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Monday, July 3, 2017

When Will the Last Seat Next to a Window Come to an End in the New York Subway?

One of the joys of riding the subway as a youth was sitting next to window where your body is perpendicular to the window.  In this way, you did not miss the passing scene; every track switch,  every passing train, the line up of trains at a depot.  Yes, the cars of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company did not have seats near the windows, because your backs faced the windows, yet the windows were plenty and the windows were low.   The Low-V type of IRT subway cars had two long row of yellow seats.  Originally, some of the IRT cars that opened the subway in 1904 may have had a few perpendicular seats in the middle of the car where the center doors would be added later.  And some of the wooden elevated cars that ran on IRT elevated lines had some seats adjacent to windows.  Needless to say, the BMT  Standards and IND R1-9 Class had plenty seats near windows.  The first post war IND Car, the R-10 sort of changed things.  It had a similar seating arrangement similar to its' sister cars, the R1-9, but the window pane was high up for a six year old child or even an adult to see the passing scene.  The R-16, had a modern seating arrangement similar to the R1-9's but the window pane was high up.  Then it stopped!  Classes R-27-30, R-32, R-38's and R-40, R-42 had no longer seats near the windows.  Around 1969 and the early 70's this changed with the R-44, R-46 and R-68 classes on the former BMT-IND lines.  All post  R-68 equipment has no seats near windows and we are talking about thousands of cars.  Of course, all new IRT cars have no seats near windows except an experimental train set (R 110's ?) in the 1990's.  With new equipment coming with no seats near windows, eventually the R-46, R-68  classes will be phased out.  Even the new "walkthrough" trains will have no seats near windows.  So someday, 100% of the NYC Subway fleet will be R-160 look alike clones with not a single seat near a window in any class of cars.  I am not a train car historian, but I would guess that in the 19th Century, some wooden cars on both Manhattan and Brooklyn elevated had some seats near windows.  Don't forget, the dimension of the elevated cars was smaller than present day BMT-IND Equipment.  When will this sad day come that no piece of transit equipment in the NY subway will have any seats near windows?  How boring.
This is a R160A-1 car shot by Zach Summer and found at NYC
Yes, this car is comfortable with air-conditioning and it looks nice, and it has sort of a seat near a window at the very end of the car,  there is very little variation in the car fleet now compared to years past.  This is in my humble opinion.  When the present look a like fleet and any similar cars that arrive in the future, become old, this will make the subway a very boring place.  I believe that the public, even though those persons who are not interested in rapid transit, would like to see some variation.  Well, you might say, the BMT starndards and IND R1-9's and many of the IRT Lo-v's were look alikes?  No one would ever confuse a Low-V with a Type D Articulated Unit.  There was variation between the divisions.  Not now.

  This a Joe Tostagrose picture taken in 5/21/71 of car # 1362 which is a Brooklyn Union Elevated gate car.  I am not sure if Manhattan Elevated Lines in the 19th Century had similar seating arrangements.  Taken from NYCSUBWAY.ORG website.

Proposed R-211 subway car with open gangways at printed in the NY Daily News.  Nice, but so similar to the R-160 class.  " You see one, you see them all..."

Inside of a IRT Low-V car taken by David Pirman on 2/23/63 on the White Plains Road Line.  Notice that the windows are low so that a person can still crank their neck and get a good view.

From "They Moved Millions" of the website.  This Manhattan Elevated Car 1584 (1902-11) had some seats near windows in the center part of the car.  This configuration was also present in early NYC Subway IRT Composite cars before center doors were added later.  The point being that even with a smaller profile, some seats were near windows on older IRT equipment.


  1. The Chicago elevated lines kept transverse seating (perpendicular to the windows) for a long time. All of the cars purchased in the 1950s and 1960s had only transverse seating. In the 1970s, when new cars started having sliding doors instead of the "blinker" doors, there were pairs of longitudinal (center-facing) seats next to the doors, but the majority of the seating was still transverse. Only with the latest cars (5000 series, which started arriving in 2009) did the CTA go with primarily longitudinal seating, with only a couple of pairs of transverse seats per car.

  2. Thanks Ed for your quick response.
    Tramway Null(0)