August 17, 2006 was the historical debut of the R160B in revenue service. The N was the chosen line to start day 1 of the 30 day revenue run test. The hoopla of this historical event was quite obvious judging by all the posts on various message boards.
I will be the first to admit, I spent my fair share of time reading through all the posts. The biggest question wasn’t how it would do but more so when & where would the debut actually start? The debut time was up in the air but thankfully some solid information was provided.
All signs pointed to the debut starting at 57th St./7th Ave. approximately around 9:30 in the morning. I really wanted to ride & photograph the first trip. However as I stayed up longer & longer the chances became slimmer & slimmer. I eventually got to sleep sometime around 2 or 3 AM on the 17th. I got a few hours of sleep & woke up around 9:30 or so.
When I woke up, the first thing I did was visit some of the forums to check out reports, pics, & any last minute info. Thankfully among the many posts, I found one with information that was useful. Rich posted info oh his luck chasing down the R160. One of his last posts mentioned it was on the Manhattan Bridge heading towards Coney Island. Once I read that, my plan of action went into motion.
The first thing I did was look at the time. The second thing I did was pick a good location I could catch the R160. I decided on the 39th Ave. stop as my choice within minutes. Since the train was heading towards CI, I knew I had quite a bit of time to catch it at 39th Ave. going back to Astoria-Ditmars Blvd.
I started to get ready but took my sweet time doing so. Since I can get to the 39th Ave. stop in under 40 minutes, I had no reason to rush. So I start my journey for the day with all my essentials in tow. The plan was to photograph the N & W while waiting for the R160B. Unfortunately even with taking my time arriving, I still had plenty of time to kill.
So I arrive at 39th Ave. & go to the back of the Astoria–Ditmars Blvd. bound platform. This is my favorite part of the station to shoot from. Many trains came & went while I shot away. While I was shooting I enjoyed some music & was texting away on my phone. I was starting to wonder when this train would come & prayed it didn’t finish its run for the day. However my worrying about only that detail soon came to an end.
I was approached by 3 idiotic MTA employees who have no idea what their own company rules are. So tell me again why do these idiots have jobs? I am not going to go into too many details but put it this way, my complaints of my treatment were more than valid. Hopefully this situation is resolved to my satisfaction when it is all said & done.
Thankfully I did not let the employees ruin my excitement for the day. I did not get any oncoming shots at 39th Ave. but I figured I could get them another time. I rode the train to Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. & took some interior shots there. I then did a “c.o.t.” to Coney Island. I followed that up with a “c.o.t.” back to Astoria. I rode it back down to Coney Island just so I could take the ride in & finally get some pictures.
Overall the ride was really nice & people seemed impressed about the whole experience. I made a few comments on the 60th St. run which can be seen in the 2 “c.o.t.’s”. I think the MTA hit a PR home run with the R160B’s to regular riders. However I’m sure they didn’t do as well with railfans who are not looking forward to standard stock all over the system.
In the end, all the hoopla & unfortunate harassment was well worth it. I hope it was the same for every other railfan out there.
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