The Driverless Train Turns 50: The History of the 42nd Street Automatic Shuttle

The world’s first driverless train went into testing 50 years ago in New York City. Once placed into service, the almost-forgotten New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), the 42nd Street Automatic Shuttle was a milestone in the technology of driverless automatic train technology. It was the visionary Chairman of the NYCTA Board of Directors, Charles L. Patterson, who galvanized his own Signal Department, along with two major signal manufacturers, and an air brake manufacturer to develop the 42nd Street Automatic Shuttle train. This technical paper will discuss the history of the trials and in-service operations of the three-car train used on the 42nd Street Grand Central to Times Square Shuttle, which was only operational for two years of passenger service. The technical operation and the technology used at the time will be discussed concerning the wayside, wayside backup system, and car-carried automatic train operation. The technology used on the 42nd Street Automatic Shuttle paved the way for today’s cab signaling, overspeed enforcement, and automatic train operation with automatic door operation. This paper will show the basic comparisons of the technology from the days of the 42nd Street Automatic shuttle to the evolution of modern technology with high frequency track circuits, microprocessor wayside and car-carried equipment in cab signal applications.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: CD-ROM
  • Features: Figures; Maps; Photos;
  • Pagination: 10p
  • Monograph Title: Rail Conference 2009 Proceedings

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01157707
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 2 2010 12:05PM