In December 2021, New York City began a final goodbye to a legendary fleet of subway cars: the R-32s, also known as the Brightliners.
At that time, some of the remaining R-32s in the fleet, which were slowly phased out over the past decade, took a series of farewell rides that ended in early January.
"They’re almost 60 years old… they’re still in good shape," Devin Harris, a 12-year-old Hells Kitchen resident, told Gothamist during one of those final rides. "They're icons of the city."
These cars had been running through our transit system since the 1960s: When first introduced, they were state-of-the-art—much lighter than older train cars of the time, and with a unique exterior that resembled the ridged side of a soup can. A 1964 press release noted the trains were “dubbed Brightliners because of their sleek, shining appearance.”
And now, as the MTA continues to modernize the transit system, they're on the final leg of their retirement journey, which will end in a scrap heap in Ohio.
On Monday, the cars were seen outside of their normal setting, and moving along a city street:
The sighting came with an announcement from the MTA that four of the recently retired cars had been "transferred from the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to the 65th Street Yard via 1st Ave." A New York New Jersey Rail locomotive transported the cars to the NYNJ rail yard, where they will be disassembled throughout the course of the week "by separating the car bodies from the trucks," according to the agency.
Next week, they will float across the Hudson River on a barge, and then be loaded onto a freight train. Unlike retired subway cars in the early aughts, however, they will not land at the bottom of the ocean, since the artificial reef program ended in 2010.
MTA spokesperson Eugene Resnick told Gothamist they would be scrapped by a company in Ohio. They will be abated, have their metal recycled, and the non-recyclables will be disposed of, he said.
The R-32s—which ran on the Q, but were found on the A, C, J and Z lines in recent years—were among the oldest subway cars to remain operating in the world when they were retired. And New Yorkers will remember them for their front window that allowed passengers a head-on view through the tunnels — they were the last subway car class to have that feature.
Shine on, you crazy Brightliners.