Ever wonder what happens to old NYC subway cars when they retire?
Photographer Stephen Mallon's surreal, beautiful images trace New York City subway cars on their last voyage to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to help build artificial reefs on the eastern seabed in his series entitled, "Next Stop Atlantic."
From August 2001 to April 2010, the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) sent over 2,500 subway cars to reef programs in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Photo: Mallon loves the composition and mystery, "when you see this image you have no idea what is about to happen to all these objects of mass transit."
By CBSNews.com Senior Photo Editor Radhika Chalasani
Next Stop Atlantic - "Wave"
Subway cars, the iconic figures of New York City transit, head out to sea.
Mallon commented, "This was the most rough sea I have ever been on! This was the only time I was seasick, but I was told the entire crew of the tugboat lost it as well so I didn't feel bad."
The MTA stripped and decontaminated the subway cars before putting them onto barges to be dropped into the ocean to build a refuge for many species of fish and crustaceans which could colonize the structures.
Next Stop Atlantic - "Virginia placement"
One of the 18-ton train cars plunges into the Atlantic Ocean.
The subway cars make ideal reef building material, 'luxury condominiums', for all sorts of sea life.
"Virginia placement" was shot pretty early in the project. It has the "strongest sense of vertigo" for Mallon because he could see the pole that he would hold onto on the way to the city from Brooklyn. He felt it "pulling me down with it."
Mallon created the series over three years and six trips. The work is part of a larger project called "American Reclamation."
Next Stop Atlantic - "Transfer"
Once decommissioned, every part of the subway cars that could be removed such as seats and wheels were recycled or sold.
Next Stop Atlantic - "Train in the Sky"
One of the older trains from the A/C/F train lines in New York City is loaded onto transport on its way to its final resting place in the Atlantic Ocean.
Trains have always been a passion for Mallon. This image is a favorite of his: "It was high noon at the yard and I was able to put myself in-between the sun and the subway car, silhouetting it against the sky."
Next Stop Atlantic - "Stacked"
The color palette of "Stacked" is another one of Mallon's favorites. He loves the warm glowing light inside of the snow covered cars being loaded at the MTA's yard at 212th Street in Manhattan.
The subway cars were dropped one by one along the East coast from South Carolina to Delaware.
Next Stop Atlantic - "Splish"
Mallon loves the big splash of the subway car in this image.
The photographer created the series over three years, beginning in 2008 and taking six trips. The work is part of a larger project called "American Reclamation."
Next Stop Atlantic - "Bellagio"
This image is entitled "Bellagio" because it reminded Mallon of the fountains at the famous Las Vegas hotel.
Next Stop Atlantic - "Sink"
Mallon describes "Sink" as one of the few scary images of the series: "Can you imagine being inside with the water crashing in around you?"
The reef building program was tremendously successful for the recreational fishing industry in all six states it operated in.
Next Stop Atlantic - "Settling"
Mallon nicknamed this image "Ghost train" because of its particularly surreal qualities.
The photographer said, "It looks as if the train almost got there on its own with the wake of the water spraying behind it as it goes along the ocean!"
Next Stop Atlantic - "Pool"
"Pool" was titled for the quality of the glowing water after the subway car had landed and then flipped upward again.
Mallon: "After being pushed and stacked like a sardine in these subways cars over the past decade, it is nice to see the sardine actually getting one of these as its new steel condo."
Next Stop Atlantic - "On the Way"
"There is something about this image with the subway cars moving sideway on a swaying barge that I've always liked," said Mallon.
"On the Way" was one of the last images Mallon shot in the series.
The reefs project was the MTA's program of choice for nearly a decade because it presented the most economical and most environmentally friendly re-use of the fleets, according to Michael Zacchea, Assistant Chief Operations Officer. The program ended because the newer generation of subway cars, containing more plastic and fiberglass, aren't suited for reef building.
Next Stop Atlantic - "Commute"
Stephen Mallon followed a number of subway cars being lifted to get the perfect moment of them being all stacked up together. He loved the color and geometry that this image captured.
The work is part of a larger project called "American Reclamation."
Stephen Mallon's "Next Stop Atlantic" prints are available for purchase at Front Room Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.
An Anthology of the photographer's work is being published by Glitterati in 2017.
Mallon's most recent work "Prelude" will be seen in "On & On: Art without End" at Mark Miller Gallery in New York from November 8-December 6, 2015.