1967 straphangers

While the standard air conditioner—a Brooklyn native, by the way—is over 100 years old, its cooling powers weren't brought in to the subway system until much later. The first air conditioned cars were introduced on July 19th, 1967 (how was this not in Mad Men?).

The first cars to get the cool air were ten R38 cars on the F line, following "two decades of work to produce air-conditioning units small enough to fit IRT cars and powerful enough to handle a large number of customers traveling during rush hours," according to the MTA. Prior to this, straphangers only had ceiling fans (you can still find those in the nostalgia trains), which were introduced in 1933.


The A.C. experiment was successful and led Mayor Lindsay to sign off on the purchase of 600 more air conditioned cars. In December of 1967, the NY Times noted that the estimated cost was $15 million, and the rollout would be complete by 1969. Commissioner John J. Gilhooley of the Transit Authority said, "We'll move heaven and earth to get as many of them built and in operation as we can at the earliest possible time." At the time, Mayor Lindsay also declared, "We are initiating a study to see if there are other ways of air-conditioning, such as cooling stations and tunnels themselves so that the cars would not have to be cooled."

The A.C. was popular with teenagers, and the NY Times wrote that year, with one young rider telling them, "Boys take their dates to the movies to cool off. Now, they can take them for a subway ride instead.” And one 14-year-old girl said she rode 4 to 6 hours. Though as time passed, the a/c began to break down, and photographer John Conn once recalled, "The air conditioning never worked. People rode between cars because it was the only way to stay cool."