Back in the Day

A few weeks ago the MTA decided to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the A train by sending a group of pre-WWII subway cars on one run. The Harlem – Rockaway line was the first one entirely owned and operated by the city while all other lines had been built by independent companies.

Every now and then the MTA dusts off these historic cars for a commemorative run, sort of like trotting out the old timers on opening day at Yankee Stadium. I caught one of these rides last year in a stroke of good timing. It’s hard to believe that these cars can still lumber down the tracks. Most anything that old is just for show.

Some of the cars had rattan-weave seats and all had celing fans. How did previous straphangers, in their ties and jackets, make it to work alive in the dog days of summer?
They also had some of the old posters touting the cost of sending a letter – a nickel – and riding the subway – fifteen cents. Both, supposedly fast and convenient. Duke Ellington did say the quickest way to get to Harlem was to take the A train. That’s probably still true, even riding in one of these classics.

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