R10 (New York City Subway car)

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R10 (New York City Subway car)
1947 R10 prototype interior.jpg
Interior of an R7A car used as the prototype for an R10
Manufacturer American Car & Foundry
Constructed 1948–1949
Entered service 1948
Refurbishment 1984–1986
Scrapped 1983–1984, 1988–1995
Number built 400
Number preserved 2
Number scrapped 398
Fleet numbers 1948–1970: 1803–1852 and 3000–3349
1970–1989: 2950–2974, 3000–3049, 3100–3224 (WH); 2975–2999, 3050–3099, 3225–3349 (GE)
Capacity 56 (seated)
Operator(s) NYC Board of Transportation
New York City Transit Authority
Car body construction LAHT Carbon steel
Car length 60.3 ft (18.38 m)
Width 10 ft (3.05 m)
Height 12.2 ft (3.72 m)
Platform height 3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Doors 8
Maximum speed 55 mph (89 km/h)
Weight 81,200 lb (36,832 kg)
Traction system General Electric cars: GE PCM type 17KG116A switch group, with 17KC76A1 master controller, using GE 1240-A3 motors (100 hp or 75 kW each). All four axles motorized.
Westinghouse cars: WH ABS type UP-631-A switch group, with XM-179 master controller, using Westinghouse 1447-A motors (100 hp (75 kW) each). All four axles motorized.
Power output 100 hp (75 kW) per traction motor
Acceleration 2.5 mph/s (4.0 km/(h·s))
Auxiliaries Edison B4H (32 Volt) battery with 24 cells.
Electric system(s) 600 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Top running Contact shoe
Braking system(s) WABCO SMEE Braking System
Coupling system WABCO H2C
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The R10 was the first series of post-war New York City Subway car class built by the American Car and Foundry Company in 1948 and 1949. These cars were nicknamed Thunderbirds by their operating personnel because they were very fast trains, as well as many railfans, also claiming that these R10 cars were custom made for the A line. The R10s were mainly assigned to the IND Eighth Avenue Line's A train from 1948 thru early 1978, when they were replaced by the slant-ended R40 cars transferred from Jamaica Yard's E, F, and N lines which in turn were receiving brand new R46's during this period. They were reassigned from the A line to the rush hours only CC (now C) line, with some still remaining on the B line effective April of 1978 due to aging. Some were also transferred to Jamaica Yard for use on the GG line, and help fill a car shortage created by the R46 truck problems which was in its infancy stage at the time.

The R10 cars were originally numbered 1803–1852 (later renumbered 2950–2999 in 1970) and 3000–3349. They first ran in service on the A service on November 20, 1948. They were initially and exclusively assigned to the Eighth Avenue Express A train where they remained for almost 30 years and became synonymous with that route from 1948 to 1969 when some brand new R42 cars were designated and directly assigned to the A line to give the A train some air-conditioned cars.

The R10's displaced from the A train by the R42's were given to the B train to help replace their aging R1's on that line. Also, some were operated on the old pre-1967 rush hours only BB, and on the 1967 newly extended B to Coney Island via the BMT West End Line as well, when spare trains were available from 207th Street Yard. Some R10's also found their way onto the AA line during this period.

Initially fifty cars (3300-3349) were transferred to the BMT Eastern Division[1] in 1954 to help familiarize crews with SMEE equipment in anticipation of the arrival of the R16 cars. Then twenty cars (3300-3319) were returned to the IND for the opening of the IND Rockaway Lines during 1956, leaving only thirty R10 cars from 3320-3349 operating on the BMT Eastern Division's #15 Jamaica Line until 1961 when new R27/30's cars were delivered to the New York City Transit System's BMT Lines, which in turn replaced and released these loaned R10 cars to be sent back to the IND Division's A line.

Again, beginning in early 1979 when the R46's truck problems started to escalate out of hand, forty-eight (48) R10's from the 3050-3099 group were directly transferred to the BMT Eastern Division to be operated exclusively on the LL 14th Street-Canarsie Local until early 1984. These R10 trains did not have the proper signage for the LL train line. This freed-up their R27/30's that were sent to the Concourse Yard for the D line, which replaced their R44 cars which were sent to Jamaica Yard to replace the R46's that were taken out of service because of severely cracked trucks.

