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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / New York City sells ‘Last Redbird’ subway car

New York City sells ‘Last Redbird’ subway car

By Joseph M. Calisi | July 18, 2022

Car currently on display in Queens goes for $235,700 in auction

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Red subway car on display on short section of track in park
Red subway car on display on short section of track in park
The R-33 subway car on display in Queens in 2005. The car was purchased for $1, saving it from being sunk at sea as an artificial reef, underwent a $500,000 rehab for use as a visitors center. (Joseph M. Calisi)

NEW YORK — The subway car termed “The Last Redbird” has been auctioned off for almost a quarter-million dollars by the City of New York.

The car had been displayed outside Queens Borough Hall in Queens, N.Y., since it was acquired by then-Borough President Helen Marshall in 2005, and was employed as a welcoming center. But current Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has no love for the car, which has not been used in the welcoming role since 2015.

A bidder using the name “House32” won the car for $235,700, and has five days to claim and remove it. Bidding had opened on July 21 at $6,500; the Department of Citywide Administrative Services received a total of 47 bids.

Three trains of red subway cars meet
Three Redbirds trainsets meeet at 61st Street-Woodside station in 2001 during rush hour on the IRT No. 7 Flushing line. (Joseph M. Calisi)

The car is part of a fleet of R-36 (married pair) and R-33 (double-ended single cars) built between 1962 and 1964 by the St. Louis Car Co. While the nickname reflects the red paint scheme they eventually carried, many of the cars were delivered in teal, white, and black, first entering service in 1963 as the “World’s Fair” cars on the Flushing Line next to Flushing Meadows Park. The last of the cars was retired with a special “farewell run” on Nov. 3, 2003.

The cars were being phased out in 2001 when 714 were used in a program to create artificial reefs for aquatic life. Many were sunk off the coast of Cape May near the southern tip of New Jersey, a sad sight for aficionados.

Other cars have been preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, the Seashore Trolley Museum, and New York Transit Museum. The cars are sometimes operated in non-revenue moves and movie shoots.

— Updated at 12:15 p.m. to correct and clarify details on car and car type.

3 thoughts on “New York City sells ‘Last Redbird’ subway car

  1. $235K for retired subway car? Guess those politicians are thinking of ways to retrieve those previously sunken cars.

  2. Actually, the Redbirds were admired for their riding qualities, durability, and acceleration.

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