R32 (New York City Subway car)

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R32 (New York City Subway car)
MTA NYC Subway J train leaving Lorimer St..JPG
An R32 train on the NYCS-bull-trans-J.svg at Lorimer Street.
Interior of an R32 by David Shankbone.JPG
Interior of an R32 car on the NYCS-bull-trans-C.svg.
In service 1964-Present
Manufacturer Budd Company
Built at Philadelphia
Replaced BMT Standard, BMT D Triplex
Constructed 1964–1965
Entered service September 14, 1964
Refurbishment 1988–1990
Scrapped 2008–
Number built 600
Number in service 222 (162 in revenue service during rush hours/+10 in work service)
Number preserved 4 (+4 used for training)
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 and East New York Yard[1]
Service(s) assigned NYCS-bull-trans-A.svg – 10 cars (PM rush)
NYCS-bull-trans-C.svg – 64 cars
NYCS-bull-trans-J.svg NYCS-bull-trans-Z.svg – 96 cars
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
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 using 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)
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) emergency brakes
Coupling system Westinghouse H2C
Headlight type halogen light bulb
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The R32 is a New York City Subway car model built in 1964–65 by the Budd Company in Philadelphia for the IND/BMT B Division. These cars were the first mass-produced stainless steel cars built for the New York City Subway. The two previous Budd orders, the BMT Zephyr and the R11 contract, were limited production orders. Their horizontally ribbed, shiny, and unpainted stainless exteriors earned the cars the nickname Brightliners.

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 all older cars.


The designation R32 is derived from the contract number under which the cars were purchased. 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), and eventually on the West End Line (T and TT trains).



The R32 contract was divided into two subcontracts of 300 cars each: the R32s and R32As. The R32As were funded through the proceeds of a revenue bond while the R32s were paid for out of the 1963–64 New York City capital budget. The two subcontracts differed only in interior lighting (R32 Interior Lighting:,[2] R32A Interior Lighting featuring backlit ad-signs[3]).

In 1963, the New York City Transit Authority contracted with Budd for 600 IND/BMT cars (300 pairs) to replace older equipment, including the BMT D-type Triplex articulated cars and some of the BMT Standards. 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.

Budd won the contract by offering the lowest bid of $117,000 per car. 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. 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.

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. 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.

The last four cars (3946–3949) were delivered with Pioneer trucks and disc brakes in 1966. These trucks were replaced with standard trucks in 1976.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Overhaul and renumberings[edit]

In 1974, cars 3700-3709 were sent to Garrett AiResearch's facilities in Los Angeles, California to have test out Flywheel energy storage system equipment. The even-numbered cars received energy conservation machinery with batteries and amber-type digital readout indicating the amount of energy used by the equipment, while the odd-numbered cars remained untouched. 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.

Car 3659 (since scrapped) 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, 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. After rebuilding, they received Luminator flipdot signs that displayed the service letter only, since the air conditioning evaporators mounted on the interior car ends made it rather difficult to change the front route and destination signs. During the rebuilding process, the route and destination mylar rollsigns located above the storm doors were removed and replaced with flipdot electronic route signs. The distinctive marker lights were also removed.

After refurbishment, the R32 and R32A cars were renamed R32 Phase I, R32 Phase II, and R32 GE, with the former 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) have NY Air Brake equipment, Westinghouse Master Controllers, and Stone Safety HVAC units. 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. The ten R32 GEs are slightly different from the Phase I and II cars as they were rebuilt to R38 specifications (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).[10][11]

Initial plans for retirement and preservation[edit]

The R160s replaced most of the R32s in the late 2000s. They were intended to replace the entire fleet, but this was halted due to structural issues found on the R44s that led to those cars' retirement. 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.[12] After retirement, most cars were stripped and sunk as artificial reefs.[13] 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.[14]

The remaining cars are maintained at the 207th Street Yard and East New York Yards, running on the C, J, and Z, with one set assigned to the A. Ten cars are maintained at the 36th-38th Street Yard and used for work service. Cars 3352–3353 are preserved by the New York Transit Museum.[15] These cars were the lead set on the R32s' premiere trip on September 9, 1964. Cars 3350–3351 have also been set aside for preservation by the Railway Preservation Corp. Meanwhile, GE-rebuilt cars 3594–3595 were moved to Floyd Bennett Field for anti-terrorism training, and cars 3786-3787 are being used as training cars at the Coney Island Yard.

