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July 2000 / Looking Back to 1974

SOAC at Coney Island

A State of the Mind

The transit industry's "best pratices" demonstration train visits the NYCTA's BMT Brighton Beach Line

from the November 1974 issue of The Third Rail

by Irvin Leigh Matus

Photo left: The SOAC seen on one of the Brighton Line tracks at Coney Island.

Copyright 1974 Third Rail Press. Reprinted by permission.
Copyright 2000 The Composing Stack Inc.

The Sheepshead Bay station on Brooklyn's Brighton (BMT) Line. There's a station to conjure with.
     It is virtually the same as it was when opened in 1907 (though it has grown some since). Back then it symbolized transit progress and a growing city. The steam trains which ran over chestnut ties to the magnificent hotel at Brighton Beach (champagne on draft ... 10 cents a glass) since 1878 were to give way to electric service on a splendid grade-separated right-of-way. Since then, Sheepshead Bay had seen it all: From the scattered buildings and marshy fields, to a densely populated urban area; from wooden "el" cars and articulated behemoths to stainless-skinned moderns that joined the traditional roar of the motors with the hum of air-conditioning.
     It was here The Traveler found himself on a bright summer day—and here, shortly, the old and new would meet again.
     However, The Traveler wouldn't meet it there—"it" being the SOAC (State-of-the-Art Car), the US DOT-Boeing Vertol experimental demonstrating the latest in rail rapid transit design and technology.
     This day SOAC was on the run from Brighton Beach up the 6th Avenue subway in Manhattan to the Concourse Line in the Bronx. The "train" consisted of two 75' cars—one for heavy passenger loads and the other "commuter designed" with more generous seating—and it was certain that the interested and the curious responding to a full-page ad in New York newspapers would fill it in no time. (As for those who might just want to get from Someplace to Some Place Else, their chances of catching the experimental were reduced by scheduling its run two minutes after a regular off-rush-hour train, four times the length of SOAC).
     So, to be assured of some little (hopefully prime) place on this ride into transit's future, The Traveler took a local to the less romantic Brighton Beach station from which SOAC would begin its ride into the more immediate future. SOAC made its entrance dramatically on cue-gliding into the station just as he stepped off the local. No less dramatic was the evident pride DOT and Boeing Vertol invested in her, the name of its sponsor sharing prominent billing with the firm that was the systems manager for the project.

Continued on page 2






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