Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nostalgia Train NYC (and Vintage Ads!)

I love this picture so much. There is no ad attached, that is the entire panel!

After reading a great post by Joanna over at Dividing Vintage Moments about her fun on the Nostalgia Train in New York City (go have a look at the lovely outfit she wore!), I was reminded that I’ve never ridden it myself. Every Sunday in December the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) breaks out vintage trains that used to be in service in the NYC subway and runs them on the M line from 2nd Avenue out to Queens Plaza and back again. My son is a big fan of this program so he and my husband and daughter have gone out for it many times but I had not joined them until this year!

If you ever see this train pull into the station in Manhattan, get on it!

I have spent so much time at the New York Transit Museum here in Brooklyn that I have been on these trains before, many, many, (many) times, just not been on them when they are moving. What a time capsule they are! They are old and you feel the cold air blowing in through the windows and sometimes there is the smell of oil or of faint smoke, but in a way these old standbys seem safer than the newer trains and because there are two MTA employees posted in each car, everyone is quite polite and you never see people throwing trash or acting rude like you might during a regular subway ride. Woo-hoo!

My favorite part of this experience was watching the expressions of people on the platform when they saw one of these trains arriving in the station. Plenty of riders would not get on the train, even when a conductor stepped off to yell what the next stop would be and it was a train going their way. Hilarious!

A train from the 1920s, featuring wicker seats!

I’ve heard the Nostalgia Train is a big To-Do now on opening weekend, with people dressing up in vintage clothes and bands playing on the platform. Because we went so late in the season, I only saw one lovely lady dressed in vintage and accompanied by her children. She was in the 1920s car and kindly let me take her picture. She was wearing her mother’s fur coat and grandmother’s fur hat. Both were divine!

A beautiful lady and her children, dressed up for the occasion!

A great ad on the 1920s train.

Doors closing on a Blue Bird train from the late 1940s.

Inside the Blue Bird.

One thing I have always loved about the old trains is seeing the vintage ads and they have them from the era the train was in service. The cars they used the day we rode were from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1950s and the ads reflect their time. Whenever I get to see these ads I am reminded of the power of illustration (and the wonderful talent of illustrators) and in many cases I find the illustrations better and a lot more charming than a photograph could ever be.

Such a glamorous picture for such inexpensive wines!

I really like this ad for Lipton Tea...

...and this one for Chuckles. I love these old illustrations!

Is it just me or does this lady look like Babe Paley? This ad was on the train from the 1930s.

Until next December, vintage train!

If you’ve ever been on the Nostalgia Train in Manhattan let me know what you thought of it. And if you ever see it pulling into the station, do yourself a favor and hop on board!


Dawn Lucy said...

Those vintage ads are great! And sure who doesn't love a man confident enough to rock a hat! ;)
Dawn Lucy

Jill said...

Hi Dawn Lucy, the vintage ads are my favorite thing about these trains. I would love to see more men wearing hats, and I am noticing them a bit more in Brooklyn, newsboy caps usually. I do love a man in a (non-knit) hat! XO, Jill

A Labour of Life said...

That sounds so fun, and I am a lover of vintage signs so thank you for sharing, You guys looked great

Janet said...

This looks an absolute treat! I love everything about it---the history, the vintage cars, the ads, and the idea of unknowing people hanging back, leery of getting on.

It's not just you---she does look like Babe Paley.

Jill said...

Hi Linda, that family was gorgeous but that was not me and my kids! Hope you enjoyed the vintage ads, they always brighten my day! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Janet! Right? Babe Paley? I would not be surprised to find the illustrator used a photo of her as his/her "model." She was so very gorgeous. XO, Jill

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

This is so cool! I did not even know it existed! How much fun...thanks for sharing with us, Jill!

Jill said...

Hi Pam, another reason for you to visit NYC during December--holiday windows and Nostalgia trains! XO, Jill

Suzanne Carillo said...

I must go on this! Shoot and I was just there this past Sunday : ( Ah time!


GSL said...

Great post! I've never heard of this before and love trains, those ads, and the era when cross-country train travel was so glamourous and romantic.
I do see the Babe Paley resemblance and great pic of that beautiful lady with her 2 children.
This was a treat Jill !

rosie said...


Since I am a subway rider from way back, I loved loved this post & I can't believe I haven't been on this vintage subway. Its a must see.

Were there any "Miss Subway" ads?

That ad was definitely a Babe Paley inspiration.

PinkCheetahVintage said...

NEVER heard of this!!! It's so cool!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to ride this train come December. How utterly charming!

Jill said...

Hi Suzanne, the train only runs in December. You should ride it if you get a chance. Let me know if you ever want to meet for coffee, you have been to NYC twice in the past year or so, right? XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi GSL, I had you in mind when I posted that hat ad, I figured it would score big points with you! Does Chicago ever do anything like this, breaking out their vintage trains? After riding on Amtrak last summer I feel that is the only hope this country has of ever returning to anything like the romance of travel during the last century and even then, there is much to be desired! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Rosie! I could've added to the title of this post, calling it "Nostalgia Train NYC (and Vintage Ads, or Rosie, This One is For You!)." I wondered if you'd been on this before, I can't believe it took me this many years to ride it. And YES, there were Miss Subway ads! Aren't they great, I love seeing them, they always crack me up, they are so sweet and fun. I wish I would've gotten a picture of them but on the way back from Queens the Blue Bird got pretty crowded! It was so touching to see people's joy at riding the train, especially the people who didn't know about it but hopped on anyway. They were all taking pictures like mad and smiling ear to ear. It really was so uplifting.

And right? Babe Paley in that ad? She was so gorgeous, I don't blame that illustrator for using her as a model! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Becky if you come back to NYC with your family in December, you have to ride this train! I will meet you on the platform my dear! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Helen, you and your sister have to take this train, you two would have a great time. Let me know if you want me to meet you on the platform at 2nd Avenue! XO, Jill

Tammy said...

Wicker seats on trains? Beautiful. I've seen some beautiful contemporary wicker furnishings at a store in Jamaica. Nice to see some artisans in the country still do that type of gorgeous work.

Jill said...

Hi Tammy, they don't install wicker seats on current NYC subways, you can only find them on the models from the early 1900s. The vintage trains will run again this year during the holidays. If you ever get a chance it is a wonderful thing to do in NYC!