The R44 is a New York City Subway car model built from 1971 to 1973 by the St. Louis Car Company in St. Louis, Missouri for the IND/BMT B Division and the Staten Island Railway. The cars replaced many R1-R9 series cars and all 1925 Standard Steel built SIRTOA ME-1 trains, providing Staten Island with a new fleet of railcars. Currently, only the Staten Island Railway operates this model, as the NYCT cars were retired in 2010 due to various issues.
A total of 352 R44 cars were ordered: 288 cars for the New York City Subway (numbered 5202–5479) and 64 cars for the Staten Island Railway.
The R44s originally came in singles, but needed each other to run, much like the "married pairs" of the R26/27/28/30s. The cars were reassembled after overhaul into ABBA sets of four; A cars are evenly numbered with operator cabs while B cars have odd numbers and no cabs.
The R44 was the first 75-foot (23 m) car for the New York City Subway. The cars were introduced under the idea that a train of eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars would be more efficient than one of ten 60-foot (18.29 m) cars. Despite the increase in length, the R44s had eight pairs of doors per car (four on each side) like other B Division cars. As a result, eight 75-foot (22.86 m) cars have only 64 (32 per side) pairs whereas ten cars have 80 (40 per side). The reduced number of doors on a train of eight 75-foot cars increased boarding and dwelling times, so recent car orders have returned to ten 60-foot (18.29 m) cars, starting with the R143. Due to their 75-foot length, the R44s were nicknamed "the hippos," along with the R46, R68, and R68A.
The interior design was very different from previous models. The R44s had orange and yellow plastic bucket seats, a feature which would be incorporated into the other 75-foot B Division cars. The seats were protected from the doorways by faux wood and glass panels. The walls were tan with "wallpaper" featuring the seals of New York State and New York City. This design continued onto the subsequent R46 cars.
The R44 was the first car since the BMT Green Hornet to incorporate a two-note warning tone, the first two notes of Westminster Quarters, that sounds before the doors begin to close as the car prepares to leave the station. When the cars were built, the chime was sounded four seconds before the doors closed, but the time delay was later removed. This has become the signature sound of the subway and is used with all subsequent cars.
The R44s also set the world speed record for a car. On January 31, 1972, a consist reached a speed of 87.75 mph (141.22 km/h) on the Long Island Rail Road's main line between Woodside and Jamaica. With two motors per car disabled, the car still reached 77 mph (124 km/h). The cars were capable of attaining even higher speeds, but the length of the test track was insufficient to allow further acceleration. The R44s were built to reach such high speeds because it was anticipated that the cars would run along the Second Avenue Subway.
To ensure the subway could accommodate 75-foot (22.86 m) cars, two retired R1 cars (numbered 165 and 192; renumbered XC675 and XC575 respectively) were cut in half, lengthened to 75 feet (22.86 m) and sent to various places around the subway and the Staten Island Railway.
After many months of exhaustive testing throughout the subway system's B Division starting December 16, 1971 with the exception of the aforementioned B Division, as well as on the LIRR's trackage, as the R44s were new transit cars electrically and mechanically, the first sets of R44s was placed in service on the F in April 19, 1972, following a brief introductory ceremony attended by the Mayor of New York City John V. Lindsay, along with MTA Chairman William J. Ronan at the Jamaica – 179th Street station. The Staten Island R44s were delivered between January and April 1973. The first six Staten Island R44s went into service on February 28, 1973. With the completion of the R44 order, the St. Louis Car Company (established 1887), shut down operations. An eight-car train was tested in 1973 with carpeting.
The MTA was planning to replace all the R44s with R179s. However, in light of structural integrity issues found on the NYCT R44s due to much higher levels of wear and tear, along with heavier level of mileage and vandalism than the SIR's R44s, surveys were conducted in 2009 on eight cars which resulted in the decision to retire them in place of the remaining R32s and R42s that were retiring at the time. As a result, the final option order of the R160 cars ended up replacing the R44s. Retirement started in December 2009 with the eight cars that failed the structural integrity tests, and the last train (cars 5378-5381 and 5426-5429) made its final trip on the R and V in June 25, 2010. After retirement, most of the NYCT R44s were scrapped at Sims Metal Management. The five cars that were not scrapped were 5202 car, which has been persevered by the New York Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn, and 5206-5209, currently stored at the Coney Island yard.
All SIR cars were overhauled for a second time between 2007 and 2010 as a part of the SMS (Scheduled Maintenance System) program. Several improvements included the repainting of the bulkheads, rebuilt trucks, new dark floors, and new periwinkle bucket seats. 80 cars of the future R211 fleet is planned to finally retire the remaining R44s on the Staten Island Railway in the early 2020s or so.
See also Edit
- R46 (New York City Subway car) - a similar model built by Pullman Standard.