I've been hearing for years how amazing the New York Transit Museum is. I know it sounds like the most boring museum in the world, but everyone kept raving about it. So, this past week, I finally went to check it out.
Normally I like to hit up museums solo, but this time I decided to take a date. So with my favorite three-year-old boy in tow, I hopped on a train to go to a museum to see more trains. With a level of enthusiasm reserved only for young boys, I was pulled along the streets of Brooklyn hearing "Mediff, Mediff, I want to go see trains!" over and over again.
Finally we reach the spot on the map where the museum should be. My silly grown-up brain looked up at the tall buildings around me to find the entrance, but I couldn't seem to find it. Then, I felt a tiny hand slip from my grip and watched as the wee one started down the steps to what looked like a normal subway station.
"What are you doing, buddy?" I asked like a doof.
"I go to see TRAINS!" he said, clumsily stepping down the stairs.
Low and behold, the New York Transit Museum is in an old train station! How clever!
At this point, I decided to let the toddler take the lead, he obviously understood what was up way more than I did.
So down under the streets we went.
See, it looks just like a super clean version of a subway station.
We bought our tickets and before I knew it, I was in hot pursuit of the small blonde haired boy winding through the elaborately staged exhibits.
"Hey, don't you want to see the pictures?"
"No, Mediff, I want to see TRAINS!"
I was being a bit thick really, obviously the three year-old boy doesn't care to look at photos from a century and millennia he doesn't even know happened yet.
By the time I caught up with him, we had made it to Mecca.
On the tracks of the old Court Street station in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum has lined up all the subway cars from different eras.
From the earliest, Turn of the Century cars.
To the roaring 20s
To the Midcentury
And on to whatever this guy is.
You can walk on and off and all the way through all the cars just as if you were hopping on to ride to the next station.
The inside of the cars is left exactly as it would have been when they were in use...okay maybe a bit cleaner and lacking in nutty people.
But you get a fantastic sense of what the train was like in each of its stages.
How I wish that amazing blue train was still around. Those bright blue seats are so much nicer than the orange and yellow ones we have today. I don't care who you are, if you stare at a faded orange seat from the 70s in flickering florescent lighting long enough, you will start to go mad. But who could could go mad in that aqua wonder!?
I've always wondered how they survived before the trains were air conditioned.
You get to see all the bits and bobs of a subway car. Some of which haven't changed very much...
And some of which have.
Before they became the MTA, the subway system was privatized and there were separate companies that ran the different lines. So all the numbered lines (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) were one company and the letters lines ( ACE, BDFM, G, NQR, JZ, L, S,) were another. There were some other trains that no longer exist like the RR and the W and the lines that still exist haven't always been grouped as they are now. But the subway map has fundamentally unchanged since it started.
My absolute favorite part was that inside the trains, they had advertisements from that period.
Someone want to tell me what Car Cards are?
Once upon a time you could advertise cigarettes AND smoke them on the subway.
But this one below is my favorite.
I can just imagine Peggy Olson and Don Draper arguing over that one.
Logos used to be a bit more exciting than they are now.
And I so wish they would bring back the BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit) logo.
BRT doesn't even exist anymore, but it's such a lovely design, I don't think anyone would mind.
After my charge had had his fill of trains, we hiked back up the stairs to take in the rest of the museum, which is complete with buses where kids (or you) can hop in the driver's seat.
And some amazing old photographs that show the many iterations of New York public transportation.
Don't they look so smart in their hats and suits?
I do love a good bustle.
Oh there is the train car I recognize: crowded and someone is shirtless and no one knows why.
While the whole museum of extremely kid-friendly, it's also got a lot of stuff for adults as well. There's a room with all the different versions of maps that was pretty mesmerizing.
And models of the old street cars.
Hehehe they even had a little model station!
I tried my best to glean some sort of information from my trip the the Transit Museum, but found myself caught up in the magical world of a three year-old boy who has basically entered a real life Richard Scarry book. I'll definitely have to make a grown ups only trip back soon so I can absorb all the finer details and take a longer look through the gift shop.
I do have to hand it to the MTA, not only do they get me from place to place with relative ease and safety, they also have one hell of a sense of humor.
For non New Yorkers, these are actual advertisements on trains aimed at getting us all to behave normally.
Bless their hearts for addressing what has become known as "the spread".
Whether you are a tourist, a New Yorker, a parent, or a just a big kid, I highly recommend the New York Transit Museum. It's a great place to spend an afternoon and gives you such an appreciation for the most used transit system in the U.S.
If you can't make it to the museum, here is a list of fun facts about the New York Subways System from good old Buzzfeed for your enjoyment.