Skip to content

What Paul Did on Saturday: A Ride on the Nostalgia Train

One of my favorite New York City holiday-season rituals takes place on Saturdays each December, when the MTA, which operates the New York City subway system, runs the Nostalgia Train, which is a train comprised of old subway cars from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. The trains are decorated with period-appropriate ads, for the full throwback effect, and they run from downtown Manhattan to uptown and then back again. The whole round trip takes a little less than two hours.

On Saturday afternoon, I met up with my friends Anne, Robert, Jon, and Karen to ride the retro rails. As usual, there were two main contingents of people on board: vintage enthusiasts decked out in period attire, and serious train geeks.

I didn’t go overboard with the photos this year, but here are some shots of the scene:

If you want to ride the Nostalgia Train, it’s running every Saturday for the rest of December. Details here.

(Big thanks to my friend and fellow Substacker Anne Kadet, who took the photos that include me.)

Comments (29)


    Though, there is something off-putting about that plain paper sign taped to the window that was clearly done in Microsoft Word in the modern default Calibri font (which itself is a 21st century typeface).

    Paul! I was there too! It’s so cool the weekend that they bring in the small jazz combos to play on the platform!

    Freakin’ Train NERDS!

    (Quietly folds up 15 page manifesto about the debacle that was the mid 2000’s Nike System of Dress).

    I need to become a NYC subway train geek in the new year. So that I am schooled up on what trains to ride and to where when I am there in May!

    They usually pull out vintage trains twice a year. They’ll usually run about two trains from Manhattan to either The Rockaways or Coney Island — it’s called “The Train Of Many Colors.” They usually do that during the summer.

    In the late fall, they’ll run weekend “Shopper Specials” — those are the cars you see in Paul’s photo essay.

    You can look that information up on the MTA’s website.

    Nice juxtaposition. Cigarette Ads in a vehicle that prohibited smoking.

    Nice Pics. I used to live in Colorado where they had the Railroad Museum in Golden. We went there annually for the ride on the “Santa Train”. Made up of vintage rail.

    Thanks, Paul!

    I love the old trains with the cane seats and ceiling fans (something a risk manager would have gotten rid of if they had risk managers back then). The ads brought back a lot of memories. My favorite (but not shown) was the Miss Rheingold ads. I also remember a cartoon sign of a child sitting on his mother’s lap that read, “Little enough to ride for free, little enough to ride your knee.”

    Paul, this might be the COOLEST thing you’ve ever posted about. I love this kind of stuff. Post more pictures and videos! What an awesome thing they do. I wish I knew about this earlier.

    To add on. Do the trains ride different, sound different? Do they smell old, in a sense of the good smell of old stuff? Those seats look so much more inviting than the plastic ones of today. I just love how well made things were and how much detail was put in to things in the past.

    I’m considering different to be good! I’m running this through my head and thinking about what it must be like.

    The R-1s were about 30 years old whe I rode them in the 60s and remember them screeching loudly whenever on a curved track. I also remember them smelling different than subsequent cars (a more old “industrial” metal kind of smell).

    Patrick, there are a poopton of photos on Instagram. You may want to look up “Nostalgia Train”, “Shopper’s Special,” or the hashtag NYCVintageTrain2023.

Comments are closed.