Auction houses are known for offering rare and unique items for sale. They sell artworks of limited editions and antiquities from bygone eras. However, it is not very often that an auction house comes across an item that is truly one of a kind, in essence 1 of 1. Clements Auctions, the most trusted auction house in the Southeast, has been given the opportunity to offer for sale at auction an item of such rarity. In their Fine Spring Estates, Jewelry, and Coins auction, taking place live online April 22nd 2023, Clements will be offering the only known to exist production prototype train model of the 1964’s Worlds Fair R-36 Subway Car.
This prototype is the only known original production model of the R-36 subway train cars built by St. Louis Car Company. At first glance, one can tell this model was not made for commercial and resale purposes. The small losses to the paint reveal the double car design is a solid carved wood construction, indicating a custom prototype from a design department. It is painted in the original R-36 robin egg blue color scheme and designed with the exact windows, lights, New York Transit Authority logos, and triple service signs as the subway cars that came off the production lines of the St. Louis Car Company. It travels in a bespoke, wood plank carrying case, concealed with clasp locking hinges. This is what was used by the designers to transport the model to be presented and approved at the executive offices prior to production beginning of the actual subways cars.
St. Louis Car Company built 434 R-36 cars in 1962-1963 by order of the New York Transit Authority. These subway cars were ordered specifically for the 1964 World’s Fair, to be used to service the 7 Line from Times Square to the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The robin egg blue color would bring the World’s Fair subway cars to be affectionately known as the BlueBirds at the time. However, in the 1980s, the fleet of R-36s, along with other older train fleets, would be overhauled and painted Gunn Red to then become part of the iconic RedBirds of the NYC subway system. In the early 2000s, the majority of the R-36 cars were decommissioned, stripped and submerged off the Atlantic coast as artificial reefs. The production model bears the fleet numbers 9586-9587, astonishingly one of only a few pairs of the R-36 cars preserved by NYTA. These exact surviving R-36 cars were once displayed at NYTA Museum and used for NYTA’s Train of Many Colors tourist attraction.
The owner of this production model, a private collector from Birmingham, AL, has been in possession of the train model for over 40 years. By owner’s account from a notarized affadavit on file, the train model was acquired on a trade, circa 1970, from a close friend who was an executive of a large corporation in Alabama. His friend had stated he recieved the train model as a gift from a company based in St. Louis with which he conducted business, presumably the St. Louis Car Company which produced the R-36.
The consignor has authorized that this train model will be sold WITHOUT RESERVE and will sell to the highest bidder regardless of price. For institutions and collectors alike, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a unique piece of American history. Click here for more information and to register to bid.