R44 (New York City Subway car)

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R44 (New York City Subway car)
SIR R44 SMS Saint George Terminal.JPG
Top: 2 SIR R44s at Saint George Terminal. Notice the repainted bulkheads signifying the SMS process.
SIR R44 SMS Interior Daylight.JPG
Interior of R44 car 431 on the Staten Island Railway.
In service 1971–2010 (NYCT cars) 1973-present (SIR cars)
Manufacturer St. Louis Car Company
Built at St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Replaced Remaining R1s, many R4s, and all 1925 Standard Steel built SIRTOA ME-1 train cars.
Constructed 1971–1973
Refurbishment July 1991 – January 1993
Scrapped 2013 (All NYCT cars except for 5240, and one damaged SI Railway car)
Number built 352
Number in service 63
Number preserved 1
Number scrapped 284 (283 NYCT cars and 1 SIR car)
Formation 4 car sets
Fleet numbers 5202–5479 (NYC Subway)
388–435, 436–466 (even) (SIRTOA)
(cars originally numbered 100–435, 436–466 (even))
Capacity A car: 72 (seated)
B car: 76 (seated)
Operator Staten Island Railway (1973-present)
New York City Subway (1971-2010)
Depot(s) Clifton Yard
Service(s) assigned Staten Island Railway
Car body construction Stainless steel with carbon steel chassis and underbody, with fiberglass end bonnets
Train length 4 car train: 300 feet (91 m)
5 car train: 375 feet (114 m)
Car length 75 ft (22.86 m)
Width 10 ft (3,048 mm)
Height 12.08 ft (3,682 mm)
Platform height 3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Doors 8
Maximum speed Test: 87.75 mph (141.22 km/h)
Service: 55 mph (89 km/h) - 60 mph (97 km/h)
Weight A train car: 88,950 lb (40,347 kg)
B train car: 84,530 lb (38,342 kg)
Traction system NYC Subway: Westinghouse E-CAM XCA448F propulsion with Westinghouse 1447F motors 115 hp (85.8 kW) on all axles
Staten Island Railway: General Electric SCM-CAM 17KG192A1 propulsion with GE 1257E1 motors 115 hp (85.8 kW) on all axles
Electric system(s) 600 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Contact shoe
Braking system(s) NYC Subway: Westcode (dynamic and friction), WABCO tread brake unit
Staten Island Railway: WABCO RT5C (dynamic and friction), WABCO tread brake unit
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The R44 is a New York City Transit car model built from 1971 to 1973 by the St. Louis Car Company in St. Louis, Missouri, USA and currently operates only on the Staten Island Railway. Many of these cars used to operate on the B Division of the New York City Subway. The R44 was the first 75-foot (22.86 m) car for the New York City Subway, and are sometimes nicknamed the hippos due to their 75-foot length along with their R46, R68/68A's cousins. A total of 352 R44 cars were ordered: 300 cars for the New York City Subway (#100 – 399) and 52 cars for the Staten Island Railway (#400 – 435, #436 – 466 even numbered only). 12 cars, #388 – 399 were originally subway cars, but were sent down to the Staten Island Railway.

The R44s began service with many months of exhaustive testing on the A, D, E and F trains (one week on each service commencing December 16, 1971) as well as on the LIRR's trackage since this was a new breed of transit train cars electrically and mechanically, the first fleet of R44s was finally placed in service on the F train on April 19, 1972 with a brief introductory ceremony attended by the Mayor of New York City John V. Lindsay, along with MTA Chairman William J. Ronan at the Jamaica – 179th Street station.

The Staten Island R44s were delivered between January and April 1973, with the last cars delivered on April 23, 1973.[1] With the completion of the R44 order, the St. Louis Car Company (established 1887), shut down operations.

The R44 fleet replaced the remaining R1s in service, many R4s and all 1925 Standard Steel built SIRTOA ME-1 trains.


The R44 was introduced for the B Division under the idea from New York City Transit that a fleet of eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars would be more efficient than one of ten 60-foot (18.29 m) cars. Despite the increase in length, the R44s had eight pairs of doors per car (four on each side) like other B Division cars. As a result, eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars have only 64 (32 per side) pairs whereas ten cars have 80 (40 per side). The reduced number of doors on a train of eight 75-foot cars increases boarding and dwelling time, so recent subway car orders have returned to ten 60-foot (18.29 m) cars starting with the R143.

To ensure the subway system could accommodate 75-foot (22.86 m) cars, two retired R1 subway cars (numbered 165 and 192; renumbered XC675 and XC575 respectively) were cut in half, and lengthened to 75 feet (22.86 m) and sent to various places around the subway and the Staten Island Railway.[2] It was determined that the BMT Eastern Division (the J/Z, L and M routes) would be too difficult to convert to allow 75-foot (22.86 m) length train cars to operate safely, so this was not done.

The R44s originally came in singles, which needed each other to run, much like the "married pairs" of the R26/27/28/30s. These were reassembled after overhaul into ABBA sets of four. A cars are evenly numbered with operator cabs while B cars have odd numbers and no cabs.

The interior design was very different from previous models. The R44s had orange and yellow plastic bucket seats, a feature which would be incorporated into the other 75 footers and the IRT R62/R62As. The seats were protected from the doorways by faux wood and glass panels. The walls were tan with "wallpaper" featuring the seals of New York State and New York City. This design continued onto the subsequent R46 cars.

