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Gibbs Hi-V (New York City Subway car)

The Gibbs Hi-V was a New York City Subway car class built between 1904 and 1905 by American Car and Foundry for the IRT and its successors, the New York City Board of Transportation and the New York City Transit Authority. It was the first all steel subway car ordered for New York City.

Gibbs Hi-V
NYCS IRT Gibbbs drawing.jpg
1904 Rendering of an IRT Gibbs Hi-V
ManufacturerAmerican Car and Foundry
Number built300
Number preserved1
Number scrapped299
Fleet numbers3350-3649
Operator(s)Interborough Rapid Transit Company
NYC Board of Transportation
New York City Transit Authority
Car body constructionRiveted Steel
Car length51 feet 1.5 inches (15.58 m)
Width8 feet 10 inches (2,692 mm)
Height12 feet 0 inches (3,658 mm)
DoorsBefore 1909-1912: 4
After: 6
Maximum speed55 mph (89 km/h)
WeightMotor car:
~89,450 lb (40,570 kg)
Trailer car:
Traction systemMotor car: GE69 ; WH86 , 2 motors per car (both on motor truck, trailer truck not motorized).
Trailer car: None
Power output200 hp (149 kW) per traction motor
Electric system(s)600 V DC Third rail
Current collection methodTop running Contact shoe
Braking system(s)Before 1910: WABCO Schedule AM(P) with 'P' type triple valve and M-2 brake stand
After 1910: WABCO Schedule AMRE with 'R' type triple valve and ME-21 brake stand
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

Because of the sliding doors which enclosed the motorman's vestibules from the rest of the car compartment, the cars were nicknamed Merry Widows. Early on, they were also known as Battleships, a reference to their second paint scheme where the siding was painted Battleship Grey. However, the nickname did not stick, and was later given to the Deck Roof Hi-V cars, which were painted the same color. Today, references to the "Battleships" are generally assumed to be in reference to the Deck Roof cars, as opposed to the Gibbs cars.[1]


Background informationEdit

As the Interborough Rapid Transit Company's subway line was the first attempt at an underground rapid transit, the IRT and chief engineer George Gibbs felt compelled to develop a subway car that would be stronger and safer than any previously designed railway cars. This inevitably led them to the conclusion that it would be best to design an all-steel car to run in the new tunnels.

However, car manufacturers of the time were unwilling to undertake such an experimental proposition. Steel was deemed too heavy for any practical applications. Conventional wisdom of the day (since proven to be false) held that an all steel car would vibrate itself to pieces, for wood was "necessary" for its damping effects on the car's vibration. It was also widely believed that a steel car would be very loud, and poorly insulated from temperature extremes such as heat and cold. With a large backlog of orders for wooden cars, manufacturers had no incentive to explore the new technology as there was still plenty of demand for wooden railcars. The IRT knew that the 1904 opening of the new subway route was fast approaching, and that rolling stock had to be designed and built soon or the line would not be ready. With time running short to order rolling stock, a protected wooden alternative known as a Composite had been designed and ordered. But that did not stop Gibbs from his pursuit of an all-steel subway car.

The all-steel prototypeEdit

In 1903, George Gibbs used his influence to contract with the Pennsylvania Railroad's shops in Altoona to build an all-steel prototype for the new subway. This car, numbered 3342, was tested in February 1904 and deemed to be too heavy for practical use in the new subway. It required further design changes before it could become serviceable. But most importantly, the all-steel prototype proved that an all-steel car could be feasible, and validated Gibbs' claims that the previously held fears of excessive vibration, poor insulation, and loud noise were unfounded. IRT engineers began modifying the all-steel design to lighten the cars to a more suitable weight. One of the largest breakthroughs came when engineers learned they could achieve a similar structural strength as the heavier car by constructing a "skeleton" floor frame made of thick, intersecting steel sills and crossmembers. This was in contrast to using a single thick, heavy sheet of steel for a large center sill that supported the car. Following this and other weight reducing changes, the IRT was ready to go ahead with a production order of the new "Gibbs" cars, so named after George Gibbs. Larger builders remained steadfast in their refusal to build all-steel cars. However, as a result of the generally successful introduction of the steel prototype car, the growing American Car & Foundry was willing to accept an order for steel cars. Three hundred were to be constructed, incorporating the latest modifications made by Gibbs and IRT engineers to reduce the weight of the cars.

Service historyEdit

Gibbs Hi-Vs were used on the first subway line since 1904 and ran until 1958. Gibbs Hi-V cars were primarily used in local service on the subway until 1952, when an equipment exchange put many of these cars in IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line Express service as well. Cars 3376, 3386, 3447, 3524, 3567,3591, 3638 were used as work motors. 3342 became a pay car in 1905, while 3350 also became a pay car in 1930.[2] 3342 was scrapped in 1956. All other work cars were retired and scrapped by 1960 as surplus Lo-Vs cars entered work service.

Car 3352 has been preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine and was restored back to its 1905 appearance.[3][4][5][6] It was modified with trolley poles and is in running condition, but the car is not run often.


  1. ^ Sansone, Gene (2004). New York Subways: An Illustrated History of New York City's Transit Cars. JHU Press. pp. 61, 63–68. ISBN 0-8018-7922-1.
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