R44 (New York City Subway car)

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An R44 train on the Staten Island Railway (SIR) at Oakwood Heights
Interior of a SIR R44 car
In service1971–2010 (NYCT cars)
1973–present (SIR cars)
ManufacturerSt. Louis Car Company
Built atSt. Louis, Missouri, USA
Entered service
  • December 16, 1971 (NYCT cars (revenue service testing))
  • April 19, 1972 (NYCT cars (official service))
  • February 28, 1973 (SIR cars)
RefurbishedMay 1991 – January 1993, 2007 – 2010 (SIR cars)
Scrapped2012–2013 (NYCT cars & one damaged SIR car)
Number built352
Number in service57 (SIR cars)[1]
Number preserved1
Number scrapped293
284 (283 NYCT cars and 1 damaged SIR car)
10 in storage (4 NYCT cars and 6 SIR cars)[1]
SuccessorR160 (NYCT)
R211S (SIR)
FormationSingle units (SIR), 4 car sets (NYCT)
Fleet numbers5202–5479 (NYC Subway)
388–435, 436–466 (even) (SIRTOA)
(cars originally numbered 100–435, 436–466 (even))
CapacityA car: 72 (seated)
B car: 76 (seated)
OperatorsNew York City Subway
Staten Island Railway
DepotsClifton Yard[2][3]
Service(s) assigned
Car body constructionStainless steel with carbon steel chassis and underbody, with fiberglass end bonnets
Car length74 ft 8.5 in (22.77 m) (over anticlimbers)
Width10 ft (3,048 mm) (over threshold)
Height12.08 ft (3,682 mm)
Platform height3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Doors8 50-inch-wide side doors per car (4 per side)
Maximum speedTest: 87.75 mph (141.22 km/h)
Service: 55 mph (89 km/h)–60 mph (97 km/h)
WeightA train car: 88,950 lb (40,347 kg)
B train car: 84,530 lb (38,342 kg)
Traction systemNYC Subway: Westinghouse E-CAM XCA448F propulsion with Westinghouse 1447F motors 115 hp (85.8 kW) on all axles
Staten Island Railway: General Electric SCM-CAM 17KG192A1 propulsion with GE 1257E1 motors 115 hp (85.8 kW) on all axles
Prime mover(s)electric motor
Acceleration2.5 mph/s (4.0 km/(h⋅s))
Deceleration3.0 mph/s (4.8 km/(h⋅s)) (Full Service)
3.2 mph/s (5.1 km/(h⋅s)) (Emergency)
Electric system(s)Third rail600 V DC
Current collector(s)Contact shoe
Braking system(s)NYC Subway: Westcode (dynamic and friction), WABCO tread brake unit
Staten Island Railway: WABCO RT5C (dynamic and friction), WABCO tread brake unit
Safety system(s)ATO, dead man's switch, pulse code cab signaling, tripcock
Headlight typehalogen light bulbs
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The R44 is a New York City Subway car model built by the St. Louis Car Company from 1971 to 1973 for the B Division and the Staten Island Railway (SIR). The cars replaced many R1-R9 series cars, and all remaining 1925 Standard Steel built SIRTOA ME-1 trains, providing Staten Island with a new fleet of railcars. The R44 fleet originally consisted of 352 cars, of which 57 remain in service, all on the Staten Island Railway.

The first R44 cars entered service on the subway on April 19, 1972, and on the Staten Island Railway on February 28, 1973. Various modifications were made over the years to the R44 fleet. The R44s set the world speed record for a subway car in 1972, reaching a top speed of 87.75 mph (141.22 km/h). In the early 1990s, the R44 cars were rebuilt by Morrison–Knudsen for the New York City Transit Authority. Though the R160 order replaced all New York City Subway-operated R44s from December 18, 2009[4] to September 16, 2010 because of structural integrity issues found on them, the Staten Island Railway fleet remains in operation and is to be replaced by the R211 order by 2024–2025. As of 2024, the R44s are the oldest active rolling stock within the NYCT system, following the retirement of the R32s.


A total of 352 R44 cars were ordered; 300 cars for the New York City Subway (numbered 100–399, with 278 of the cars later renumbered 5202–5479) and 52 cars for the Staten Island Railway (also known as ME-2, MU-2, or MUE-2 cars, numbered 400–435 and even numbers between 436 and 466).[5][6] They were the last subway cars built by the St. Louis Car Company prior to shutting down in 1974.

The R44s originally came in singles, but needed each other to run, much like the "married pairs" of subway cars before them (R26 to R42, except R33S). The NYCT cars were reassembled after overhaul into ABBA sets of four; A cars are evenly numbered with a full-width operator cabs at the number 1 end, while the B cars have odd numbers and no cabs at either end. The SIR cars were not reassembled after overhaul and remain as single units.

