (less 5962) from that service to the #3, where they helped to replace the loaned GE R-14s and a large block of WH R-22s shifted to the #6.

As of May, 1984 cars 5968 and 5975 (#l), as well as 6213, 6215, 6217, 6219 and 6222 (#2) had been removed. Over the summer, GE R-17s from the #4 (low 6500s) were gradually shifted to the #2, and the WH R-15s eliminated with the final car (6225) withdrawn on September 14. Through year's end, those on the #3 were gradually supplanted by the 6700s from the #4 line. #1-assigned WH R-15s remained almost intact until December, when the remaining 6500s from the #4 were transferred into #1 service to enable their retirement. Last sightings were of car 5953, disabled and dark, in the middle of a 9-car #3 train on December 24, 1984 while 6200 was last seen in the morning rush hour of December 31, ironically mixed into a SMEE consist dominated by GE R-17s.

During their Flushing years, the R-15s had a distinctive maroon and cream livery, as applied at ACF. When they were moved to the Main Lines they received the same all-red treatment as the R-12/14 cars, as well as the later silver and blue livery, from 1970 onwards. Each car had received sealed beam headlights in the early 1960s, as well as the fiberglass replacement seats as on the R-12/14 cars. Between March and July of 1983 the WH R-15s on the #2 line were redone in the all-white livery which came to mark this era. However, those on the #1 line were only partially redone between July, 1983 and their eventual retirement at the end of 1984. Some of those cars which were redone in the white color also received new interior coloring, composed of beige with orange trim.

6. GE R-15s 5977-5999 & 6226-6252 were on the #2/#4/#5 lines and the 42nd St. Shuttle as of February, 1966. They were removed from the 42nd St. line in January, 1975 when a small GE R-17 fleet was put there. With the big fleet cuts of October, 1976 some 35 of the 50 GE R-15s were taken out of service. Of these, three became Rider Cars, two were converted to Work Motors, four of the carbodies remained as yard offices and one other car (6239) was restored, then placed in the New York Transit Museum. This car, two of the yard offices (5992 at East 239th St., and 5997 at 240th St.), and the three Riders had survived into the 1990s, much longer than those which operated later in service.

Three more cars were taken out of service in 1978 as some of the stored GE R-21/22s were returned to operation. Car 5995 was converted to a Locker Room at 240th Street Yard in 1981, remaining until replaced by a mobile trailer in 1989. The last 11 cars plied on the #2 line until final withdrawals took place through the summer of 1984, as GE R-17s were transferred in from the #4. The retirement of 5996 on September 4 lowered the curtain on the 5900-series GEs, while the last of the 6200s remaining was car 6226 on September 14, 1984.

Repainting of the GE R-15s generally paralleled that of the WH group, with all surviving units being done in the all-white livery by July, 1983. This was the color in which they were retired. Cars 6234 and 6235 were used temporarily as yard offices upon withdrawal, but the carbodies were finally scrapped in 1990.

7. GE R-17s 6500-6699 were used on the #2/#4/#5 lines as of February 16, 1966 (less the five cars retired earlier). No changes were made until January 29, 1975 when cars 6505, 6539, 6550, 6572, 6579, 6583, 6585, 6594, 6599, 6634, 6661, 6665, 6681, 6688 and 6699 became affixed to the 42nd St. Shuttle line. Some 32 cars were withdrawn as of the October 22, 1976 reassignment. Of these #6590 was made into a shed at Westchester Yard (painted red), which was scrapped in 1985, while 6609 was restored and placed in the Transit Museum, where it remains. This car and 6671 had been used as "extras" in the famous movie "The French Connection" in 1971. The remaining 148 cars were split off from the #2/#4/#5 and used as the nucleus of a separate assignment for the #4, which also included a number of WH R-17s and R-21s. To this, four cars were added from the 42nd St. Shuttle fleet (6550, 6661, 6665 and 6699). In 1978, cars 6570, 6581, 6587, 6619, 6622, 6663, 6667 and 6694 were brought back from storage and assigned to the #4 fleet, which the R-17s had come to dominate. In turn, only 6699 was moved back onto the 42nd St. Shuttle service.

Car 6666 was retired in 1982 as the result of fire damage, but the balance of the group was untouched by the big January 10, 1983 car shifts. With the inauguration of new R-62 trains on the #4 line as of May 7, 1984, GE R-17s began resurfacing occasionally on the #2 and #3 lines as part of surplus #4-assigned SMEE trains used to fill schedules. The first six GE R-17s to be directly replaced by R-62s on the #4 were out of service- by mid-August. Through year's end, 23 GE R-17s had been retired, while most were transferred to other lines.

The first group, moved to the #2 on July 3, 1984 was made up of 14 cars from 6500 to 6519. These were followed by 10 cars (6501 and 6520-6528) on September 4, 6529-6532 (4 cars) on September 17 and finally, 6533-6544 (10 cars) on October 8, 1984. To expedite replacement of the R-14s and R-15s, several GE R-17s were transferred onto the WH-dominated #3 line as of December 17, but they were then shifted quickly as part of the first 18 cars (6545-6569) to be repositioned to the #1, to aid in the elimination of R-15s from that line.

On January 13, 1985 the next 20 cars (6570-6612) were moved from the #4 line to the Broadway Local, where they in turn bumped the 10 cars between 6545 and 6554 to the #2, where they joined the 6500s moved in earlier. In March of 1985, the next 9 GEs in line (6614-6627) were transferred to Corona Yard for service on the #7 line. As their condition fresh off the #4 line was far less than what was required on the relatively pristine Flushing line, it took a great cosmetic effort to prepare them for service as part of the graffiti-free fleet. Such was the need for spare parts that car 6629 was removed from passenger service, being cannibalized to maintain the supply. The final 47 GE R-17s were transferred off the #4 during the next month, with 20 units (6630-6658) heading for the #1 on April 5, and the final 27 cars (6660-6697) moving to the #2 on the 25th.

Newly coated in "Fox Red", the GE R-17s were gradually activated on the Flushing line by April, replacing World's Fair R-33 cars in the 11-car consists, so they could go to Coney Island Shops for rehabilitation. They remained in service through the summer of 1985, until sufficient single-unit R-33s had returned. In August, the first five cars (6614, 6616, 6618, 6620 and 6624) were moved to the 42nd St. Shuttle (now called the "S"), where they introduced graffiti-free equipment. The remaining four cars (6619, 6623, 6626 and 6627) followed on September 16, and shortly thereafter seven of the original Shuttle cars (6550, 6579, 6594, 6665, 6681, 6688 and 6699) were redone in the graffiti-free scheme to join them. #6583 was removed from service as the red cars came in, leaving six "white" cars on the Shuttle which were used part-time (or to fill out #5 consists on occasion). On March 24, 1986 the five survivors (6539, 6572, 6585, 6634 and 6699) were reassigned to the #5 outright, appearing intermittently through October.

