New York City, NY – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest transit operator, says farewell to the nation’s oldest subway cars. After 58 years of service, the Budd R32 cars finally retired from revenue service this past Sunday.
The R32 class subway cars first entered service in 1964 and were built by the Budd Company of Philadelphia, PA. These cars were designated “Brightliner” cars, due to their then-brighter rigid stainless steel bodies. The R32 cars were actually the first NYCTA (former operator of MTA) subway cars to have visible stainless steel bodies, as opposed to the “Redbirds” and “Bluebirds” of the past. These cars came delivered with blue painted doors and window frames, as well as marker lights to indicate local versus express trains.
In the 1980s, the R32 cars were overhauled, removing the marker lights and front destination sign, as well as the blue-painted doors and window frames. The front destination sign was replaced with a flip-dot display sign. This would be the design that most who know the NYC subway would become familiar with.
In the 2000s, as the R160 class subway cars began to operate, most of the R32 subway cars began to retire rapidly, along with R40s, R42, R38, and many other classes of subway cars in the B division. At this point, the R32 subway cars that remained were restricted to the A, C, and J/Z lines. By 2011, the R32 subway cars were the oldest cars in the fleet.
The final nail in the coffin for the R32s came in 2018 when the R179 subway cars came to the MTA. The remaining R32s were to be replaced by 2019, and for a while they were. However, problems with the R179 cars allowed the R32s to remain a bit longer.
In November 2021, the MTA announced that they will be doing a massive farewell to the R32 car event, replacing the “holiday train.” Fans and passengers could pay their respects to the R32 subway cars by taking one final ride. These special rides took place every Sunday and were met with many many visitors. The final train ran on January 9th, 2022, and with that, the R32 cars have done their last revenue runs.
Although the R32s are now retired from revenue service, some of them are still assigned to Garbage trains and can still occasionally be seen on tracks. But for the most part, they’re gone.
RIP Budd R32, 1964-2022.