‘Train Daddy’ Andy Byford takes farewell ride with fans
Outgoing New York City Transit President Andy Byford took a last ride on the 51-year-old R-42 subway cars Wednesday morning and was greeted by a cheering crowd when the old cars opened their doors to the public.
Transit enthusiasts at the Euclid Avenue A station rushed into the soon-to-be retired subway car as Byford smiled from inside. Before the train departed, there were pleas for him to stay in his position, selfies and praise galore. As the wheels on the train began rolling, cheers broke out and someone yelled, “Three cheers for Andy Byford, hip hip hooray!”
“It’s two 50-year-old relics that are coming out of service,” Byford quipped, referencing his departure as NYCT president and the R-42s’ retirement. “It’s right that today we’re celebrating the end of a legendary train, the R-42. New Yorkers loved these trains, so I wanted to be part of history today.”
The R-42 cars were built by the St. Louis Car Company and were the first cars received by the newly branded MTA in 1969. They totaled 400 units at their peak and debuted on the BMT Broadway Line, known as the N train today. Since, they’ve serviced multiple lines, including the A,C and J,Z.
As a point of reference to their age, in 1969, Sesame Street debuted, Woodstock drew crowds upstate and the Mets won the World Series. The cars were also featured in William Friedkin’s “The French Connection.” The two cars that made an appearance in the film will be preserved at the NYC Transit Museum.
The final ride for the cars started at Euclid Avenue, ran to Far Rockaway, then up to Inwood and back to Euclid on the A line.
Sally Librera, NYC Transit’s senior vice president of subways, paid homage to the R-42s while looking ahead to the city’s transit future.
“They moved people to work, to events, to school, to community family gatherings, so many events that built and grew our city,” Librera said of the retired cars. “It’s such a wonderful example of how deeply woven the subway system is in the fabric of New York City.”
The retiring R-42s will be replaced by the R-179s, which were recently put into service, and the R-211s when they are delivered.
By 2021, NYCT hopes to start tests for their open gangway designed subway cars, which Byford boasted would have numerous benefits, including a roughly 10 percent capacity increase and the ability for passengers to escape dangerous situations by navigating through cars safely.
Still, for transit fans like Lorenzo Paz, riding the old train cars out to Rockaway on Wednesday was a welcome chance to reminisce about the past. The creaks of the old cars and the announcements from conductors hold a special place in Paz’s heart.
“I’ve had a lot of fun memories riding these kinds of trains,” Paz, 49, said as he enjoyed his final ride on an R-42. He commented on being born just before the cars debuted.
“This is kind of like my birthday celebration,” he said, pausing in conversation to grin and point upwards as the conductor clicked on to announce the next station.
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