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R33S (New York City Subway car)

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Train of Many Colors 4 8 08 at 40 Lowery.jpg
R33S car 9306, in its original colors, leads the Train of Many Colors through 40 Street–Lowery St on a <7> express run to Mets–Willets Point.
NYC Subway Car (23216122122).jpg
Interior of R33S car 9306
In service1963–2003
ManufacturerSt. Louis Car Company
Built atSt. Louis, Missouri, United States
Entered service1963
Scrapped2001 (9321)
2010 (9339)
2013 (several cars)
Number built40
Number in service(22 in work service)
Number preserved6
Number scrapped10
SuccessorR142 and R142A
FormationSingle unit cars
Fleet numbers9306–9345
Capacity44 (seated)
Operator(s)New York City Subway
Car body constructionLAHT (Low Alloy High Tensile) steel
Car length51.04 feet (15.56 m)
Width8.75 feet (2,667 mm)
Height11.86 feet (3,615 mm)
Doors6 sets of 50 inch wide side doors per car
Weight75,122 lb (34,075 kg)
Traction systemWestinghouse XCA248E with Westinghouse (WH) 1447C
AuxiliariesMotor-generator and battery set (WH YX304E)
Electric system(s)600 V DC Third rail
Current collector(s)Contact shoe
Braking system(s)WABCO, "SMEE" (electrodynamic)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The R33S[1] (also known as R33 World's Fair or R33WF) was a New York City Subway car that was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1963 for the IRT A Division. They were purchased for service on the IRT Flushing Line (7 and <7> trains), which was the closest line to the 1964 New York World's Fair. A total of 40 cars were built, arranged as single cars. While in regular service, each R33S was coupled to five two-car consists of R36 cars to make 11-car trains for the 7 and <7> routes.

The R33S fleet entered service on September 26, 1963, and was originally painted in a light blue turquoise "Bluebird" scheme. The fleet was overhauled in the mid-1980s, during which the cars were painted red, leading to the nickname "Redbirds". The R33S fleet was replaced in the early 2000s with the delivery of the R142 and R142A cars, with the last train of R33S and R36s running on November 3, 2003. After being retired, some R33S cars were preserved, but most were kept for work service; many of the work cars were scrapped in the 2010s.


The R33S cars were numbered 9306–9345. The cars were very similar to the R33 cars, save for differently shaped side windows (three-piece curved windows on the R33S cars as opposed to three-sectioned rectangular windows on the R33 cars), and the fact that the R33S cars were single cars with a cab at both ends. The cars were built as single cars to make 11-car trains with the R36 cars for the 7, which were built as married pairs.[2]

Although the R33S cars were later referred to as Redbirds, the cars were originally painted in a light turquoise blue and white upon delivery. This "Bluebird" paint color scheme was used until the mid-1970s when they were painted in the silver/blue MTA livery. Then, they were painted a full white (roof, bonnets, sides were all painted white) from 1981 to 1982 to combat graffiti; since the white paint was a Teflon-based paint, the graffiti did not stick to it very well. The look was abandoned for the famous Redbird style. The Redbirds were painted between 1984 and 1989 to a deep maroon red body, black front bonnets and anti-climbers, and a silver roof.


The first R33S cars were placed in service on the 7 train on September 26, 1963.[3] The cars were solely assigned to the 7 (IRT Flushing Line) and were based out of Corona Yard.

The cars were rebuilt in-house in 1985 by the Coney Island Shop, except for one car (9306), which was not rebuilt and instead sent to the New York Transit Museum in 1976. However, they were not retrofitted with air conditioning system and instead retained their original Axiflow ceiling fans. For this reason, they were not used during the summer months due to poor air circulation or air flow and high humidity; the 7 train used 10 car trains when the cars were not used.[4]: D.1 

Retirement and after-life service

In 1996, New York City Transit Authority announced their plan to phase out the Redbirds with the R142 and R142A fleets. While the Redbirds on the IRT Main Line were beginning to be retired starting in early 2001, the 7 service was still provided by R33S and R36 cars. In January 2002, a set of R62As arrived from the IRT mainline. As more R142s and R142As were delivered, R62As were gradually transferred from the 3 and 6 to the 7, in turn replacing R33S/R36 trains. The last car remaining R33S, 9309, made its final trip on November 3, 2003, on the 7 service with ten R36 cars, marking the end of the Redbirds and non-stainless steel cars in the subway.

