Take a Nostalgia Ride Back to Rockaway

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Want to ride in a time machine? Saturday’s your chance. Or at least an opportunity to feel like you’re going back in time on a vintage 1930s train. On Saturday, August 4, the New York City Transit Museum (NYTM) is hosting Nostalgia Ride to Rockaway, giving passengers a chance to take the trip to the beach on a piece of history.

Grab your ticket and head to the New York Transit Museum (99 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn) on Saturday and ride back to Rockaway in style on board a vintage train that was first put into service in 1932. For some, it may bring back memories as these trains were serving riders until as late as 1977. For others, riding the old train will feel like a brand new experience (although some may question the age of the current A Trains in service). However there’s no doubt this old train will make some do a double take as they see it chugging along the A line from Brooklyn’s Court Street station to Beach 116th Street. And some lucky riders will get to experience it on board.

As riders board at the Court Street station, they’ll be thrown back in time as they ride a R1/9 train car with rattan seats, paddle ceiling fans (installed before the age of air conditioning), incandescent light bulbs, roll signs, and period advertisements– all pre-WWII subway staples. Guests can sit on the seats, hold onto the handrails, read the vintage advertisements, and travel through time to the early days of the New York subway system. Also on this Saturday’s Rockaway-bound ride, passengers will be treated to the sounds of Cait and the Critters, a New York City-based jazz band that plays traditional and western swing, something you don’t normally hear when someone shouts, “Showtime!” on current-day A trains.

There will be NYTM staff and a knowledgeable train crew on board on Saturday to answer questions and explain some of the history of these rideable relics. And the history sure is fascinating. The train being used on Saturday is a vintage 1930s R1/9 train. According to Newburg, “These cars, in service from 1932 to 1977 and preserved by the Transit Museum, were ordered for the Independent Subway System (IND) and are commonly known by their contract numbers. The cars were modern for their time, fitting in very well with the IND’s Depression-era Art Deco aesthetic, and each could hold nearly 300 passengers.” It won’t be the train’s first time riding on the A line. In fact it was among the first trains to operate on Rockaway’s tracks and these train cars even inspired Billy Strayhorn’s jazz hit, “Take the A Train.” After the first R1s went into service as part of the new IND system, more than a thousand nearly identical subway cars were delivered between 1930 and 1940 under the designations R1, R4, R6, R7 and R9. Their ceiling fans, padded seats, and incandescent light bulbs were state-of-the-art when these cars were first placed in service.

On Saturday, riders will get to see it all for themselves as part of the Rockaway Nostalgia Ride. Nostalgia Rides have been a feature of the NYTM since it opened in 1976 as part of the country’s bicentennial celebrations. “One of the Transit Museum’s most treasured traditions, Nostalgia Rides often reflect a time before automated voice announcements, air conditioning or bright fluorescent lighting,” New York Transit Museum spokesperson Chelsea Newburg, said. “Nostalgia Rides transport straphangers, to another age, using the same equipment that city dwellers would have ridden decades ago. As a collecting institution and repository of public transportation history in the New York metropolitan region, we feel strongly about empowering children and adults of all ages to explore our city’s fascinating transit system and complex history. Nostalgia Rides are a wonderful opportunity for families and commuters to interact with the transit system in a unique environment, learn about its storied history, and discover why it is and always has been such a vital part of New York City.”

According to Newburg, Nostalgia Rides are held “throughout the year, providing the chance to experience New York transportation history firsthand while en route to some of the City’s greatest attractions. Recently, our vintage trains have journeyed to Brighton Beach, Coney Island, the Green-Wood and Woodlawn Cemeteries, Van Cortlandt Park, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium for special Mets and Yankees games, and have even transported commuters in regular service during the holiday season.”

On Saturday, the destination will be the beach. After riding the train to Rockaway’s Beach 116th station, they’ll have some time to explore before getting back on for the return trip at 4 p.m., which will make some stops along the A Line in Brooklyn and Manhattan. However guests are also welcome to stay in Rockaway and find their own way home. Some who miss the Nostalgia Ride may be able to see the vintage train pass by along the A line, and R1/9 and more than 20 other vintage trains are always on display at the museum and open for guests to take a look inside.

Tickets for the Nostalgia Ride are still up for grabs, but must be purchased before 4 p.m. on Friday, August 3. There will be no opportunity to purchase tickets on the day of the event. Regular tickets are $50 for adults, $25 for children and $35 for New York Transit Museum members, but for Rockaway Times readers, NYTM was kind enough to offer a special Promo Code for 20 percent off tickets. To purchase tickets, head to nytransitmuseum.org/rockaways and use the Promo Code RTIMES20 at checkout to apply the discount. Nostalgia Ride ticket holders should arrive at the New York Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn by 10:30 a.m. for the 11 a.m. departure. All aboard!

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