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Sign Up Now for Two October Excursions

496 Emb and Chee

It’s great to have your own private streetcar.  It’s even better when there’s entertainment or the opportunity to learn on the trip.  We offer all these things in two excursions open to the public in October. Click here to get the complete scoop and sign up.

Market Street Railway is hosting another of its popular “Night Train” excursions. Come ride Muni’s Australian import, tram No. 496, along the historic F-line from the Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf and back. While riding, you’ll be able to enjoy beer and wine that will be available (your first is free) as well as the sounds of a live band. The excursion is on Friday, October 16, 7-9pm and boards at the F-line terminal at 17th and Castro Streets.

228-1-2-14-2The next day, Saturday, October 17, 1:30-3:30pm, we have a different kind of excursion,  on-board fabulous open-top Blackpool “Boat Tram” No. 228 (an enclosed car will substitute if it rains). Join tour guides Harlan Hirschfeld from City Guides and Paul Lucas from Market Street Railway for their informative ride along the F-line where you will learn interesting historical facts about famous Fisherman’s Wharf, traditional North Beach, the scenic Embarcadero, colorful Ferry Plaza, the busy financial district, world famous Powell & Market, classic Civic Center, imposing Mint Hill and the lively Castro.

Market Street Railway Members get 25% off on one or two tickets for these tours. You can sign up for membership here and get the discount immediately.

Again, here’s the link for the excursions. Come join the fun!

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Successful Heritage Weekend


Muni Heritage Weekend September 26-27 was a big success, with thousands of riders sampling the vintage streetcars, buses, and cable cars Muni rolled out this year. We noticed more families and kids this year, including young Reed Bell, in the window above, who already has an encyclopedic knowledge of San Francisco transit.


Buses ran every 15 minutes from our San Francisco Railway Museum to Union Square and back, each carrying a great display of vintage photographs from the SFMTA Archives put together by Jeremy Menzies.


A vintage streetcar shuttle service connecting the museum and Pier 39 every 20 minutes or so. The two Blackpool, England boat trams (No. 233, above) ran together in passenger service for the first time, joined by the oldest vehicle in Muni’s heritage fleet, 1896 single-truck San Francisco streetcar No. 578 (top photo). Meanwhile, vintage Muni streetcars Nos. 1 and 130 ran as part of regular E-Embarcadero service, along with Melbourne tram No. 496. Market Street Railway is advocating for vintage double-end cars such as these to be a regular part of E-line service.


One-of-a-kind O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42 also packed them in on the California Street line.

Market Street Railway and SFMTA representatives will evaluate the event in the next few weeks and look at how future events might be even better. Thanks to all the Muni operators, maintainers, and managers and the Market Street Railway volunteers who helped make this the big success it was.

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Heritage Weekend: Be There


One of the world’s oldest operating streetcars, built 10 years BEFORE the 1906 earthquake, will play a starring role in this year’s Muni Heritage Weekend, September 26-27. Market Street Railway Company single-truck “dinky” No. 578 (above, surrounded by fans at a previous Heritage Weekend), built in 1896, will be running FREE shuttles from our San Francisco Railway Museum at 77 Steuart Street to Pier 39 and back along the scenic Embarcadero.


But that’s just the start. The newest member of the vintage fleet, Muni’s latest addition to the heritage fleet, Blackpool, England boat tram No. 233, built in 1934, will join the dinky on the FREE museum-Pier 39 shuttle. Thanks to a generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation and shipping by FedEx Trade Networks, Market Street Railway was able to acquire No. 233 and donate it to Muni to join its near-twin, No. 228, a popular member of Muni’s heritage fleet for the last 30 years.


And there’s more.  In 1912, America’s first big city publicly owned transit company, the Municipal Railway, debuted on Geary Street, to compete with for-profit competitors.  Muni’s very first streetcar, beautifully restored No. 1, will be on the Embarcadero as well.  It’s scheduled to be out both days, with two other vintage cars, Muni’s own No. 130 (1914) and Melbourne No. 496 (1928) out one day each. Regular Muni fares apply to these vintage cars, since they’re expected to fill regular runs on the E-Embarcadero (and perhaps F-Market & Wharves) line during the weekend. Note, too, that we expect restored 1948 double-end Muni PCC No. 1006 and 1952 single-end No. 1040, both painted in the classic “wings” livery (shown below on the bus) to be in regular service as well: 1006 on the E, 1040 on the F.

