Bar cars have been disappearing from commuter rail services in the U.S. Davis Dunavin rode the last bar car out of New York's Grand Central station, where he found a nostalgic crowd raising a last beer to a vanishing institution.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Commuters heading home on the Metro North Railroad out of New York's Grand Central now have to wait until they're off the train to go to a bar. There are no more bar cars on the commuter line. Davis Dunavin rode the last bar car to leave Grand Central on Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Last call, last call.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Forever and ever.
DAVIS DUNAVIN, BYLINE: It's believed to be the last commuter bar car in America, at least for the foreseeable future. The Metro North started phasing out the bar cars earlier this year. For some commuters, like Ken Fila, they were a nostalgic symbol of days gone by.
KEN FILA: Seems like a changing of the guard, different era in America, you know.
DUNAVIN: Clusters of orange plastic benches circle the bar but a lot of riders stay standing or lean against the bar, chatting. Metro North introduced bar cars in the 1970s, and that's given regulars plenty of time to build lifelong friendships. Riders like Jim Keaton have made a lot of memories on the train.
JIM KEATON: Well, one time we had a Christmas party. We actually put up Christmas tree lights, we hired a four-piece swing band, played them in the vestibule here.
DUNAVIN: Not to mention the countless games of dice and poker, a softball team and at least one engagement that actually took place on the car.
KEATON: It was amazing because these two had been riding the train together for a year, and they met on the bar car, so we did it here.
DUNAVIN: As the train passes through Connecticut, an employee comes around with a box of beers.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's free. Come on, take a Bud. Take the last Bud. There you go. And we're done.
DUNAVIN: Commuter Devin Mellor grabs the very last Budweiser to be served on the bar car.
DEVIN MELLOR: It's a little weirdly emotional because my grandfather used to ride this train. And he used to tell me as a kid about riding in the bar car. And I was just given a beer, so this beer is for my grandfather.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAN OPENING)
DUNAVIN: No one knows if the bar cars are gone for good but riders like Jeff Strauss are already nostalgic.
JEFF STRAUSS: I met a lot of good people. It helped buffer the commute, the daily grind that we do every day. And I'll miss it. I'll miss it a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: To Metro-North.
DUNAVIN: For NPR News, this is Davis Dunavin in Fairfield, Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.