Jump to content

Riding the Length of Manhattan, on Seats of Rattan


Recommended Posts

Riding the Length of Manhattan, on Seats of Rattan


September 11, 2007

New York Times


It was, without a doubt, the quirkiest way to get to Harlem yesterday.



Photo by Joyce Dopkeen/The New

York Times[/float]In celebration of the 75th birthday of the A train, the first subway line both owned and operated by the city and the only one with an instantly recognizable jazz standard named after it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority strung together a train of pre-World War II subway cars and ran it from one end of Manhattan to the other and back.


The fun was watching ordinary straphangers who knew nothing about the vintage train as they boarded along the way.


The cars were boxy and painted a drab dark green. Inside, there were vintage ads for Chesterfield cigarettes and Uneeda Biscuits, bare incandescent bulbs, bouncy rattan seats and spinning ceiling fans.


“I was really confused,” said Emily DiAngelo, 22, who boarded in Washington Heights, her face twisted in bewilderment.


“I thought I was on the wrong platform,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”


Ms. DiAngelo, an oboist who studies at the Manhattan School of Music, said the sense of stepping into a time warp was heightened because, just as the train pulled into the station, she had been listening to an Ella Fitzgerald recording of “Take the A Train” on her iPod.


“It was kind of pretty perfect, actually,” she said.


The first A trains carried passengers on Sept. 10, 1932, just after midnight. Yesterday’s commemorative train was made up of six cars, including Car 100, the first in a line of cars known as the R1, which were built for the new subway line.



Photo by Joyce Dopkeen/The New

York Times[/float]The run started shortly after 11 a.m. and traveled from 207th Street to Canal Street. It continued for one more stop, to the World Trade Center station on the E line, before heading back uptown. Along the way were many juxtapositions of the old and new.


William Mulligan, 40, boarded the train at 207th Street with a two-wheeled Segway Personal Transporter, which, he said, he used above ground.


Mr. Mulligan, director of performing arts at Manhattan College in the Bronx, said he was not aware of any songs written about the Segway. As he spoke, he maneuvered the machine out of the way of other passengers.


“It’s a little goofy,” he admitted. “I try not to draw too much attention to myself.”


Further downtown, Sabur Khalinah, 27, the manager of a fast food restaurant, laughed as he took pictures of the old train on his cellphone. Asked what he was going to do with the pictures, he said: “Show them to people, because nobody’s ever going to believe this. Hey, I was on a train with ceiling fans. I didn’t even know the subway system was around 75 years ago.”


“I think it’s cute,” said Sandy Alexis, 28, a business consultant, after settling into one of Car 100’s cushioned seats.


It was a muggy day and she noticed the lack of air conditioning.


“If it was crowded like the regular train it would be really hot in here right now,” said Ms. Alexis, who wore a sleeveless dress and big round sunglasses. “I don’t know how they used to do it, with the suits and hats.”


In another car, a musician played “Take the A Train” on a saxophone. The song, written by Billy Strayhorn and popularized by Duke Ellington, calls the A train the quickest way to get to Harlem.


Charles Adams Jr., the general superintendent of the maintenance shops for the A and C lines, said it was running at its top speed of about 50 miles an hour, the same maximum speed achieved by today’s more streamlined stainless steel trains.


The difference he said, is that the new trains accelerate at a faster rate, about 2.5 miles per hour per second, compared with 1.9 miles per hour per second for the older trains.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.