Did we mention buses?  Three historic buses will be operating at 15-minute intervals from the museum to Union Square and back via Steuart, Market, Sutter, Mason, Market, Spear, Mission and Steuart.  Trolley coaches No. 776 (Marmon-Herrington, 1950) and No. 5300 (Flyer, 1975) will be joined by classic GMC “New Look” No. 3287 (1969). These three buses encompass the past three standard Muni liveries: green and cream “wings” (776), maroon and yellow, borrowed from the California Street Cable Car line (3287) and the famed Landor white, gold, and orange (5300). BONUS: Muni will debut new historic photo displays in the vintage buses.

DSC_8917Oh, and one-of-a-kind O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42, built in 1906 and reacquired and cosmetically restored by Market Street Railway, with mechanical restoration by Muni, will be on the California Street cable car line both days. It will be joined by California Cable Car No. 51, the last car to run on the O’Farrell, Jones & Hude line in 1954 and then, after cable car restructuring, the first to run on the shortened California line in 1957. Regular cable car fares apply for rides on these two cars…but note, you can save on the paid rides by buying a one-day Muni Passport at the museum at the beginning of the day.

Both days, September 26 and 27, Saturday and Sunday, the action starts at 10 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m.  All day, we’ll have special memorabilia sales at our museum, along with displays and some great new merchandise.  (Come and get started on your holiday shopping!)


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Boost for E-line Extension to Mission Bay, Dogpatch

Vintage streetcars already run through Mission Bay and Dogpatch on their way in and out of service, so why not run E-line historic streetcars here?

Vintage streetcars already run through Mission Bay and Dogpatch on their way in and out of service, so why not run E-line historic streetcars here?

Market Street Railway has been strongly advocating for extensions of the E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line west from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason, and south from the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King. The southern extension would use the existing T-line tracks via Fourth, Channel, and Third Streets to serve the proposed Giants’ Mission Rock development and Warriors’ Arena, UCSF Mission Bay, three new shoreline parks, and thousands of new residences now coming on line or in the pipeline in Mission Bay and Dogpatch.

A new opinion piece in the Examiner offers strong support for our idea. Penned by J. R. Eppler and Tony Kelly, the leaders of the influential Potrero Hill Boosters neighborhood group, it notes the benefits of the southern E-line extension to residents and businesses alike. The Potrero Hill Boosters join neighborhood and small business groups in  Dogpatch and Mission Bay/South Beach/Rincon Hill in supporting the extension. In fact, it was neighborhood initiative that led us to extend our vision for the E-line all the way through Dogpatch. (We originally envisioned an extended E-line turning back near Pier 70, but neighbors urged us to consider the projected explosive residential growth from there to Islais Creek, and we agreed.)

As the Examiner story points out, the historic streetcars currently run this route every day anyway, going to and from Muni Metro East at 26th and Illinois, where they are currently stored. maps vietnam An existing, underused loop track through that facility could provide a terminal for the extended E-line at no capital cost, or a new terminal track could easily be constructed on Illinois between Cesar Chavez and 25th Street, leveraging the existing switches at Third Street to keep costs to a minimum.

There’s no question more transit is needed in this fastest growing part of San Francisco.  We’re pleased that the Potrero Hill Boosters see the E-line as an important part of the solution.

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K is for Kenosha



Big celebration in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday, September 12, “Streetcar Day,” as they welcomed their newest PCC streetcar for their two-mile loop line from the commuter rail station to the new housing developments along Lake Michigan.

Local angle? Just look at the paint job! Like San Francisco, Kenosha paints its PCC streetcars in different liveries that pay tribute to some of the 30 North American cities that operated this, the most successful streetcar design in history. For their latest car (which, like most of the fleet, came from Toronto), they’re honoring — San Francisco, adopting the classic mid-century green and cream “Wings” livery, modeled in San Francisco on several Muni cars, including No. 1040, the last PCC built in North America.  In a clever touch, the head sign (route and destination listing above the windshield) says K-Kenosha/Beach.  (It does in fact loop through a beach park on the lakefront.)

