Chapter 7, First of the Old BMT Cars Retired

From nycsubway.org

They Moved The Millions · by Ed Davis, Sr.


A nearly new train of R27's heads north on the Brighton line. The Pullman green paint is still shiny.

For the purposes of completing the modernization of the IRT we skipped over a fleet of cars delivered in 1960 and 1961; we will now take a brief step back in time and cover the uneventful story of the R27, R30, and R30a cars. These are collectively known as R27's as they are nearly identical. St. Louis Car Company built 550 of these vehicles for the system.

Until 1960 all of the original BMT subway rolling stock was still in service except for cars that had been wrecked. While modernization of the IRT was going full blast a look was taken at the BMT and these 550 cars were ordered. The R27 was a copy of the IRT R26 in nearly all respects except for dimensions. They followed the dimensions of the R1-9, R10, and R16 classes which had been adopted as standard for IND-BMT operation. In another area they resembled IRT stock: the seating pattern used for IND and BMT cars in the past vanished, and the R27 had all longitudinal seating; this was to be continued on all cars built for this division until the advent of the R44 in 1970. Reason was simple of course; this type of seating was cheaper to build and cars were easier to clean. Additionally, comfort and looking at scenery on outdoors portions of line was not considered important, indeed the average ride was only 20-30 minutes.


A Jamaica bound train of R27's arrives at Crescent Street.

These cars were initially assigned to BMT routes and for their entire careers have served mostly on those lines but also run on IND trackage on certain routes which were created since the 1967 merger of the BMT and IND. An omen of the future was seen on the route signs on these cars when they were delivered: The numerical route designations formerly used on the BMT were not used; the letter designations for routes were continued where the IND designations ended. The IND routes either then or previously in use ran from A thru HH; the BMT designations were now to begin with J and run thru TT. After the merger in late 1967 many IND and BMT routes were joined and the cycle was complete.

The first assignment of the R27's was on the BMT Southern Division, on the 4th Ave. Local and Brighton local lines; they also saw service on the Sea Beach and West End routes at times. They found their way into Queens via an IND line which the 4th Ave. local ran over. As the Culver Line was transferred to the IND before the merger (1954) and the R27's have not been assigned to the IND lines that connected with the Culver Line they have not run there under normal conditions.


Plain interior of the R27 class was an adaptation of the interiors for late '50's IRT stock. The R32 and R38 classes to follow would look nearly identical inside to this class of car. [This is not the same photo as used in the book. This photo by Frank Pfuhler, November 26, 1960. Interior of R27 8023.]

Their arrival on the system brought about the retirement of all of the oddballs on the BMT. The second-hand Staten Island cars were retired after less than a decade of service; the MS class, or Multi's, were retired also. The oldest of the good old A-B "steels" were retired, along with all of the trailer cars (50 of them) of that class. Some modified IRT Low-V's which were used on the Shuttles also saw their demise. While these 550 cars went a long way to changing the scene on the BMT, over half of the original BMT fleet was still in service.

As newer equipment was delivered to the BMT lines in the middle 1960's the R27's found their way onto other lines; they replaced the R16's on the Jamaica El and as time went by appeared on the Myrtle Ave.-Brighton Local run and the 14th St. Canarsie Line. At one time or another they have run on nearly all the trackage of the "B" Division which is the combined BMT-IND. They are now pretty much the old cars of that division now with the surviving R10 and R16 cars being the only older ones. They are assigned to the routes that have last priority but compared to the newest, electronic equipment in service they would rate as star performers.


A train of R27's leaves Jamaica terminal on the old Jamaica el in 1971. Thru service to Jamaica is now history.


A four car train of graffiti-ridden R27s runs southbound between Broadway Junction and Atlantic Ave. on the 14th St-Canarsie line. The date is April 6, 1983. This is a rear end view, the passenger standing by the door would look good in the author's state of Montana! Steve J. Davis.

Copyright 1985 by Edward C. Davis, Sr. Reproduced on nycsubway.org with permission. Webmaster's Note: The photos presented in these articles were in many cases scanned from the original slides obtained from the author. Where the original slides weren't available, scans from the book are used. In a few cases, similar photos from the collection of nycsubway.org were used instead of the low-quality scans from the book. These are all noted as such in the captions.

Copyright © 1995-2012 nycsubway.org.
nycsubway.org is not affiliated with any transit agency or provider.
Not mobile.