MTA to Offer Holiday Season Nostalgia Train & Bus Rides

The holiday season is here again and you know what that means.  It’s time for MTA New York City Transit to dust off the vintage equipment and roll out the historic buses and subway cars that served as the foundation for the largest mass transit system in North America.

The MTA’s subways and buses are the most efficient and economical ways of getting around the City, but if you’re looking for another great reason to ride the train on Sundays in December, try this: take a trip back into time onboard the 1930s-era Nostalgia Special, which will run along the M Subway Line between Long Island City, Queens and Lower Manhattan during the first four Sundays in December.

“For the first four Sundays, subway riders will be able to catch a ride on this classic subway train at stations along the line between Queens Plaza and Second Avenue,” said Joseph Leader, MTA New York City Transit’s Senior Vice President of the Department of Subways.  “They aren’t the first subway cars, but these R 1/9 cars served for five decades and are historically significant as the rolling stock that originally served the IND.” 

The Nostalgia Special is made up of subway cars in service from the 1930s to the 1970s, running along the lettered lines from the Grand Concourse to Coney Island.  They were also the cars that originally operated along the A Subway Line.  Their ceiling fans, padded seats, and incandescent light bulbs were state-of-the-art when these cars were first placed in service.  The last of the cars were removed from service more than 35 years ago and replaced by the stainless steel, climate-controlled trains that our customers have become accustomed to today.

The holiday “Nostalgia Special” will operate on Sundays only, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., on December 1, 8, 15 and 22.  New Yorkers bear fond memories of these cars, many of which are usually housed at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights, where they have honored positions as static displays reflecting a time before automated voice announcements, air conditioning, or bright fluorescent lighting.  Of course, you can always catch more examples of NYC Transit’s vintage subway cars on display there, too. 

During the week, weather depending, bus customers along Manhattan’s 42nd Street crosstown corridor will be able to ride examples of NYC Transit’s vintage fleet.  It’s an annual opportunity to catch a vintage bus and everything will be original except the bus operator and the fare box.  Ralph Kramden is no longer with us and the fare boxes accept MetroCards.

Buses representing models that operated from the 1950s through the 1980s will roll across 42nd Street along the M42, allowing bus customers to take a nostalgic river to river ride.  Built by manufacturers that either no longer exist or have just stopped building transit buses, these classic vehicles represent the newest of technology in operation during their eras.

The buses, which are not wheelchair accessible, will operate between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday from December 2 to 20.  However, they will not run in the event of rain and snow.  They are old and catch cold easily.

“Riding the old equipment is a great way to celebrate the holiday season in New York and it has been a tradition for the past few years,” explained Darryl Irick, Senior Vice President New York City Transit Department of Buses/President MTA Bus Company.  “It gives our customers the opportunity to see just how far bus technology has come over the past several decades.”   

And, don’t forget to catch the 12th Annual Holiday Train Show at the Museum’s Gallery Annex at Grand Central Terminal featuring a working layout and a selection of vintage model trains dating from the 1800s.  The layout, featuring Lionel trains will be on display from November 16 to February 23.  The 34` O-Gauge layout features a limited-edition model of Grand Central Terminal (only 250 created) and eight separate loop tracks traveling through New York City, out into the countryside  and even up to the North Pole (Not on MTA Map). 

With vintage trains rumbling down the tracks and tiny pedestrians strolling down exquisitely-detailed miniature streets, the Train Show is a delight for young and old and a perfect treat after taking a ride on the real thing.

For hours and directions, visit:


Car No. 100 – Manufactured by American Car and Foundry, this R1-type car was the first car in the initial order of 300 cars placed in service for the opening of the IND subway.

Car No. 484 – Part of a 500-car order of R4 cars manufactured by American Car & Foundry.  In 1946, this car received a retrofit of bulls-eye lighting and a public address system.

Car No. 1575 – Originally manufactured as an R7, this car was involved in a wreck in 1946.  Sent to the American Car & Foundry factory, the car was rebuilt as prototype of the next generation R10 subway car.


Bus No. 2969 – Manufactured by General Motors, this Model TDH 5101 was specifically designed for New York City in 1949, which featured the double-width front door to expedite the loading and unloading of customers.  This bus is known as the Jackie Gleason bus, which the comedian portrayed as the bus driver “Ralph Kramden” in the classic television show “The Honeymooners.”

Bus No. 3100 – Manufactured by General Motors in 1956, this Model TDH 5106 was the first air conditioned transit bus to operate in New York City.  The bus was designed and built to demonstrate updated features.  Other features introduced in the 1950’s were the push-type rear exit doors, wrap-around rear soft seating, fluorescent lighting, and the air-ride suspension that is still the standard today on today’s transit buses.

Bus No. 6259 - Manufactured by Mack Truck and Bus Company, Model C49DT first arrived to the fleet in 1956 and was in operation until 1969 in Staten Island and Brooklyn routes.  The “DT’ in the model number stand for “Diesel Transit,” this model was delivered with cushioned seating but converted to hard plastic in the mid-1960s because of vandalism.

Bus No. 9098 - Manufactured by General Motors, this Model TDH 5106, introduced the two-tone green color scheme (the era’s standard) and was the first NYC bus equipped with sliding windows.  These were the last order of “Old Look” style buses from GM to NYCTA.

Bus No. 8466 - Manufactured by General Motors, this Model TDH 5303 were ordered in 1966 for MaBSTOA & NYCT to replace 1940s and 1950s vintage buses acquired by the City after the Fifth Avenue Coach Company takeover in 1962.  This series was the first new fleet of NYC buses designed and built with air-conditioning and also featured large illuminated advertising signs on each side.  These buses proved to be so reliable and durable that several were selected to be rebuilt in 1984 to extend their useful life.

Bus No. 8928 - Manufactured by General Motors, this Model TDH 5305A was purchased by NYCT in 1968 to begin replacement of its 1956 vintage Mack C-49 fleet.  Thirteen of the new buses were equipped with high-back upholstered, forward-facing seats for the new Staten Island to Manhattan express service, which debuted in late 1968.  Furthermore, this bus with modifications made to accommodate luggage, was chosen to be utilized as the connecting JFK Express bus service for “The Train to the Plane,” which began operating in 1978.


Mack Truck and Bus Company, Model C49DT
Holiday Train Show at the Museum’s Gallery Annex at GCT