The GE R-17 fleet on the #1 had reached a total of 46 cars by April, 1985, being freely mixed among the WH R-21/22 and R-29 cars. This number was decreased in succeeding months as new R-62As arrived, with a total of 32 GE R-17s having been retired by year's end. The last 11 cars were taken out of service on March 9, 1986. Likewise, the number of GE R-17s on the #2 topped out in April of 1985 at 61 cars. Some were weeded out over the summer, however, as the remaining SMEE cars from the #4 (GE R-21s and R-33s) came over as the last R-62s arrived. There were 42 cars remaining at the start of 1986, which were whittled down further as the Morrison-Knudsen rebuilds (R-26/28s and R-29s) replaced them. By late in the year, there were a few still in service, mixed in grimy strings with the GE R-22s, and used during rush hours. Suddenly, the last 20 cars were laid up for good on January 1, 1987.

The mini-fleet of red GE R-17s remained on the 42nd St. Shuttle (generally as two 3-car and one 4-car consist), until October 3, 1987, when they were replaced by R-62s in a single day. All 16 cars were shifted to the #5, where they generally were kept as a 10-car train (though they did mix occasionally with unrebuilt GE R-33s). The New York Division of the Electric Railroaders' Association used six of the R-17s for an IRT system tour on November 8. Two of the cars were laid up in December, #6594 following a fire, and 6688 for transfer to the Shore Line Trolley Museum at Branford, Connecticut, where it remains. After several rumored retirements, the last trip was operated as a 10-car consist on the #5 in the evening rush hour of February 29, 1988.


Freshly repainted R-17 6688 in the collection at Shore Line Trolley Museum, Branford, Ct. Note trolley pole for current collection. Photo by David Pirmann, November 2004.

Of the final 15 red cars, 14 were used around the system on the Garbage Train following retirement, while #6623 was converted to a Locker Car. Three cars were finally scrapped in 1990, with a fourth (ex-6665) being stored after an accident at East 180th St. Yard. The only other GE R-17 to be spared for a while was ex-#1 car 6571, which was a shed at 240th St. Yard from its withdrawal in 1985, until it was scrapped in 1989 as part of a "clean-up" of that facility.

When the R-17s were delivered, they came in a rich maroon color, with bluish gray interiors and deep red foam rubber seats. Sealed-beam headlights were not added until 1958. As car-cleaning was far from an advanced art at the time, the dark R-17s became coated with a film of stubborn brake dust. By 1961, as they were moved about and began mixing with R-21/22s on the West Side, and R-26/28s on the #6, the R-17s were gradually repainted a like olive drab color. Grey fiberglass replacement seats were installed by 1966, marking these cars' first brush with mass vandalism. Beginning in 1968, some R-17s were repainted in bright red (like the R-29/33 cars), a process in which the cars also received an aqua-hue on the interior. The MTA blue and silver followed this from 1970 onwards, usually accompanied by a revised interior of dull gray and light green.

By late 1980, the devastation being suffered due to graffiti was virtually incomprehensible, and the TA began using acid to wash off the unwanted art work. This action later proved too effective, however, as it not only took off graffiti, but the underlying coats of paint and primer as well. By the fall of 1981, many of the #4 cars were getting down to a dark brown color of little more than pure rust. Those on the Shuttle, being protected in a small environment, fared somewhat better. Starting in February, 1981 pieces of white tape under the number boards of each car came to denote its use on the #4. As these either fell off or became difficult to see under the mounting assault of graffiti, the color was later changed, first to gray in September, then finally to orange (which it remains) as of May, 1982. The 14-car Shuttle fleet didn't receive identifying colors until January, 1983 when black strips appeared, denoting these cars as being based at East 180th Street barn, along with those of the #5 line.

In February of 1982, all 14 GE R-17s on the 42nd St. Shuttle were redone in the all-white livery introduced earlier on the #7. As part of this repainting, they also received a distinctive robin's egg blue interior color. The white livery was then gradually extended about the system, but continued to ignore the GE R-17s on the #4 until July of 1983, when a scattershot application began, including in some cases an interior coloring in beige with bright orange trim. By this time, the cars in what was left of their silver and blue coat were indescribable in their decrepitude. Unfortunately, the process of treating the cars with the white paint moved too slowly to prevent serious structural damage on many of the GE R-17s, as it was far from complete when they were moved to other lines in 1984-85.

The cars reassigned to #7 service were far below permissible standards for operation to Flushing, and required a significant rehabilitation before they were activated. As part of this, the carbodies were patched up and cleaned, then repainted inside and out in the graffiti-free livery of the Car Appearance Program (CAP), which included a Fox Red "Redbird" exterior, silver roof and black body trim. Interiors were also redone with beige walls, white ceiling, and fox red doorways. These cars retained this color to their removal in early 1988. The Shuttle cars repainted to match them in September of 1985, were a somewhat darker shade of red however, possibly reflecting the fact that they were repainted in the connecting tunnel adjacent to Grand Central!

GE R-17s transferred to the #1 line were generally left untouched until retired by March, 1986. Cars on the #2 were not repainted in white to match the other SMEEs with which they were mixing, but by late 1984, a few 6500s were slapped with a quick coating of goopy silver on the cars' sides. The great exception to this was #6677, which was redone in a dark green graffiti-free livery, as applied to one 10-car GE R-33 set, as well as all of the semi-overhauled R-10s on the IND. Along with one similarly treated GE R-21 (7075), this car was used as a spare in the R-33 "Green Machine" until its withdrawal in August, 1986.

8. WH R-17s 6700-6899 were divided on February 16, 1966 between the #1/#3 (6700-6749) and the #6 (6750-6899). In October, 1968 cars 6740-6749 also went back to the #6, being replaced by Main Line R-36s from the Cobra Brake Test Train. Nothing else changed until the October 22, 1976 reassignment, when the 40 cars from the #1/#3 and the lowest 101 from the #6 (6740-6841, less 6786) were transferred into the new separate #4 fleet. In July and August of 1978, cars 6822-6841 were briefly returned to the Pelham Local in exchange for 20 WH R-29s. Finally, on September 18, the last 10 were permanently sent back to the #6 line, remaining until car movements aimed at retirement of the remaining WH R-12s found them back on the #4 as of August, 1981.

During 1982, car 6762 was removed from #4 service and converted to Rider Car RD339, but the WH R-17s were unmoved by the car reassignment of January 10, 1983. The arrival of the R-62s in #4 service was the first catalyst for change, with 30 cars (6811-6841) being transferred back to their former home on the #6 as of July 5, 1984. These made WH R-33s available for use on the #3, and also freed up equipment for temporary assignment to the Flushing line. Cars 6740-6744 were moved from the #4 line to the #7 on August 27, but required an extensive cosmetic rehabilitation there, including complete repainting in the all-white livery, and did not enter service until October 16. They were used in conjunction with a variety of loaned Main Line equipment from the #2, #5 and #6 lines to support service while the World's Fair cars were rebuilt. The white R-17s were also generally used as the single car in the 11-car sets. White cars on the Flushing line were given moderate abuse by graffitists, as the intensive car cleaning program for returning World's Fair Rebuilds helped slow its spread.

The R-17 fleet returned to the #3 for the first time in eight years on August 2, 1984 with the addition of WH units 6800-6810. Beginning on September 17, however, the 6700s came to dominate that line, and the higher-numbered cars were transferred to join their sister 6800s on the #6. The first wave was composed of 41 cars in all, including 6700-6739 and 6745-6748. These were followed by 10 more on October 8 (6749-6758), 20 cars on November 7 (6759-6781) and the final 17 cars (6782-6799) on December 10. Six WH R-17s had been retired from #4 service by the end of the year, and never made it to the other lines, six others were withdrawn from the #6, and four had experienced shortened careers on the #3.

In July of 1985 WH car 6743 was redone in the "Fox Red" graffiti-free livery, enabling it to mix in the World's Fair trains along with the GE R-17s. However, this and the four other cars were taken out of service as of September 6, when the #7 became 100% "clean", and have since been used as Work Motors from Corona Yard, sporting a coat of solid yellow.

Real attrition of cars on the Main Lines was slower in coming than the GE-equipped cars, due mainly to earlier delays in getting the R-62As into service. From the #6 Local, four cars were retired in all of 1985, the rate then being gradually accelerated after the new cars began service there in June of 1986, followed by WH R-29 Rebuilds in August. By the end of the year, 21 more 6800s were out of service. They then turned up less and less until the last several cars were taken off as of May 1, 1987. One WH R-17 was withdrawn from the #3 in 1985, followed by 11 more in 1986, mainly due to the intake of ex-#4 GE R-21s and R-33s by summer. R-62As started running on the #3 in December, 1986, leading to a disappearance of SMEEs through most of the next year. After several months of gradual reduction, the last 23 WH R-17s entered storage on July 14, 1987.

23 of the WH R-17s were used for later duties, including the 5 Flushing Work Motors, and another used on the Main Lines, 9 cars from Westchester Yard which were used on the Garbage Train and two "Reach" Cars. One of these (formerly 6839) was used as part of a test train for R-62As and rebuilt R-33s before being scrapped. Four others had large portions of their carbody ends removed and used as part of several "Rail Trains"-long strings of old IRT cars that held prefabricated sections of welded rail for movement to a track job site. By 1990, all but nine of the surviving WH R-17s were still around, for the most part being based at Westchester Yard on the #6 line, their steady home since 1955.

The WH R-17s had an identical paint history to the GE portion of the order until the early 1980s, changing over the years from maroon to olive drab, then to red and silver and blue. Graffiti appeared to have affected cars of the #4 more than those on the #6, which had a less demanding schedule, and more time available for cleaning. The acid washing of 1981 was harmful to both, though and the #6 fleet began exhibiting rust through a multi-colored veneer of paint, including some glimpses of freshly-polished deep maroon! The high 6800s began showing strips of yellow tape for the #6 line in early 1981, the cars on the #4 being given like treatment with white, gray then orange colors through mid-1982.

The cars on the #6 began turning up in white paint during September of 1982, being redone through May of 1983. Repainting of the #4 cars commenced together with the rest of the fleet in July, 1983 but was never finished. All 6800s transferred to the #6 in 1984 were eventually redone in white, but some ran in service exhibiting their natural "rust" color until September. The five 6700s transferred to the Flushing line in August, 1984 were completely rehabilitated before entering service, including a new white exterior coating and the application of new floors and the beige and orange interior coloring. The 6743 was redone again in the graffiti-free livery in 1985, identical to that used on the GE "Flushing R-17s", being the only WH car so colored. The cars transferred to the #3 in 1984 were generally left untouched until retirement, exhibiting varying shades of worn reddish-blue or blackish-brown to the end.

9. GE R-21s 7050-7174 were part of the large combined fleet for the #2/#4/#5 lines as of February, 1966. Car 7140 was retired following an accident in 1972. The rest of the group remained unchanged for the next few years, until 23 cars were sidelined in the October, 1976 cuts and the 42 remaining from 7050-7099 were cut away from the rest for use on the #4. As of September, 1978 all but one of the stored GE R-21s was reactivated (8 on the #4, 14 on the #2/#5). During 1979, the shortage of GE R-17s for the 42nd St. Shuttle forced the TA to "borrow" short #2/#5 consists, of which GE R-21/22s were usually a part. This practice lasted on and off through 1986. In July, 1981 car #7161 was involved in a major collision near Utica Ave. and destroyed, causing one fatality. Finally, with the January 10, 1983, reapportionment, the GE R-21s were taken off the #2 line, cars 7100-7174 (72 total) going to the #5.

With the R-62s in #4 service, the GE R-21s were slower to move than the R-17s. The first 7 cars (7093-7099) reluctantly were transferred to the #5 on September 17, 1984, where they in turn replaced six others of the same type by the end of the year. Three GE R-21s were retired directly off the #4. The rest of the cars were shifted to the #2 in mid-1985, 20 cars (7050-7069) on June 16 and the last 20 (7070-7092) on July 2. At the end of August, a temporary car shortage forced 7059-7069 to the WH-dominated #1 and #3 lines at various times, until they were permanently placed on the latter by September. By the end of the year, a total of ten more in the group had been withdrawn (five from the #5, four from the #2, one from the #3).

By mid-1986, the arrival of M-K Rebuilds on the #2 was making the GE R-21s surplus. As a result the entire remaining fleet of just over 100 cars was consolidated in two moves. The nine cars left on the #3 returned to their sisters on the #2 as of July 10, and all remaining ex-#4 units, a total of 29 between 7050 and 7091, were tossed to the #5 a week later.

Attrition of the GE R-21s continued at a slow pace until surplus R-33s from other lines (WH cars from the #6 and the many ex-#4 GEs from the #3) were reassigned to the #5 line by August of 1987. Conversion of the GE R-33s to graffiti-free equipment through that year gradually forced the R-21/22s into solid train sets, which appeared with decreasing frequency. By late November, the last cars were used in about seven grimy consists, separate from the as-yet-unpainted R-33s. The last trip, after irregular usage late in the year, was run in the morning rush hour of December 30, 1987.

A few of the GE R-21s were used in work service into early 1988, but none survived long. Meanwhile, several of the cars retired earlier were cut open for the Rail Trains, each of them making it into 1990. One other unit, 7121, was converted into a Pump Car and remains active.

