R36 World's Fair (New York City Subway car)

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R36 World's Fair
An R36WF train on the "7" train at 33rd Street.
In service 1963-2001
Manufacturer St. Louis Car Company
Built at St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Constructed 1963–1964
Entered service 1963
Refurbishment 1981–1983, 1984–1986
Scrapped 2002-2003
Number built 390
Number in service (2 in work service)
Number preserved 2
Number scrapped 386 [1]
Formation Married pairs
Fleet numbers 9346–9523, 9558–9769
Capacity 44 (seated)
Operator(s) New York City Subway
Car body construction LAHT (Low Alloy High Tensile) steel
Car length 51.04 feet (15,560 mm)
Width 8.75 feet (2,670 mm)
Height 11.86 feet (3,610 mm)
Doors 6
Weight 69,400 lb (31,500 kg)
72,000 lb (33,000 kg)
(rebuild units)
Traction system Westinghouse XCA248 (cars 9346–9523), General Electric 17KG192 (cars 9558–9769) with Westinghouse (WH) 1447C or, General Electric (GE) 1240A5 DC motors (4/car, 100 hp or 75 kW)
Auxiliaries Motor-generator and battery set (WH YX304E, GE 5GMG 153LI)
Electric system(s) 600 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Contact shoe
Braking system(s) WABCO, "SMEE" (electrodynamic)
Headlight type incandescent light bulbs
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The R36 World's Fair (also known as R36 WF) or formerly known as the blue R36 New York City Subway cars, was a New York City Subway car that was built in 1963 and in 1964 by the St. Louis Car Company in St. Louis, Missouri for the IRT division (also known as the 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. These were the last entirely LAHT bodied (non-stainless) cars built for the New York City Subway.


The R36 World's Fair Cars were numbered 9346–9523 and 9558–9769. 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. The cars were built as married pairs to make 11-car trains with the R33 World's Fair cars, which were built as singles.

Although the R33/36 World's Fair 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.


Early history[edit]

In 1962, the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) ordered 430 cars for the 7 train. This route would run to the World's Fair grounds in Flushing Meadows in Queens. The first 40 cars were singles (R33 World's Fair), with the rest R36 cars. (Single cars were needed since the 7 service runs 11-car trains, and R36's were only pairs.) The cars were painted in a light blue turquoise "Bluebird" scheme (see "Paint Schemes" below) and with large picture windows unlike other IRT cars. Thirty-four R36s were built at the same time for the IRT Main Line, had small drop sash windows and were painted bright red. The first R36 cars (#9558–9561) arrived in fall 1963, shortly after the R33 WFs began arriving in September. The first train of R36 Worlds Fair's was placed in service on the 7 route on October 24, 1963. With the fair opening approaching on April 12, 1964, R36 cars were built and delivered in larger quantities that Fall. More cars arrived throughout 1964, enough to displace the R12s, R14s and R15s from the 7 train by the close of 1964.

Through the 1970s, the R36s were the mainstay of the 7 service. The cars kept their original paint until 1977, when some were repainted in the new "Silver & Blue" scheme. Around 1975–8, the entire subway system was being covered in graffiti. Most cars had their original paint covered up by then or were given a new white "anti-graffiti" covering by 1982. By 1982, all cars had received air conditioning as part of a retrofitting program replacing the original Axiflow ceiling fans.[2]


The R36s were the first cars to be rebuilt in the NYCTA's General Overhaul Program (GOH) in the 1980s. This program improved car life by rebuilding older cars and keeping other cars in a state of good repair. A trial rebuild program was done on selected Westinghouse R36 cars in 1981-83. Beginning in late 1984, the other R36 cars were rebuilt at rate of 200 cars per year, with the majority of them done in-house at the Coney Island Shop. Others were rebuilt by General Electric in Buffalo, New York and by Amtrak at its Beech Grove, Indiana and Wilmington, Delaware shops. The last remaining cars were sent out for rebuild in late 1985, and by 1986, all cars were back in service.

