On my last visit to the NYC Transit Museum (where I have been a member for over a decade) I noticed that a pair of R-40 subway cars, #4280 and #4281, had been trotted out. These were very futuristic-looking when they originally hit the tracks on BMT and IND lines in 1968-1969, even more so than the corrugated stainless steel R-32s from 1965, because they were shovel-nosed, with slanted fronts designed by famed French industrial designer Raymond Loewy.
Photos displayed on the #4281 interior indicate how outlandish these cars looked next to the rolling stock still playing the routes in 1968. Beginning with the Chrystie Street Connection in 1967, that allowed IND trains access to the Manhattan Bridge and the 6th Avenue Line, routes were more and more identified by letter instead of by line. The R-40s played into this need with a king-size illuminated letter on its left side. (Route colors were different in 1968 and settled into their present denominations in the late 1970s).
An immediate problem with the R-40 is that Loewy did not take into consideration New Yorkers’ penchant for walking from car to car, or even riding between cars in summer, as the first R-40s in production did not feature air conditioning. Thus, fences and gates for safety had to be installed on both sides of each car, pretty much blunting the design effect Loewy was going for. Later versions of the R-40, known as the R-40M class, were built with blunt fronts and ends, like their cousins the R-42 series.
The R-40s and R-40Ms continued to run on various lines until 2009 when the last set was retired from the A train. A pair of them is on display in the NYC Transit Museum at Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn.
Beginning in the 1960s with the R-32 series [see Comments below], NYC subway cars began to use longitudinal seating instead of the previous arrangement, with pairs of latitudinal seats by windows interspersed with longitudinal seats. Subway cars had flirted with the arrangement from the very beginning, but it wasn’t really until the 1960s that longitudinal became the favored method.
My favorite subway cars today are the R-46 series and R-68 series (recognizable by their orange and yellow seating) that still employ latitudinal seats, but after they are phased out in a few years, that’ll be it for being able to sit comfortably and look out the window. You’ll be forever attempting to avoid eye contact with your fellow passenger across the aisle! Even though everyone is fiddling with their electronic devices now.
A word about the C train
As far as I know the C is
the only one of two subway lines that has no stations it can call its own. The C is merely the “local” version of the A, between 168th Street in Washington Heights and Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn.
Subway historian Joe Korman: The B has no stations of its own. It shares the Bronx-Concourse, Central Park West, and 6th Ave with the D and then the Brighton line with the Q. [However, the B does run on two lines, with the C running on only one]
The MTA handles local/express nomenclatures in different ways. The 7 express is the diamond 7, though there was once a plan to call it the #11. Ditto the #5 and 6, which have diamond express versions. There are also skip stops, in which a designated train stops at specific stations in rush hours (the J/Z in Brooklyn and Queens, formerly the 1/9 in Manhattan/Bronx).
For consistency, the C should really be the round bullet A and the present A should be the diamond A, but confusion would result if that was ever done.
Beginning with new R-143 cars and every iteration after (they are up to R-180) there’s also been a de-emphasis on identifying routes by color: subway bullets have a designated color depending on their Manhattan trunk lines. However, newer cars do not use colored bullets on their exteriors, only small ones on interior route indicators.
I miss the variety.