The R44s were also factory equipped with automatic train operation (ATO) equipment, in anticipation of their use on the new Second Avenue Subway Line that was being built at the time.

Since September 16, 2010, all NYCT R44 cars have been retired and replaced by the R160s due to structural integrity issues found on those cars, leaving the SIR as the sole operator of the R44. Currently, 57 SIR R44 cars remain in service and are maintained at Clifton Yard, with heavier maintenance being performed at Coney Island Yard.


The R44 was the first 75-foot (23 m) car for the New York City Subway. The cars were introduced under the idea that a train of eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars would be more efficient than one of ten 60-foot (18.29 m) cars. Despite the increase in length, the R44s had eight pairs of doors per car (four on each side) like previous B Division cars. As a result, eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars have only 64 (32 per side) pairs, whereas ten cars have 80 (40 per side). The reduced number of doors on a train of eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars increased boarding and dwell times, so recent car orders have returned to ten 60-foot (18.29 m) cars, starting with the R143.

The interior design was very different from previous models. The R44s had orange and yellow plastic bucket seats—a feature that would be incorporated into the other 75-foot (22.86 m) B-division cars and the A-division R62s and R62As. The seats were protected from the doorways by faux wood and glass panels. They were also the first car class delivered with crosswise seating since the R16 order from 1954. The walls were tan with "wallpaper" featuring the seals of New York State and New York City made from graffiti-resistant Formica plastics. The new interior decor was carried over to the R46 fleet.

The R44 was the first car since the BMT Green Hornet to incorporate a two-note warning tone, the first two notes of Westminster Quarters, that sounds before the doors begin to close as the train prepares to leave the station. When the cars were built, the chime was sounded four seconds before the doors closed, but the time delay was later removed.[7] This has become the signature sound of the subway and is used with all subsequent cars.[8]

The R44s were also the first NYCT subway cars to feature a newly designed WABCO-RT5 electronically and pneumatically controlled braking system also known as the P-Wire system, which did not fare well with this fleet of cars (similar systems also plagued the R46s), since most of the shop personnel were not adequately trained to deal with the P-Wire braking system's sophisticated fail/safe design for automatic train operation. The system would sometimes trigger the train's emergency braking system unexpectedly, which caused a situation known as stuck brakes.

This P-Wire system, along with all of the automation systems (ATO) installed when these cars were built in 1972, was removed from the R44s beginning in 1984, and was replaced by a more conventional Westcode SMEE type braking system which made these cars much more reliable than with the originally installed system. The SIR cars had the same system, but fared much better than the NYCT cars.

The rollsigns from eight R44s were removed and replaced by experimental flip-dot signs starting in 1988, the same year the New Technology Program began. These experimental flip-dots signs were replaced by electronic LCD signs on the sides and rollsigns on the front during the General Overhaul Program from 1991 to 1993.

The R44s set the world speed record for a subway car. On January 31, 1972, a consist reached a speed of 87.75 mph (141.22 km/h) on the Long Island Rail Road's main line between Woodside and Jamaica. With two motors per car disabled, the cars still reached 77 mph (124 km/h). The cars were capable of attaining even higher speeds, but the length of the test track was insufficient to allow further acceleration.[9][10] The R44s were built to reach such high speeds because it was anticipated that the cars would run along the Second Avenue Subway, which never opened while the cars were in subway service.



To ensure the subway could accommodate 75-foot (22.86 m) cars, three retired R1 cars (numbered 165, 192, and 211;[11] renumbered XC675, XC575, and XC775 respectively) were repurposed and sent to various places around the subway and the Staten Island Railway. Cars XC675 and XC575 were cut in half and lengthened to 75 feet (22.86 m).[12]

It was determined that particular segments on the BMT Eastern Division (the J/Z, L, and M) would be too difficult to convert to allow 75-foot (22.86 m) cars to operate safely, so the R44s were not delivered to those lines.

Delivery and early mishaps[edit]

An SIR R44 train on the Staten Island Railway, prior to the GOH program

After many months of exhaustive testing on the A, D, E, and F (one week on each service, starting December 16, 1971), as well as on the LIRR to test the cars' state-of-the-art electrical and mechanical systems, the first set of R44s was placed in service on the New York City Subway on the F on April 19, 1972, following a brief introductory ceremony attended by the Mayor of New York City John V. Lindsay, along with MTA Chairman William J. Ronan at Jamaica–179th Street station. The Staten Island R44s were delivered between January and April 1973.[9] The first six Staten Island R44s went into service on February 28, 1973.[10][13] With the completion of the R44 order and the similar State of the Art Car, the St. Louis Car Company shut down operations.

