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Rainy Day on Market, World War II



Weather forecast says rain’s on the way for the Bay Area. As good a time as any to share this photo of Market Street, looking east from Fifth Street, taken during World War II (likely 1943 or early 1944). Rich detail in this photo. The blue and gold N-Judah on the outside track is trying to squeeze past the automobile so it can catch up to the competing 5-McAllister streetcar (with the flashy “zip stripe” on the side) of our namesake, Market Street Railway.

American flags and a striped banner hang from the streetcar span wires. The switches from the inside tracks to Fifth Street, where the 40-line interurbans to San Mateo terminated, are visible around the traffic cop with his bright raincoat (was it white or yellow?). Engulfed in the crowd at the extreme center right of the shot (to the left of the word “The” for the Owl Drug Company store at the corner) is the patented Wiley “birdcage” traffic signal unique to San Francisco. How were motorists and streetcar motormen expected to see it? (You can see an operating one at our San Francisco Railway Museum.) Next to the birdcage, a small porcelain traffic sign, put there by Triple-A, points drivers toward the Bay Bridge entrance at Bryant Street (no connecting freeway then!).

Gray’s Navy Blues and GallenKamp Shoes are two of the stores in the building on the north side of Market, which would be ripped down a quarter-century later to build the Powell Street BART station and Hallidie Plaza. The awnings of the ground floor retail store in the Flood Building (where Gap’s flagship store is now) are just visible at the top. The patterns on the sea of umbrellas make us wish this shot was in color.

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Don’t Miss Fred Lyon’s Photo Exhibition


Today, the New York Times’ Lens blog posted a long-overdue tribute to one of San Francisco’s greatest street photographers, Fred Lyon. The post includes 16 great San Francisco images, including the one above, one of our favorite shots, showing a pipe-puffing businessman in the late 1940s helping the crew push a Powell Street cable car off the turntable, not an uncommon site back then.

There’s a great free exhibition of Fred Lyon’s San Francisco photos showing through October 21 at the Leica Gallery, 463 Bush Street.  If you miss it, you’ll be sorry. We also recommend you purchase his great coffee table book, San Francisco Then, available at  at the Leica Gallery and also at our San Francisco Railway Museum. We also have a great set of notecards at the museum featuring Fred’s San Francisco images. Take time to savor the work of this San Francisco treasure, still active at 92!

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Fleet Weekend Service Adjustments on E, F

The weekend of Fleet Week (that’s Saturday-Sunday, October 8-9 this year) is one of the most crowded weekends along The Embarcadero with pedestrians, motorists, and transit riders all jamming in along the waterfront to see the Navy ships, the Blue Angels air show and more. This year, the Italian Heritage Parade takes place Sunday on top of it all, closing Jefferson Street (and the F-line route) through Fisherman’s Wharf for a time.

img_6497Muni has just announced some service adjustments for the weekend on the E- and F-lines.  Here they are:


F-Market-Wharves: streetcars will run regular service, except that if pedestrians spill over onto the trackway in the Wharf areas (which has happened before), F-line cars would be switched back at Pier 39. There will be supplemental bus service as well on the F.

E-Embarcadero: streetcars will turn back at Pier 39 to lessen congestion on Jefferson; however, if the F-line is cut back to Pier 39, E-line cars would then be cut back to the Bay Street crossover, two blocks farther south.


F-Market-Wharves: streetcars will switch back at Pier 39 for the Italian Heritage Parade from 8 a.m. until the end of the parade.

E-Embarcadero: streetcars will switch back at Bay Street for the Italian Heritage Parade from 8 a.m. until the end of the parade.

Here’s a tip for people driving into the city for the events: park in Mission Bay where there are several lots and either take the T-line on Third Street and transfer to the E-line at 2nd and King (AT&T Park) or walk to the Caltrain depot and take the E from there.  E cars will have space in that direction.

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Terrific Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend was the best of the five that have taken place so far. Biggest crowds, more kids and families, more vintage vehicles operating, more variety in the routes operated. Kudos to everyone involved on Muni’s side — and there were dozens, operators, mechanics, supervisors, and more, directed by Ed Cobean. Here are a few shots of the action.

The weekend started with a ceremonial run of O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42 over Hyde Street trackage it hadn’t felt in 62 years. The car, under the command of ace grip Val Lupiz, operated like a charm. The old Hyde terminal was just a switch, because the cars were double ended. Val took the opportunity to put the car on the Turntable, using the switch at the terminal to change tracks first, so photographers could get the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. (No, it doesnimg_6380‘t fit on the turntable.)