When new, the R-21s had a more traditional (and sensible) olive drab exterior, together with the usual bluish gray interior color. They had headlights added in 1958, and fiberglass replacement seats in 1965-66. These cars were also subjected to the bright red livery of 1968-69 along with the R-17s. Both of these were supplanted by the blue and silver of the early 1970s, and its attendant green and gray interior.

By 1981, the cars running on the #4 were in as poor condition as the R-17s, the remainder not having much better luck. Green tape strips were applied to all 7100s beginning in May, the #4 cars being marked with the R-17s. Following the reassignment of January, 1983 the GE R-21s on the #5 got black tape. They were repainted in the all-white livery, and in some cases the beige-and-orange interior colors, with the rest of the #5 fleet in 1983. Some of those on the #4 were also redone, though there was a smattering of brown, rusty R-21s right into late 1987. Car 7075, designated a spare for the Green R-33 train along with GE R-17 6677 in June of 1986, was the only one to become fully graffiti-free, lasting only two months.

10. WH R-21s 7175-7299 joined the other WH groups (except R-26, R-28, R-33 and R-36 series) on the #1/#3 in February of 1966, until the establishment of the #4 assignment in October of 1976, at which time cars 7175-7187 were transferred over. When the WH R-12s were retired in 1981, however, 7178-7187 were brought back. The group remained fully intact until September of that year, cars 7190 and 7260 being heavily damaged in a derailment between 42nd and 34th Streets on the 7th Avenue Subway. Their service on the #3 route stopped with the January 10, 1983 reassignment.

The three "mavericks" (7175-7177) were brought back from the #4 to the #1 on July 10, 1983 to enable a slight enlargement of cars assigned to the #3 (WH R-22s). After this, things remained fairly tranquil until the R-62As started service on the #1 between May, 1985 and October, 1986. Use of the WH R-21/22 trains on this line was gradually diminished during this time, becoming an occasional event by the time the bulk of the new cars had been delivered. The last run on the Broadway Local took place on November 12, 1986. 28 surviving cars were transferred to the #3 to finish their careers, these being withdrawn through the summer as R-62As were introduced on this route as well. The final car (7223) came out of service as of October 17, 1987.

A total of 32 WH R-21s were used in utility functions upon removal from service, including 8 Work Motors, 13 Trash cars, 5 Riders and 6 for various Welded Rail trains. Of these, at least 12 were still roaming about by 1990, including M7227 (an ex-#1 car), which was still functional as a car on the point of work consists. Several of these should survive for a few more years.

The WH R-21s were identical in color to their GE counterparts through the 1970s silver and blue treatment. Being on the #1 line after 1983, only certain cars were redone in the white livery, the remainder wandering in dirty shades of rust until they were retired.

11. WH R-22s 7300-7524 were assigned to #1/3 service, less the three cars destroyed in the 1964 Grand central fire, until January 10, 1983. At this time, 7300-7399 were garnered on the #1, the others being allocated for use on the #3. On July 10, with the IRT service changes cars 7390-7399 were transferred to the #3, enlarging its fleet for the greater distance to New Lots Ave. As the summer of 1983 proved to be the hottest in some time, the TA was badgered into reassigning a large block of SMEEs retrofitted with air-conditioning (WH R-33s) to the #3 line in September. In trade, WH R-22s 7440-7524 (81 cars) were shifted to the #6 line, the first units of this type to run there since the abbreviated stay in 1965-66. On September 17, 1984 as 6700-series WH R-17s began moving onto the #3, cars 7390-7399 were brought back to the #1, and this formed the three basic WH R-22 groups (7300-7399 on the #1, 7400-7439 on the #3 and 7440-7524 on the #6).

Problems with early R-62A deliveries then basically left the WH R-22s on the #1 almost unscathed into the Spring of 1986. When the new cars finally entered service on the #1 with regularity, older units were gradually pushed to the sidelines. The final cars were pulled (mixed with the WH R-21s) on November 12, 1986 and the 18 survivors transferred to the #3.

Through 1984-85, cars from the #6 were drifting out of service due to various ills, with some being converted to work service. Their place was taken somewhat by the WH R-17s from the #4, and a few WH R-33s brought back from the #3 line. R-62A cars began running on the #6 in June, 1986 and the 7400s then were slowly phased out until the final units were moved to the #3, as of April 7, 1987, where they joined their sisters.


R-22 7371, in yellow work service livery, operating on a fan trip on May 1, 2005. Shortly after this fan trip, car 7371 (along with World's Fair R-33 single 9327) would be shipped to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunk, Maine. Photo by Jose Martinez.

The #3, being the last route to receive the new cars, exhibited a mish-mosh of SMEE car types and paint schemes from all around the IRT, between late 1984 and mid-1987. After R-62As began operation in December of 1986, the process was begun of shaking out the ex-#4 WH R-17s, as well as the WH R-21/22 cars (ex-#1 and later ex-#6), and the stalwart WH R-33s which were rebuilt. The R-17s disappeared in July, 1987 and by September there were only seven SMEE consists used on the #3 in rush hours. These were reduced to five by late October, including eight WH R-33s and one WH R-22 per set. All were laid up after the evening rush hour of November 25, 1987.

A whopping 83 WH R-22s were converted for use in various non-revenue duties following their retirement, including 23 Trash vehicles, 13 Rider Cars, 12 Locker Cars, 9 Revenue Cars, 15 Work Motors, 4 Pump Cars and 7 cars used for the Welded Rail trains. Most of these survived into 1990, but for a handful of Work Motors, which were gradually disabled through 1988-89, and one or two Welded Rail cars.

The WH R-22 group was delivered in olive drab with bluish gray inside. However, the 10 cars with the modified interiors (7515-7524), were coated inside in an experimental paint of bluish base with black and white flecks to create a metallic illusion. They then paralleled the R-21s in color through the 1960s (green, then to red on some cars), being redone in the silver-and-blue by the mid-1970s. Some cars began turning up in all-white (some also with the beige and orange interiors) in June of 1983 along the #1 and #3. Only the #3 fleet was repainted completely by December, however. The WH R-22s shifted to the #6 in September, 1983 were uniformly rehabilitated and treated to the new colors upon receipt at Westchester Yard (whether they had been previously redone or not). In this manner they were able to keep a decent outward appearance, as the #6 fleet was re-coated at least twice a month to cover the mass promulgation of graffiti. As the fleet gravitated onto the #3 line by the Spring of 1987, they were left in the paint in which they arrived, which was in turn increasingly covered in grime. Among the final five WH R-22s retired in November was the last car on the IRT to exhibit what was left of its once brilliant silver and blue (#7386).

