Q Cars

April 1st, 2014 by


In 2001, I came across a set of 3 old wooden subway cars parked in Sunset Park, across the street from the old Davidson Pipe storage facility (which today is a Costco store). As luck would have it, they were parked in a small former SBK yard with no fence. These were the last wooden subway cars in use within the NYC subway system.

Built in the 1920s, these 'Q' (for 'Queens') cars were modernized for use on the present day 7 line, ferrying people to the 1939 world's fair. "There were 30 three-car "Q" sets numbered 1600ABC through 1629ABC, and 12 two-car "QX" numbered 1630AB through 1641AB. The "Q" sets were arranged motor-trailer-motor; the "QX" sets had one motorized car and one unmotorized cab control car."

In 1950, the "Q" fleet was transferred to the Third Avenue Elevated, and in 1957, they were transferred to the Myrtle Avenue elevated - which at the time ran from Metropolitan Avenue to Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. In 1969 nearly half of this elevated was shut down (the route south of Broadway to Jay Street - what remains from Broadway northward is today's M line). With much of the route closed and removed, nearly all of the Q cars were disposed of immediately after. A few ended up in museums (one is at the NYCTA museum in Brooklyn) - and these 3 ended up in work train service. They were stripped of most electrically gear, and outfitted with racks to hold pipes and hoses. They served as a 'pump train' - being pushed into flooded tunnels to suck up and pump out water.

Being used for such work had a clear and obvious toll on these cars. The wooden seats and walls rotted. Even their roofs began to crumble to dust. By the time I came across them sitting forlorn at the side of an exit ramp for the BQE, it was clear that they were nothing more than unsalvageable junk. The iron frames had completely rotted out - forming many holes throughout the floors of the cars. It was hard to imagine how subway workers managed to push these cars to this location without them shedding rotted wood and rusted out break lines along the way.

Within a few weeks they were gone - likely scrapped where they sat. Reduced and recycled.

To see 2 videos of the Myrtle Avenue Elevated trains in the 1950s and 60s (including the Q cars, of course), go here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmOjUNTkWss
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsttt8UV4Rw
(Many thanks to Sir Brian Berger for digging up these links...)

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  • About The Author

    Bad Guy Joe

    Bad Guy Joe
    Bad Guy Joe knows more about the NYC underground than anyone else on or below the surface of this planet. He has spent nearly 30 years sneaking into NYC's more forbidden locations. When not underground, he's probably bitching about politicians or building something digital. 
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