In a collaborative gesture, Market Street Railway and Muni sent materials, including the old Muni logo (the initials S.F. circled by the words “Municipal Railway”) and F-line maps for display inside to the Kenosha Streetcar Society, our counterpart in Kenosha.  They’ve done a great job there.

Market Street Railway members: look in your mailbox in about a week, and you’ll see an exclusive story on the plucky Kenosha streetcar operation, with great photos, part of the latest edition of our member newsletter, Inside Track. You can join Market Street Railway now and get that issue, plus the last three, to catch up on exclusive coverage.

Congratulations to Kenosha, our Wisconsin PCC cousins! แผนที่นำทาง

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F-line Buses, No E-line Labor Day Weekend



Suddenly, unexpectedly, with only two days notice to business and community stakeholders, including Market Street Railway, Muni’s parent, SFMTA, says it will replace all F-line streetcars this Labor Day Weekend with buses.

Last weekend, Muni put out a notice that E-Embarcadero service this Labor Day Weekend would not operate, but there was no mention of the F-line switch.

The stated reason for the “bustitution” of the F-line on virtually no notice is that construction work is going on at Fourth and King Streets. They’ll be putting in new “special work” — switches and crossings — to create a connection to the new Central Subway, scheduled to open in 2019.

We have been told that Muni’s construction division knew they were going to do this for at least six months, but that Muni Operations only learned about it a couple of weeks ago. The work involves taking one of the two tracks on King Street out of service at the intersection of Fourth.  The N-Judah and T-Third light rail lines run through that intersection, as well as the E-line historic streetcars on weekends. Muni has hurriedly slapped together a temporary boarding platform on King, have cut back the T-line trains to end at the Fourth and Berry T-line station, and will run the N’s in and out of the Caltrain Station at Fourth and King on a single track.

Did we mention there’s a Billy Joel concert that will bring 40,000 people to AT&T Park on Saturday night, in the middle of all this?

With just a single track going through the intersection, Muni planning and operations people apparently decided at the last minute that they didn’t want the F-Market cars going through there as well, on their way to and from their car barn down the T-line. But the thing is, the F-line has been physically cut off from the car barn on several occasions due to past construction. In each case, Muni successfully stored the F-line streetcars overnight on The Embarcadero, between Mission and Folsom Streets.  They could have done that for Labor Day weekend too, but they didn’t.  We don’t know why.

Market Street Railway has already heard howls of outrage from merchants along the F-line who are furious both about the bustitution on what is one of the busiest visitor weekends of the year for many of them — and equally furious about the total lack of notification that would have allowed them to plan.

Market Street Railway has shared its objections to this precipitous move with SFMTA leadership. We believe it disrespects a wide range of stakeholders and shows no concern for both the visitor industry and the many businesses that believe having streetcars, not buses, on the F-line is important, especially on a key sales weekend.

Compare the way BART has gotten the word out about its Labor Day Weekend Transbay Tube shutdown. Decisions made and understood within the BART organization months in advance, providing their staff time to get the word out repeatedly. Clear and consistent messaging that gave the public easy-to-understand options,and plenty of time to make alternative arrangements.

Not much of a comparison, actually.

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F-line Turns 20

F-line opening 090195

On September 1, 1995, the permanent F-Market streetcar line opened on Market Street with a parade up Market Street. The parade lineup was led by 1934 Blackpool boat tram No. 228, as captured in this photo by Peter Ehrlich. Breaking with the tradition of earlier mayors, such as “Sunny Jim” Rolph and Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Frank Jordan chose not to pilot the first car himself, the former police chief riding instead in a vintage police car at the head of the parade.

In March 2000, the F-line was extended to Fisherman’s Wharf and officially named “F-Market & Wharves,” though its still more common to see “F-Market” on the streetcar roll signs.