The R44 was the first car since the BMT Green Hornet to incorporate a two-note warning tone that sounds immediately before the doors begin to close as the car prepares to leave the station.[3] This has become the signature sound of the New York City Subway and is used with all subsequent subway cars.[4]

The R44 also set the world speed record for a car. On January 31, 1972, a consist reached a speed of 87.75 mph (141.22 km/h) on the Long Island Rail Road's main line between Woodside and Jamaica. With two motors per car disabled, the car still reached 77 mph (124 km/h). The cars were capable of attaining even higher speeds, but the length of the test track was insufficient to allow further acceleration.[5] The R44s were built to reach such high speeds because it was anticipated that the cars would run along the Second Avenue Subway.

The Staten Island Railway R44 cars are also known as R44 SI, ME-2, or MUE-2. They are numbered 388-466, all single units with couplers (no permanent sets), with 436-466 even numbers only, and with 388-399 being transfers from the NYC subway system.

General Overhaul and recent work[edit]

Ten NYCT R44s were involved in accidents and fires that led to their premature retirements before the GOH program for the R44s, so they were not rebuilt during the GOH program. They were stored in the system until 2000, when they were scrapped.

During the General Overhaul Program (GOH) from 1991 to 1993, all but ten R44s were rebuilt by NYCTA at 207 Street Overhaul Shop in Inwood, Manhattan, Coney Island Overhaul Shop in Brooklyn (cars 5342-5479 and all SIR cars), and Morrison-Knudsen (cars 5202-5341). Some improvements included the repainting of the carbon steel blue stripes into silver gray stripes, although NYCT cars 5228 and 5229 and all SIR cars had their carbon sections replaced with stainless steel panels. The rollsigns on the sides were also replaced with electronic LCD signs on the NYCT cars, and were completely removed on the SIR cars. The SIR R44s, however, retained their original two-note warning tone, unlike the NYCT R44s, which had their warning tones replaced with ones found in the R62/As and R68/As.

Even after the GOH, several NYCT R44s were retired due to various reasons. Car 5248 was taken out of service in 2004 due to severe frame damage, and cars 5319 and 5402 were involved in separate fire-related incidents that led to car 5319 being scrapped and car 5402 being stored out of service. Cars 5282-5285 was involved in a derailment that destroyed 5282 entirely and forced the rest of the cars out of service,[6] though 5284 was rebuilt using parts from 5402 and returned to service until its retirement in 2010, leaving 5248, 5283, 5285, and 5402 all stored out of service until they were scrapped in 2013. SIR car 402 was involved in a derailment accident in 2008 that led to its retirement, so it did not undergo SMS in 2009-2010 like the other SIR R44s and was stored out of service in the 207th Street Yard until 2013, when it was scrapped.[7]

All SIR cars except for 402 were overhauled between 2009 and 2010 as a part of their SMS (Scheduled Maintenance System) improvement treatment that was designed to extend useful service life. Several improvements included the repainting of the bulkheads, rebuilt trucks, new dark floors and blue bucket seats, and updated logos (unlike the NYCT R44s their original blue "M" MTA decals were not replaced in the mid-1990s).[8]

Retirement, scrapping, replacements, and preservation[edit]

A Brooklyn-bound NYCT R44 train in NYCS A service entering Broad Channel.
NYCT R44 5240 at the NY Transit Museum.
NYCT R44 car interior.

The MTA was planning to replace all the R44s with R179s.[9] However, in light of structural integrity issues found on the NYCT R44s (due to much higher levels of wear & tear, along with heavier level of mileage, and vandalism than the SIR's R44s), surveys were conducted which resulted in the decision to retire them with the rest of the R160s in place of the remaining R32s and R42s that were retiring at the time. Retirement started in January 2010 after eight cars failed structural surveys, and the last train (cars 5378-5381 and 5426-5429) made its final trip on September 18, 2010 on the A and C trains. After retirement, all cars (excluding 5282 and 5319, which were written off due to earlier accidents) were gradually placed out of service throughout the system and mothballed, pending scrapping.[10] Starting in May 2012, however, all the remaining NYCT R44s were scrapped at Sims Metal Management except for car 5240 until summer 2013.[11][12]

By May 2013, the R44 scrapping was completed.[13]

Car 5240 (original car number 172), has been set aside from scrapping and is currently on display at the New York Transit Museum.

The R179 fleet for the Staten Island Railway's R44 fleet had also been dropped. Thus, the SIR will operate the remaining R44s until 2019, when they may receive some new R211s when delivered.[14]

Differences between the R44s and R46s[edit]

The R44s are almost identical to the R46s. However, there are some small differences between the two car models:

  • The New York City Subway R44s featured Westinghouse propulsion systems while the Staten Island Railway R44s, (including the 12 cars (#388 – 399) that were originally subway cars that were sent down), and the R46s feature General Electric propulsion systems.
  • The R44 has a glass panel in the upper frame of each door windscreen (excluding the R44SI, which got rid during SMS), while the R46 does not have any barrier above waist-height.
  • The door for the motorman's cab on the R44 is narrower than on the R46 and pivots open rather than sliding (on the R46, it is almost identical to the storm door at the blind end)
  • The lower band of the R44 exterior is made of low-alloy high-tensile steel, forming a large gray bar, whereas this area is stainless steel like the rest of the car body on the R46.
  • The R44 features WABCO tread brake units while the R46 features New York Air Brake "SMEE" braking system.
  • The R44 door indicator lights adjacent to the doors are smaller than those found on the R46.
  • The armrests on the R44 models adjacent to the transverse seats features more abrupt edges than the armrests on the R46 models, which are comparatively smoother.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • 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 links[edit]