12. GE R-22s 7525-7749 joined the GE R-21s on the #2/#4/#5 routes in February, 1966. In October, 1976 the following 42 cars were stored with the budget-induced cuts: 7535, 7540, 7542, 7543, 7548, 7554, 7557, 7573, 7574, 7587, 7599, 7600, 7603, 7604, 7611, 7616, 7617, 7627, 7633, 7644,-7648, 7651, 7652, 7659-7663, 7683, 7687, 7693, 7707, 7713, 7715, 7718, 7730, 7734, 7737, 7739, 7744, 7747 and 7749. The remaining 182 were reassigned to the #2/#5 lines, being reunited by all of the stored units except 7744 and 7747 by September, 1978. Car 7602 was retired after a collision involving a GE R-33 pair near East 180 Street in The Bronx in 1978, while 7589 and 7675 were victimized in the July, 1981 incident at the Buffalo Ave. (New Lots) Portal. Assignments were split on January 10, 1983 with most cars (7615-7749) being placed on the #2 line.

Attrition came about slowly as there were no new cars assigned to either the #2 or the #5. Finally, the #2 fleet was reduced as GOH SMEEs were introduced, but the GE R-22s became more prominent in consists as the paired cars (GE R-26/28/29 classes) went to rebuild. By December, 1986 there were a handful of mixed GE R-17/22 sets still in use during rush hours. All remaining GE R-22s from the #2 were removed on February 4, 1987. However, some were moved to the #5, where they were used as back-up cars for a few weeks after.

GE R-22s retained a strong presence on the #5 through most of 1987, being gradually isolated into separate consists as the GE R-33s were repainted as graffiti-free cars. They were reduced to rush hour use by late November, and mixed with GE R-21s, were part of the last trip of the oldest SMEEs along the #5, the morning of December 30, 1987.

With their extended life in passenger service, far fewer GE R-22s were retained for work service. Most of these (17) became Work Motors temporarily, and were scrapped from 1988 to 1990. Others included 10 Trash Cars, 9 cars for the Welded Rail trains, 3 Rider Cars and 2 Pump Cars. For the most part, these latter categories survived into most recent times.

The GE R-22 cars were colored in common with the other R-21 and R-22s through the years, progressing from olive to (on some cars) red, then silver and blue. The entire fleet was redone in the all-white livery as part of the #2 and #5 line repainting by July of 1983. This was their basic scheme to the end in 1987, though for the most part becoming coated in grime, brake dust and graffiti. One car on the #2 (7735) was retouched on the sides in the same dark green as the graffiti-free GE R-33 consist, but this was simply due to a spot shortage of white paint, and became lost under the grunge rather quickly.

13. GE R-26s 7750-7803, after spending their early operational careers on the #6, became part of the large jointly-run #2/#4/#5 fleet on February 16, 1966. They then remained with little variation for 20 years, being excluded from the separate #4 assignment of October, 1976 and then from the #5 line (usually) beginning in January, 1983. In the summer of 1985, several cars were shipped to the Morrison-Knudsen plant at Hornell, New York for General Overhaul treatment as part of a renewal including the R-26, R-28 and R-29 fleets. As this program progressed, GE R-26 cars were gradually eliminated from general #2 consists with the last filthy, battered units disappearing by mid-summer, 1986.

The R-26s were delivered in a livery similar to that of the R-22s, including an olive drab exterior and gray interior shades. The most noticeable differences were use of the modern stainless Ellcon handstrap (which became standard through 1969), and salmon-colored fiberglass bench seats. There was no major repainting effort from this time until the application of MTA Standard blue and silver colors in the 1970s. Indeed, some of the green cars survived as late as 1975. When repainted in the MTA colors, the R-26 and R-28s had their number boards relocated from the body sides to the roof line for easier reading. The GE R-26s were repainted inside with the gray and green colors during the 1970s. As cars were redone with air-conditioning in the early 1980s they received the newer beige and orange hues. Finally, the all-white livery was applied in 1983 and this is how they were shipped to M-K in 1985-86.

14. WH R-26s 7804-7859 remained on the #6 in February of 1966, and most stayed until they were sent to Morrison-Knudsen for rebuilding. Cars 7844/7845 and 7858 (mated to R-28 7861) were reassigned to #7 service from June, 1980 through August of 1981. 7844/7845 were used in Flushing again briefly from May to June of 1983, as removal of World's Fair cars for rebuilding commenced, before being replaced by WH Main Line R-33s. Twenty of the cars (7804-7823) went back to Flushing on September 30, 1983. They remained until the World's Fairs gradually returned, with 7814-7823 getting back to the #6 as of November 18 and the rest in February, 1984. After two more quiet years in #6 service, the shipment of WH R-26 cars to M-K began in March of 1986. The last cars in this group were withdrawn from the #6 for shipment to Hornell in December.

The color history of the WH R-26 fleet was identical to that of the GE half of the order, right into the early 1980s. Being assigned to the #6, however, these cars received the white exterior livery somewhat earlier (1982-83). They remained in these colors through their rebuilding, but were maintained to a better appearance than the GE cars on the #2, in keeping with the Pelham Local's higher standards. They also were put through the air-conditioning retrofit program by late 1982, receiving modified interior colors in the process.

15. WH R-28s 7860-7909 were also operated on the #6, from 1966 right through their shipment to Hornell. The only temporary diversion being the use of cars 7870/7871 and 7880/7881 on the Flushing line from June 23, 1980 through August, 1981. The former pair was returned to the #7 line again for a brief period in May of 1983. The WH R-28s managed to last a bit longer in #6 service than the WE R-26s, a few pairs running into the early months of 1987. All were gone, denying the #6 route of R-26/28s for the first time since 1959, as of March 7. The WH R-28s also shared paint schemes with the WH R-26s over the years with little variance.

16. GE R-28s 7910-7959 were transferred to the #2/#4/#5 lines with the GE R-26s in February of 1966. They also followed their cousin cars to the #2/#5 in 1976, then the #2 in 1983. After being used intermittently on the 42nd St. Shuttle with other cars of the #2 and #5 lines as equipment shortages dictated, one GE R-28 pair (7913/7928) was assigned to this route outright in January, 1985. By September, the rest of the group were starting to move on to Morrison-Knudsen for renewal. 7913/7928 went to the #5 line with the rest of the "white R-17s" from the Shuttle on March 24, 1986, then finally got back to the #2 (briefly) as of May 4 before heading upstate. By the end of July, the few GE R-28s still in mixed consists on the #2 were pulled out of service. The GE R-28s generally experienced an identical painting history as the GE R-26s.

17. WH R-29s 8570-8687 were the only married pair SMEEs allotted to the #1/#3 lines in February, 1966, being transferred in off the #2. When the WH R-12s used in Work Service (5707-5729) were reactivated in February, 1967, WH R-29s 8570-8599 moved over to the #6 line. From July to August of 1978, 20 of these cars (8570-8589) were swapped to the #4 line for a like number of WH R-17s. In the wake of reassignment of GE R-17s to the #1 as the R-62s came to the #4, WH R-29s 8600-8619 were freed up and shifted to the #3 on April 5, 1985. At this point the fleet was at its maximum distribution: 30 cars on the #6, 20 on the #3 and 68 on the #1.

