Southern Brooklyn

All Aboard? The Nostalgia Train Is Back!

In 2009, some riders dressed up to ride the nostalgia train. Hubba-hubba. (Photo by Allan Rosen)

THE COMMUTE: It’s time to take a break from cleaning Superstorm Sandy’s remains out of your basement. It’s time to forget your problems and take a brief, cheap vacation into the times of yesteryear by riding the Nostalgia Train.

Yes, the MTA has brought back this popular feature of the holiday season every Sunday from Thanksgiving to Christmas. You can board at the Second Avenue Station in Manhattan, where the train has a 20-minute layover making it easy to conveniently walk between cars to see the different cars in operation, and read and photograph all the old time advertisements.

You can also board at Queens Plaza or any station in between on the M line, where it operates. The train, however, does not linger at Queens Plaza. You have to get off and go to the Manhattan-bound platform for the trip back unless you are on the final trip of the day. In that case, you would have to take the E or the R back to Manhattan and transfer to a Brooklyn-bound train there.

In past years, there have been jazz bands and riders dressed in period costumes. This is a great family event and a fun time is had by all, those who remember riding these trains with the wicker seats and incandescent light bulbs and those for whom this is a new experience. Whatever you do, do not wait until the last minute. Since these trains only operate once a year and are maintained by volunteers, they are not in the best operating condition and can break down with some trips being canceled. So allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy this yearly event for the price of a subway fare. Next year it will cost more, and if you want to ride these old trains during other times of the year on other routes, other than from Grand Central to Yankee Stadium, you can expect to pay at least $40 per person for trips arranged by the New York Transit Museum.

So take advantage of this bargain while you can. You will find everyone in a festive holiday mood speaking to each other, unlike your typical morning commute. Here is the schedule and more details about the train.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  1. I rode the train a few years ago, what nostalgia seeing the tweed seats, the propeller fans, etc. Right back to my childhood days in Canarsie! They even had old advertisements up there. I highly recommend it. I think it goes from 2nd Avenue into Queens, at least that was the route when I took it.

  2. Thanks for the endorsement, Bruce.

    The old advertisements were the best. Those old cars all had their own smell and peculiar noises. Today, they all sound the same. Also, the lights all go out briefly when you pass a gap in the third rail, something else that doesn’t happen any more. I didn’t mention that when I rode it people were dancing to the music that was playing at the Second Avenue station.

    Try not to wait until the last trip of the day.

  3. These were the trains that were always an adventure to ride. Heaters in places where one could burn a leg, fans with open blades, what fun! Still many of us do have a fondness for them. There was something special about them, especially those wicker seats.

  4. I went to CCNY in the very early 80s and I used to take the D train from Kings Highway.Many times the trains wouldn’t have any heat at all and on the coldest mornings i used to squeeze in between the two fattest people i could find. It kept me warm and and it also helped keep me upright so i could catch a few winks without falling over.

  5. I think on some of the cars, the seats near the doors lifted up to get to the door controllers so doors could be taken out of service if they malfunctioned.

  6. This is true. Some cars would be exceedingly cold. I was told that in some cases it was because someone forgot to turn the switch on when it got cold. I guess we didn’t complain enough.

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