Muni’s fabled streetcar number 1 was out and about, signed for its original route, the “A-Geary.” This weekend, it operated along Market to Castro on Saturday on the F-line and to Pier 39 on The Embarcadero on Sunday.

img_64142016 marks the 75th anniversary of Muni’s operation of trolley buses, the “Green Machines” that continued zero-emission operation of more than 20 Muni routes when they were converted from streetcars. To celebrate, one of Muni’s first 9 trolley coaches, the 506, from 1941, carried a great photographic display documenting trolley coach history at Muni. It doesn’t operate (though we hope it will again someday), but was a great centerpiece. But second generation Muni trolley coach 776, shown behind the 506, operated the pioneering R-Howard-South Van Ness line to 26th Street and back.


From inside the 776 on Market, we see 1929 Melbourne 496 rolling by. It worked the F-line to Castro both days. (The trolley buses, including 1975 Flyer 5300, reached Howard by turning left off Market at Fourth, since the original wire on that part of Howard is gone.img_6475

A surprise participant was Muni’s oldest bus, the 042, built in 1938 by the White Motor Company. Its engine had given up the ghost, but the top-notch mechanics at Woods Motor Coach Division swapped it out for one in a White bus Market Street Railway’s Paul Wells located in the Santa Cruz Mountains and repatriated. The 042 operated like a dream looping around Union Square all weekend, as did 1970 GMC “fishbowl” 3287, shown behind it.


The most popular vehicles, as always were 1896 “dinky” 578, Muni’s oldest streetcar, and one of Muni’s two Blackpool, England, “boat trams” from 1934. They were especially welcomed during a very hot weekend as they cruised The Embarcadero between Pier 39 and our museum. Here’s the 578 with its restored route lettering (courtesy Market Street Railway) taking a break on Mission.


Your correspondent was under the weather this weekend and didn’t get very many good shots. So we’re asking your help. Please share your best photographs with us for possible use in the next issue of our newsletter Inside Track, or in our 2018 calendar now being prepared. You can share your photos here.  Thanks.

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Here Comes Muni Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend got off to a great start with a special reception, sponsored by Market Street Railway, honoring San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board Chair Tom Nolan, who just received a prestigious industry award. The universally-respected Nolan, a steady hand in leading SFMTA for many years, was just named board member of the year by the American Public Transportation Association.

Following the invitation-only reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum, everyone hopped on 1934 Blackpool, England boat tram 233 for a sail along The Embarcadero to Pier 39 and back, spotting a bigger boat at the Pier 27 Cruise Ship Terminal.  (Click the center of the screen below to see!) The new-but-traditional colored lights on this boat were made possible by contributions at the museum to our “Float the Boats” fund, enhancing these two wonderful ambassadors from Blackpool. Boat tram 233 itself was brought to San Francisco by Market Street Railway in 2013 and given to Muni thanks to a generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping underwritten in part by FedEx Trade Networks.

Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25, starting at 10 a.m. and wrapping up between 4 and 5 p.m., there’ll be lots of vintage transit action. Two vintage trolley coaches (776 from 1950 and 5300 from 1975) will leave every 45 minutes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. giving free rides along Muni’s first trolley coach route, the R-Howard-South Van Ness, which opened 75 years ago. There’ll be rarely-operating historic streetcars, including a boat tram and 1896 “dinky” 578, offering free rides between the museum and Pier 39. Two streetcars from Muni’s original fleet, Car 1 (1912) and Car 130 (1914) are slated to run as part of E-Embarcadero line service, along with 1948 PCC cars No. 1006, 1008, and 1011. These rides will be at regular Muni fares, as will the special cable car, O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Street Car 42, built in 1907, which will operate in regular service on the California Street Line just a block from the museum.

At this writing, motor coach arrangements are pending after an unexpected maintenance issue cropped up in 1969 GMC Coach 3287. We will update this post as we know more.

At the museum, we’ll be offering a great line of gifts and some one-of-a-kind memorabilia, including books and photos of historic rail operations outside San Francisco. Get there early for the best selection.

And on Saturday night, we still have a few seats left on our special charter of trolley coach 776 to see the streetcar movies at the Balboa Theater.

Here’s a shot of last night’s honoree, SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan (right), with Market Street Railway Board Chair Bruce Agid, at the reception at our museum.


It’s going to be a great Muni Heritage Weekend. Don’t miss it!


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Getting Ready for Muni Heritage Weekend



What you’re looking at here is Muni maintenance folks applying decals the other day to Car 578, the oldest streetcar in Muni’s fleet, built in 1896. When Muni restored it to its original appearance in 1956, for the 50th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake, the work was overseen by Charlie Smallwood, Muni maintenance manager and legendary San Francisco rail historian.

