When August Belmont, Jr. organized the Interborough Rapid Transit Company to open New York's first subway in 1904, IRT took a 999 year lease on the Metropolitan Elevated system from the Jay Gould family. The 500 cars ordered to open the subway were sheet steel cladded wooden cars that were slightly enlarged copies of the elevated cars but with enclosed platforms. So large was this order that it had to be spread among four car building firms, and the first 200 were placed in service on the Second Avenue elevated for testing before the subway actually opened.
The wooden subway cars disappeared rather soon, as a consequence of an experiment that led to the production of the first steel rapid transit cars. Collaborating with the Pennsylvania Railroad's Altoona Shops, New York's IRT Consulting Engineer George Gibbs defied conventional engineering wisdom which declared that a steel rigid structure would shake to pieces with no wood to absorb the shocks. No traditional car builder would undertake the program, but the first prototype rolled out of Altoona in 1903. It was deemed too heavy for the line, and more testing and modification was in order before the first production cars went into service. Seashore's most significant vehicle, No. 3352, was the first in the regular series built in 1905 at Berwick, Pennsylvania, by the American Car and Foundry Company. Its performance would immdiately render all wood framed vehicles obsolete.
No. 3352 was in regular revenue operation from 1905 until August 10, 1956 - over 50 years - when it was withdrawn from service for presentation to the Museum by the City of New York. Still sound and servicable, as the oldest steel frame vehicle in existence, No. 3352 is the legitimate ancestor of every railroad coach and automobile on the road today. Center doors, added later, have been removed, and the car is in the process of being restored to its original 1905 configuration.
Historic Cars: The National Collection at the Seashore Trolley Museum by Ben Minnich