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Redbird trains

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Title: Redbird trains  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: New York City Subway rolling stock, R17 (New York City Subway car), Cleanup Taskforce/Redbird Trains, R28 (New York City Subway car), R26 (New York City Subway car)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Redbird trains

R33 #9075 on display at Queens Boro Hall/Queens County Supreme Court
Redbird trains for non-passenger service, taken in Junction Boulevard Station on December, 2014

Redbird is the name given to 1,410 New York City Subway cars of the following types: R26, R28, R29, R33 Main Line (ML), R33 World's Fair (WF), R36 ML, and R36 WF. These cars were painted a deep red to combat graffiti, which had become a major problem in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The deep red color was referred to as Gunn Red or "Broad Street Red" in honor of its originator David L. Gunn, the former SEPTA General Manager who became President of the New York City Transit Authority during this period. Initially entering service in various colors, these cars received the new paint scheme between 1984 and 1989. 16 R17s were also given this paint scheme in 1985/86, but were retired by 1988, well before the name "Redbird" caught on.


  • History 1
  • Retirements and replacements 2
  • Preservation 3
  • Other usage of Redbird name 4
  • References 5


These cars were built by two different manufacturers.

Redbirds operating in the Bronx

The cars provided passenger service on the 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 trains. They were occasionally used on Fan Trips on some B Division services as well.

Retirements and replacements

Most Redbirds were phased out from 2001 to 2003 and replaced by the new New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia as artificial reefs to promote marine life, to serve as a barrier and to enhance recreational scuba diving by Weeks Marine Inc. An episode of CSI: NY titled "The Deep" used these cars as part of the story line, and even featured well-replicated underwater shots of mock ups of the cars. However, the show places them in the East River of New York City.


Some Redbirds are used in the Train of Many Colors excursions, which includes numerous historical subway cars in their original livery, showing contrasting colors. These cars are in the museum fleet. R33 #9075 is on display at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Queens.

Other usage of Redbird name

  • Some R27 and the rebuilt R30, R30A BMT/IND cars were often referred as the BMT Redbirds after they were painted Gunn Red during the late 1980s.
  • The MBTA Red Line in Boston used the Redbird name starting in the late-1970s when that line's rolling stock was repainted into a largely red scheme. However, that usage of Redbird followed a tradition set with those fleet's prior paint schemes ("Bluebirds" for the 01400s, "Silverbirds" for the 01500s and 01600s).


  1. ^ "MTA Transit's Legendary Redbirds Make Final Trip" (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 2003-11-03. Retrieved 2015-06-04. 
  • New York Times. "Refloating a Notion About Subways" by Jeremy Pearce. April 28, 2002.
  • New York Times. "Growing Pains for a Deep-Sea Home Built of Subway Cars" by Ian Urbina. April 8, 2008.
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