R44 (New York City Subway car)

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MTA Staten Island Railway local train at Oakwood Heights.jpg
An R44 train on the Staten Island Railway at Oakwood Heights
MTA Staten Island Railway St. Louis Car R44 389 interior.jpg
Interior of a Staten Island Railway-operated (SIR) R44 car after recent refurbishment, with periwinkle seats that replaced the original colored ones.
In service1971–2010 (NYCTA-operated cars)
1973-present (SIR-operated cars)
ManufacturerSt. Louis Car Company
Built atSt. Louis, Missouri, USA
RefurbishmentJuly 1991 – January 1993
Scrapped2012-2013 (NYCTA-operated cars & one damaged SIR-operated car)
Number built352
Number in service62 (SIR-operated cars)
Number preserved1
Number scrapped289
283 NYCTA-operated cars
1 damaged SIR-operated car
5 in storage
FormationSingle units (SIR), 4 car sets (NYCTA)
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)
Operator(s)New York City Subway
Staten Island Railway
Depot(s)SIRT (62 cars)[1]
Service(s) assignedStaten Island Railway – 62 cars[2]
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 sets of 50 inch wide side doors per car
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)600 V DC Third rail
Current collection methodContact 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)dead man's switch, 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 IND/BMT B Division and the Staten Island Railway. 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.


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 436–466).[3]

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 R33WFs). The NYCTA-operated 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-operated cars were never reassembled after overhaul and remain set up as singles. These cars were also factory equipped with ATO or automatic train operation equipment in the event they were used on the new Second Avenue Subway Line that was being built at the time.

Since September 16, 2010, all NYCTA-operated cars have been retired and replaced by the R160s due to structural integrity issues found on those cars. This leaves the SIR as the sole operator of the R44, which will continue to operate them until at least 2022–2024, when they will be replaced by the R211s.


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 other 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 cars increased boarding and dwelling 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 which would be incorporated into the other 75-foot B-division cars and the A-division R62s and R62As. The seats were protected from the doorways by faux wood and glass panels. The walls were tan with "wallpaper" featuring the seals of New York State and New York City made from graffiti resistant Formica plastics, instead of the walls being painted as previously. These new interior decors were also carried over to the next R46 fleet as well.

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.[4] This has become the signature sound of the subway and is used with all subsequent cars.[5]

The R44s were also the first NYCTA 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 deficiencies for automatic train operation, which acted-up unexpectedly causing the trains emergency braking system to be applied, causing 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 their original system. The SIR-operated cars had the same system, but fared much better than the NYCTA-operated cars.

The roll signs 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 side and rollsigns on the front during the General Overhaul Program between 1991 and 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 car 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.[6][7] 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 service.



To ensure the subway could accommodate 75-foot (22.86 m) cars, two retired R1 cars (numbered 165 and 192; renumbered XC675 and XC575 respectively) were cut in half, lengthened to 75 feet (22.86 m) and sent to various places around the subway and the Staten Island Railway.[8]

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]

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 sets of R46s was placed in service on the New York City Subway on the F in 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 the Jamaica – 179th Street station. The Staten Island R44s were delivered between January and April 1973.[6] The first six Staten Island R44s went into service on February 28, 1973.[7][9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Cars 388–399 were eventually sent to the Staten Island Railway.

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.[12]

Nine NYCTA-operated 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.[13][14]

General Overhaul Program and post-overhaul[edit]

During the General Overhaul Program, from 1991 to 1993, 342 R44s were rebuilt by the NYCTA 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 NYCTA premises (cars 5202-5341). Some improvements included the repainting of the carbon steel blue stripes into silver gray stripes (most NYCTA-operated cars) or the replacement of the stripes with stainless steel panels (NYCTA-operated cars 5228-5229 and all SIR cars). The rollsigns on the sides were replaced with electronic LCD signs on the NYCTA-operated cars and were completely removed on the SIR cars. The SIR-operated R44s, however, retained their original two-note warning tones from their entry into service, unlike their NYCTA-operated counterparts, which had their warning tones replaced with the same ones that are found on the R62s, R62As, R68s and R68As.

Even after the GOH program, several NYCTA-operated R44s were retired due to various mishaps. Cars 5319 and 5402 were retired after 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;[15] however, 5284 was later repaired using parts from other cars and returned to service. Car 5248 was taken out of service in 2004 due to cracked truck bolsters. While 5282 and 5319 were completely destroyed and subsequently scrapped in the late 1990s,[16] the other cars were stored out of service for parts until they were scrapped in 2013 with the rest of the NYCTA-operated cars.

