The R32 is a New York City Subway car model built in 1964–65 by the Budd Company in Philadelphia for the IND/BMT B Division. Their design is based on the earlier R27 and R30 car classes. They are the oldest subway cars in New York City today, at 53 years old.

Description Edit

The R32s are numbered 3350–3949, but some cars have been re-numbered outside of this range or to different numbers in this range. They were the first cars to introduce all mylar route and destination rollsigns instead of the former cotton cloth or linen type rollsigns found on all older cars.

The R32s were the first mass-produced stainless steel cars built for the New York City Subway. Two previous Budd orders (the BMT Zephyr and the R11s) were limited production orders. The horizontally ribbed, shiny, and unpainted stainless exteriors of the R32s earned the cars the nickname Brightliners.

History Edit


In mid-1963, the New York City Transit Authority contracted with Budd for 600 IND/BMT cars (300 pairs) to replace older equipment (cars that had exceeded the TA's 35-year limit of age), including the BMT D-type Triplex articulated cars and some of the BMT Standards. The cars were ordered for $68,820,000, of which half was provided by New York City and half through the sale of bonds by the New York City Transit Authority. Budd had bid on previous contracts with the NYCTA, but had never won a City contract for a production run of cars until the R32s, as Budd built only stainless-steel equipment and the TA refused to allow a differential in competitive bids for this higher-quality construction.

Budd won the contract by offering the lowest bid of $114,700 per car. Budd low-balled the price to win the contract and introduce stainless steel equipment to the modern New York City subway system, a plan that was met with limited success. NYCTA allowed a premium for subsequent stainless steel contracts, and all subsequent equipment was at least partly constructed of stainless steel. However, the Budd Company never benefited from the change, as Budd failed to win further contracts from the NYCTA, and the company has since halted production of railroad cars.

A ceremonial introduction trip for the new R32 "Brightliners" cars was held on September 9, 1964, operating from the New York Central Railroad's Mott Haven Yards in the Bronx to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. The new cars were then placed into service on September 14, 1964, after their New York Central's spring-loaded under-running third rail shoes were replaced with gravity-type overrunning subway third rail shoes.

In 1974, cars 3700-3701 were sent to Garrett AiResearch's facilities in Los Angeles, California to have test out Flywheel energy storage system equipment. The even-numbered cars received energy conservation machinery with batteries and amber-type digital readout indicating the amount of energy used by the equipment, while the odd-numbered cars remained untouched. These cars were later tested at the UMTA, and the US Department of Transportation's Testing Facilities in Pueblo, Colorado for evaluation, and were returned to the MTA in 1976 for in-service testing on all BMT/IND Lines to check the effectiveness of the technology.

Initial plans for retirementEdit

The R160s replaced most R32s in the late 2000s. They were intended to replace the entire fleet, but this has been halted due to structural issues found on the R44s that led to those cars' premature retirement instead. All but 240 R32 cars were retired and many were stripped and sunk as artifact reefs.

Prolonged serviceEdit

The 240 cars still in revenue service, 3350-3589, are assigned to the 207th Street shop facility in Manhattan near the subway station terminal of the same name and run on the A. These cars were expected to be replaced by the R179 order starting at least in 2016. However, as of July 2015, no retirement date has been set at the moment due to numerous delays in the delivery of their R179 replacement cars, along with a previously unanticipated fleet expansion necessitated by the renovation of the L train's East River tube. The oldest New York City Subway cars in regular passenger service at 53 years old, which is the longest for an R-type car, the R32s are well past the specified service lifespan of 35 years, as well as some of the oldest rolling stock of any metro system anywhere in the world.

According to railfan James Greller, they often cited for their superior durability and craftsmanship; four other car types built after them have been mostly or completely retired. They are also the only cars currently in service that were built for the New York City Transit Authority prior to its merger with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968. Despite the R32s' considerable structural quality, they have been suffering from low mechanical quality in recent years. The R32s have the lowest Mean Distance Between Failures figures of the active fleet; some have criticized the them for their appearance and lack of comfort. In July 2015, The New York Times called the R32s "a dreary reminder to passengers of an earlier subterranean era," and claimed that "time has taken a toll" on the cars. The MTA has been maintaining the R32s through the Scheduled Maintenance System (SMS) program, which consists of repainting the roofs and underbodies, replacement of vandalized windows, rebuilding trucks, and other major mechanical work on a set schedule to further extend their useful lives until they are finally replaced for good.

In popular culture Edit

The cars in the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV are based on both R32 and R38 fleets. All cars in the game are heavily vandalized with graffiti.

A train of R32s was featured in the 2015 film Bridge of Spies, despite the fact that the film is set a decade prior to their manufacture. They were the oldest available rolling stock to form a realistic 10-car train for exterior filming. Interior shots were done with a more period-appropriate R11/R34 from the New York Transit Museum.