Inside Track coverThe 20-year history of the F-line includes many twists and turns. MSR President Rick Laubscher, who was closely involved in the creation and development of San Francisco’s historic streetcar system, reflects on the F-line’s history and offers insights in the forthcoming issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track. The newsletter offers almost 50 pages of exclusive news and photos every year.

Inside Track is one of the benefits of being a Market Street Railway member. Your membership, in turn, gives us the ability to acquire new streetcars (like a second boat tram, the most popular car in the fleet) and advocate effectively for the new E-Embarcadero line and advocate for increased F-line service to meet demand.

Please consider joining today. If you do, we’ll send you the three latest issues (including this one, with the inside story of the current project to rebuild the original fleet of F-line streetcars as well as the next four.

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Better Cable Car Safety

IMG_0283With the strong support of Market Street Railway, Muni’s parent SFMTA is proposing an 18-month test that would remove everything but cable cars (and pedestrians) from lower Powell Street, specifically the two blocks between Ellis and Geary.

Here’s a good Hoodline story with details.

SFMTA recommends starting the test in November, but the Union Square Business Improvement District, led by Karin Flood, is concerned that the busiest shopping season is a bad time to implement changes, especially when seasonal shoppers will also be encountering stringent new automobile restrictions on Market Street, plus Central Subway construction.

Market Street Railway has been recommending the closure of lower Powell to automobiles to SFMTA for well over a year, after observing that gridlocked automobiles on Powell have greatly delayed cable car service.  Sometimes it takes cable cars leaving the turntable at Market Street ten minutes just to make the three blocks to Geary. We’re very sensitive to business’ concerns about timing and about maintaining access in special circumstances, and recognize that a few compromises will be needed.

But something simply must be done.  Even more troubling than the delays is the safety factor. Cable cars operate by gripping a constantly moving cable under the street like a giant pair of pliers. Each time the gripman (or gripwoman) clamps onto the cable, it causes friction and wear, both to the grip dies on the cable car and, more importantly, to the cable itself.  If one of the hundreds of strands that make up the cable breaks, it can eventually form a bulge in the cable that can catch the grip from behind. When this happens, the cable car is pulled forward on its own, at great risk of hitting pedestrians or other vehicles.

Since Ed Cobean joined SFMTA from Caltrain last year to head Cable Car operations, he has instituted rigorous measurement systems. The data has allowed SFMTA to understand the pinch points (pardon the expression) in the cable car maintenance and operating environments.  Cobean soon learned that the cable under Powell Street was being replaced far more often than in the past, and identified the inching up the first two blocks of Powell as a key contributor.

The first block of Powell, between Market and Ellis, was closed to automobiles when Hallidie Plaza was completed in 1973. (Before that, amazingly, cable car conductors and gripmen had to turn the car on the turntable while fending off passing automobiles!)

In the decades since, developments such as the Westfield Center (incorporating the historic Emporium facade) on Market Street have stretched the boundaries of Union Square, and fostered greatly increased pedestrian traffic through the area, especially on lower Powell.  Temporary “parklets,” sponsored by Audi, were built along the two blocks of Powell between Ellis and Geary to provide a little spillover space for pedestrians, but the crowds continue to grow.

Meanwhile, automobile traffic all over the city has increased, while the cable cars are tethered to technology more than a century old; technology that is truly historic and not really possible to update in a way that can cope with bumper to bumper autos on the tracks.

The same increasing automobile traffic has clearly tried the patience of some drivers, leading to stupid and dangerous moves that increase accidents and hurt people, particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.  That’s what has spurred the city’s “Vision Zero” program to greatly reduce accidents of all kinds.


In two recent separate incidents, motorists seriously injured cable car conductors who had stepped off their cars to help passengers safely disembark. This led SFMTA to give up valuable advertising space on the back of its Powell Street fleet to post signs reminding motorists that it’s illegal to pass a cable car (a law that has been in effect for at least a half century). The cable car safety program, which includes other measures, is official part of Vision Zero now.

Market Street Railway supports and applauds any action SFMTA takes to give cable car workers a clear track ahead, especially in the most congested parts of lower Powell Street.  These cars are the very symbol of our city.  The safety of the people who operate them, and ride on them, cannot be compromised.