Charlie had a Muni sign painter reproduce the original lettering on the car, which was painted for one specific line, with the streets that it ran on listed on the letterboards above the side windows and the name of the line underneath the side windows. (Route numbers weren’t adopted until after 1906, and yes, “Devisadero” was spelled that way until 1909.) But when work was done on the car about 20 years ago, the hand-lettering on the sides was painted over. Now, it’s back, thanks to decals we designed and supplied to Muni.  We thank them for applying them in time for Muni Heritage Weekend.

Also, in doing our own research to try to get the decals as accurate as possible, we reached out to ace historian Emiliano Echeverria, who sent us this notice from a Market Street Railway Manager in 1898 (!).  As we said, the car was originally painted for the Ellis & O’Farrell line, in yellow.  (Market Street Railway color coded its lines back then.)


On weekends, the old Market Street Railway needed extra cars to take people to the beach, on its subsidiary Ferries Park & Ocean Ry., a line out H Street (now Lincoln Way) that used blue streetcars. So they took three yellow cars, including the 578, issued  the cars’ crews blue canvas with the other line’s details written on it, and hung it on the side of the car to cover “Ellis & O’Farrell Sts.”  They also added an extra fare register to match the way things were done on the Ferries Park & Ocean line.

Whew. It sounds complicated now, and must have been back then as well, because when United Railroads took over the old Market Street Railway in 1902, they got rid of color-coded cars, painting all their streetcars and cable cars the same color and hanging removable dash signs on the end of the cars, using the old colors of the line. That started the tradition of dash signs on San Francisco streetcars that endured right through the end of Muni’s “Iron Monsters” in 1958!

Now that you know all this about Car 578, come ride it FREE Saturday and Sunday for Muni Heritage Weekend, Sept. 24-25, 10 am-4 pm. The rides start at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street.

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Take a 1950 Trolley Bus to Streetcar Movies Sept. 24


In a new addition to Muni Heritage Weekend, we — Market Street Railway — have chartered vintage 1950 trolley coach 776 to a special encore showing of Streetcar San Francisco Movie Night at the Balboa Theater. The 90-minute programs features archival footage (much of it supplied by us), new and original short films, highlights from the OpenSFHistory collection, and other historically-inspired surprises around the theme of San Francisco public and private transit. It’s narrated with zest by Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher.

In this case getting there will be at least half the fun. We’ll leave the San Francisco Railway Museum at 5:45 pm sharp on 1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach 776 and follow the 31-Balboa route (which was electrified after this bus was retired so it’ll be a historic trip in that respect) through the Tenderloin and Western Addition, over Lone Mountain, and then out Balboa Avenue to 38th Avenue and Balboa Theater.

There, we’ll give you a ticket for the show. After the show, use whatever Muni route you like to get back (though you would wait a long time for the B-Geary streetcar, which passed the theater until 1956).

The whole package is $20 for Market Street Railway members, $30 for non-members. Reserve your space by sending an email to including your name, number of guests in your party, and whether you’re an MSR member. (If not, you can join and save ten bucks on the deal.)

If you’ve already bought a ticket to the movie, you can ride the charter bus to the theater for $20 (non-members) or $15 (members).

We’re going to do this on the honor system, meaning you don’t have to pay for the ride in advance, but rather at the bus when you board Saturday night. Cash only; we can’t process credit cards or electronic payments for this. Only RSVP if you’re sure you’re going to go. This will sell out and we don’t want to turn people away, only to find some people were no-shows.

Remember, rsvp to

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Honoring Labor



Happy Labor Day 2016! Here’s a shout out to San Francisco past and present, who built, maintained, and operated our transit system. Its history was punctuated by struggles on behalf of unions, including strikes that cost workers’ lives early in the century, that led to a solid union environment today.

In celebration of the hundreds of thousands of good jobs transit provided through the decades, two photos from the wonderful SFMTA Archives (with a hat tip to Archivist Jeremy Menzies and the staff and volunteers that have unlocked this priceless resource to the public). Above, on Kentucky Street (now Third Street between China Basin and Islais Creek) is one of San Francisco’s first electric streetcars, built by San Francisco workers at the Hammond car shop (which also built cable cars), operating on the Third and Kearny line, somewhere between 1894 and 1899. Being a streetcar motorman or conductor was a prestigious job in that era. On Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25 , you can ride its sister car 578, free, between our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39. Car 578 is scheduled to operate both days from about 11 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

Below, track workers install new switches and track at Market and McAllister in 1911. Maintenance crews don’t always get the credit they’re due, because they generally work behind the scenes, but transit wouldn’t work without them. This scene will actually be replicated in a few years when, as part of the Better Market Street Project, Muni will install a track loop at this site, a single track turning off Market onto McAllister and then south onto Charles Brenham Place (Seventh Street North) to allow additional F-line service between Civic Center and Fisherman’s Wharf when needed.


