In the early aughts, a (now defunct) artificial reef program brought NYC subway cars to the bottom of the ocean. Recently we saw what those retired cars look like now, after years of sitting underwater. But before they transformed into reefs, and after they made their last run underground, the most surreal moments of all occurred. The subway cars were loaded onto barges and, one by one, dumped into the water, like the body of some rat snitch stool pigeon.

Photo by Stephen Mallon/Front Room Gallery

Photographer Stephen Mallon caught a set of cars being pushed off a barge back in 2007, and the moments he captured show a quick and violent end to our mass transit chariots. We recommend conjuring up these images the next time your stuck on a packed subway platform in August.

Below, Mallon tells us about witnessing their transition into the sea.

How did you find yourself photographing this moment? I had started a photo essay about the recycling industry in America titled American Reclamation in 2007. I was in New Jersey scouting for another project when I came accross the barge loaded with subway cars. I approached Weeks Marine who was the contractor on the project and asked about photographing them. They showed my project to the MTA who was also interested in having me include their artificial reef project in the American Reclamation project. They are up and down the Atlantic coast, with reefs in NJ, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia .

Do you recall how long it took for each car to sink? Pretty fast, 60 to 90 seconds.

Did you find the experience of watching subway cars being dumped into the ocean... cathartic? Happy that I wasn’t on that train! It was always a sharp ping in my heart, watching them get tossed in the ocean like somebody tossing a soda bottle into a garbage can. Its pretty intense, the violent recycling that the ocean does to these cars.

So you didn't feel a sense of relief seeing the cars, which are often a source of frustration for New Yorkers, being dumped into the water? Ha! It was good that they were being taken out of service and turned into steel condos for the fish because the MTA needed the parking space for new trains that were coming in to replace the old cars.

(Photo courtesy of Express Water Sports)

Mallon is releasing a book with this work in 2017. Until then, you can follow him on Instagram here, and see some of his work at Mark Miller Gallery starting November 8th.