The first WH R-29s were shipped to Hornell in February, 1986 from the #1 (8660/8661). In March, cars from the #3 route began following, and all WH R-29s eliminated from this line by the end of May. The remaining 66 cars left the #1 during the spring of 1986, having been ousted by the arriving R-62As. The first 10 cars were moved to the #6 on April 16, joined by 20 more on May 5 and 10 more on May 11. The final 26 WH R-29s left the #1 on June 2, 1986 and were temporarily repositioned to the #3. For most of these cars the stay was brief before heading to Hornell, with the last eight finally making it to the #6 line on June 25. These cars were gradually weeded out of the greatly mixed "white" consists of the #6, being excised by late December of 1986. The R-29s made quite a splash when they were delivered in 1962, colored in bright "tartar" red on the outside, crowned with the official City of New York seal. The interior represented another departure from the conventional, done in a purplish-blue along the walls with an off-white ceiling. The cars were laid out in a similar manner to the R-26/28s inside, but the bench seating was dark gray instead of the bright salmon. The R-29s generally remained untouched into the early 1970s, and indeed their factory livery was one of the reasons for redoing some of the older SMEEs in red after 1964. By 1975, the R-29s colors became the usual silver and blue on the exterior, and the uninspiring gray and green inside.

Air-conditioning came to most cars in the early 1980s, though some of those assigned to the #1 were among the last to receive it in 1983-84. Usually this process also led to the interior being repainted in the beige and orange. The 8570-8599 group were the first to see the all-white paint scheme in late 1982, being completed about April of 1983. The rest of the cars, on the #1, were redone between July and December, 1983. By mid-1984 cars 8640-8649 were being kept in a relatively clean, solid consist and emblazoned with the slogan "Spirit of Broadway" on the sides in orange script. The WH R-29s remained in variously sullied shades of white until they were put through Morrison-Knudsen GOH in 1986-87. As part of the stalwart fleet on the #6, the 8500s were usually the best-looking of the bunch. This became more evident with the influx of "dirty" cars from the #1 and #3, which could easily be picked out in a mixed consist by their "black" roof lines.

18. GE R-29s 8688-8805 were on the #2/#4/#5 lines as of February, 1966, being funneled to the #2/#5 in October, 1976 then onto the #2 in January, 1983. There were no major changes in subsequent years, with only four cars (8734/8735 and 8804/8805) being loaned to the Flushing line from September to November, 1983 as the World's Fair cars were sent to rebuilding. GE R-29 cars were the first to be shipped to Morrison-Knudsen at Hornell as part of the large contract to rebuild some of the IRT SMEEs, the initial units leaving the property in June, 1985. All had departed for rebuilding by the end of February, 1986.

The GE R-29 series had an identical paint history to their WH counterparts through the application of MTA blue and silver in the 1970s. All cars were redone in white, however, as part of the repainting of the #2 and #5 fleets from March to July, 1983. After some early color patching, they then became generally ignored, and had become an eyesore by the time they left for M-K.

19. "Main Line" GE R-33s 8806-9075 were the single biggest group of cars on the #2/#4/#5 lines, with the assignment of February 16, 1966 (270 total). In October, 1976 they remained with the other paired SMEEs on the #2/#5 lines, but when the IRT fleet was brought back to full strength, cars 8838-8867 were reallocated to service on the #4 as of September 18, 1978. Cars 8968/8969 were lost during the year to the same collision which destroyed GE R-22 #7602 in The Bronx. Finally, on January 10, 1983 the GE R-33s were put into their "permanent" place on the #5, though the 30 cars transferred in 1978 were to stay with the #4 fleet. On August 16, 1983 one 10-car train of GE R-33s was shifted to the #7 line: 8814/8815, 8830/8831, 8934/8935, 8980/8981 and 9030/9031. These eventually became mixed with that line's own equipment, cars 8934/8935 being swapped back for 9044/9045 on August 29. All 10 units were returned to the #5 as of November 18. This action was repeated on July 5, 1984 as the World's Fair rebuild program continued, though the cars were different (8894/8895, 8914/8915, 8960/8961, 9016/9017 and 9042/9043). As soon as enough Flushing cars had returned, the GE R-33s left Flushing again on November 28. 9000/9001 were badly damaged by fire while in Borough Hall Station, Brooklyn, during October, 1984, and required nearly a year to repair.

By this time, the NYCTA was well along in its anti-graffiti campaign, the most effective form of which had become the Car Appearance Program (CAP). Under this scheme, new units or certain cars on specified routes were given an intensive cleaning and repainting at 207 St. or Coney Island Shops, then protected from defacement once in service by an army of car cleaners at each of that line's terminals. In addition, the train of "clean" cars was to be removed from passenger service by the crew if graffiti was detected en route. On the IRT, the program was originally instituted on the #4 and #7 lines in May, 1984 to maintain a good appearance for the R-62s and the rebuilt World's Fair cars, respectively.

By early 1985, it was deemed necessary to supplement the R-62s on the #4 with a smattering of paired SMEEs, to enable the complete eradication of graffiti as the oldest SMEEs were replaced. This brought in two 10-car sets of rebuilt World's Fair cars, but as Flushing line car usage was tight, one had to be returned. Thus, 12 of the #4s own unrebuilt GE R-33s were cleaned and repainted in a dark green version of the TA's graffiti-free livery, reentering service on April 15, 1985. These cars (8842/8843, 8846/8847, 8848/8849, 8856/8857, 8860/8861 and 8862/8863) became a unique sight on the system for over two years hence.


"Greenbird" R-33 cars on a fan trip at Gun Hill Road, led by car 8863, May 24, 1987. Collection of David Pirmann.

When all of the R-62s were in #4 service by Summer, 1985 the GE R-33s became the last of the "old" cars to leave. On August 4, the 18 "dirty" (white) cars were transferred to the #2 line, followed by the "Green Train" on August 16. These moves brought the #4 the first 100% graffiti-free fleet on the IRT, and the first clean cars to the #2.

To alleviate a car shortage due to delays in getting the R-62As in service on the #1, GE R-33s 9000-9009 were temporarily used there for the first and only time from October to December of 1985. On June 25, 1986 the "dirty" GE R-33s formerly of the #4 (8838-8867 group) were shifted from the #2 line over to the #3, to fill in for cars being rebuilt. There they were freely mixed with the Westinghouse fleet of R-17s, R-21s, R-22s and R-33s.

The first two trains of Fox Red, unrebuilt, graffiti-free GE R-33s was debuted on the #5 line December 26, 1986, this being the final line to enter the Car Appearance Program. on January 19, 1987 they were joined by the 12 Green cars from the #2, and through the year grew in number to permit the eventual retirement of the last R-21/22 cars. The former #4-assigned GE R-33s finally joined their sister cars on the #5 on August 21, but none were seen in the red graffiti-free scheme until November. The 12 Green cars were redone in the Fox Red as of December 1, 1987 and lost their distinction.

