Stunning Photos Show What Happens To Retired Subway Cars

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Photo: Stephen Mallon

Old subway cars used to go to scrap metal but, since 2001, as many as 2,580 retired subway cars have gone to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.This is part of an effort to build an artificial reef off the East Coast to create habitats for marine life and recreational fishing. The MTA steam cleans the subway cars and strips them down of components that float and decompose before dumping them in the ocean. 

Photographer Stephen Mallon spent a couple of years after the start of the artificial reef program documenting the disposal of old subway cars. He has granted us permission to publish his stunning gallery here, also courtesy of Works Artists and The Front Room.

The NYC Transit spent millions on removing asbestos from retired subway cars to prep them for scrap metal.

In 2001, the MTA signed up to participate in a program to build artificial reefs off East Coast states.

The old subway cars have to be stripped off any floating materials (oils, solids, etc.) and steam cleaned before going underwater.

Then they are loaded on barges.

The MTA provided retired subway cars to reefs off the coasts of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.

The idea behind the disposal program is to create habitats for marine life and recreational fishing.

The artificial reef program hopes to attract schools of flatfish such as fluke and flounder, which are attracted to reef-type formations.

Some argue whether the program will be really effective in increasing the breeding of fish, or whether it will just attract already existing marine life to a particular place.

Others doubt the stability and durability of old subway cars stacked underwater, which is a safety concerns for divers.

2,580 retired subway cars have been dumped underwater from 2001 to 2010.

The Redbird subway cars, which dated from 1959, were the first to be disposed in the ocean.

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