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Behind the Scenes: Subway Observations and Conversations

Ryder M.

Ayden Williamson is a student at Leaders and a railfan based in Brooklyn. A railfan is a person who is recreationally interested in trains and transit systems. This week, I went along with Ayden on a subway ride and asked him some questions. In our time together, we tried to spot rare and interesting trains around Brooklyn. He showed me his favorite places to “camp” (watch out) for trains, and he told me all about the different types of trains and the lines they ride on. In this article, I’m going to share some of our favorite sightings and let you in on the conversation we had while on the train. 


Ryder M.

The first sighting of the day was at Avenue X. We spotted an (F) train bound for Church Ave. that just came up from Avenue X Yard. The (F) train was coming up from Avenue X Yard, heading to Church Ave. to begin service. There were no people on board, and some of the exterior displays were off. Usually, trains that are at this stop are just starting their commute but still have a few passengers on board.

Another one of our sightings took place at 25 Av on the (D) line, where we encountered a retired R32 returning to Coney Island Yard via the West End Express tracks. The reason this is a significant sighting is that after a series of farewell runs, the R32s officially retired on January 29, 2022. Anyone should consider themselves lucky to find one roaming around the system. I had thought that R32s were retired, but I never knew that you could still see one running from time to time. This was a cool sight. The R32 we saw was signed up as a (B) on the front, but the roll signs were set to <C> to Bedford Park Blvd. in the Bronx. This was a service pattern last seen in the 80s! (Photo provided courtesy of Ayden Williamson)

Ayden W.


While on the subway, I had the opportunity to ask Ayden a series of questions. Here is our discussion:


Ryder: “What got you interested in trains and the transit system?”

Ayden: “I watched a YouTube video of a guy riding all the subway trains and thought, ‘Hey, that looks fun!’ I also watched people recording trains and thought it looked cool, so I gave it a try. And you know what? It works since I have two subway stations right next to my house! One local, one express.”


Ryder: “What’s your favorite station to camp for trains?”

Ayden: “That’s a hard one. I actually have a couple: One of my favorites is definitely Beverley Road on the (Q) line. I love seeing the curve on passing (B) express trains. Beautiful.”


Ryder: “What is your favorite train?”

Ayden: “Either the (B) or the (Q) on the Brighton Line. I feel like the (B) is faster than the (Q), but the (Q) is faster than the (B)…”


Ryder:  “What do you enjoy the most about being a railfan? Is it the trains themselves, the history, or something else?”

Ayden: I enjoy all the rare things you can see. For example, ever since I joined this Discord server dedicated to railfans, I’ve been able to catch so many cool things!


Ryder: “If you could change one thing about the subway system in New York City, what would it be?”

Ayden: Fix the headways, and definitely clean the Chambers St station on the (J). That place is in need of desperate renovations.


Ryder: “Have you ever considered pursuing a career in the transit industry, given your passion for trains and transit systems?”

Ayden: Multiple times throughout my railfanning career, I’ve thought about becoming an operator. But, I probably won’t go through with it.


Ryder: “What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to explore their interest in trains and transit systems and wants to become a railfan like you?”

Ayden: “A lot of people will tell you that it’s weird or laugh at you. Don’t listen to them. Do what makes you happy.”

Ryder M.

While Ayden and I were on board the (D) train, we saw a rollsign scrolled to a (Q) as opposed to the regular (D). It’s quite rare to see a rollsign all messed up like this because they check all of them before they begin service.

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