The remaining GE R-33s were repainted as graffiti-free cars through most of 1988, the final 14 reentering service as of September 27. In January, 1989 the first four GE R-33 cars went to 207 St. Shops, entering the TA's General Overhaul program. Gradually, the GE R-33 trains were reduced in number on the #5 as rebuilt cars arrived to replace them. On February 6, 1989 they became the last of the IRT's second generation to continue operating in original form. By the start of 1990, there were 15 unrebuilt GE R-33 trains running, which were pared down to 7 by mid-year, and three by late December. The last train was operated on March 16, 1991 when the operable number of cars was reduced to eight. By the end of April, all had entered the rebuilding program at 207 St.

The GE Main Line R-33s arrived from St. Louis-GSI in the same bright red that the R-29s had, being redone in a like manner through the years in silver and blue, then white (with air conditioning) by July, 1983. Those cars used on the #4 took a little longer, not being completely repainted until October. The 12 cars redone in the graffiti-free Green "CAP" livery for the #4 line in April, 1985 were also repainted inside, getting a more staid tone of beige, as well as dark green trim in place of the usual orange. This interior setting was repeated as the cars were gradually repainted in the graffiti-free Fox Red scheme, though the red was appropriately substituted for green at doorway interiors.

20. "Main Line" WH R-33s 9076-9305 were a mainstay on the #6 line from February, 1966 through the early 1980s. This group was the first to see cars retired prematurely, as two were withdrawn following a 1969 crash (9114 and 9213), and two more in 1972 (9131 and 9224). One 10-car train was loaned to the #4 line for a month in April of 1980. In 1981, the TA decided to use four pairs of R-33s as pilot cars for a possible rebuilding program and 9150/9151, 9210/9211 and odd pairs 9115/9212 and 9130/9225 were out of service for this purpose by late 1982.

The first cars to leave the Pelham Local were 9294-9303, which were transferred to the #7 line in June of 1983 to spell the World's Fair cars. As the hot summer progressed, the Transit Authority was faced with complaints from residents of East New York and Brownsville, who demanded that more air-conditioned equipment be used on the #3 line, which had the smallest number allocated (54). Prior to the July, 1983 service changes this hadn't mattered as much as the #3 line was operated completely underground, while the #2 fleet was liberally sprinkled with cooler cars to serve the New Lots Ave. terminal. Finally, on September 27, 1983 the first 68 cars (9226/9227, 9230-9293 and 9304/9305) were transferred over from the #6 line, being joined on the 30th by the WH R-33s from the Flushing line (9294-9303). In return, several trains' worth of WH R-22s were reassigned to the #6, and somewhat of a balanced distribution of air-conditioned equipment achieved. Cars 9228/9229 didn't make it to the #3 line until December.

The first of the pilot rebuild cars were returned to service on the #6 by May of 1984, but by this time they became overshadowed by the R-62s as well as the rejuvenated Flushing fleet. Their presence was thus generally unnoticed and they blended in with conventional WH R-33 equipment. On June 20, 1984 eighteen additional cars (9115/9212, 9130/9225, 9206-9209 and 9214-9223) were transferred from the #6 line over to the #3. Twelve more followed in July (9100-9109 and 9200/9201), and eight more (9110-9113 and 9202-9205) in September. This peaked out the number of WH R-33s used on the #3 at 118. In a roundabout manner, these additional units aided in the replacement of the R-14s and R-15s still in operation.

Also by this time, the other four cars of the pilot rebuild program (9150/9151 and 9210/9211) were back in operation, being assigned as misfits to the Flushing line until they came back to the #6 on November 28, 1984. The mismated rebuilds were returned from the #3 line to join them, along with cars 9110-9113 as of March 11, 1985. In general this remained the WH R-33 fleet configuration for an extended period.

By May of 1986, cars 9128/9129 were pulled from service on the #6 and farmed out to 207 St. Shops, as a prototype in the latest attempt to rebuild the WH R-33s. Cars 9202/9203 from the #3 line were also in the program by mid-summer, and the WH R-33s began to go to 207 St. at frequent intervals by year's end. On January 2, 1987 the four older pilot rebuilds, and cars 9132/9133 and 9152/9153 were repainted in the Fox Red graffiti-free livery to further reduce the presence of defaced equipment on the #6. Finally, these and 12 "dirty" WH R-33s (9078-9085, 9088/9089 and 9092/9093) were all shifted to the GE-dominated #5 line on May 27, 1987 to open the final chapter in these cars' service lives.

By late June, cars 9094-9097 were added to the rapidly growing WH R-33 fleet on the #5, having been transferred from #6 service. Most of the remaining WH R-33s on the #3 line were also shifted over to the #5 line (before entering the rebuild program) as follows:

  • 9/01/87: 14 cars
  • 9/10/87: 4 cars
  • 9/17/87: 2 cars
  • 10/26/87: 10 cars
  • 10/29/87: 8 cars
  • 11/18/87: 10 cars
  • 11/20/87: 10 cars

On November 25, the final 32 WH R33s were removed from the #3 and stored, along with the last five WH R-22s. 20 of these were restored to temporary operation on the #5 by late December, before they were rebuilt. As of September 14, 1987 the five trains of soiled WH R-33s left on the #6 line were restricted to rush hours only use. On December 10, two 10-car sets were moved to the #5, the rest being withdrawn by December 31, 1987 after cars were transferred in from the Flushing line to replace them.

30 of the 36 ex-#6 units were restored to service on the #5 as of January 7, 1988, with the other six turning up 11 days later adorned in the Fox Red graffiti-free livery. By February 1, four more ex-#6 WH R-33s had been so treated, and all were mixed in trains with the repainted but unrebuilt GE R-33s (and by then GE R-17s) on the #5. "Dirty" WH R-33s were steadily depleted in number through 1988, the last 10-car train operating on the #5 on October 14. This completed the excision of graffiti from the IRT system. Six more WH R-33s reappeared in the Fox Red livery three days afterward, replacing four others which had disappeared into 207 St. Shops. Two more WH R-33s were off the rebuild by the end of December, 1988 and finally, the last 4 of them were removed from #5 service on February 6, 1989.

The color history of the WH R-33 fleet is much the same as that of the R-29s, having been delivered in red, then eventually recovered in the silver and blue. As a flagship fleet of sorts for the #6 line, these cars were among the first on the Main Lines to receive air-conditioning in 1980, generally being redone with beige and orange interiors in the process. The WH R-33s were also among the first IRT cars to receive the white livery in the Fall of 1982, being completed by March, 1983. During this rehabilitation, several of the cars had their hard gray fiberglass seats repainted in blue as a test. They were then rather well taken care of, and thus provided a good number of readily repainted units when they began shifting to the #3 line later that year. A total of 28 WH R-33s were eventually redone in Fox Red to join the graffiti-free fleet between January, 1987 and October, 1988. This small group was the last of the series to operate in service on the #5 in February, 1989.

