Photos from the MTA “Shoppers Special” Holiday Trains

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    A Festivistmas Kwanzaannukah holiday tradition, the MTA runs vintage Subway cars on the M line on Sundays in the month of December. The rolling stock is maintained by the MTA’s Transit Museum, and I make it a point of attending the event every year. This Q’stoner post from last year goes into some detail on what to expect onboard these relics of NYC’s golden age, but I wasn’t too happy with the quality of the photos from 2013, and have been practicing my subway shooting skills in the intervening interval.

    Yesterday, I put myself to the test, and rode the Shoppers Special with my camera. Lots of shots from what I saw onboard follow, after the jump.

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    First off, you’ve still got a couple of Sundays to check this out, and if you do – bring your kids. Lots of other people do, and the kids really seem to dig the “old timey” stuff. All it’ll cost you is a Metrocard Swipe, and a bit of time.

    From web.mta.info:

    Customers using the 6 Avenue line between the Queens Plaza and 2 Av stations have a treat in store.  MTA New York City Transit’s 
“Nostalgia Shoppers’ Special Train” is running again! 

You can catch a ride on these classic R1/9 subway cars at stations along the weekday M line between Queens Plaza and 2 Av.

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    Most of the folks onboard spend their time checking out the ceiling fans, vintage advertising, and the shape of what once was. Others, like the fellow pictured above, treated the ride as just another commute. I found his strangely atavist newspaper, which mentions Harry Truman in the headline, odd.

    He seemed to be killing some time, and waiting for something.

    From mta.info:

    NOSTALGIA TRAIN HIGHLIGHTS:

    Car No. 100 — Manufactured by American Car and Foundry, this R1-type car was the first car in the initial order of 300 cars placed in service for the opening of the IND subway.

    Car No. 484 — Part of a 500-car order of R4 cars manufactured by American Car & Foundry. In 1946, this car received a retrofit of bulls-eye lighting and a public address system.

    Car No. 1575 – Originally manufactured as an R7, this car was involved in a wreck in 1946. Sent to the American Car & Foundry factory, the car, which is equipped with fluorescent lighting and smooth sides, was rebuilt as the prototype of the next generation R10 subway car.

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    Super cute kids were everywhere (and yes, I asked Mommy and or Daddy if it was okay before taking their pix). There were a whole bunch of families everywhere, as this is an actual “cheap and wholesome thing which might teach them something” kind of thing.

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    Most of the adult population were carrying expensive cameras, and seemed to be on some sort of mission. This event draws the “rail fans” out in droves. Rail fans are locomotive enthusiasts, and love vintage rolling stock.

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    Often, it’s a generational affair. Don’t know if this lady is a rail fan, but I couldn’t resist the face on that kid.

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    A significant number of people onboard were dressed in the fashions and style of earlier times. The general term would be “period dress” but the first question a historian asks is “which period?” There were a LOT of photographers photographing, as in the photograph of the photographer photographing above.

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    There were also folks who were innocently taking the Subway and wandered into all this madness while on their daily round.

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    When the train arrived at the Second Avenue station over in Manhattan, a large group of smartly dressed people were waiting. It seems that an organized party was going to be taking place onboard, which would include musicians.

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    There were quite a few models in the crowd, dressed to the nine’s. Forgive my ham handed Dashiell Hammet impersonation here but – what a doll, check out the getaway sticks on her. Hubba Hubba.

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    That patient fellow was still reading his newspaper during the short terminal layover at Second Avenue.

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    Back onboard, I bumped into this smartly dressed fellow, whose name was Ayinde.

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    The trains were getting quite crowded as the return journey to Queens began. There was an empty seat or two, which is a miracle in any age on the 6th avenue line.

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    I found a couple of the promised musicians, who were jamming on their guitars.

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    I also ran into a flapper, which made me feel a bit like Gatsby.

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    The party was beginning, and a full band began to swing.

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    That’s when I noticed the fellow with the newspaper had folded the thing and stopped reading it. I think I figured out who he had been waiting around so patiently for.

    The Shoppers Special Holiday trains will be running on Sundays between 10 am and 5 pm and twixt Queens Plaza and Second Avenue until December 30th.

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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