R-40 SUBWAY CAR, Rockaway Park

by Kevin Walsh

Scouting a Forgotten Tour in Rockaway Park in June 2012, I found a pair of R-40 cars in the subway yard, #4393 and what was likely 4392. Introduced on March 23, 1968, the R-40s were indeed futuristic at a time when some lines were still using cars with overhead fans, incandescent bulbs, and plush red seats (that had replaced earlier wicker seats).

The R-40s, designed by Raymond Loewy, had longitudinal seating, some had air conditioning (first introduced in subway cars a year earlier) large front windows that displayed the route letter (40s were BMT and IND, so all ran on lettered lines) and, of course, the famed slant front end that was a new design element entirely. At a time when passengers routinely moved from car to car (a practice officially banned within a couple of decades) the “slants” proved impractical as they left too much room for people to slip and fall out. Hence, various gate and railings contraptions were added, like the ones seen here.

Until 2009, you could still find some 40s on a few subway lines but most were retired after that. The pair seen here at Rockaway Park were used for training but were scrapped within a few years. Today only cars 4280 and 4281 are still in existence in the Transit Museum collection on Boerum Place in downtown Brooklyn.

My favorite cars, the R-46 and R-68, the orange and yellow, window-facing seats, are still going strong and I hope they will be for a long time to come.

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Peter Dougherty March 23, 2021 - 10:22 am

Don’t forget that there was a non-slanted version of the R40 as well, called the R40M, which was almost visually indistinguishable from the R42. IIRC, there were about 150 of those in total.
The R46s will be retired as soon as the R211s start arriving. Of the legacy cars I like the 46s and the IRT R62/R62As. I dislike the utilitarian R68/68As. They have no character whatsoever.

Kevin Walsh March 23, 2021 - 10:49 am

I just enjoy the window-facing seats.

Mitchell Pak April 12, 2021 - 10:07 am

You can always tell an R40M from an R42 – the R40M’s have the “crease” down the middle of their bodies, just beneath the window line, while the R42’s did not have them.

I read somewhere that the MTA had been so badly burned by the R44 and R46 cars that when it came to new cars for the BMT and IND, they went back to basics and bought a proven design, even if it was old.

Of all of the cars I have ridden in the past 50 years, my favorites will be always be the R1-9’s. I used to ride them on the F line when I was a kid. Even
then I knew they were special – the incandescent bulbs, the wicker seats, the “hissing” of the doors as they opened and closed, the exposed fans…they
were a slice of 1930’s-1940’s life.

Peter March 23, 2021 - 1:25 pm

I still lament the loss of the R32’a.

Andrew MacDougall March 23, 2021 - 11:22 pm

Don’t worry. They’ll be back. They always come back. Some other train will malfunction or be retired and..you guessed it…R32 to the rescue.

Andy March 23, 2021 - 8:48 pm

The R40 cars, 400 in total, came in three different variants. The first two hundred had the slanted end and no air conditioning. The next one hundred retained the slant end but had factory air conditioning installed. The final hundred, the R40M, also had air conditioning but introduced the R42 style flat ends after the original R40 design was discarded. In the late 1980s, the first two hundred R40s were retrofitted with A/C, as part of an MTA program to install A/C the entire fleet (except cars that were scrapped in the early 1990s, such as the R27-30s).
The most obvious visual difference between the R40M and R42 is the R40M body had a scoop along the beltline, below the windows and above the stainless steel fluting. The R42 did not have a scoop along the body.
While we’re on the subject, when the R40s and other BMT-IND cars such as the R32, R38, and R42 underwent major rehab work in the late 80s-early 90s, they lost the overhead standee straps in favor of overhead bars. I, for one, always liked the straps because they move with the train’s motion, unlike the bars which don’t.

Doug91730 March 26, 2021 - 10:44 pm

Having been born in 1952 (and being a fan of the NYWF-styled future), the R-40s made a huge impression on my adolescent brain. I seem to remember that there was going to be a program to actually replace the slanted fronts of the initial fleet with something much less-angular … effectively a partial demolition / rebuild. Does anybody know if that ever actually occurred, or were “gates and railing contraptions” the only changes made? Just curious.

KPasini April 7, 2021 - 8:03 am

Those two cars at Rock Park were used for training or more commonly called in the MTA…”Schoolcar”


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