Waaaaaay last Sunday ago, I posted a picture of one of these bad boys:

Redbird train car

Redbird, by the Inimitable Todd

Redbird is the name given to NYC MTA subway cars built between 1959 and 1961 and painted a distinctive bright red to discourage graffiti.   They reached the end of their useful lives as subway cars between 2001 and 2003.

What do you do with almost 1500 retired subway cars?

Well , as I mentioned before, some became workhorses, and some went to museums.  But 1,208 of them were sunk in the ocean to serve as artificial reefs.

The Redbirds are sunk off of Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and New Jersey. Of particular interest to birders, 50 cars were sunk off of Cape May in 2003 as an addition to an existing artificial reef composed of retired Army tanks and construction scrap.  The reefs provide habitat to mussels, barnacles, and vegetation that in turn support fish like tuna and sea bass.

The Redbird sinkings provoked controversy because the cars contained asbestos, but the program eventually gained the support of Clean Ocean Action, one of its foremost opponents, when the asbestos was proved to be safely contained by its epoxy matrix.  Other potentially harmful subtances like oily undercarriages were removed before the cars were sunk.

The visuals of sunken subway cars are slightly surreal, especially to habitual New York subway commuters.  Pictures of fish and anemones where you’re used to seeing the anxious marketing chick and the un-deoderanted guy with the Post can really blow your mind!

Photos from the New Jersey Scuba Diver Site (highly partisan!)

An article from National Geographic (typical NatGeo; totally gee-whiz*.)

*Not that there’s anything wrong with gee-whiz.  In fact, gee-whiz is my reaction to a lot of things, including glow in the dark rabbits.