NEW YORK (PIX11) — It’s the last call for the Metro-North bar cars.
The four remaining bar cars — a holdover from the “Mad Men” era of suburban commuting — and the last of their kind in the nation, will be taken out of service on Friday, PIX11 News has learned.
The last rides will be Friday evening, leaving Grand Central Terminal at 4:08 p.m., 5:08 p.m., 6:08 p.m. and 7:08 p.m.
For decades, the bar cars have been a refuge for weary New Haven-line riders. They’ve also been something of a time machine, featuring poles with bright orange and yellow beverage holders, faux wood paneling and wallpaper with a 1970s stagecoach motif, and ample floor space free of traditional rows of seating that encourage mingling among Connecticut commuters.
Metro-North is apparently the last daily commuter train with a bar car in the country — not counting Amtrak’s full dining areas.
In recent years, the number of bar cars has diminished as the MTA phased out the old trains in favor of sleek new M-8 trains, and the final four cars will be gone by week’s end, according to Connecticut Department of Transportation communications director Judd Everhart. The old M-2 cars, which entered service in 1973, had become so elusive that a fan created a website and Twitter feed to help commuters find the trains.
There are already more than 300 M8s cars in service, and drinking is still permitted on the new models as well as all other trains, which don’t have a “cafe car,” as the MTA calls them.
Income from the beloved bar cars is apparently not enough to make them a priority — gross bar revenue in 2013 was $357,000 according to the Connecticut DOT. Revenue from the bar carts, which can be found on station platforms and aren’t going anywhere, was $6,733,000.
According to the MTA, the Harlem and Hudson lines also had bar cars up until the 1980s, when they were converted to regular-seating rail cars to increase seating capacity.
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They were the last link to the Don Draper era of commuting. The final four Metro-North commuter railroad bar cars will make their last call on Friday. The cars date to 1973 — check out the funky decor in these shots I took in 2007, when the cars were more plentiful. These were the last of their kind in the nation with the exception of similar service on Amtrak. With their demise ends an era. A toast to the bar car — and a vanishing way of life in America. My team at @pix11news and @jtansf broke the story earlier this week. #madmen #cocktailculture #americana #barcar #metronorth #newhavenline #1970s #icestorm #drinkup #dondraper #rogersterling #cocktails #beer #wine #railroad #trains #railfan #commuters #suburbs #johncheever
The new M-8 cars offer comfortable, roomy seats with larger windows and LED displays announcing upcoming stops. They will be equipped with two AC units in case one fails during a summer commute — unlike the M-2 trains, which have only one unit.
But it may not entirely be the end of the line for the bar car.
“We are considering retrofitting six or 10 of them into bar cars and have also asked the manufacturer, Kawasaki, to give us an estimate if we decide to have them make the bar cars,” according to Everhart. “But there is no funding currently in place to do either option.”