With a stainless steel exterior that resembles the side of a soup can and an overall old-timey vibe, the R-32 subway cars began their farewell rides this past Sunday. They're some of the oldest subway cars still running — not just in New York City, but in the world — and rail fans came out in full force to say goodbye, many calling them the most reliable train cars the subway system has seen.

"They should have stayed forever, but time goes on," Paul Meuser from Queens told Gothamist. "They’re better built than what’s out there today."

"They’re almost 60 years old… they’re still in good shape," 12-year-old Devin Harris, of Hells Kitchen, said. "[They're] icons of the city... rest in peace to the Brightliners."

The subway cars earned that nickname because, according to New York Transit Museum curator Jodi Shapiro, they have "washboard-like ridges on the exteriors of the cars." Shapiro also said that a 1964 press release noted the trains were “dubbed Brightliners because of their sleek, shining appearance.”

Read More: Say Goodbye To The R-32s, Some Of The Oldest Running Subway Cars In The World

The last run of the cars has been a long time coming, as their original retirement announcement came a decade ago.

“As we continue the work to modernize the transit system and improve the customer experience, it is truly bittersweet to say farewell to a fleet of historic R-32 trains that have served New Yorkers for nearly six decades," said New York City Transit Interim President Craig Cipriano, who added: “A significant amount of history goes along with these trains."

Speaking to the nostalgia of it all, Regina Asborno, deputy director of the New York Transit Museum, told Gothamist that the museum is adding some special touches to the train cars for the final rides. "There will be retirement branding, and new nostalgic touches will be added to the train each week leading up to the final run on January 9th," she said.

That includes this map that was installed on Sunday. Shapiro said this is "a 1964 World’s Fair Map and Station Guide, a variant of the map that would have been found in the R-32s when they went into revenue service (since the World’s Fair was still happening in September). We reproduced it for the retirement trips from a map in our collection."


Clarence Riley III was one of the R-32 fans taking a final ride on Sunday. A retired MTA worker, he said, "I wish the entire fleet was still in regular service, that’s my opinion. To tell you the truth, I’m gonna miss these cars... to me, this is a piece of history."

Another rider, 16-year-old Jay Shawn from Canarsie, agreed. He said "the 32s" were his childhood train — "I have a lot of love for it. It was the longest-running train in NYC history ... I’m gonna miss it. It’s legendary."

There will be three more days of final runs, on Sunday, December 26th, January 2nd, and January 9th. You can find more information on those runs here.

Additional reporting by Scott Heins