While they may have been considered the second worst operating revenue service car during the 1980s based on MDBF (Mean Distance Between Failures), doing better than the R46 based on MDBF, many R10s outlasted the newer R16s as well as a number of R27s and R30s. There was a light overhaul program between December 1984 and February 1986 which was an interim measure to get the entire fleet in a non-graffiti state. The rehabilitation of the 110 R10s was done in-house at a budgeted cost of $65,000 per car.[2]


The R10 introduced many innovations, including a new type of braking system known as the "SMEE" schedule braking, which introduced dynamic braking. Dynamic braking reduced wear and tear on brake shoes, reducing maintenance costs. Improved propulsion, in the form of four 100 horsepower (75 kW) traction motors design instead of the traditional two 190 hp (140 kW) motors (the setup used in the Arnines) improved acceleration from 1.75 mph per second to the current 2.5 mph/s. The R10s were also the first subway cars to incorporate roller bearings instead of the standard friction bearings found on all older railway stock, as well as being the last subway cars ordered with air-operated door engines. Although they could operate in mixed consists of later SMEE cars, the R10s for the most part ran in solid consists throughout their careers, although they were briefly mixed with R-16s in the late 1950s when fifty of those cars were assigned to the A line, and the R42's assigned to the A line during 1969 and 1970. They also featured roofline side route and destination signs, an arrangement that drew criticism.

For the first time, the car body was of an all-welded low-alloy high tensile (LAHT) steel construction. This gave the body great strength, as the body and underframe were welded together to form a single, durable and rigid car body which had strong structural integrity.

It also introduced the cast steel truck frame design also used on many passenger cars and coaches up until the R68A's of 1988-89. Sealed beam headlights were installed on all cars of this class starting in 1956.

Retirement, after service life, and other notes[edit]

The last run of the GE R10s and the non-overhauled WH R10s was November 10, 1988, ten days short of the 40th anniversary of their debut. The rebuilt R10s would start being withdrawn by March 1989.[3] The R10s had a final farewell excursion run on October 29, 1989 with cars 3018-3203-3182-2974-3143-3045-3145-3216 on various IND-BMT Division routes, including the new IND 63rd Street Line.[4][5] The R10s last operated in passenger service run was on the C on September 8, 1989. The R10s were replaced by the R68 and R68A fleets.

The bulk of the scrapping of the remaining R10s ended in June 1990. The last R10 car to be removed from the New York City Transit Authority (TA) property was 3081, which was the only surviving GE-equipped unit in existence. It was scrapped sometime in 1993.

  • Car 3184 was preserved by the Railway Preservation Corp and was previously displayed at the New York Transit Museum. This car is currently in storage.
  • Car 3189 had an experimental 3-passenger transverse fiberglass interior seating installed in 1969. The car was retired from revenue service in 1984, but was later repainted solid blue and used as a Road Car Inspector School Training Car at the TA's Pitkin Yard in Brooklyn. This car is part of the New York Transit Museum and is currently in storage
  • Car 3192 had a new R42 type front installed on that car in early 1975 to be the prototype car for an overhaul complete rebuilding of the fleet to be done with modern interiors and air-conditioning. The unit was scrapped in 1980 inside Coney Island Yard and the rebuilding never took place.[6]

Paint Schemes[edit]

  • two-tone grey/orange stripes (1948–circa 1967)
  • tartar red on only a handful of cars (1962-1966)
  • aqua blue/white with or without blue stripe (1965-1970)
  • silver/blue (1970-1988)
  • green body, silver roof and black front hood (1984-1989) [GOH 110 Westinghouse units only]


  1. ^ "Showing Image 75642". nycsubway.org. 
  2. ^ "The Green R-10 Car List & Miscellany (Re: R10 Questions) (571464)". nycsubway.org. 
  3. ^ "R10 Questions (561573)". nycsubway.org. 
  4. ^ "Showing Image 127428". nycsubway.org. 
  5. ^ "Showing Image 42109". nycsubway.org. 
  6. ^ "Showing Image 2485". nycsubway.org. 

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]

Picture of R10 train on LL line during 1979-1984 period. http://nycsubway.org/perl/show?2498