UP TO 11, Corona Yards

Leaving Citifield after a Mets game in April, I spotted something unusual in the Corona subway yards serving the IRT Flushing Line that runs between Hudson Yards and Flushing Main Street. Though more recent subway cars such as the R-160 R-142 and R-188 have pretty much taken over the route (which still used R-33 “redbirds” until 2003) some older trainsets featuring R-62A cars are still running on the line for a short while more, at least.

The R-62 cars were introduced in the early 1980s on IRT lines. They still make up most if not all cars on the #1 and #3 lines and much of the #6. Given the gauge, R-62s run only on IRT lines. One of the features that endear me to the line and most subway lines built from the 1960s  to the 1980s is the presence of a large, illuminated roll sign in the front of the lead and end cars, with color bullets showing the line designation. More recent models simply show the ID number or letter electronically in  a red circle or diamond.

In the 1980s, when these roll signs were produced, every number between 1 and 13 was included, just in case they may be needed. However, no new IRT lines have been constructed since they early 1920s, with only the one-stop extension of the #7 representing new IRT-gauge construction since 1968, when the #3 was extended to Powell Boulevard. Why then would numbers going up to 13 be needed?

The answer is simple. The MTA included them in case the nomenclature for express lines was ever changed. Presently the #2 and #3, in Manhattan, are express versions of the #1. Similarly, the #4 and #5, in Manhattan, are express versions of the #6 (with a Bronx express getting  a diamond 6). As for the Flushing Line, its express is designated by a diamond 7. However the MTA made provisions in case a numeral was going to replace a diamond, designating express. As well, different numbers or letters can represent rush hour skip-stop service. In the 1990s, the #9 was a version of the #1 that served stops not served by the #1. To this day, the Z makes stops the J does not.

Thus, the #11 bullet is there in case the MTA wanted to rename the Diamond 7 as a different number. The 8 and 10 stand ready to serve the Lexington line, and the 12 and 13 are ready, if called for, on the 7th Avenue. The #8 bullet? It’s been “taken” already–until 1973, the #8 was used for the Third Avenue elevated from 149th Street to Gun Hill Road. The cars on that el were so old, they didn’t have front and end roll signs, so the #8 never appeared on them. For whatever reason the MTA is loath to reuse a letter or number taken out of service for a different route.

In the photo, we see two different methods the MTA devised to indicate the Flushing Line Express. The R-62 cars will be phased out on all lines within a few years, and with them, the “#8 through #13” trains.

New R-211 cars, to be used on former IND and BMT routes, will bring back the front and end color bullets–so that design element isn’t quite dead yet.

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9 Responses to UP TO 11, Corona Yards

  1. Steven Pesserillo says:

    If 2nd Avenue Line is constructed South of 72nd Street MTA is going to reuse T

  2. Dexter says:

    Just two things. The current stock on the Flushing Line are R188s. The future B Division cars are called R211.

  3. Catherine Sullivan says:

    Oh Craps! Somebody in the Corona Yard has a sense of humor.

  4. Jason says:

    The R188 are on the Flushing line. R160 are B division cars. The latest subway order that has the bullet signs again is the R211. There is no R200 contract.

    To nitpick further, the cars that ran on the Flushing were R62A made by Bombardier. R62 were made by Kawasaki.

  5. Andy says:

    I agree 100% that the rounded number or letter bullet on the right side (viewed from the outside) of the front car is a nice feature. Always liked that style of identifying the route. The smaller red circle or diamond with a number or letter is not as visible, in my sometimes unhumble opinion. And the color code gives an additional important detail.

    However, should note that R160 is a BMT-IND (B Division) car so it has never operated on the #7 Line. It shares the platform at Queensboro Plaza with the #7, but that’s as close as it gets. The current car fleet on the #7 is mostly R142 and R188 cars, both of which are have the same mechanics as the R160.

    The term “gauge” in railroad-speak refers to the distance between the running rails. It’s the same on all three legacy NYC subways and on mainline North American railroads – 4 feet, 8 ½ inches. The difference between the two NYC car fleets (A and B Divisions) is the car dimension, not the track gauge. A Division (IRT) cars are shorter and narrower than B Division cars because the former was built with sharper curves that required cars 51 feet long and 8 ½ feet wide. When the BMT (and later IND) was built, a wider and longer car was designed to provide more seating and standing room. That’s why B Division (BMT and IND cars) are ten feet wide, with either 60 or 75-foot lengths. The track curvatures are correspondingly greater to allow for the longer cars.

    A Division cars can and do operate on B Division tracks to permit movement between yards, shops, and train routes. Track links in Manhattan, The Bronx, and Queens allow for such movements. A Division cars cannot operate carrying passengers on B Division routes because there would be an 18-inch gap between the car and the platforms.

    Ironically the #7 Line is the best example of the need to allow A Division cars to access the B Division to make non-revenue equipment moves. The #7 is not physically connected to any of its numbered brethren. Its only link to the rest of the subway world is at Queensboro Plaza, upper level, where a crossover switch between the #7 and the N/W is located. #7 Line cars need this link to reach Coney Island Shops, where heavy overhaul and repair work is performed.

    The yard and shop adjacent to Citi Field is used for storing, cleaning, minor repairs on the #7 line fleet.

    • Kevin says:

      IAWTP regarding the term ‘gauge’. Perhaps a different term such as ‘width’ or simply ‘size’.

      • Dave Zanko says:

        “Loading gauge” is the technical term, referring to not just the width between wheels, but also the clearances and weight allowances. Also, it wouldn’t be an 18-inch gap. Firstly because the A Division (IRT) cars are 8 ft 9 in, not 8 ft 6 in, and secondly because the cars are still centered over the tracks, so the difference is taken from both sides of the car, not just one. That said, a 7 1/2-inch gal is still not going to fly in revenue service. Always makes me wonder how they did it when the Flushing and Astoria lines were jointly operated by the IRT and BMT. The Steinway Tunnel can only handle IRT-sized cars, but that would leave a gap for trains running through to the Broadway Line in Manhattan.

  6. Maurice Mayfield says:

    In the beginning you said the R-160’s have taken over the route, it’s actually the R-142a’s and R-188’s. The R-160’s are for the letter trains.

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