Last Call for Commuter Train Bar Cars

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The last commuter train bar car has been retired. It seemed like a relic from another era, when drinking and driving and/or riding was tolerated or overlooked.

What’s believed to be the last of the commuter train bar cars in the U.S., once an American tradition, has reached the end of the line.

The last holdout, the Metro-North line between Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan and Connecticut, started phasing out its bar cars earlier this year. The 7:34 p.m. train on May 9 was the final ride for the rolling saloon.

While train officials say the old bar cars can’t be coupled with new cars in the fleet, you can’t help but think that changing views on drinking and driving and/or riding had something to do with this. The commuter line says it would like to bring them back, but that looks doubtful.

Bar cars feel like something out of Don Draper’s time. After all, you still had to drive home once you arrived at your station. The New York Times wrote:

The bar car seems to have proved too much for this century, its romance bewildering to detractors who saw little but a rolling office party with overtaxed cupholders and cushions absorbing wayward suds.

“Society has changed, DWI laws have changed, the relationships of men and women have changed,” said Mitchell Pally, a board member for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North. “You can wait the hour to get off the train and do what you’re going to do.”

At their peak, Metro-North had 10 bar cars, but that number dropped to four. A commuter and bar car fan created a Where’s The Bar Car website to help other regulars find the sometimes elusive cars. A few weeks ago on that website, an anonymous rider recalled the impact the bar car made on his life:

It is the end of an era and it was great while it lasted, made many lifelong friends on my commute home. The bar car turned what started out as a murderously long commute into a rollicking happy hour and I am eternally grateful for that.

What do you think about the last commuter bar cars chugging into history? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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