21. WE "World's Fair" R-33s 9306-9345 remained on the #7 line to Flushing throughout their career after February of 1966, being the single unit of consists which made 11-car trains possible. One unit, 9306, was removed from services and preserved at the New York Transit Museum, in original condition, during 1976. As the paired World's Fair cars were air-conditioned by 1983, the single R-33s became more conspicuous in operation. They were also freely mixed with other cars from the Main Lines which ran in Flushing between 1980 and 1987. The first World's Fair R-33s were rebuilt as part of an early prototype program in 1981-82. As the World's Fair overhaul was modified and expanded, the entire fleet was gradually encompassed, the last of the single units entering Coney Island Shops in late 1984.

As delivered, the World's Fair cars were colored in a delightful combination of aqua and sky blue on the outside, and a blue-green hue on the interior. During the temporary operation of Main Line R-33s in 1964, this made for quite a color clash. The World's Fair R-33s then remained fairly stationary in their factory livery through the mid-1970s. A few cars then actually received the silver and blue exterior scheme, with beige and orange interiors, before the entire World's Fair fleet on the #7 was repainted in the "Great White" colors between October, 1981 and January, 1982. This was the form in which the World's Fair R-33s, in general, were placed into rebuilding.

22. WH "World's Fair" R-36s 9346-9523 were also captive to the #7 line in Queens as of February 16, 1966. One train of Main Line R-36s was brought onto the Flushing line in April, 1972, and as a result, one 10-car set of WH World's Fair R-36s (9376/9377, 9408/9409, 9418/9419, 9474/9475, 9496/9497 and 9516/9517) was swapped to service on the #1/#3. There they remained until the Main Line cars returned in May of 1973.

As part of the fleet shifts of October 22, 1976 cars 9504-9523 (20 in all) were transferred permanently to the #1/#3 lines, in part to replace the R-17s moved over to the #4. These cars became intermixed with the others used, and for the first time it was possible to see the former Flushing R-12/14/15s and the World's Fair R-36s which had replaced them in a single consist. World's Fairs 9494-9503 were shifted from the #7 to the #4 line on June 2, 1978, partly in response to complaints by Bronx politicians, and stayed until May of 1979. They had been also used briefly on the #2/#5 lines during February of that year.

With the assignment splits of January 10, 1983 units 9504-9523 were allocated to the #3 line. By this time, some of the "career" cars from the #7 had been shipped out for a trial rebuilding program. Finally, as the World's Fair R-36s began going out to rebuilding en masse, those turned over to the Main Lines in 1976 were brought back to Queens; 9514-9523 on June 20, 1984 then 9504-9513 as of July 5. All cars in this group had already had air conditioning installed. Through the year, the WH World's Fair R-36s which had not already been put through the rebuilding program were gradually taken off the #7 line, the last train running in late November, 1984.


How most of the "Redbird" (R-26, R-28, R-29, R-33, and R-36 contracts) met their fate: "Reefing." States all along the east coast agreed to allow stripped "Redbird" cars to be dumped in their coastal waters to create artificial reefs for marine life. This car is going down along Shark River Reef in New Jersey, October 2003. Photo by Rich Galiano/www.njscuba.net.

The WH World's Fair R-36s were also painted in the bright two-tone blue livery when they arrived, and for the most part managed to avoid being redone in the MTA silver and blue standard colors well into the 1970s. The 20 cars reassigned to the #1/#3 in October, 1976 were redone shortly after arrival (including green and gray interiors), as was the 10-car set used on the #4 in 1978-79. When later air-conditioned, the interiors of the #1/#3 cars were redone in the beige and orange. If not repainted as part of this process, the interiors of the Flushing cars retained their bluish green and gray tones. By late 1979, some cars on the Flushing line were being repainted, however, making for a constant mix of silver and fading aqua-colored consists. By mid-1981 well over half of the World's Fair R-36s had been recolored in silver, suffering the effects of rife vandalism immediately afterward. The incredible strain this placed on Corona Shop forces was one of the leading causes which brought about application of the all-white livery in 1981-82. By late 1984, all unrebuilt WH World's Fair R-36s had been phased out of #7 service in this configuration.

23. "Main Line" WH R-36s 9524-9557 were a unique group of cars over the years, being assigned to service on the #6 as of February, 1966. In October, 1968 one 10-car train (9530-9539) was transferred to the #1/#3 in exchange for an equal number of WH R-17s. The remaining cars (9524-9529 and 9540-95-57) followed in 1970, their arrival freeing up the 6200-series WH R-15s for shipment to the #2/#4/#5, where they acted as de facto replacements for the GE R-12s shifted to the Third Ave. line in 1969. In April, 1972 cars 9524/9525, 9532/9533, 9536/9537, 9540/9541, 9544/9545 and 9548/9549 began operating in Flushing, being restored to the #1/#3 in May, 1973.

A car shortage on the #7 line resulted in the loan of WH R-36s 9548-9557 from April 27 to August 17, 1981, during which time they were usually run together in a train with one World's Fair R-33. The entire group was then concentrated in #3 service with the January, 1983 reassignments. On June 20, 1984 after the first R-62s on the #4 freed up SMEEs for transfer to other lines, Main Line R-36s 9524-9533 were transferred from the #3 line to service on the #7, from which they would eventually join the World's Fair cars in being rebuilt by late 1984. The other 24 cars were finally moved off the #3 to Flushing as of February 15, 1985, but their journey to Morrison-Knudsen was briefly interrupted that April for a short visit to the #4. By early May of 1985, all unrebuilt WH Main Line R-36s had been removed from service for GOH.

The Main Line R-36s shared the solid tartar red exterior scheme of the Main Line R-29s and R-33s (as well as a like purplish-blue interior) when new. They became silver and blue while running on the #1/#3 in the early 1970s and remained so through the fall of 1983 (being air-conditioned in the process). They then employed the all-white colors through their removal from service for GOH, standing out in #7 consists (along with WH World's Fairs 9504-9523) due to their dirty black roof lines.

24. GE "World's Fair" R-36s 9558-9769 were faithfully assigned to the #7 line from early 1966 right through 1982, when they began going to various locations as the rebuilding program evolved. They had also been air-conditioned by this time. The last of the GE World's Fair cars was removed from service in Flushing by September of 1984 for the massive overhaul.

The GE World's Fair R-36s had an identical paint history as the Westinghouse cars which stayed in Flushing, being two-tone blue through the late 1970s, when some cars were redone in the silver and blue standard colors. Most did not receive the modified interiors of beige and orange, however, until repainted as part of the Great White Fleet in late 1981. This was the last coat for the group before being taken out of service for GOH in 1984.

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