Prolonged service[edit]

The remaining cars have undergone SMS (Scheduled Maintenance Service) or a Life Extension Program, at a cost of $25 million, to extend their useful lives through at least 2017.[16][17][18] They were expected to be fully replaced by the R179 fleet beginning in 2016;[19][20] however, as of July 2015, the MTA plans to keep an unspecified number of cars in service until at least 2022 due to more delays in the delivery of the R179 replacement cars, along with a previously unanticipated fleet expansion necessitated by the renovation of the 14th Street Tunnel.[21]

At 51 years (the longest for an R-type car), the R32s are the oldest cars in regular passenger service on the New York City Subway, well past the specified service life of 35 years, as well as some of the oldest rolling stock of any metro system anywhere in the world.[16] 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.[16] 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. Five other car types built after them have been mostly or completely retired.[16]

All of the Straphangers Campaign surveys since 2010 have found that the R32s have the lowest Mean Distance Between Failures figures, as the overhauls they received during the 1988–89 period were all worn out after 26–27 years.[22] 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 said that "time has taken a toll" on the cars.[16] In July 2015, several criticized the high rate of repairs that the R32 cars required due to mechanical breakdowns, and worn-out air conditioning systems.[23][24] Because of the R32s' unreliable air conditioning in summer months, they are transferred to services with mostly outdoor or elevated portions, namely the A, J, and Z services.[25]

In popular culture[edit]

The cars in the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV are based on both R32 and R38 fleets. All cars in the game are heavily vandalized with graffiti.

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 manufacture. 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.[26]


  1. ^ New York Subway Barn Assignments. December 2014
  2. ^ "Showing Image 4982". Nycsubway.org. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  3. ^ "Showing Image 4981". Nycsubway.org. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  4. ^ "Showing Image 45677". nycsubway.org. 
  5. ^ "Showing Image 45220". nycsubway.org. 
  6. ^ "Showing Image 4972". nycsubway.org. 
  7. ^ "Showing Image 4970". nycsubway.org. 
  8. ^ "Showing Image 45192". nycsubway.org. 
  9. ^ "Showing Image 45677". nycsubway.org. 
  10. ^ "Showing Image 2352". nycsubway.org. 
  11. ^ "Showing Image 38065". nycsubway.org. 
  12. ^ https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1l6kZ05gU-4fMhf5rc9GX5igW6d97vq9_nn0WSJkNTxM/pub?single=true&gid=4&output=html
  13. ^ Chalasani, Radhika (17 September 2015). "Watery grave for NYC subway cars". CBS News. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Showing Image 140231". nycsubway.org. 
  15. ^ "Showing Image 88797". Nycsubway.org. 2009-08-16. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Grynbaum, Michael M. (26 August 2011). "For Often-Late Cars of Subway’s C Train, Retirement Must Wait". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  17. ^ Page 11 of Document, Page 17 on the PDF reader
  18. ^ "Press Release — NYC Transit — Oldest MTA New York City Transit Subway Cars Getting Their Final Makeover". MTA. 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  19. ^ "Governor Cuomo Announces $600 Million MTA Investment in Upstate Manufacturing | Governor Andrew M. Cuomo". Governor.ny.gov. 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  20. ^ http://mta.info/mta/news/books/docs/r_179_staff_summary_March_2012.pdf
  21. ^ http://web.mta.info/mta/budget/july2015/MTA_2016_Prelim_Budget_Financial_Plan2016-2019_Vol2.pdf
  22. ^ "C Line profile" (PDF). Straphangers Campaign. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Stevens, Harry (2015-07-07). "Summer in the city brings dreaded hot subway cars". The New York World. Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  24. ^ "How And Where To Spot the Sweltering NYC Subway Cars". WNYC. 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  25. ^ Mosley, Walter; James, Phyllis (2015-10-12). "Mosley and James: On the platform, waiting for a C". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  26. ^ Lumenick, Lou (October 18, 2015). "Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies’ has a surprise star — NYC subways". New York Post. Retrieved October 19, 2015. 

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]