by Kevin Walsh

In the early 1980s, when the subway system was at its grimiest, cars were breaking down with regularity, graffiti taggers ran wild, crime was out of control and track fires repeatedly affected service, sets of pure white train cars began to appear on several IRT routes. They reminded you of the one white pigeon in any typical grey NYC flock.

The Transit Authority attempted to use reverse psychology and believed that a pure white train would make the taggers reluctant to touch them.

The trains didn’t stay white for long.

More effective graffiti-retardant practices were undertaken by TA President David Gunn beginning in 1984. By about 1995 most of the system was tag-free.

Screen capture from

ForgottenFan Dan McBride: They were not painted white with the idea no one would tag a white train. They were painted white so graffitti would show up easily and could be be covered with white paint at a terminus by crews for that specific purpose. It was the first step in ridding the system of graffitti, and it worked.



Larry Gertner October 22, 2012 - 6:03 pm

At the time, there was an article in the Daily News about a team of cleaners who vowed to keep “Snow White” pristine. I never saw any follow-up about their success…or lack thereof.

Ivan October 22, 2012 - 10:51 pm

This post made me think of the movie “Beat Street”. Ramo dreamed about tagging up a white train and finally did so near the end of the movie.

Ivan October 22, 2012 - 10:55 pm

Maybe I should have watched the video first! 🙂 The video has several clips from Beat Street, including the video still above.

Alexcia Bennett April 5, 2018 - 6:59 pm

Factz it is funny because I was watching the movie while I was playing this because I wanted to know more about the white trains

kg2v October 23, 2012 - 8:50 am

In addition, the white paint was the FIRST of the Urethane paints that were basically VERY VERY slippery to other paint, making it easy to wash off paint. From what I understand, at first, the paint could only be MADE in white

Zen October 23, 2012 - 6:16 pm

Disturbing video. I used to ride the 6 train with my grandfather, but don’t remember the white trains

Ian Parfrey November 28, 2012 - 11:12 pm

Kevin, that’s the only photo I’ve ever seen of a BMT train in the white paint. That’s an R-27, #8219, it looks like. You can find hundreds of pictures of IRT Whitebirds– every car class from R-14 to R-36 wore that paint scheme. I had no idea it was applied on the BMT– when I rode those cars on the “RR” they all wore the MTA blue stripe with a thick layer of grime and graffiti.


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