The Metro North Bar Car Is Coming Back

Thirsty New York City-to-Connecticut commuters can throw away their brown paper bags, because bar cars are coming back with a brand new look.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced on September 13 that 60 new cars will be added to the New Haven Line from Grand Central to New Haven, and 10 of those new cars will be of the much-missed bar variety. Getting bar cars (and those other ones, too) is the type of investment in transportation infrastructure that “our economic future depends on,” Malloy stated in a press release.

The announcement marks the return of a boozy era that ended on the evening of May 9, 2014 when the 7:34 departed Grand Central headed toward New Haven. That train was the last bar car holdout before it was phased out in the name of progress. The aging bar cars with faux wood paneling and a Mad Men-esque atmosphere fell victim to time just like everything else as newer, barless, trains took precedent.

“You’ve taken very good care of me,” Danny Wickline, the bartender on the last ride, said in a 2014 New York Times story that reads more like the obituary of a beloved celebrity than a city report. “I appreciate it. I love you all,” Wickline got out before being kissed on the cheek and mouth by his loyal patrons.

The dry spell didn’t last long — at least for commuters on the New Haven Line. If you’re wondering why they came back, you’re crazy. Also, you’re probably unfamiliar with the cultish dedication that city-working members of suburbia had for chugging on trains.

There’s also a (now antiquated) website called BarCar set up to “celebrate and preserve that fragile and mobile institution” and document “this social phenomenon that exists in limbo between work and home.” The website is filled with comments from good ole boys reliving booze-filled rides in the ’80s, one man recounting how he married a woman he met in a bar car, and a poem about seeing a person’s face as you hold their head under water. One commenter addressed the rumors of bar-car destruction thusly:

“Oh sure, lets (sic) get rid of the flag, school prayer, booz (sic) on trains. What’s ever happened to the old true American life?”

Yes, it was a different time. A time of American macro lagers in plastic cups. Artist renderings of the new bar cars show a modern look with muted colors, lots of railing, and zero “wood” paneling. It’s styled more like something from “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.” But hey, it IS the 21st century.

Only express trains going to New Haven will get the new bar cars. It could be the start of a new commuter drinking era, however, when the cars are finally installed in a couple of years. Till then, commuters will have to stick to brown bags and dreamily look forward to better, boozier days.