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R32/A (New York City Subway car)

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The R32 is a New York City Subway car model built by the Budd Company from 1964 to 1965 for the IND/BMT B Division.

MTA NYC Subway A train at 80th St.jpg
An R32 train on the "A" train at 88th Street.
Interior of an R32 by David Shankbone.JPG
Interior of an R32 car.
In service 1964-present
Manufacturer Budd Company
Built at Philadelphia
Constructed 1964-1965
Entered service September 14, 1964
Refurbishment 1988–1990
Scrapped 2007 (GE-rebuilt cars)
2008 (Phase II cars)
2009-2010, 2013 (many Phase I cars)
Number built 600
Number in service 222 (170 in revenue service during rush hours)
additional 10 in work service
Number preserved 8
4 retained for training purposes
Number scrapped 360
Formation Married Pairs
Fleet numbers 3350–3949
(3659 renumbered to 3348)
Capacity 50 (seated)
Operator(s) New York City Subway
Depot(s) 207th Street Yard (186 cars)
East New York Yard (36 cars)[1]
Service(s) assigned "A" train – 60 cars (6 trains)
"C" train – 16 cars (2 trains)
"J" train "Z" train – 40 cars (5 trains)
Car body construction Stainless steel
Train length 2 car train: 120.25 feet (36.65 m)
4 car train: 240.50 feet (73.30 m)
6 car train: 360.75 feet (109.96 m)
8 car train: 481 feet (147 m)
10 car train: 601.25 feet (183.26 m)
Car length over coupler faces: 60 ft 3 in (18.36 m)
Width 10 ft (3,048 mm)
Height 12.08 ft (3,682 mm)
Platform height 3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Entry 3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Doors 8 sets of 45 inch wide side doors per car
Maximum speed 55 mph (89 km/h)
Weight 79,930 lb (36,260 kg)
(70,000 lb or 31,751 kg when delivered)
Traction system General Electric SCM 17KG192E3, DC propulsion system
Traction motors GE 1257E1 motors or Westinghouse 1447JR (115 hp or 86 kW per axle)
(retired R32GE cars used 115 hp or 86 kW 1257F motors, all cars originally had Westinghouse 1447JR motors, as do all remaining cars in service)
Acceleration 2.5 mph/s (4.0 km/(h⋅s))
Deceleration 3.0 mph/s (4.8 km/(h⋅s)) (full service)
3.2 mph/s (5.1 km/(h⋅s)) (emergency)
Electric system(s) 600 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Contact shoe
Braking system(s) WABCO RT2 SMEE braking system, A.S.F. simplex unit cylinder clasp (tread) brake
Safety system(s) tripcock
Coupling system Westinghouse H2C
Headlight type halogen light bulb
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge



The R32s are numbered 3350–3949, but some cars have been re-numbered outside of this range or to different numbers in this range. They were the first cars to introduce all-mylar route and destination rollsigns instead of the former cotton cloth or linen type rollsigns found on prior rail cars.

The R32 contract was divided into two subcontracts of 300 cars each: R32 (cars 3350-3649) and R32A (cars 3650-3949).[2] The R32As were funded through the proceeds of a revenue bond while the R32s were paid for out of the 1963–1964 New York City capital budget. The two subcontracts differed only in interior lighting; cars 3800-3949 of the R32As had interior lighting featuring backlit ad-signs.[3][4]

The R32s were the first mass-produced stainless steel cars built for the New York City Subway. Two previous Budd orders (the BMT Zephyr and the R11s) were limited production orders. The horizontally ribbed, shiny, and unpainted stainless exteriors earned the cars the nickname Brightliners.[5] The use of stainless steel reduced the weight of each car by over 4,000 pounds, when compared to previous models.[6]


A poster from 1964 referencing the R32 order.