Thanks to all the workers of San Francisco transit companies over the past 156 years. You’ve built more than transit. You’ve built a city!


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“R” You Ready? Muni’s First Trolley Bus Line Runs Again Sept. 24-25



Seventy-five years ago this month, Muni opened its very first trolley bus line. The “R-Howard” ran from Beale and Howard Streets out Howard and South Van Ness to Army Street (now Cesar Chavez). This Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25, you’ll be able to ride the R-line one more time, to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

The action starts at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission (across from the Ferry Building). There at the curb you’ll see the last surviving trolley bus that originally ran the R-line, a 1941 model that Market Street Railway acquired some years ago and cosmetically restored. It doesn’t operate — getting it back into running shape is a priority of ours, and we’re working with some good folks at Muni to see what can be done — but it will be on display carrying a timeline of Muni’s trolley bus history inside.

Once you’ve inspected the original R-Howard bus, you can board one of its two descendants — a 1950 Marmon-Herrington or 1975 Flyer — for an actual ride that gets pretty close to the R-line original. (The R-line became part of the 41-Union-Howard in the late 1940s, a route No. 776 used to run.) There hasn’t been passenger trolley bus service on Howard for a long time, but the wires were left up to give Mission Street buses a detour when needed, and to make a faster trip to and from the bus barn.

The buses will leave the museum every 45 minutes starting at 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Given that Howard is now one-way downtown, they’ll follow this route with no stops: Steuart, Market, Fourth, Howard, South Van Ness, and 26th Street to Mission. At the corner of 26th and Mission, they’ll make a brief stop to let riders from the Mission and Bernal Heights climb on, then head back downtown, again express, via Mission, 25th, South Van Ness, 11th Street, Market, Spear, Mission, and Steuart.


The 776 was out today giving operators some refresher training. Here it is at Mission & 16th Streets, as captured by our friend Adolfo Echeverry.

Though the R-line was Muni’s first trolley coach line, it was San Francisco’s second. Its private competitor Market Street Railway Company (namesake of our non-profit) converted its 33-line streetcar through SOMA, the Mission,and over Twin Peaks, to trolley coaches in 1935. The R-line came about after the franchise the city had given Market Street Railway for the 35-line streetcar expired at the end of the 1930s. Single operator buses were cheaper to run than two-operator streetcars, and the 35-line didn’t have many riders, so Muni decided to try the newer trolley bus technology and maybe steal some passengers from their competitor’s lines on Mission, such as the 14.

The revival of the R-line is just one aspect of Muni Heritage Weekend, which includes rarely seen vintage streetcars and buses carrying the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, September 24-25. This is your chance to ride one of the popular boat trams from Blackpool, England or San Francisco’s oldest streetcar, the 1896 “dinky” at no charge from our museum to Pier 39. There’ll be a big sidewalk sale of streetcar memorabilia, and lots of other things going on as well. Keep an eye on this space to learn more!


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Kansas City PCC 1056 Back at Muni

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Five years after leaving F-line service with a major structural crack, PCC 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, arrived back at Muni Metro East this afternoon, totally rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company and looking mighty good.

Because of the damage to the bolster under the car, the 1056 was the first car to be sent to Brookville under the current contract to completely rebuild the 16 PCCs that opened the F-line in 1995. After unloading from the low-ride trailer owned by expert streetcar mover Silk Road Transport, Muni maintenance worker Kevin Sheridan, a third generation San Francisco streetcar worker, took the controls and smoothly ran the car around the yard to a service bay inside the maintenance facility, under its own power. (Kevin’s dad Mike, retired from Muni, is one of Market Street Railway’s key volunteers, working on archival photos.)

The car will have numbers and decals applied, receive a farebox and radio, and then enter 1000 miles of testing before carrying passengers.

No sooner had the 1056 cleared the unloading track than Muni workers loaded up PCC 1055 (below) now on its way to Brookville, where it joins 1051, 1060, 1059. and 1062, in various stages of restoration. The 1051 is the next one expected back.




We’ll have the inside story of the car’s rebirth and a full update on the Brookville contract in the next issue of our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in early September.  Join Market Street Railway today so you don’t miss it.


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