There are plenty of reasons to ride the Q train. It zips across the Manhattan Bridge (with great views of the New York skyline) to spots like Barclay’s Center and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But if you don’t look carefully, you may miss the coolest reason to choose this particular train line — Masstransiscope.
After leaving the Canal Street station in Manhattan, the train fills with natural light as it comes above ground to travel across the Manhattan Bridge. Once across the river, the train plunges back into darkness as it enters the tunnel approaching the DeKalb Avenue station in Brooklyn. Before the train arrives in the station, the dark, concrete walls of the tunnel suddenly burst to life with colorful, abstract shapes that appear to move.
This unique work of public art is an optical illusion. In 1980, artist Bill Brand installed more than 200 painted panels on the platform of an abandoned subway station. They appear to be animated as the train whizzes by. Inspiration came from a 19th-century optical toy called a zoetrope – a cylinder with a series of pictures on the inner surface that, when viewed through slits with the cylinder rotating, give the impression of motion.
For years, the artist went underground to clean the piece himself, but the panels eventually became hidden behind subway soot. After falling into obscurity for more than a decade, New York’s transit authority helped restore the piece to its former glory in 2008.