By Peggy Taylor
I’ll be honest. When I was asked to cover the MTA‘s Annual Holiday Nostalgia Train, I imagined myself seated in a 119-year-old, wooden, vintage car as I had been last July when I attended the Hometown Heroes Parade. Before politicians and dignitaries rode up the Canyon of Heroes in the historic subway car mounted on a flatbed truck, I had sat on its straw-colored rattan seats, hung onto its overhead leather straps, and been amused by its early-twentieth-century ads. The car had no automated voice announcements, no bright fluorescent lighting, no air conditioning. That was vintage for me.
So I was disappointed when I learned that this year’s Holiday Nostalgia Train, (which I’d be taking for the first time in its 46-year-old history), would showcase cars that only retired in 2003, and which I remembered all too well — composite (non-stainless steel) cars, built in the 1960s, which comprised the TOMC, “Train of Many Colors.” Courtesy of the New York Transit Museum, there would be “redbirds,” “bluebirds,“ and green cars, running every Sunday from Thanksgiving until Christmas, from Chambers Street to 137th Street. I remembered them as if it were yesterday. For me, they didn’t qualify as vintage.
Well, my disappointment soon turned to delight as I rode the steep escalator to the elevated 125th Street Station and joined the excited throngs of transit buffs waiting to see the TOMC under the canopy of the cold, but sunny platform. New Yorkers of all colors and stripes, puffed up in their parkas, young and old, mostly guys, but gals too, as they talked all things transit and compared speeds and on-time performances of their favorite trains.
Smart phones and cameras at the ready, they leaned over the platform as one, heads turned northward as they waited for two bright headlights to appear from the 137th St. tunnel. “There it is,” someone shouted when the headlights appeared, the train exited the tunnel, and the motorman blared the train’s horn. This was the moment. The aficionados jockeyed and jostled for position as they tried to immortalize the moment and get the perfect video or still shot. One guy even lay down and held his iPhone at the platform’s edge to get the best footage and sound of the train. Once done, he jumped up and shouted, “I just made love to the red bird!”
Indeed, love was in the air. The crowd was friendly, well-mannered, convivial. The subway’s recent horrors seemed forgotten. What shootings, stabbings, and track shovings? Folks were overjoyed to have the TOMC back after a two-year, Covid-induced hiatus and were excited to share their love of transit.
Their enthusiasm rubbed off on me, so I decided to take in the TOMC twice, first at 3:00 p.m. from the uptown platform to get long shots of the ten-car train, then at 5:00 p.m. from the downtown platform to get night shots and board the train. I had a ball seeing New Yorkers in vintage dress or costumed in MTA merchandise, so much so that I plan on returning on the last two Sundays (December 11 and 18) that the TOMC is running. And it’ll only cost me the swipe of my Metro card. See you there?
On Sunday, December 11, and Sunday, December 18, the “Train of Many Colors” will operate along the 1 line, making express stops on the local track between the Chambers Street and 137th Street-City College stations, from 10am to 5:30pm. To see the full schedule, click here.