On the last day of June in 1979, a brand-spanking-new MARTA train made the system’s inaugural trip.
“Like the wines of France and the women of Nashville music, the rail line got better as it got older, even if only by hours, as the balky trains of Saturday morning turned into the surging expresses of Saturday afternoon,” a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution wrote of the exciting launch day.
People might be surprised to know that nearly 40 years later, some of those original trains are still in use today.
Alas, French wines eventually turn, and even country star Minnie Pearl couldn’t live on this Earth forever.
MARTA is in the process of replacing its entire fleet of trains — a $1 billion investment, the system’s interim CEO Elizabeth O’Neill announced at the recent annual “state of MARTA” breakfast.
Out of MARTA’s 316 passenger trains and two work trains, 76 are still running from the original 1979 fleet.
To really grasp how old those 76 original trains are — which some people now ride while simultaneoulsy listening to a podcast, scrolling through Twitter and checking their pulse on a smartwatch — let’s review some data.
Here’s what was happening in 1979:
· Sci-fi films “Alien,” “Mad Max” and “Stark Trek: The Motion Picture,” movies some youngsters only know from the release of recent versions, were some of the most popular movies.
· The Sony Walkman was released. It weighed two ounces less than a pound.
· People were using those audio cassette players to listen to fresh new songs like "I Will Survive"by Gloria Gaynor, "Y.M.C.A." by Village People and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart.
· Women were sporting high-wasted pants, but not in an attempt to recreate a vintage “classy mom in the 70s” look.
· Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith, who would later give the world the muscial stylings of Kris Kross, was just being born in Atlanta.
· Former President Jimmy Carter was still current President Jimmy Carter. 1979 was the year he proposed that Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday be a holiday, because though hard to believe now, it wasn’t one yet. (1979 was also the year Carter was attacked by a rabbit on a canoe trip in Plains, Georgia.)
· The world was mourning the death of John Wayne at age 72.
· “The Jeffersons,” “M.A.S.H.” and “Happy Days” were still airing original episodes.
· The books “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” and “The Neverending Story,” still years away from being adapted into movies, had just been published.
· The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am turned 10 years old. The car was featured in that year’s “Rocky II.”
MARTA says three hundred or so modernized and Wi-Fi-friendly cars are expected to be delivered around 2023. Obviously, they’ll be a far cry from what folks experienced four decades ago.