Recycled Chairs Bring The Subway To Your Living Room

A multi-colored chair with a stainless steel frame sits on wooden legs against a grey background.

Public transit seats have a rough life. Enduring a number of wear cycles that would make your sofa weep, they take a beating and have to keep looking presentable. When trains and buses are retired, where do the old seats go? A team from the MIT Hobby Shop investigated what was happening to the seats from retiring MBTA Red Line cars and recycled them into stylish chairs.

After some sleuthing and many emails, the MBTA relinquished a number of old subway seats to the team. Since the subway seats didn’t have legs, wood from old church pews was used to create bases. It took one pew end support to create each set of legs, which were cut out on a bandsaw. The old dark stain was sanded off, and the bases were finished with three coats of gel topcoat, letting the natural beauty of the old oak shine through.

We love seeing old things given new life here at Hackaday. If you want to see some more recycled furniture, check out this tire table, this upcycled jeans chair, or these best practices for making box forts.

38 thoughts on “Recycled Chairs Bring The Subway To Your Living Room

  1. As someone who has spent a long time on the Red Line, I really don’t want to spend any more time on those uncomfortable seats.
    But I have to ask, do these seats come with the smells of an actual Red Line train?

  2. Anyone who has anything to do with a decision to put CLOTH SEATS on a PUBLIC CONVEYANCE should be fired and have all severance pay docked to replace them. Example: The new train line in L.A. is a full diaper on rails. Talk about moronic.

    1. Remember that the pew wood would (haha!) have been in a construction (de-construction?) Dumpster and then a local landfill had it not been for this repurposing project. The same fate for the decommissioned subway seating.

      If we are keeping things out of the landfill, I am okay with it not being efficient.

      1. The seats and backs of church pews, are often “harvested” for their wood. Often a much shorter pew is constructed using the ends and a portion of the seats and backs to be sold as a “Parson’s Chair”; something that fits more readily into a living space.

    2. It would be toxic biohazardous waste.

      If some fool is buying it don’t interrupt them. But make sure it’s clearly marked so no one downstream accidently touches it.

      Perhaps the purchaser is taking his/her immune system out for a jog.

  3. This is the funniest and most ridiculous thing HaD has ever posted. Who in their right mind would want to sit on a dirty old disgusting smelly seat from a metro car? Elle Oh Elle.

  4. ahh, the touch, sight, and smell of a subway seat. hope its been thoroughly steam cleaned. These colors and patterns and there for a reason, to hide stains.

    Having been on the MBTA, I must say it makes the transit system of other countries look first class.

    the commuter trains especially in Boston/MA gave me a hell of nostalgia, since it looked like it hasn’t changed much from the 50’s.

    1. They ran a lot better in the 1950’s.
      The old PCC cars (trolleys) could be kept going with fairly simple repairs for years. They got replaced with ones from Boeing Vertol that broke down all the time. The filters on the air brake system would get clogged and the brakes would get stuck applied. What a surprise there is dust and dirt in the subway! And to release them, someone had to stick a 6 or 7 foot rod into some mechanism under the car – like there was room in the tunnels to get the tool into place.
      But then, Boston’s system is the oldest in the US. It just hasn’t been maintained all that well.

      1. It hasn’t been maintained, period.

        The Subway system sucks, the Commuter train sucks, it’s literally still stuck in the 50s-70s, at best. Conductors, paper tickets, seats that looks like they have not changed at all, very uncomfortable.

        World class first world country my arse.

  5. I think it’s nice they preserved some cool aluminum industrial design, and it’s still providing its original function as a seat. Otherwise these seats would just be sold for scrap aluminum.

  6. Why so much negativity about this? An MBTA seat at home or the office would be a great conversation piece, anyone from Boston would immediately recognize it and have to ask, is that a red line seat?

    That’s why I clicked this article, I immediately noticed that dumb color swirl….

    1. Because any subway chair will get very, very quickly covered in all manner of unspeakable bodily fluids, and a cloth covered seat soaks them all up. Intentionally sitting in that is something no one that “knows” will ever do. Maybe a right of passage but one for moving to a place but it’s gross. So to make a chair for your house out of one that has served such duty for ages is so disgusting. I lived in NYC for a dozen years and the cars had hard plastic seats which were fine. Then came to SF and “experienced” the cloth covered BART seats. No. No. No. just… no.

      1. Funny. Here in Germany, we have trams with similar looking cloth seats and they’re not nearly as dirty. Well, generally speaking. Some are filthy, indeed. Depends on the city or line, I guess. That being said, my city’s old vintage trams (which originated from Berlin) had wood seats instead, not very different to your plastic seats. Isn’t it amazing how different, yet similar thing are/were around the globe ? 🙂

  7. I had to wait some time at the hospital in September. Chairs that had been fine for a brief time were no longer so after 90 minutes. I can’t imagine subway seats being different. You generally aren’t sitting for too long.

          1. The “Scollay Square station” is now Government Center. Scollay Square was known for burlesque shows; the T now brings you to a different form of corruption.

      1. My version of the song is “He will wait forever ‘neath the streets of Boston”, based on the far too much time I spent waiting for a train.
        But as for the original song, if his wife could pass him a sandwich through the open window, how come she never included a nickel so he could get off?

  8. Put these in a waiting room, set the clock ahead 10 minutes so everyone thinks they are late.

    Play announcements like “Welcome to Davis Square. This is an express train. This train will run express to Alewife with no stops.”

    1. ‘I’d rather lick all the toilets in Grandcentral station clean, with my tounge, then spend another minute with you’

      Weird Al.

      What’s her name? aka Becky, The ‘panty soup’ hot pop star that does all the breakup songs should cover. Kinky/dirty hot.

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