In June 1963, the New York City Transit Authority contracted with Budd for 600 IND/BMT cars (300 pairs) to replace older equipment (cars that had exceeded the TA's 35-year limit of age), including the BMT D-type Triplex articulated cars and some of the BMT Standards. At the time, this was the largest railcar order ever placed in the United States for subway cars. The cars were ordered for $68,820,000,[6] of which half was provided by New York City and half through the sale of bonds by the New York City Transit Authority.[5] Budd had bid on previous contracts with the NYCTA, but had never won a City contract for a production run of cars until the R32s, as Budd built only stainless-steel equipment and the TA refused to allow a differential in competitive bids for this higher-quality construction.[7]

Budd won the contract by offering the lowest bid of $114,700 per car. The next lowest bidder came in at $117,900 per car, which was for low-alloy steel cars. Budd low-balled the price to win the contract and introduce stainless steel equipment to the modern New York City Subway system, a plan that was met with limited success.[7] NYCTA allowed a premium for subsequent stainless steel contracts, and all subsequent equipment was at least partly constructed of stainless steel. However, the Budd Company never benefited from the change, as Budd failed to win further contracts from the NYCTA, and the company has since halted production of railroad cars.

On August 18, 1964, the NYCTA approved a modification to the 300 R32s already constructed. The modification was required to ensure proper clearance in tunnels. Since the cars were 4000 pounds lighter than other subway cars when new, they did not sink as low on standard trucks and springs. The modification involved the modification of the body bolster.[8]

A ceremonial introduction trip for the new R32 "Brightliners" cars was held on September 9, 1964, operating from the New York Central Railroad's Mott Haven Yards in the Bronx to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.[6] The new cars were then placed into service on the Q on September 14, 1964, after their New York Central's spring-loaded under-running third rail shoes were replaced with gravity-type overrunning subway third rail shoes.[5][6] The R32s were originally assigned to the BMT Southern Division service only, initially on the Brighton Line (Q train) and the Sea Beach Line (N train), but were eventually reassigned to the West End Line (T and TT trains).

Cars 3946–3949 were delivered with Pioneer trucks and disc brakes in 1966. These trucks were replaced with standard trucks in 1976.[9][10][11][12]

In 1974, cars 3700-3701 were sent to Garrett AiResearch's facilities in Los Angeles, California to have test out Flywheel energy storage system equipment. 3700 received energy conservation machinery with batteries and amber-type digital readout indicating the amount of energy used by the equipment, while 3701 remained un-modified. These cars were later tested at the UMTA, and the US Department of Transportation's Testing Facilities in Pueblo, Colorado for evaluation, and were returned to the MTA in 1976 for in-service testing on all BMT/IND Lines to check the effectiveness of the technology.[13]

Overhaul and mishapsEdit

Route sign on an R32 running on the C service.

Cars 3616, 3629, 3651, and 3766 were scrapped due to collision damage sustained in various accidents in the 1970s and 1980s. Their mates were paired with other cars.[14]

Car 3659 (since retired) was rebuilt as an even-numbered car and renumbered to 3348 following the loss of its even-numbered mate in an accident. Car 3669 was retired following a derailment, so its even-numbered mate 3668 was rebuilt into an odd-numbered car and renumbered to 3669.

From 1988 to 1990, as part of the NYCTA General Overhaul (GOH) program, most of the R32 cars were rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen at its shops in Hornell, New York. Ten R32 cars, which have since been retired, were rebuilt by General Electric in its Buffalo, New York, facility. During the rebuilding process, the route and destination mylar rollsigns located above the storm doors were removed and replaced with Luminator flipdot electronic route signs that can display both letters and numbers, including zero. This is because the air conditioning evaporators mounted on the interior car ends made it rather difficult to change the front route and destination signs. The distinctive "EXP" (express) and "LOCAL" marker lights were also removed.[15][16] The rollsigns on the sides of the cars were updated and retained.