An eight-car train (328–335) was tested in 1973 with carpeting, and another (380–387) was tested with hydraulic brakes that were incompatible with the rest of the R44s' braking systems.[14] In 1979, seven of the eight cars had these systems removed and replaced with conventional air brakes, while the last car (car 385) was permanently removed from service.[9]

GE cars 388–399 were not converted to Westcode SMEE braking system in 1984, and were eventually sent to the Staten Island Railway in 1985 to provide SIRTOA with some extra cars since ridership increased significantly in 1985, so their existing 52-car fleet would not be overly taxed. These 12 R44 cars were built identical to the SIRTOA's specification with GE propulsion instead of Westinghouse. [citation needed]

In 1983, organizations for the blind stated that the gaps in between R44 and R46 cars were dangerous, since the blind could mistake the spaces for doorways.[15]

Nine NYCT R44s were involved in various listed incidents that led to their premature retirements before the General Overhaul Program (GOH) program for the R44s commenced. These cars, along with car 385, were not overhauled during the GOH program; they were instead stored on the system and stripped of parts until March 2001, when they were shipped off property and scrapped.[16][17]

General Overhaul Program and post-overhaul[edit]

An overhauled NYCT R44 train on the A approaching Broad Channel
The LCD side signage on the overhauled NYCT R44 on display at the NYTM. This replaces the original rollsign-based side destination signs on the cars prior to the cars' overhauls

During the General Overhaul Program, from 1991 to 1993, 342 R44s were rebuilt by the NYCT either at the 207th Street Yard in Manhattan or the Coney Island Complex in Brooklyn (cars 5342–5479 and all SIR cars) and by Morrison–Knudsen off NYCT premises (cars 5202–5341).[18] Some improvements included the repainting of the carbon steel blue stripes into silver gray stripes (most NYCT cars) or the replacement of the stripes with stainless steel panels (NYCT cars 5228–5229 and all SIR cars). The rollsigns on the sides were replaced with electronic LCD signs on the NYCT cars and were completely removed on the SIR cars. The SIR R44s, however, retained their original two-note warning tones from their entry into service, unlike their NYCT counterparts, which had their warning tones replaced with the same ones that are found on the R46s, R62s, R62As, R68s, and R68As.

Even after the GOH program, several NYCT R44s were retired due to various mishaps. Cars 5319 and 5402 were damaged in separate fire-related incidents. Cars 5282–5285 were involved in a derailment north of 135th Street, resulting in the whole set being placed out of service.[19] Car 5248 was taken out of service in 2004 due to cracked truck bolsters. Cars 5282 and 5319 were completely destroyed and subsequently scrapped in the late 1990s,[20] car 5284 was eventually repaired and returned to service, and the other damaged cars were stored out of service for parts until they were scrapped with the rest of the NYCT cars.

All SIR cars were overhauled for a second time between 2007 and 2010 as a part of scheduled maintenance program. Several improvements included the repainting of the bulkheads, rebuilt trucks, new dark floors, newly repainted periwinkle bucket seats, and updated logos; unlike the NYCT cars, the SIR cars retained their original blue "M" MTA decals during their first overhaul.[9] The cars have been undergoing further intermittent rounds of scheduled maintenance as their parts age over time.


NYCT cars[edit]

NYCT R44 car 5240 (originally 172) on display at the New York Transit Museum

The NYCT R44s were originally planned to be retired by the R179 order.[21] However, in late 2009, New York City Transit found various structural integrity issues on their fleet of R44s, which resulted in the decision to retire them with the remainder of the R160 order in place of the remaining R32s and R42s, which were being replaced with the R160 order at the time. The NYCT R44s were gradually phased out from December 18, 2009[4] until September 16, 2010, when the last train made its final trips on the A and C. After retirement, the NYCT R44s were mothballed and placed into storage system-wide.[22]

From May 2012 until summer 2013, most of the NYCT R44s were scrapped at Sims Metal Management.[23][24] Four cars, 5286–5289, were not scrapped and remain stored at Coney Island Yard.[25] The only car not slated for disposal is car 5240 (originally 172), which has since been preserved and set aside for on-and-off display at the New York Transit Museum.

Staten Island Railway cars[edit]

Like the NYCT cars, the SIR R44s were originally planned to be retired by the R179 order; however, these plans were dropped. Proposals to overhaul and operate some R46s on the SIR to replace the R44s there surfaced instead; however, this plan was also dropped. 75 R211S cars have been ordered to replace the SIR R44s in 2024–2025.[26][27][28] In the meantime, the SIR R44s are receiving intermittent rounds of scheduled maintenance to extend their usefulness until retirement.[21][29]

Out of the 64 SIR cars, 57 remain in service.[1] On December 26, 2008, car 402 was pulled from service after being badly damaged from accidentally hitting a bumper block at the Tottenville station.[30] It was stored at 207th Street Yard and stripped of parts for the other 63 SIR cars; by 2013, it was scrapped.[31] In May 2013, car 399 was taken out of service after being damaged in a sideswipe.[32] It has been stored at Coney Island Yard since at least September 2013 and has since been stripped of parts.[33] Car 466 was taken out of service in 2015. It is stored nearby Clifton Yard and has also since been stripped of parts.[34]

As of January 2024, the remaining R44s are the oldest active rolling stock within the NYCT system at 52 years old, following the retirement of the R32s.