Most R33S cars were converted to work motors in the early 2000s, and handle such tasks as providing traction for B-Division rail adhesion cars and refuse trains. The number "1" was placed before the former number (i.e. car 9345 became 19345) of some cars. The work cars are based out of various yards around the system and handle such tasks as providing traction for A-Division rail adhesion cars and refuse trains, and hauling cars during car moves between different subway yards. The cars that were not converted were 9306 and 9327, which were preserved as heritage cars after their retirement from revenue service, and 9321, which was stripped and sunken as an artificial reef in 2001.

Recently, the remaining R33S cars have been decommissioned as they experience structural or mechanical issues. Car 9339 was retired, stripped, and then sunken as an artificial reef in 2010 after it suffered fire damage that year. A handful of cars were replaced by reassigned R32 cars, stripped of parts to keep other IRT SMEE cars running, and then scrapped in 2013. Four cars were sidelined in 2017, after which they were sent into preservation. Currently, another handful of cars are being replaced by reassigned R42 cars.

Six cars have been preserved:

  • Cars 9306, 9307, 9308, 9310, and 9343 have been preserved by the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. 9306, part of the museum since July 1976, is the only R33S car to not be rebuilt, and thus bears the World's Fair paint scheme and original interior configuration. 9307, 9308, 9310, and 9343 were previously used as work motors based out of Corona Yard, before being retired in 2017. Cars 9307 and 9308 are also painted in the World's Fair scheme, and car 9310 is painted in the "Redbird" scheme; it is unknown what scheme 9343 will be repainted to. All cars except 9343 are fully operational and run periodically on museum-sponsored "Nostalgia Trains", specifically on the Train of Many Colors.
  • Car 9327 is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, painted in the Subway Series livery. The car was temporarily displayed at the New York Transit Museum and was used on a fan trip in May 2005 before being sent to Kennebunkport. It is fully operational, though modified with trolley poles, and makes occasional runs around the museum, often coupled to R22 car 7371.

Fleet details

A detailed list of the 40 R33S cars is below,[5] where bolded numbers indicate a car active in work service:

Car number Year retired or status Notes
9306 Preserved Preserved by the New York Transit Museum. Never refurbished. Painted in World's Fair scheme. Runs periodically on the Train of Many Colors.
9307 Preserved Preserved by the New York Transit Museum. Painted in World's Fair scheme. Runs periodically on the Train of Many Colors.[6][7]
9308 Preserved
9309 Still active Last unit in revenue service.[8]
9310 Preserved Preserved by the New York Transit Museum. Painted in Redbird scheme. Runs periodically on the Train of Many Colors.[6]
9311 Still active
9312 2013 Scrapped
9313 2013
9314 2013
9315 Still active
9316 Still active
9317 2013 Scrapped
9318 2013
9319 Still active
9320 2013 Scrapped[9]
Was renumbered to 19320.
9321 2001 Sunken as an artificial reef; never used as a work car.[10]
9322 Still active
9323 Still active Now numbered 19323.
9324 Still active
9325 Still active Part of the IRT Dyre Avenue Line rail adhesion train.
9326 Still active
9327 Preserved Preserved by Seashore Trolley Museum. Painted in Subway Series livery. Runs periodically. Modified with trolley poles for operation.
9328 2013 Scrapped[11]
Was renumbered to 19328.
9329 Still active
9330 Still active Now numbered 19330.
9331 Still active
9332 Still active
9333 Still active Now numbered 19333.
9334 Still active Now numbered 19334.
9335 Still active Now numbered 19335.
9336 Still active Now numbered 19336.
9337 Still active Now numbered 19337.
9338 2013 Scrapped[12]
Was renumbered to 19338.
9339 2010 Caught fire and sunken as an artificial reef. Was renumbered to 19339.
9340 Still active
9341 Still active
9342 Still active Now numbered 19342.
9343 Preserved Preserved by the New York Transit Museum.
9344 Still active Now numbered 19344.
9345 Still active Now numbered 19345.


  1. ^ "Img_4152". 15 July 2019.
  2. ^ Redbirds
  3. ^ "New York Transit Museum on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-04-30.[user-generated source]
  4. ^ NYC Transit Committee Agenda May 1994. New York City Transit. May 16, 1994.
  5. ^[dead link]
  6. ^ a b "New York Transit Museum on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-04-30.[user-generated source]
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Showing Image 27165".
  9. ^ "NYCT R32 3630, IRT World's Fair R36 9400 and World's Fair R33 Single Unit 9320". 27 October 2013.
  10. ^ "Showing Image 31311".
  11. ^ "Showing Image 140234".
  12. ^ "NYCT IRT R33 WF Single Unit 9338 at Sims Metal scrap yard, Newark". 2 July 2013.