After refurbishment, the R32 and R32A cars were renamed R32 Phase I, R32 Phase II, and R32 GE, with the first of the three types being the only one in service today. The R32 Phase I cars (re-built by Morrison Knudsen) have WABCO Air Brake packages, GE Master Controllers, and Thermo King HVAC units. The R32 Phase II cars (also re-built by Morrison Knudsen) had NY Air Brake equipment, Westinghouse Master Controllers, and Stone Safety HVAC units. The ten R32 GEs differ from the Phase I and II cars as they were rebuilt to R38 specifications. They had experimental Sigma HVAC Units powered by A/C motors and solid state inverters, original traction motors rebuilt to 115 horsepower instead of the traditional 100 horsepower units, backlit ad signs, and different bulkhead designs.[17] Since the cars were sent out to be overhauled based on how poorly they were performing (worst first), there are R32s and R32As rebuilt in both Phase I and Phase II configurations. There are also about a dozen or more pairs which are composed of R32 and R32A mixes.[18]


Retired R32 cars being shipped out to the Atlantic Ocean for reefing.
Retired R32 cars awaiting processing at Sims Metal Management in Newark, New Jersey.

Initial plansEdit

The R160s replaced most of the R32s in the late 2000s. The ten GE cars were retired first in the summer of 2007. The Phase II R32s followed a year later, from the summer of 2008 until October 13, 2008. Finally, a handful of Phase I R32s were retired from early 2009 until November 2009, when it was decided to retire the NYCT R44s instead due to structural problems found on those cars. By October 2010, only 232 cars remained.

After retirement, most cars were stripped and sunk as artificial reefs.[19] However, after the reefing program ended in April 2010, retired R32s have been trucked to Sims Metal Management's Newark facility to be scrapped and processed, an action that occurred between April 2013 and October 2013 with several already-retired cars and is expected to occur with the remaining active cars when they retire.[20]

Some retired R32 cars were saved for various purposes throughout the New York City Subway system, including:

  • Phase II pair 3350–3351 - set aside for preservation by the Railway Preservation Corp. This pair is currently stored at the Coney Island Yard.
  • Phase II pair 3352–3353 - set aside for preservation by the New York Transit Museum.[21] This pair was the lead pair on the R32s' premiere trip on September 9, 1964. The pair is currently stored at the 207th St Yard.
  • GE-rebuilt pair 3594–3595 - being used as NYPD training cars at Floyd Bennett Field.
  • Phase I pair 3786–3787 - being used as derailment re-railing training cars at the Coney Island Complex.

Prolonged serviceEdit

222 of the 232 remaining R32s have been undergoing intermittent SMS (Scheduled Maintenance Service, a life extension program) cycles since 2011 at a cost of $25 million to extend their useful lives through at least 2017.[22][23][24] The active cars are maintained at the 207th Street Yard and East New York Yards, running on the A, C, J, and Z.

The other ten cars were taken out of revenue service in December 2010. They are now used for work service; six of these cars are based from the 36th-38th Street Yard, while the other four are based from the 207th Street Yard. All cars handle such tasks as providing traction for B Division rail adhesion cars and refuse trains.[25] A number "1" sticker was placed before the former number (for example, car 3510 became 13510) of the four cars based from the 207th Street Yard.

The R179s were expected to replace all remaining R32 cars beginning in 2017.[26][27] However, the MTA is considering retaining most, if not all cars due to delays in the delivery of the R179s and a previously unanticipated fleet expansion necessitated by the renovation of the 14th Street Tunnel and the opening of the Second Avenue Subway.[28] As a result, the MTA is expecting to replace a handful of remaining cars with the R179s while spending another $49.2 million to maintain the many of the other remaining cars until they can be replaced by the R211As.[28]

At 54 (the longest for an R-type car), the R32s are the oldest New York City Subway cars in regular passenger service (well past the specified service life of 35 years) since the retirement of the Redbird trains,[6] as well as some of the oldest rolling stock of any metro system anywhere in the world.[22] According to railfan James Greller, they often cited for their superior durability and craftsmanship, along with the structural reinforcement done to their bodies during the GOH period; four other B Division models built after them have been mostly or completely retired.[22] They are also the only cars currently in service that were built for the New York City Transit Authority prior to its merger with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968.