  1. ^ a b c "Instagram".
  2. ^ "Car/Yard Assignments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 5, 2019.
  3. ^
    • 'Subdivision 'A' Car Assignment Effective December 19, 2021'. New York City Transit, Operations Planning. December 17, 2021.
    • 'Subdivision 'B' Car Assignment Effective December 19, 2021'. New York City Transit, Operations Planning. December 17, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Chiasson, George (March 2010). "New York City Subway Car Update" (PDF). The Bulletin. 53 (3). Electric Railroaders' Association: 7. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  5. ^ New York: R-44s set a fast pace Railway Age March 6, 1972 pages 49/50
  6. ^ "New York's R-44 cars enter service". Railway Gazette International. July 1972. p. 275.
  7. ^ Davis, Ed Sr. (June 1985). "Chapter 10, The Space Age on Rails". They Moved the Millions. Livingston Enterprises. Section A: A New Breed; the R44. ISBN 978-9996650697. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  8. ^ "Audible Information Design in the New York City Subway System: A Case Study" (PDF). Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d "R-44 (St. Louis, 1971-1973)". www.nycsubway.org. 1995–2012. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "New York City Transit Facts & Figures: 1979" (PDF). La Guardia and Wagner Archives. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit Authority. 1979. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  11. ^ Oszustowicz, Eric; et al. (March 2006). "A History of the R-1 to R-9 Passenger Car Fleet" (PDF). The Bulletin. Vol. 49, no. 3. New York Division, Electric Railroaders’ Association. p. 37. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  12. ^ Car XC675 (ex-165): Car XC575 (ex-192): Car XC775 (ex-192):
  13. ^ 1968-1973, the ten-year program at the halfway mark. New York. 1973. hdl:2027/mdp.39015023095485.
  14. ^ Prial, Frank J. (March 12, 1973). "Carpeting Is Popular On the IND". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 25, 2016 – via New York Times Archive.
  15. ^ May, Clifford D. (January 6, 1983). "Subway Cars Held Perilous for the Blind". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  16. ^ spicker613 (March 19, 2001). Original Kodachrome Slide NYC Subway R-44 120/109 207 Yard Scrap March 19, 2001. Flickr (Photograph). Retrieved April 8, 2015.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ spicker613 (March 19, 2001). Original Kodachrome Slide NYC Subway R-44 248, R-62 1439 Barge March 19, 2001. Flickr (Photograph). Retrieved April 8, 2015.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Equipment Railway Age January 1990 page 8
  19. ^ Barron, James (July 5, 1997). "Investigators Seek Clues to Explain Subway Train Derailment". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  20. ^ Train Crash (Photograph). May 2018. Archived from the original on December 18, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  21. ^ a b "MTA Capital Program 2008–2013" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. February 2008. p. 28. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  22. ^ Dooley, John (August 26, 2011). R-44 Car 5286 Pending Scrap. www.nycsubway.org (Photograph). Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  23. ^ Noel, Nicholas (January 28, 2013). R-44 Car 5332 on Tractor Trailer. www.nycsubway.org (Photograph). Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  24. ^ "R-44 (St. Louis, 1971-1973): Detailed Roster (Renumbering/Disposition)". www.nycsubway.org. 1995–2012. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  25. ^ "Google Maps".
  26. ^ "R34211 Notice-of-Addendum: Addendum #3" (PDF). mta.info. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. August 11, 2016. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  27. ^ "MTA Capital Program Milestones – March 31, 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 8, 2018. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  28. ^ "MTA 2017 Final Proposed Budget November Financial Plan 2017 – 2020 Volume 2 November 2016" (PDF). mta.info. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. November 16, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  29. ^ "R44 SMS". Flickr – Photo Sharing!. October 13, 2015.
  30. ^ "Train derailment at Staten Island Railway station cost city MTA more than a half-million dollars". April 30, 2009.
  31. ^ Dooley, John (November 29, 2011). R-44 at 207th Street Yard. www.nycsubway.org (Photograph). Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  32. ^ Bulletin 2013 erausa.org
  33. ^ "Google Maps".
  34. ^ "Car/Yard Assignments" (PDF). December 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.

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]