All SIR-operated 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, new periwinkle bucket seats, and updated logos; unlike the NYCTA-operated cars, the SIR-operated cars retained their original blue "M" MTA decals during their first overhaul.[6] The SIR-operated cars have been undergoing further intermittent rounds of scheduled maintenance as their parts age over time.


The MTA was planning to replace all of the R44s with R179s.[17] However, due to several structural integrity issues found on the NYCTA-operated R44s from higher mileage, levels of wear and tear, and levels of vandalism than those on the SIR-operated cars, surveys were conducted in 2009 on eight cars which resulted in the decision to retire them in place of the remaining R32s and R42s that were retiring at the time. As a result, the option order of R160 cars ended up replacing the NYCTA-operated R44s. The first cars - the eight cars that failed the structural integrity tests - were retired in December 2009, and the last train (cars 5378-5381 and 5426-5429) made its final trip on September 16, 2010 on the A and C. After retirement, all NYCTA-operated cars (excluding cars lost in accidents) were mothballed and placed into storage system-wide.[18] Finally, from May 2012 until summer 2013, almost all remaining NYCTA-operated R44s were scrapped at Sims Metal Management.[19][20] The only car saved from scrapping was 5240 (originally 172), which is now preserved and on display at the New York Transit Museum.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority later dropped the plan to order R179s for the Staten Island Railway, instead opting to overhaul and operate some R46s to replace the SIR-operated R44s there. However, the plan to overhaul the R46s for the Staten Island Railway was also dropped; currently, 75 R211S cars are planned to replace the SIR-operated R44s in 2022-2023.[21][22][23] In the meantime, the cars are receiving intermittent rounds of scheduled maintenance to extend their usefulness until retirement.[17][24] Out of the 64 SIR cars, 62 remain in service. Car 402 was pulled from service after being badly damaged from hitting the bumper block or post at the Tottenville station on December 26, 2008. It was stored at the 207th Street Yard and stripped of parts to keep the active SIR-operated cars running until 2013, when it was scrapped with most NYCTA-operated R44s.[25] Car 466 was taken out of service in 2015 for unknown reasons and has since been stripped of parts.


See also[edit]




  1. ^ "Subdivision Car Assignments: Cars Required June 24, 2018" (PDF). The Bulletin. Electric Railroaders' Association. 61 (7): 16. July 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  2. ^ "Subdivision 'B' Car Assignments: Cars Required November 4, 2018" (PDF). The Bulletin. Electric Railroaders' Association. 61 (12): 5. December 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  3. ^ "New York's R-44 cars enter service". Railway Gazette International. July 1972. p. 275.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Audible Information Design in the New York City Subway System: A Case Study" (PDF). Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "R-44 (St. Louis, 1971-1973)". www.nycsubway.org. 1995–2012. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Car XC675 (ex-165): Car XC575 (ex-192):
  9. ^ 1968-1973, the ten-year program at the halfway mark. New York.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "R-44 (St. Louis, 1971-1973)". nycsubway.org. 2012. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  12. ^ May, Clifford D. (January 6, 1983). "Subway Cars Held Perilous for the Blind". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Barron, James (July 5, 1997). "Investigators Seek Clues to Explain Subway Train Derailment". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  16. ^ https://www.nysubway.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/train-crash-1.jpg
  17. ^ a b "MTA Capital Program 2008–2013" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. February 2008. p. 28. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  18. ^ Dooley, John (August 26, 2011). R-44 Car 5286 Pending Scrap. www.nycsubway.org (Photograph). Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  19. ^ Noel, Nicholas (January 28, 2013). R-44 Car 5332 on Tractor Trailer. www.nycsubway.org (Photograph). Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  20. ^ "R-44 (St. Louis, 1971-1973): Detailed Roster (Renumbering/Disposition)". www.nycsubway.org. 1995–2012. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  21. ^ "R34211 NOTICE -OF- ADDENDUM ADDENDUM #3" (PDF). mta.info. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. August 11, 2016. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "R44 SMS". Flickr - Photo Sharing!.
  25. ^ Dooley, John (November 29, 2011). R-44 at 207th Street Yard. www.nycsubway.org (Photograph). Retrieved October 3, 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]