Hamptons Subway Newsletter: Week of March 6–12, 2020

Manitoba Subway car on Hamptons Subway lines
Manitoba Subway car showed up on Hamptons Subway lines, Photo: Pavel Lipskiy/123RF

Week of March 6–12, 2020
Riders this past week: 37,423
Rider miles this past week: 88,913

Rudy Giuliani was seen riding the Hamptons Subway from Southampton to Water Mill on Tuesday. In the same car but at the other end, Mike Bloomberg was also seen riding the Hamptons Subway. Both are former mayors of New York. Might have been interesting if they’d sat next to each other and shared a thought or two, but it didn’t happen.

Hamptons Subway is the only subway system in North America that still uses flagmen in the tunnels to get trains to stop or go or just move forward slowly so as not to bump into the train in front of them. To do this, they have a rack of red, orange and green flags at their stations midway in every tunnel, and they will choose one or another to wave at an approaching train motorman. Failing to obey the flagmen can get points deducted on a motormen’s record. Originally, flagmen were paid a high hourly wage. But when packs of unemployed West Virginia miners arrived on the scene seeking jobs, the glut of applicants caused the wages paid to decline. It was only after Chappie McFarland formed the Flagman’s Union in 1938 that wages rose again.

Today, Hamptons Subway flagmen (and women) come home covered with soot and grime every night (or in the wee hours of 2 a.m. if on the late shift) and they once in a while save lives by shouting and yelling at a motormen who they see through the window of the lead subway car is about to doze off. In this little essay, we tip our Hamptons Subway Newsletter hat to them. Well done, over the years, flagmen. We cannot do without you.

Three weeks ago, we received an urgent message from Canada’s Manitoba Subway System that one of their subway cars had gone missing. It was a form letter, sent out to all the subway systems in North America so we didn’t think anything of it. But then, last Monday at 11:33 a.m., we received a report that a black-and-white subway car had roared through the Water Mill station without stopping. The customer on the platform who noticed it thought it strange, not only because it didn’t stop but because it was black and white and said Manitoba on the side. As a result, we looked again at the alert we’d received a week earlier which noted the car was black and white—Hamptons Subway colors are red and yellow—so now we knew this had to be taken seriously.

Manitoba offered to send some Canadian Mounted Police down into our tunnels to round up the errant train, but we declined. Instead, we said we’d round it up for them. Our subway motormen are now on high alert while driving their trains since Tuesday. Top speeds have been lowered from 47 to 37 miles an hour while they look here and there. So far, the Manitoba car has been seen zipping through stations on five occasions—twice in Montauk, once in Sag Harbor and twice in Westhampton Beach—but when our newly formed SWAT team arrives, it’s too late.

So now we appeal to riders. We will pay $100 to whoever correctly reports the Manitoba Flyer in a way that results in a rounding up and return of the vehicle to Manitoba. By the way, nobody is in it. No passengers and no motormen. It just goes.

At the insistence of our new marketing director, Phil Philipino, I am officially declaring March 10 to be Hamptons Subway Flagman’s Day throughout the State of New York.


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