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‘End Of An Era’ As Metro-North’s Bar Cars Make Final Run

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP)The final Metro-North Railroad bar car is set to ride off into the sunset.

“It’s the end of an era on Metro-North,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told WCBS 880 on Friday afternoon.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, the vintage bar cars ran on Connecticut-bound New Haven line trains during the evening rush hour.

The trip home was a rolling party for many Friday, as they celebrated the last time they would enjoy the vintage bar cars.

“I want to let off a little steam on the way home. It’s a long ride. It’s an hour and a half to get from – I live in Fairfield – from Grand Central to Fairfield,” said Tim Ifield. “So you get to see your friends; guys you’ve known for years.”

“We all come from different walks, different jobs. It’s nondenominational – it’s an all-inclusive, and it’s a great time – ask all these guys,” said James Welch of Westport. “And we’re all going to miss it.”

The bar car regulars said they have known each other and been friends for 10 years. They all get on at Grand Central and get off at different stations.

Newcomers anxious to experience the history of the moment felt like they were late to the party.

“I’m not a regular. I just somehow have made it onto the last bar car in history, and I’m having a fantastic time,” said Erica Campbell of Fairfield.

Some were already looking for a way to bring the bar cars back, and refitting some of the new rail cars.

“I want to get some corporate sponsorship to brand this whole thing, and let them pay for the new retrofitting of the cars,” said Terri Cronin of Connecticut.

The bar cars, which have been in operation on the New Haven line since 1973, were phased out as the railroad switches its fleet over to the new M-8 cars.

A fixture on the trains for at least a half century, the bar cars with orange walls and faux wood paneling were for some riders much more than a place to have a drink on the long ride home from work. Commuters played dice, formed friendships, talked business, pulled pranks and even had Christmas parties with a jazz band on the cars.

They’re being retired Friday because they cannot be coupled to the new fleet of train cars on the New Haven line.

They were the last locomotive cocktail lounges in America.

The state of Connecticut owns the bar cars. The state cut the bar cars out, opting for seats over bar stools. Many riders said it’s been coming for a long time.

“I think people will miss it at the start but they’ll forget it. People forget and move on most anything, right?” Norwalk resident Jeff Harkin said.

“I don’t think it makes a different because you get a drink here. A lot of times, they have bar cars, you never use them anyway,” Roger Mendes of Bethel told Young.

“Connecticut has some plans in place to potentially restore a new type of bar car with our new cars that are going into service,” Donovan told WCBS 880.

Transportation officials are hoping to buy new bar cars or retrofit some, but no decisions have been made yet. That means there will be no bar car service for now.

All the new M-8 cars will be in service on the New Haven line by the end of the year.

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