28 December 2008

Next Stop: 1932



The "Nostalgia Train," the MTA's rolling museum Christmas present to the public, ran every Sunday of December. For whatever reason, my attempts to ride it were thwarted until the very last day, Dec. 28. I convinced my son it would be fun, and off we went to the 2nd Avenue stop of the V line to catch the 11:30 AM arrival.


The Nostalgia Train is actually a string of disassociated cars, each from a different era. You can choose to ride in a car from the 1920s or the 1960s, or anytime in between. Pick your period. The cars were crowded, and train geeks were in abundant supply, armed with unkempt hair, large bellies and cameras of all types. You can see a couple of these seldom-seen specimens below, staking out the train at the 53rd/Fifth Avenue stop. The chance to ride this train is like manna to these guys. Christmas comes a distant second.


The connecting doors between each car remain open during the trip, so you need not limit yourself to one style of subway during your ride. Many people walked up and down the train as it ran its course from 2nd Avenue to Queenboro Plaza. I was tempted by this option myself. But I also wanted to experience the train as a commuter of days gone by would have, so I took a seat in an attractive dark green metal number. I was told it was an R4 model, and was in use in 1932.




The interior was painted public-restroom green. There were open ceiling fans. The floor was a deep burgundy color, the ceiling off-white. The space above the window was lined with time-specific adds, including many bids for war bonds. With its muted colors, and hushed lighting, the car had a homey, cozy feeling. I fell in love with the seat covers, a sturdy plastic weave of dark yellow and dark green. These pictures don't do it justice. It was attractive and quite comfortable.



The sounds of the trains are quite different from what we're used to. There is a rolling, churning acceleration as the train starts and picks up speed; it grows into a roar so load that it is actually impossible to carry on a conversation while the car is in motion. Many people covered their ears, but I found the sound quite appealing. It was a genuine train sound, not screechy or mechanized. The lighting frequently cuts out for seconds at a time, enriching the atmosphere of the journey. My son found the brief blackouts quite exciting.

Among the cars we did not choose to ride was the one below, a more modern number with blue floors, sleeker metal "straps" and enclosed fans (no doubt installed after someone got a free haircut from the open fans).





I also did not select the car below, because of the glare of the bare lightbulbs.


This particular light fixture I liked very much, however. It's stylish details like this that make the old cars so inviting.

1 comment:

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