R16 (New York City Subway car)

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MTA NYC Subway "Train of Many Metals" vintage train passing Ave H.jpg
R16 car 6387 at Avenue H on the Train of Many Metals.
Subway Car 2 (3793941078).jpg
Interior view of R16 car 6387
In service1955-1987
ManufacturerAmerican Car and Foundry, USA
ReplacedBMT Zephyr
Entered serviceJanuary 10, 1955
Scrapped1983 (6400-6499)
1987 (6300-6399)
Number built200
Number preserved4
Number scrapped196
FormationSingle unit cars
Fleet numbers6300-6499
Capacity70 (seated)
Operator(s)New York City Subway
Car body constructionLAHT carbon steel
Car length60 ft (18.29 m)
Width10 ft (3.05 m)
Height12.08 ft (3.68 m)
Platform height3.76 ft (1.15 m)
Doors8 sets of 50 inch wide side doors per car
Maximum speed55 mph (89 km/h)
WeightGE cars (6400-6499) 84,532 lb (38,343 kg), WH cars (6300-6399) 86,270 lb (39,131 kg)
Traction systemWestinghouse 1447C; GE 1240A4
Westinghouse UPC631A; GE MCM 17KG113D1
Power output100 hp (75 kW) / 4 per car
Acceleration2.5 mph/s (4.0 km/(h⋅s)) (?)
Braking system(s)WABCO ME42 SMEE
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The R16 was a New York City Subway car model built by the American Car and Foundry Company from 1954 to 1955 for the IND/BMT B Division.


The R16s were numbered 6300–6499.

When delivered, the R16s quickly became the new standard in car design for the New York City Transit Authority. Structurally and mechanically, they were the larger versions of the R15s and the R17s, and basically an improved version of the R10s, sharing the same exact dimensions. The only exception was that the R16s had electrically operated door motors while the R10s had air-powered door motors. When they were new, the R16's could give the R10 some competition when it came to speed - both cars were mechanically similar with four 100 horsepower motors and a balancing speed of 55 MPH.

The R16s, like the older Arnines, R10s, and R11s, featured three sets of mid-carbody passenger windows on each side. One set contained an illuminated rollsign box in lieu of a second window. This sign box had three readings arranged vertically - the top two being the train's terminals, and the bottom being the route. This window and signbox pattern became standard for later cars until the R40s in 1967. The R16 would also be the last car class delivered with cross wise seating until the R44 order in 1972.

There were two versions of the R16: Westinghouse (WH)-powered cars (6300-6399) and General Electric (GE)-powered cars (6400-6499), the latter of which were delivered earlier. The GE-powered cars used forced air to cool the rheostatic resistors used for acceleration and dynamic braking. Unfortunately, the low voltage rotary converter (motor-generator) used to provide the air proved to be problematic as the enclosure tended to trap dirt and rain water within. In addition, the master controllers also had a tendency to short out more frequently relative to other classes, leading to high failure rates. Meanwhile, the Westinghouse-powered cars had resistors mounted in the open for slip stream cooling as had been the traditional means; this setup was found to be more reliable and was reused in newer cars up to the R22 order. In theory, both types of R16s could be run together; however, in practice, this was found to be less than desirable, so cars would be segregated by electrical running gear to provide better fleet reliability. The R16's were also the heaviest 60-foot subway car built at the time, weighing in at some 86,000 pounds per car.


The R16s were delivered between 1954-1955 in a kale green paint scheme, and first placed into passenger service on January 10, 1955 on the BMT #15, (now J). Two cars were painted gold for a celebration in 1955.

R16s 6300-6349 were transferred to the A in preparation for the opening of the former Long Island Rail Road's IND Rockaway Line on June 28, 1956, as the Transit Authority wished to use its newest equipment available for the line's inaugural.[1] After the late 1950s, the cars were returned to the BMT Eastern Division and would remain there until the late 1960s and the early 1970s, when they were transferred to various lines throughout the system. During the 1970s, R16s could be found intermixed with other cars and in far away places from their previous running grounds. Photos of R16's in the Bronx or Queens show them both in complete consists as well as with strange bedfellows.

In 1968, many cars were repainted into a bright red scheme. The whole R16 fleet was given the new MTA corporate silver and blue scheme in 1970, and the cars kept that scheme until retirement.

During the early 1970s, the R16s had their door motors replaced with door motors similar to those used by the R44s. As the replacement door motors were mounted in the walls rather than under the seats;[2] distinctive sloping wall panels (unique to the R16s) appeared.[3]

In 1979, car 6429 was rebuilt with a new front end, large picture windows, and new doors;[4] it was a prototype car for a complete rebuilding of the fleet, which would add modern interiors and air-conditioning. Part of the rebuild also included the conversion of the cars to four-car sets. The car was eventually scrapped and the rebuilding never took place with other cars.


R16s 6305 and 6339 at the Coney Island Complex

Because of persistent electrical issues with the GE-powered R16s, the Transit Authority planned to retire them early in 1977 with R46s. However, problems with R46 cars due to cracks found in those cars' trucks (as well as a host of other defects) kept the GE-powered R16s in service until 1983. The more reliable WH-powered R16 cars remained in service on the BMT Eastern Division until the spring of 1987, when they were ultimately replaced with the R68s.

After retirement, four cars were saved for various purposes, including:

6452 was located at PS 248 (a NYCT training facility) until July 2004, Brooklyn as a training car. It was painted in the "Redbird" scheme and was not operational. In July 2004, the car was moved to Linden Yard in Brooklyn and was replaced by R110B 3005, which was moved to the facility. 6452 was moved again to they Coney Island Yard in 2005. Finally, in July 2007, the car was moved to the SBK yard for asbestos abatement and sent to the 207 St. Yard for reefing in early 2008.

In popular culture[edit]

Various R16s were featured in the 1981 made-for-TV film We're Fighting Back,[7] including the interior of some R16s. Several of them included 6301, 6302, 6321, 6333, 6355, 6394, 6398, and 6399, signed up as an L train. Various stations were renamed in the film, but there are various hints, including the fact it was a solid 8-car set of R16s rather than a 10-car set that it was filmed on the BMT Canarsie Line.

A wooden mockup of an R16 was featured in the 1976 remake of King Kong.

In the 1959 film Imitation of Life several trains consisting of R16s can be seen passing outside the studio window in the flea powder ad scene.


  1. ^ As shown in these pictures:
    • "First train to the Rockaways consisting of new R16s".
    • "R16s at Rockaway Park Yard".
  2. ^ "www.nycsubway.org". www.nycsubway.org.
  3. ^ Before and After
  4. ^ http://photobucket.com/gallery/user/justinsz/media/bWVkaWFJZDo0MzYzOTA4Mw==/?ref=
  5. ^ "The Trolley Museum Collection, R-16 Car #6398".
  6. ^ http://www.tmny.org/tmny6398.html
  7. ^ "IMDb".

Further reading[edit]

  • Sansone, Gene. Evolution of New York City subways: An illustrated history of New York City's transit cars, 1867-1997. New York Transit Museum Press, New York, 1997 ISBN 978-0-9637492-8-4

External links[edit]