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Great Video of 1992 Streetcar Centennial

As many of you know, the historic streetcar movement in San Francisco goes back more than three decades. The strong impetus for a permanent F-line built on a foundation of successful summer demonstration projects in the 1980s called the San Francisco Historic Trolley Festivals, initiated by the contemporary leaders of Market Street Railway and key folks inside Muni.
During construction of the permanent F-line, vintage streetcar service was suspended, with a few exceptions that lasted just a few days. The most notable event during this period was the celebration of the 1992 centennial of streetcar service in San Francisco. Streetcars from the city’s historic fleet paraded down Market Street two abreast by closing the street and using both tracks.
We were just invited by a new follower of this blog, Bob Docherty, to link to the video of the centennial celebration he posted on You Tube. Upon viewing it, we were excited by the variety of scenes, although it is not put together in a linear or chronological way. The 1992 scenes are intermixed with scenes from at least one of the five Trolley Festivals, maybe more (leased streetcars entered and left the city during that period, and we’d have to check the annual rosters to be sure, but 1985 is included for sure). And the initial title scene is confusingly dated 1995, which is the year the permanent F-line actually opened, though no footage of that appears to be included.
Little matter. There are some fabulous scenes here, including rare footage of Veracruz, Mexico, open-sided car No. 001 (dubbed the “Jumping Bean” because of its bouncy ride) and 1912 Moscow/Orel single trucker No. 106, “Streetcar Named Desire For Peace,” in its red livery.

Share your observations in the comment section below.

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Clearing Cars from Market Street

Traffic cops on Market Chron photo

Market Street is fundamentally different today: private automobiles, including ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, are banned from turning onto the city’s main drag between Third and Eighth Streets. SFMTA, Muni’s parent, implemented the changes in support of the Safer Market Street initiative, designed to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians hurt on Market.

The Chronicle has a good story on this.  We thank them for the use of the photo above, by Liz Hafalia.

The new restrictions build on earlier rules that force eastbound automobiles to turn off Market Street at Tenth Street, then again at Eighth and Sixth.  As bicycle traffic has mushroomed over the past decade, the street has gotten more difficult to navigate for everyone.  That’s especially true of transit vehicles, including of course the F-line streetcars.

Perhaps the biggest news for F-line riders in the new change is this: Muni is extending the “transit only” lane on Market — the track lane — from its current end at Sixth, eastward to Third Street in both directions.  And they’re going to paint that lane bright red, like the existing portion westward on Market.

This should speed F-line loading because the way it has been, automobiles were allowed to use the track lanes in the busiest two blocks of Market, between Fifth and Third. They’d stop next to the boarding island on red lights and delay streetcars from reaching the island to load and unload passengers. This could add another minute or more to running times per stop, slowing overall service.

We may not see the total benefit of this change right away in that stretch, because right turns will temporarily be permitted onto Market from northbound Fifth Street while Ellis Street is closed for Central Subway construction.

And of course, enforcement will be everything in making this work. A common complaint about Muni’s network of transit only lanes in the city is that you never see police enforcing them. Muni vehicles now have forward facing cameras, but under California law they cannot be used to issue tickets for the moving violation of driving a non-transit vehicle in those lanes.

Yesterday, though, many tickets were issued to drivers who ignored the clear new signage and turned onto Market Street.  We hope the SFPD will keep their motorcycle teams out there every day to ensure the new arrangement works as it should.

In the longer run, Market Street Railway is participating with many other groups and city agencies in a total redesign of Market Street, due to be implemented late this decade.  For the streetcars, this will include creation of limited stop service along Market between Haight Street and the Ferry, to be shared with a couple of major crosstown bus lines.  Having fewer stops will greatly increase the efficiency and capacity of the F-line, because riders just going a block or two will instead use the plentiful local bus service at the curb.  We have also successfully advocated to install a short-turn streetcar loop on McAllister and Seventh Street North (Charles Brenham Place), to allow a better balancing of streetcar service along the six-mile long F-line.

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