Redbird Subway Watching

Readers, please forgive the poor quality of the next four pictures. They are totally and completely awful and out of focus. I screwed up the picture taking but it was a rare moment and I did want to show that most elusive of subway car; the Redbird.

I was in Grand Central and going for the Shuttle to Times Square and beyond and I saw it there. Right there. On Track 1 (if you know it) was a train that I have only seen once before, but a million times in old photos and movies. It was a Redbird train car and I couldn’t figure out if it was real or a replica.

Unfortunately, it started to move just as I was arriving and with the relatively poor lighting my camera speed is slow. Hence the out-of-focus look.

From what I understand, the Redbirds were taken out of service more than five years ago and many/most of them ended up becoming part of a series of artificial reefs (actually in Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia).

Like I said, they were moving by the time that I got my camera out and taking pictures. I did see one guy talking with the conductor just as I was coming up and he broke off talking with him when the train began moving. I asked him if it was real or replica. He answered that it was real and was taking some sort of bizarre route between Brooklyn and the Upper West Side. You see, the trains that are in the Shuttle line go only from Grand Central to Times Square and back. The simplest route in the subway system. But when this train left Grand Central, it was headed east.

Yeah, east. I don’t know if it was a publicity stunt to remind riders of the old heritage or not.

As the next picture shows, not all redbirds were red. The red color was apparently a graffiti repellant that came late in the game.

The last picture is the worst of the bunch, but I just liked the door windows. Very unusual. It may stem from the old practice of having a number of suppliers of subway cars. Or maybe it was an odd repair made long ago by somebody without a normal replacement door. You might also note that this car has a racing stripe so that’s another clue.

Someday I will get to the Transit Museum and get a chance to get on one.


Explore posts in the same categories: Manhattan, Wanderings

2 Comments on “Redbird Subway Watching”

  1. Neat! I guess I moved to NYC too late to ever see one of these, but secrets of the subway like these really please me. I’m especially interested in the secret train platform underneath the Waldorf-Astoria; if you’re braver than I am, you should definitely take a photo trip down there.

  2. coyoteatquiznos Says:

    The train as a whole is called “The Train of Many Colors” by the Transit Museum. It’s made up of Redbirds saved from scrap and the Redbird’s predecessors. The car in the last shot isn’t a Redbird per se–it’s of an older car class (R-15) that was retired before your and my time. The interior lights blink out, it makes some interesting noises, and has cushy seats.

    People usually pay to ride them all day around the system and take pictures, but in the past they sometimes made special trips for the public to one of the stadiums on opening day. Other times, they put them into service on a random winter weekend.

    See for details.

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