The Holiday Express: Vintage Subway Cars Return to Service

By Raphael Pallais of The Plaza
November 26, 2012 | New York, United States
The Holiday Express: Vintage Subway Cars Return to Service
CarSpotter, Flickr

One Sunday afternoon, around this time last year, I was waiting on a subway platform with my wife and our two teenagers. All around us, people were doing the same, most of them with a destination in mind — home and a hot cup of cocoa, perhaps. But we were there just for the journey.

In what has become something of an under-the-radar December tradition, every Sunday, the transit authority rolls out subway cars from its vintage fleet and adds them into regular service.

These so-called “Nostalgia Trains” were in service between 1932 and 1977, but just for the holidays they’re riding the rails again. This year, they’re running on the M line between Queens Plaza and the 2nd Avenue stop in Lower Manhattan, through December 30.

Stepping into one of these old cars is like entering a time portal —before the days when subway cars were air conditioned (thank goodness it’s winter), and back when tall riders had to watch out for the ceiling fans. The oldest cars retain their wicker seats and old-fashioned advertisements. There’s no electronic voice telling you the next stop or to stand clear of the closing doors, and the whoosh of the train hurling through the tunnel is a lot louder than the modern subway.

We rode a 1931 model that was military green with big rivets (it looked like they’d recruited the same people to build the subway car as the government later recruited for wartime construction). The car was boxier and felt wider than the subway we ride today, most likely because there were fewer seats. It was especially fun to watch the faces of the passengers who weren’t expecting the arrival of a vintage train. As we rode on, we were able to almost touch and feel New York's rich past — or at least, one of its many layers — riding with us.

Click here for a list of departure times and stops, which include Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park and Herald Square. (The cost is the same as any other subway ride: $2.25.) If you’ve got young kids who are mad about trains, I also recommend the holiday train show at Grand Central (through January 16).

  • Can't wait to try this myself!


    GloboMaestro | USA

    December 7, 2011, 7:34 pm