Despite their considerable structural quality, the R32s have been suffering from low mechanical quality in recent years. The R32s have the lowest Mean Distance Between Failures figures of the active fleet, as the overhauls they received during the 1988–89 period have all worn out after 29–30 years.[29] Others have criticized the R32s for their appearance and lack of comfort; in August 2011, The New York Times called the R32s "a dreary reminder to passengers of an earlier subterranean era," and claimed that "time has taken a toll" on the cars.[22] They have worn-out air conditioning, propulsion, and braking systems, so many of the cars were transferred to services with mostly outdoor or elevated portions, namely the A, J, and Z.[30][31][32]

In popular cultureEdit

A train of R32s was featured in the 2015 film Bridge of Spies, despite the fact that the film is set a decade prior to their manufacturing. They were the oldest available rolling stock to form a realistic 10-car train for exterior filming. Interior shots were done with a more period-appropriate R11/R34 from the New York Transit Museum.[33]

Several trains of R32s were featured in the movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, on the J train.


  1. ^ Korman, Joe (November 6, 2016). "New York Subway Barn Assignments". JoeKorNer.
  2. ^ "R-32 (Budd, 1964)". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "Showing Image 4981". Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  4. ^ "Showing Image 4982". Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Annual Report 1964–1965. New York City Transit Authority. 1965.
  6. ^ a b c d e Buckley, Thomas (September 10, 1964). "Stainless Steel Cars to Brighten BMT". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Perlmutter, Emanuel (June 26, 1963). "600 Stainless-Steel Subway Cars Ordered for City at 68 Million; Considered in Past". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  8. ^ "New Subway Cars Lowered to Avoid Any Close Scrapes". The New York Times. August 19, 1964. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  9. ^ "Showing Image 45677".
  10. ^ "Showing Image 4970".
  11. ^ "Showing Image 45192".
  12. ^ "Showing Image 45677".
  13. ^ Maitland, Leslie (February 25, 1976). "2 Energy‐Saving IND Cars in Service". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 25, 2016 – via New York Times Archive.
  14. ^ "R-32 (Budd, 1964)". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  15. ^ "Showing Image 38065".
  16. ^ "Showing Image 4882".
  17. ^ "Showing Image 2352".
  18. ^ "R-32 (Budd, 1964)". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  19. ^ Chalasani, Radhika (September 17, 2015). "Watery grave for NYC subway cars". CBS News. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  20. ^ "Showing Image 140231".
  21. ^ "Showing Image 88797". August 16, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  22. ^ a b c d Grynbaum, Michael M. (August 26, 2011). "For Often-Late Cars of Subway's C Train, Retirement Must Wait". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  23. ^ "Proposed MTA Capital Program 2010-2014" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. April 2010. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 2, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  24. ^ "Oldest MTA New York City Transit Subway Cars Getting Their Final Makeover". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. September 7, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  25. ^ "R-32 (Budd, 1964)". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  26. ^ "Governor Cuomo Announces $600 Million MTA Investment in Upstate Manufacturing | Governor Andrew M. Cuomo". March 28, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  27. ^ "R179 Staff Summary March 2012" (PDF). New York City Transit. March 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  28. ^ a b "MTA 2016 Preliminary Budget Financial Plan 2016-2019 Volume 2" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. p. V-222. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  29. ^ "C Line profile" (PDF). Straphangers Campaign. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  30. ^ Stevens, Harry (July 7, 2015). "Summer in the city brings dreaded hot subway cars". The New York World. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  31. ^ "How And Where To Spot the Sweltering NYC Subway Cars". WNYC. July 7, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  32. ^ Mosley, Walter; James, Phyllis (October 12, 2015). "Mosley and James: On the platform, waiting for a C". NY Daily News. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  33. ^ Lumenick, Lou (October 18, 2015). "Spielberg's 'Bridge of Spies' has a surprise star — NYC subways". New York Post. Retrieved October 19, 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Sansone, Gene. Evolution of New York City subways: An illustrated history of New York City's transit cars, 1867–1997. New York Transit Museum Press, New York, 1997 ISBN 978-0-9637492-8-4

External linksEdit