We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach — on a train that hasn’t run in three decades.
That’s what dozens of train-loving “foamers”– and a couple of adorable doggies — did yesterday during the Transit Museum’s Nostalgia Ride to the Rockaways. Most of the cars on the train that departed from downtown Brooklyn were introduced in the late ’60s and weren’t quite as delectably old as the 1930s ones that headed out to Coney Island on a similar trip last month, but there were a couple of true classics up front.
At the head of the “train of many metals,” an R16 car (the very model that was used when subway service to Rockaway Beach started in 1956) was festooned with a banner reading “ROCKAWAY HERE WE COME.” Behind it was one of 10 prototypes (the last one remaining) of the fabled R11 car.
According to the Times, the R11 was known both as the Million Dollar Train (each of the 10 prototype cars cost $100,000) and the “subway car of tomorrow,” what with its fluorescent lights, ultraviolet air filtration system, and a stainless steel body that was way sexier than the drab utilitarian exterior of previous trains. It was intended for use on the Second Avenue subway line, but no further cars were ordered when construction stalled.
Car 8013 was refurbished in the ’60s (and retired in 1976, when the other 9 prototypes were sold for scrap), but it was still a hell of a throwback: throughout yesterday’s ride, just a few of the lights that ran down the spine of the ceiling were working. Between the semi-darkness and the porthole windows on the sliding doors, the subway car felt more like a submarine, as you can see here:
When the train finally emerged from the bowels of East New York and rolled onto the elevated portion of the A line, all the railfans aboard let out a cheer. We shot some video as it rolled over the trestle that crosses Jamaica Bay. Look for the rollsign reading “Franklin Shuttle” (the last line on which the car ran) and the reproductions of ads, including one for Playland, the amusement park that once sat not far from the nostalgia train’s first stop at Beach 90th Street.
And here’s the train pulling out of the Beach 90th station on its way to Beach 116th.
Best part of the ride: the train ran express (we’ve never gotten to the beach so fast) and you could walk between cars, which really did make for nostalgia. Can the MTA please please please run these more often — especially if the ferry is going away?