Nearly 60 years ago, the New York City Board of Transportation purchased a prototype ten-car subway train for the Second Avenue Subway. The cars boasted a sleek, modernist design clad in stainless steel and employing the latest in rapid transit car technology.
Entering passenger service only one year after the city's first post-war subway car fleet, the R11 was to be the first train of a fleet of cars destined for the new line. The exterior and interior boasted a sleek, futuristic look that shouted Buck Rogers and was a vast improvement over the dingy, painted cars already in service. The stainless steel skin, porthole door windows and side window design were like nothing seen before.
"The R11 car was a revolution in subway car design technology and it can only be compared with the R110A and R110B test trains that served as the prototypes for today's New Technology car fleet," said Gene Sansone, the Division of Car Equipment's Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer. "The R10 was placed into service only a year earlier, but it was an evolutionary step in rapid transit car design. The R11, on the other hand, was revolutionary."
The cars also incorporated the latest in ventilation and air filtration systems while the interior was illuminated by "precipitron" sterilizing lamps. Among the train's features were state-of-the-art public address system, rattan seating and four 115 horsepower motors powering each car.
Valued at $100,000 per car, the train was manufactured by stainless-steel pioneer Budd. Incompatible with any other subway car in the system, the train of high-technology R11 subway cars bounced from one BMT route to another before the last few cars ended their days serving the Franklin Ave. Shuttle.
As it sits along the platform, a static exhibit in the New York Transit Museum, car No. 8013 is the last of piece of the "Million Dollar Train" still in existence. The other nine cars were sold for scrap in 1976--four years after the groundbreaking for the original Second Avenue Subway tunnel segments.