(Please note the photos here feature the Chicago Elevated not the New York subway.)
In New York Subways And Stations author Tod Lange presents the city's transit systems during the grimy, dirty, and somewhat crime-plagued era from 1970 through 1990. Along with the author's work he features the collections of Bill Myers and Bill Pollman. Not long after I received this book to review from the folks at Schiffer Publishing Ltd. I was given the chance to review another title on the subject, Making All Stops, which details the same subject and is presented in a similar fashion. While I am not a transit fan by trade both books offer not only an interesting look at New York's subway and late elevated systems but also during a time when the equipment was in poor condition and, at least outwardly, rundown. In any event, if you enjoy transit and are looking for a coffee table book on the subject you will very much enjoy this book!
It should be noted that New York Subways And Stations does not provide a written history of the city's transit systems. Instead, outside of a few short paragraphs of text here and there the book is almost exclusively photos from the 1970 to 1990 time period. As such, if you are looking for a historical narrative of the subject you may want to consider another title. Overall, Mr. Lange lays out the book with eight "chapters" (which are more or less different categories of images) and a lead introduction. While the opening intro is just a few paragraphs in length it sets the tone for what you may expect in the proceeding pages and the author offers a glimpse of what it was like to ride the NYC subways during that era, which were the early years of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
Directly after the introduction (literally, the very next facing page) the book begins by highlighting the 1970s era. The images feature the now-gone elevated lines during the 1970s, which were nearly as rundown as the equipment with rampant deferred maintenance. The 1970s were a decade of transition for the subway systems in some ways as ancient cars were being replaced with newer equipment such as R-46s, R-42s, R-17s and others. These newer cars were painted in an attractive silver and blue livery and began arriving during the early 1970s. However, with crime plaguing the subways during the time and money short (remember, that this was in an era before environmentally friendly transit systems were so well embraced by large cities), it was not long before the equipment soon showed its wear with grime and liberal amounts of graffiti covering many of the cars.
Into the 1980s the MTA saw further improvements with more upgraded equipment including R-27s, R-62As, and R-33s although crime still remained a problem during much of the decade. For instance, in one of the last pages of New York Subways And Stations the author features an advertisement from 1983 released by the MTA that states: "It's chain snatching season again. Please don't flash a lot of jewelry. Tuck in your chains. Don't flash your bracelets and watches. Turn your rings around so the stones don's show. There are only 3,400 transit police. They can't be everywhere, all the time. If you want to keep it, don't flaunt it." A statement like that today might scare off potential commuters, which says much about just how far New York has come in cleaning up their transit systems and improving safety.
The photo gallery of the 1980s encompasses the largest section of New York Subways And Stations where even at that time one could still find a few historic subway cars in operation. Throughout the book you will see various car designs and trackside structures presented. Unfortunately, if you want to learn more about these subjects, again, the book being predominantly focused on photo presentation does not provide such information and you will need to look for another title. Having said that there is no questioning the superb images presented which are large, vivid, and incredibly detailed (like you might expect in a coffee table book). Moving on into chapter three you will see views of the subway yards, a subject often never seen by either enthusiasts or commuters.
The yards at the time were about in the same condition as the equipment and old elevated lines, somewhat forlorn and showing deferred maintenance. In chapter four Mr. Lange presents images of the underground operations and views of stations, again in an era when cleanliness isn't quite what it is today. Chapter five focuses exclusively on cars littered with graffiti, some of which was actually quite colorful. It should also be noted that the author has released a book just on the subject of graffiti and subways entitled, "New York Subway Graffiti", which is also released by Schiffer Publishing. Another subject most folks probably are not familiar with in regards to subways is maintenance-of-way equipment. During chapter six the author presents an interesting array of such MOW cars, which were sometimes retrofitted or customized for use in such an environment.
The book concludes with chapter seven, appropriately titled "Scrap Trains" and provides a look at what happened to many cars after their days were over hauling passengers. Some of this equipment was overhauled for use in maintenance service although many were used in an entirely different capacity; stripped down entirely to the frame and dumped off shore in the Atlantic Ocean for use as man-made reefs for local sea-life. Before this occurred, however, many of these cars remained derelict in yards for years doing little more than providing graffiti artists with free canvases. Finally, chapter eight presents two subway legend enthusiasts whose work contributed to the book and mentioned above, Bill Myers and Bill Pollman.