The original cars for the Tubes were supplied in the period 1908 through the late 1920s (mostly by American Car and Foundry Co.) and were colloquially known as the "black cars". The declining financial fortunes of the H&M prevented any major replacement or modernization of the rolling stock. Some of the cars which entered service on the Tubes' opening day were still in service in the early 1960s, a half century later. It was only with the introduction of the K-Series in 1958 that these cars could start to be withdrawn from passenger service. [Click images for full view]
The Tubes' continuing financial problems also meant that almost a quarter of a century after their introduction and after the change from private to public ownership (1987), the K-Series cars were still in daily service. They had been delivered in 1958 by the St. Louis Car Co. and were the first fully air conditioned subway car series in the world. Cars number 1200-1229 belonged to the H&M, while cars number 1230-1249 were owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad (later the Penn Central), the operating partner for the Journal Square<>Newark segment. After 1967 the PA leased these "PRR cars" from Conrail, the successor to the PRR, until the PA authority folded the Journal Square <> Newark route into the main system, also abolishing the fare surcharge.
One of the first major steps the PA took was to begin replacing the Tubes fleet, the overwhelming majority of which had been in service for over half a century and which had been victim to "deferred maintenance" for several decades. In 1965 the PA-1 series (car numbers 100-151 and 600-709) began going into service; the PA-2 series (car numbers 152-181 and 710-723) went into service in 1977. Both series were supplied by the United States firm, St. Louis Car Division.
By 1972, however, when bids were solicited for the new PA-3 series of cars (cars 724-769), the United States had become a land focussed on private automobile transportation and American builders of rapid transit equipment had disappeared. Thus, there were no suitable offers from United States firms. And so the PA-3 series was supplied by the Canadian firm, Hawker-Siddley Canada Ltd.
Now there was another "first" for the Tubes: besides having the the first series of fully air conditioned cars (K-Series), besides having the first fully air conditioned fleet in the world, besides having the first fully air conditioned subway station in the world (World Trade Center), besides having the first long passenger transport beltway (at Erie), the Tubes now were the first American transit system to purchase foreign subway cars (and with public money). This caused a storm of outrage from organized labor and the dispute went so far as to involve the United States Congress. Although the US transit building industry has recovered somewhat in the intervening years, the PA-4 Series of cars (car numbers 800-894 from 1987) was also supplied by a foreign firm, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., although the cars were partially assembled in the United States.
By the late 1980s the PA-1, PA-2 and PA-3 car series had been rebuilt to match the technical specifications of the PA-4 series (these rebuilt cars have an "R" as part of their car number) and there now was a unified fleet with only minor variations. (For example, the PA-4 series has a stainless steel body and trucks as well as six double doors instead of the 4 in the older series. There also is a slightly different window layout than that found in the PA-1 through 3 series.) When the PA-1 through PA-3 series were rebuilt, of immediate interest to most passengers was that they had lost their cross seats and now there was only side seating, as the PA-4 series had had from the beginning. Each car now has 35 seats with room for 130 standees.
The cars weigh approximately 69,000 pounds, are 51 feet long and have a width of approximately 9 feet 4 inches. The nominal top speed of the cars is given at 70 mph but the top service speed is approximately 55 mph.By 1999 the fleet rolling stock consisted of 267 rail cars which had not been replaced since the PA-4 order so that the average age of the fleet is now 26 years. In the Spring of 2001 the PA announced plans to rehabilitate or replace all the cars in the system, purchasing 295 new cars and overhauling 95 existing vehicles.
[Additional photos and comments on the fleet are in the Picture Gallery]
© BKlapouchy 1987-2001