After rebuilding, the 7 service's R36 WF cars were repainted in a red scheme prior to returning to service. At first, the scheme was known as "Silver Fox" or "Gunn Red" or "Broad Street Red" after NYCT chief David L. Gunn and was a graffiti-resistant red. By 1989, the Gunn Red would evolve into the Redbird scheme best known to many New Yorkers, with beige interiors, red exterior paint and interior doors and black and silver exterior trim along the car windows, roof, and undersides. In 1999, the R36 cars were the most reliable in the NYCT fleet, with a Mean Distance Between Failure (MDBF) rate of 194,150 miles, despite being 35 years old at the time. While in decent shape mechanically, rust holes and carbody corrosion were beginning to form in the sides of most of the cars.

From the 1990s until mid-2001, cars #9478–9523 usually ran on the 6 train based at Westchester Yard in the Bronx. Previously, some Westinghouse R36 WFs had been assigned to the 1 and 3 trains in the 1970s.


In 1998, New York City Transit announced that it would phase out its Redbird cars - R26, R28, R29, R33 and R36 - with modern R142 and R142A cars. While the Redbirds on the IRT Main Line were beginning to be retired starting in early 2001, the 7 service was still provided by R33 WFs and R36 WFs. 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 the R36 WFs. There were still many R36WFs on the 7 in 2002, since delivery of the R142s and R142As was slow that year. However, by mid-2003 R33 WF/R36 WF trains were dwindling on the 7 service. Only a few sets were running by fall, until the last train of R36 WFs, consisting of pairs 9564–9565, 9616–9617, 9582–9583, 9584–9585, and 9586–9587 finally ran along the 7 on November 3, 2003 with R33 WF car 9309, marking the retirement of not only the R33 WFs and R36 WFs, but also the end of the Redbird cars and non-stainless steel cars in the subway.

Most of the Redbirds (1,294) were submerged off the coast of Delaware, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia as artificial barrier and diving reefs, by Weeks Marine.

Pairs 9582–9583, 9584–9585, and 9586–9587 were transferred to the Unionport Yard, and the three pairs saw different fates:

  • Pair 9582–9583 were stored due to structural issues and are now awaiting scrapping.
  • Pair 9584–9585 remain active as a part of the rail adhesion train. They operated with a pair of R28s and a pair of R29s until those cars were replaced with four R33WFs.
  • Pair 9586–9587 are preserved by the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. These cars were also stored for many years, until being moved to the Concourse Yard in summer 2013. In September 2013, the pair was moved to 207th Street Yard, restored, and became a part of the New York Transit Museum. The cars were initially displayed at the Transit Museum, and finally participated on their first fan trip on June 8, 2014 on the 7 route, as part of the Train of Many Colors.

In addition to these cars, other cars were also stored around the system. Pair 9400-9401 was stored at the Corona Yard for preservation; however, the cars were never used and were scrapped on October 7, 2013. Pair 9564–9565 was set aside and transferred to Coney Island Yard in December 2004 for conversion of 9564 to a visitor center at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Queens, and the preservation of 9565 in a museum in West Babylon, New York. However, R33 9075 was used at Queens Borough hall instead of 9564, and 9565 never made it to the proposed museum; the cars were subsequently reefed in 2008. Pair 9588–9589 was stored at the Concourse Yard until 2008, when the pair was reefed.

In culture[edit]

Eight WH cars (9356–57, 9360–61, 9394–95, 9412–13) and two GE cars (9712–13), in addition to one R33WF (9327), were wrapped and painted in New York Mets colors on October 24, 2000 prior to Game 3 of the 2000 World Series between the Yankees and Mets.

In addition, the R36WF cars have made cameo roles in various TV shows and movies. Nicolas Cage rides a 7 train of R36WFs in It Could Happen to You (1994). In the 1988 movie Cocktail, Tom Cruise gets off R36WF 9700 at Vernon-Jackson station.

Paint schemes[edit]

The R36 cars have worn many paint schemes since 1964.

  • World's Fair Light Blue "Bluebird" (Turquoise blue) (1964–1982)
  • NYCTA/MTA Silver & Blue (1977–1982 – newly retrofitted air conditioned units only)
  • Plain Teflon based graffiti resistant White (1982–1988)
  • Gunn Red or Broad Street Red, nickname: "Redbirds" (1985–2003)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]