I don’t use the Brooklyn Broadway El or the Nassau Street line that much, but when I do, I stand the greatest chance to see a variety of MTA subway cars. Most of the trains on the J/Z line are R160s, produced within the decade, many of which are still new enough to have that “new car smell.”

But sometimes, I’ll get an R-32 car with its corrugated stainless steel exterior, a model that is now in its 54th year of service after its 1964 debut. More rarely I can get on an R-42 car, like the one shown here, which is in its 49th year of service and likely to see a 50th. The R-42 was the last subway car was among the last subway cars made by the St. Louis Car Company, which was in business from 1887 to 1974. It was also the first fleet that was completely air conditioned. Only two R-42 trainsets run on the Jamaica line as of 2018.

The R-42s were overhauled in 1987-88 and mostly replaced by incoming R-160s in 2007. The cars’ most prominent moment came in the 1971 movie The French Connection, in which Gene Hackman as Detective Popeye Doyle, driving maniacally on Stillwell Avenue, 86th Street and New Utrecht Avenue, pursues a French drug dealer who had commandeered a train running on the West End line (today’s D train). 

All R-32 and R-42 cars still in service are due to be replaced by incoming R-179 cars within the next few years. Because of the bench seating they’re not my favorite remaining old subway car — that title goes to the existing R-46 fleet.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”





Categorized in: One Shots Subways & Trains

8 Responses to R-42 SUBWAY CAR

  1. Jon says:

    St. Louis Car also made the R-44s, which arrived 2 1/2 years after the R-42s. All gone on the subway system due to concerns about the structural integrity of the carbon steel belt around the cars, but the ones concurrently built for the SIRT survive.

  2. Edward Findlay says:

    The R42s weren’t the last cars built by St. Louis Car Company, it was actually the Stat of the Art Car trainset that has that distinction…but as they never went beyond experimental test service the distinction belongs to the Staten Island Railway’s R44s.

  3. William Mangahas says:

    The original look of the R-42

    (July 1969)


  4. Andy says:

    The R42s, along with the R32s, are the last remaining NYCT subway cars with the front railfan window, now nearly extinct. However, the statement “The R-42 was the last subway car made by the St. Louis Car Company” is not correct. That honor goes to the R44 fleet, built 1971-73 and now retired from the NYCT subways but still soldiering along on the Staten Island Railway. The 64 R44 cars in the SIR fleet will be replaced by the R179 and R211 cars.

  5. Edward says:

    I believe the R-44 models were the last cars made by St. Louis Car Co. in 1972-73. Most have been retired except for those on the Staten Island Railway, at least until they’re replaced in the next few years.

  6. The R-42 was an attractive car, and had a spacious feel. But its seats were possibly the most uncomfortable in the fleet.

  7. William Mangahas says:

    “The R-42 was an attractive car, and had a spacious feel. But its seats were possibly the most uncomfortable in the fleet.”

    The R-42 seats were an slight improvement over the R-40, which was the worst.

  8. Khalis says:

    That R-42 set, 4572-4573 used in the French Connection was saved and is in the New York Transit Museum collection. It will make an appearance at the Parade of Trains this June.

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