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Inside The Cavernous Workshop Where Subway Trains Get Fixed

The MTA's vast 207th Street Car Overhaul Shop in Inwood is where workers break down damaged subway cars piece by piece and rebuild them. This is where subway car doors, air conditioning and electronics are refurbished. Hundreds of trains a year are repaired here, and now the MTA wants to pick up the pace.

The 207th Street shop runs from 6 a.m. to midnight, but now that Governor Cuomo has used his state budget to force the city to pay for half of the MTA's $836 million Subway Action Plan, it wants to use the extra money to run the shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The goal is to increase the number of subway cars it repairs by 40 percent a year, and boost the current workforce from 900 to 1,400 people, spread out at its 20 maintenance shops.

The MTA repairs 1,300 subway cars a year. Some come in for regularly scheduled maintenance, while others are pulled from the tracks due to broken parts. The MTA said that before the Subway Action Plan it took 14 days for a train to be fully refurbished. Now it hopes it can get that down to 11 days.

And with summer on the horizon, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said the agency is working to prevent a seasonal subway misery: hot cars.

"We're looking at each and every one of our air conditioning units throughout the entire system and refurbishing them," Lhota said. "In the event one does break down it can snap out and another one can be put in right away. New Yorkers deserve to be able to get into a system and not be overheated because the air conditioning is not working."

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A subway HVAC unit (Stephen Nessen / WNYC)


At the overhaul shop, the MTA does regularly scheduled maintenance on train cars that are nearly half-a-century old. Many of the components are made by hand at the MTA's Coney Island repair shop. At the 207th Street shop the subway trucks get new wheels, new motors, all the hardware is replaced, and the truck frame is scanned for cracks.

The subway doors, which are some of the most easily damaged parts of a train car (that's why the MTA always says, 'don't lean on the doors,') are also replaced there too, with new bearings so the doors can slide easily, and the motors are overhauled and replaced.

In the next few weeks, Cuomo said the MTA will be ramping up its track repairs, power repairs, and the number of crews cleaning water buildups in the tunnels.

“All these separate operations will now be working at a much higher frequency, higher intensity,” Cuomo said. “Hopefully, over the next several months you’ll see this plan fully phased in, fully operationalized.”

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(Stephen Nessen / WNYC)


The MTA confirmed the workers hired with the additional funds from the city will be kept on staff and paid with money generated from the new surcharge on taxis and for-hire-vehicles, which was also a provision in the state’s budget.

“It’s very good news for riders, that NYC Transit will finally be able to bring back the subway maintenance workers and exceed the level they reached before the draconian 2010 maintenance cuts,” said Ellyn Shannon, Associate Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Council to the MTA. “It’s also significant that NYC Transit is making a long term commitment to maintenance by permanently hiring these workers. The system will be safer and more reliable with this action, but we’ll need to keep in mind they are still playing 7 years of catch-up on a 100+ year old system.”

This was previously published on the Gothamist newsletter on April 9, 2018. Don't miss stories—sign up for our newsletter here.

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