R-32: The Brightliners

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

An informational article, written and edited by The Ghost-Bull, about the history and details from a retired car model of the subway system in New York City, United States.


The Brightliners




Of which we know, the most populated city in the United States is New York City, carrying a population of 8.8 million. Getting around in such a crowded city, the subway system holds a mighty importance. There have been many car models used, traveling passengers, though, one has truly made a name for its creation. Manufactured in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the “Brightliner” became the first model consisting of a complete stainless-steel structure for N.Y.C.

Also nicknamed “R-32”, the model went into service September 14th of 1964. The number of cars, built, were 600 Brightliners, in total—by Budd Company. Of the amount, the contract was divided into 2 sub-contracts, with half under one and the remaining under the other. Numbered “3350” through “3649” were simply called R-32 as “R-32A” carried numbers between “3650” and “3949”. Only, they ran for the B.M.T. (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit) and the IND (Independent Subway).

Permanently together, two cars are used for a single unit—often named a twin car, twinset, twin unit, and married-pair cars. The speed, of a unit, maximizes at 55 miles-per-hour, with a horsepower of 115, while paired at 40 ton. Train fleets, of the Brightliners, would have no less than 2 cars, but no longer than 10 cars—only in even count.

They, the Brightliners, have a height of 12 feet, added with 8 inches. Their width stretches 10 feet, out. A twinset has a length of 60 feet, long. In each car, the seat amount lays at 50, with a proper passenger capacity ranged between 100 and 500 souls per fleet.

To replace older car models of the B.M.T., that included D-Type “Triplex”, the N.Y.C. Transit Authority shook hands with Budd Company. Beforehand, Budd made bids for previous contracts from the city’s T.A., failing numerous attempts for a success on production. The N.Y.C.T.A. eventually refused an allowance of any other equipment in competitive bids as stainless-steel was considered higher-quality construction. Therefore, the R-32 stood out, greatly, against competitors.

Also boosting Budd Company, in competition, was a low bid of $117,000 U.S. dollars to win the contract. Car model “Brightliner” became the introduction of stainless-steel subway cars for New York City. Succeeding, a premium contract is allowed for modern contracts of the specific high-quality equipment. All subway car models, in a bid for a contract with N.Y.C.T.A., are equipped with stainless-steel—at least slightly. Even with a historic victory, Budd never succeeded another contract with the Transit Authority of N.Y.C.

On January 9th, this year, the final run—of an R-32—gave its good-bye to the city. Officially, 390 cars have been scrapped. A handful, from the list, are due to previous incidents over the years. Included are 5 notable cars.

Car “3730” went into retirement after suffering from frame damage, and was sent to the S.B.K.(South Brooklyn Railroad) yard for scrapping on July 17th, 2007. Following a switch-split accident in the Concourse yard, 1985, car “3651” was scrapped. On May 15th of 1985, the second car from the leading end of “N” train—3766—sustained a rough amount of damage to her forward end while traveling South of Brooklyn’s “DeKalb Avenue” station, getting scrapped from the mysterious cause.

North of 168th Street, car “3629” was side-swiped by an R-42, labeled “4612”, causing the R-32 to be scrapped. Car “3628”, twinned with her, found “3668” as her new partner. The newly assigned twin converted into a compressor car, getting renumbered to “3669”.

The original “3669” car derailed from the tracks, December 1st of 1974, making contact with a wall at the “Franklin Avenue Shuttle”, North of Prospect Park subway station. Injuries have been inflicted, though, no fatalities were recorded. Taking a massive gash to her right, getting scrapped was the smartest option. Car mate “3668”, then, was converted into the new “3669”, twinning with “3628” after the ‘side-swipe’ accident. Impact, on December 1st, took place at a cross-over, derailing while enroute to a tunnel. Timing signals reduced the speed, under a safety system, for the fleet of Brightliners as they were traveling South, from Crown Heights.

Where the car collided is the location an old B.R.T.—standing for Brooklyn Rapid Transit, what is B.M.T., today—car model faced an incident. Chaos struck as the crowded 5-car train moved with extreme speed, traveling through a sharply S-curved tunnel. Called “The Malbone Street Wreck” and “The Brighton Beach Line Accident”, its fleet carried approximately 650 passengers during the time of incident, in 1918, leaving at least 93 dead and hundreds injured. What happened on November 1st, 1918, was considered the worst subway disaster in history, for New York City.

Clearly, trains were much more dangerous than they are in modern day, but they should still be seen with caution. A good amount of the Brightliners have a record of incidents. Some R-32s were lucky enough to return to service, following damaging incidents.

Traveling through the 53rd Street tunnel, cars “3559” and “3904” faced a fire resulting from third-rail arcing—due to a fallen airshaft grating, in their path. It was in ’96, when the incident occurred. The cars overgone repairs, returning to service with new twin partners.

The date was March 5th, 1971, when a different car model struck R-32’s “3628” at 59th Street. Damage, to the end, was inflicted, returning to service after getting rebuilt. “3629” was her original twin, but was paired to “3668” upon return. In-fact, this is a rewind, sending you to the ‘side-swipe’ incident that occurred North of 168th Street, causing her first twin to be scrapped.

Life-span, of a Brightliner, had an expectancy of 35 years. In the late ‘80s, all remaining cars took-on refurbishment. Included, flip-dot signs replaced the original roll signs while lights of the express marker were replaced at each car’s end. Rebuilt by “General Electric” were 10, though, the other hundreds of cars were re-created by a civil engineering and construction company titled “Morrison-Knudsen”. Upon service return, the model separated into 3 categories—R-32: Phase I, R-32: Phase II, and R-32: G.E. The Brightliners have been in service for 57 years, and 22 years longer than their expectancy.  

By Jodi Shapiro, the New York Transit Museum curator, it is educated of the washboard-like ridges, on the car model’s exterior, creating the meaning behind the “Brightliner” name—along with the sleek, shining, appearance. These historic R-32s have been featured in the movies “The French Connection”, “Bridge of Spies”, “Max Payne”, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. At the 18th Avenue station, Bedford Park Boulevard station, and Church Avenue station, they are also seen in the 2019 film, “Joker”.



Written by Troy “The Ghost-Bull” Powell

Submitted: August 13, 2022

© Copyright 2022 The Ghost-Bull. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:



Hi,Ghost Bull nice article....
Written about "R-32 :The Brightliners"
I enjoyed reading this article.

Tue, August 16th, 2022 6:08pm

Steve Fettinger

Thanks for the read. Well written.

Sun, August 28th, 2022 3:16am

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