Gibbs Hi-V (New York City Subway car)

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Gibbs Hi-V
NYCS IRT Gibbbs drawing.jpg
1904 Rendering of an IRT Gibbs Hi-V
NYCS IRT Gibbbs side drawing.jpg
Side rendering of the Gibbs car
Manufacturer American Car and Foundry
Replaced 1959
Constructed 1904-1905
Number built 300
Number preserved 1
Number scrapped 299
Formation Singles
Fleet numbers 3350-3649
Operator(s) Interborough Rapid Transit Company
NYC Board of Transportation
New York City Transit Authority
Car body construction Riveted Steel
Car length 51 feet 1.5 inches (15.58 m)
Width 8 feet 10 inches (2,692 mm)
Height 12 feet 0 inches (3,658 mm)
Doors Before 1909-1912: 4
After: 6
Maximum speed 55 mph (89 km/h)
Weight Motor car:
~89,450 lb (40,570 kg)
Trailer car:
Traction system Motor car: GE69 ; WH86 , 2 motors per car (both on motor truck, trailer truck not motorized).
Trailer car: None
Power output 200 hp (149 kW) per traction motor
Electric system(s) 600 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Top 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 gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Gibbs Hi-V, a New York City Subway car, was 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.

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 information[edit]

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 prototype[edit]

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 history and preservation[edit]

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.

Only one Gibbs Hi-V car has been preserved:


  • Car Builder: American Car and Foundry
  • Car Body: Steel
  • Unit Numbers: 3350-3649
  • Fleet: 300 cars
  • Car Length: 51 feet 1 12 inches (15.58 m)
  • Car Width: 8 feet 10 inches (2.69 m)
  • Car Height: 12 feet 0 inches (3.66 m)
  • Total Weight: Motor car: 89,450 lb (40,574 kg)
  • Track Gauge: 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
  • Propulsion System:
  • Motors: GE 69 ; WH 86 [4]
  • Motor Power: 200 hp (149 kW)
  • Brakes: Through 1910: WABCO Schedule AM(P) with 'P' type triple valve, M-2 brake stand, and simplex tread brake rigging.
    Post 1910: WABCO Schedule AMRE with 'R' type triple valve, ME-21 brake stand, and simplex tread brake rigging
  • Air Compressor:
  • Coupler Type:
  • Total Seating: 44
  • Total Standing: