In an earlier post, Have YOU Heard It?, I commented on the weird phenomenon of the west side IRT “humming” the opening notes of the West Side Story ballad, “There’s a Place for Us.” In case you missed it, or thought I was nuts, the NYTimes has finally taken note of it with this story: Under Broadway, the Subway Hums Bernstein.
I frequently ride the IRT on the west side of Manhattan, i.e., the 1, 2, and 3 trains. (Sorry, to those of you who are reading this from somewhere far away.) For years, I have noticed that the trains that run on these lines, when they leave the station, make a peculiar sound with their wheels. As they gather speed, beginning from a dead-stop, the wheels screech on the rails in a way that sounds to me just like the first three notes of “There’s A Place” from West Side Story. Just the first three notes: “There’s a place..,” is left hanging in the air, completed in my mind by, “…for us…” Am I imagining this? Am I nuts? I swear I hear it on all IRT trains, whether they are pulling in or out of the station. I’ve heard it at 96th Street, 14th Street, 72nd Street, Chambers Street, and probably others. I’ve never noticed it on any other lines, or anywhere else, but I won’t bet money on it not happening there.Pretty strange, huh? I like to think that some Bernstein devotee at Bombardier, the firm that manufactures the subway cars, noticed the melodic potential of subway car wheels, and somehow engineered it into the design for the west side trains. That would be something!