R42 (New York City Subway car)

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R42 (New York City Subway car)
NYC Broad Street J train.jpg
An R42 train on the NYCS-bull-trans-J.svg at Broad Street.
R42 interior.JPG
Interior of an R42 car.
In service 1969-present
Manufacturer St. Louis Car Company
Built at St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Replaced All remaining BMT Standards, and many R1s
Constructed 1969–1970
Refurbishment 1988–1989
Scrapped Most cars scrapped 2008-2010, rest of fleet TBD
Number built 400 (most retired)
Number in service 50
Number preserved 5
Number scrapped 345
Formation Married Pairs
Fleet numbers 4550–4949
Capacity 44 (seated)
Operator(s) New York City Subway
Depot(s) East New York Yard[1]
Service(s) assigned NYCS-bull-trans-J.svg NYCS-bull-trans-Z.svg – 40 cars
Car body construction Stainless Steel with Carbon Steel chassis, roof and underbody, Fiberglass A-end bonnet and B-end top bonnet
Train length 2 car train: 120.4 feet (36.7 m)
4 car train: 240.8 feet (73.4 m)
6 car train: 361.2 feet (110.1 m)
8 car train: 481.6 feet (146.8 m)
10 car train: 602 feet (183 m)
Car length 60 ft (18.29 m)
Width 10 ft (3,048 mm)
Height 12.08 ft (3,682 mm)
Platform height 3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Doors 8
Maximum speed 55 mph (89 km/h)
Weight 74,388.5 lb (33,742 kg)
Traction system General Electric (GE) SCM propulsion system using Westinghouse 1447J motors
115 hp (85.8 kW) on all axles
Electric system(s) 600 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Contact shoe
Braking system(s) CI Rebuilds: New York Air Brake SMEE/ Newtran (dynamic and friction), A.S.F. simplex unit cylinder clasp (tread) brake
MK Rebuilds: WABCO "SMEE" Braking System, A.S.F. simplex unit cylinder clasp (tread) brake
Coupling system Westinghouse H2C
Headlight type halogen light bulbs
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The R42 is a New York City Subway car model built between 1969 and 1970 by the St. Louis Car Company in St. Louis, Missouri, serving the B Division (IND/BMT). This fleet was the first to be fully equipped with Stone Safety 10 ton air conditioning systems/units similarly found on the last ten R38 and R40A cars. It was the last 60-foot (18.29 m) B Division car built for the New York City Subway until the R143 in 2001, and the last car model class to be built in married pairs. The R42s are numbered 4550–4949.


On May 9, 1969, cars 4554-4555 entered service on the N as part of a mixed consist with straight-ended R40As. Although, there were some slight cosmetic differences, the straight-ended R40As and R42s were for all practical purposes the same car type. By January 5, 1970, all cars were in service.[2]

The R42s were the first cars to use solid state converters in place of the motor-generators as standard equipment.


Maintenance and Overhauls[edit]

In 1974, cars 4650-4659 and 4760-4769 were sent to Garrett AiResearch's facilities in Los Angeles, California to test out Flywheel Energy Storage System equipment.[3] The even-numbered cars received energy conservation machinery with batteries and amber-type digital readouts 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.

In 1977, pantograph gates, salvaged from retired R1 through R9 cars, were modified and then installed on the front ends of the R42 and R40A straight-ended cars, and baloney coiled spring type inter car safety barriers were installed on the blind ends of the married pairs (the straight-ended R40As came factory equipped with the baloney coiled spring type inter car safety barriers on their blind ends, and so did not need such installations).

Between 1988 and 1989, the R42s underwent overhaul as a result of deferred maintenance in the New York City Subway during the 1970s and the 1980s. 282 cars (4550–4839) were overhauled by Morrison-Knudsen while the last 110 cars (4840–4949) were rebuilt in-house by the Coney Island Overhaul Shop in Brooklyn. The one minor difference in appearance between the two overhauls was that many cars of the Coney Island version featured the original blue door indicator lights at the ends of the cars, whereas these lights were removed from the Morrison-Knudsen rebuilds.


Cars 4680-4681, 4714-4715, and 4766-4767 were scrapped in 1988 due to various accidents in the 1980s. On June 6, 1995, cars 4664-4665 were involved in a collision on the Williamsburg Bridge. Car 4664 was scrapped in 2000 (along with cars 4685 and 4726, which were not involved in the accident), while 4665 was mated with straight-ended R40A car 4460, which lost its mate in the same accident.

On November 6, 2007, an M train of R42s was involved in an accident when the motorman attempted to relay it south of the Chambers Street station. As the R42 fleet was being retired at the time, the entire consist[4] was hauled to the 207th Street Yard for reefing instead of being repaired even though only the first two cars suffered major damage.[5][6]


Initial plans for retirement and preservation[edit]

The R160s replaced most of the R42 fleet from 2007 to 2009. They were intended to replace the entire fleet, but this has been halted due to structural issues found on the R44s that led to a premature retirement of that fleet. The NYCTA-rebuilt R42s were retired and reefed first, from late 2007 to mid-2008. Subsequently, most of the Morrison-Knudsen-rebuilt cars followed starting in late 2008 until December 2009, when it was decided to retire the NYCT R44s instead.[7] All but 50 cars were retired, and most were stripped and sunk as artificial reefs. However, after the reefing program ended in April 2010, retired R42s have been trucked to Sims Metal Management's Newark facility to be scrapped and processed, an action that occurred between July 2013 and October 2013 and is expected to occur with the remaining in-service cars when they retire.[8]

After retirement, some R42 cars were saved for various purposes throughout the New York City Subway system, including:

  • 4572-4573 - preserved, repainted, and set aside for the New York Transit Museum. This set was used in the famous chase scene in the film The French Connection. The cars have been used on several recent NYCTM fan trips, including the BMT 100th Anniversary special, specifically as a part of the Train of Many Metals. [9]
  • 4665 - preserved by the Railway Preservation Corp with its straight-ended R40A mate 4460. The pair is stored at Coney Island Yard and has seen some light cosmetic work.
  • 4736-4737 - donated to East New York's Transit Tech High School[10] on April 14, 2009, replacing R30 car 8337, which was reefed a few months later.[11]

Prolonged service[edit]

The 50 cars still in service, 4788-4817 and 4820-4839, are assigned to East New York Yard, operating on the J and Z. These cars were expected to be replaced by the R179 order starting at least in 2016. However, as of July 2015, no retirement date has been set due to numerous delays in the delivery of their R179 replacement cars, along with a previously unanticipated fleet expansion caused by increased ridership and the rebuilding of the 14th Street Tunnel.

In January 2016, four cars (pairs 4824-4825 and 4830-4831) were sent for overhauls for their Scheduled Maintenance Service (SMS) to extend their useful lives. When the cars returned to service in March 2016, other R42 cars were sent to either the 207th Street Overhaul Shops or the Coney Island Overhaul Shops for the SMS program.[12][13] This process will continue until all R42s have been sent out for SMS and returned to service.


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]