August 10, 2022

The last relic of a dead breed can now be yours.

The Redbird model subway car, which has stood guard outside Queens Borough Hall since 2005, is now available for private purchase. 

“Brought to you by the people who sold a Staten Island Ferry to Pete Davidson, DCAS is now auctioning off the last surviving @MTA Redbird subway car,” the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services tweeted Thursday. “Opening bid: $6,500. Let’s go!”

The auction began on Wednesday yet, despite the Redbird being arguably the most beloved train to ever run on New York City transit, not a soul has yet placed a bid on car #9075.

“Nothing symbolizes Queens, subway-wise, better than a Redbird,” New York Transit Museum curator Jodi Shapiro told the New York Times of the 50-foot, 40-ton train car breed, the last to have tear-shaped metal hand grips — the namesake of the word “straphanger.” 

Built between 1959 and 1963, they transported visitors from the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. By the early 2000s, newer stainless-steel cars had replaced the colorful fleet, and the last Redbird rode the tracks from Times Square to Shea Stadium on Nov. 3, 2003, an experience similar to losing a family member, according to one heartbroken rider. 

Passengers ride the last of the Redbird subway cars on its final journey from Times Square to the Willets Point in Queens on Nov. 3, 2003.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
redbird subway car auction
Conductor Daniel Wrynn makes an announcement at the Times Square station on the Redbird’s final journey to the end of the line at Willets Point in Queens on Nov. 3, 2003.
AP
redbird subway car auction
A Redbird train waits in New York on its final day of service.
Corbis via Getty Images
redbird subway car auction
New York City Transit subway cars parked at the Casey Stengel rail yards in Queens include the newer R62A as well as the retired “Redbird” cars.
FlickrVision

After being decommissioned, 714 of the cars were subsequently sunk into the ocean to form an artificial reef. 

The car on the auction block, however, was saved by former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who requested that one of the birds be plopped outside her Kew Gardens office to be used as a tourist information center, the Times reported. A $1 transaction with the MTA promptly took place, and its vintage vessel has sat there ever since. 

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The current Queens borough president, Donovan Richards, does not share Marshall’s affinity for the train, and is now selling it off and reimagining how the grassy knoll can best engage “building visitors and the surrounding community,” a spokesperson told the Times.

The auction is set to end on July 2 but “might extend” its bidding page notes.