Latest News from Market Street Railway...
Right up front, we’ll say this is an unusual post for us, since we are and will continue to be a historic preservation organization. But we are also strong supporters of delivering the best possible public transit in San Francisco. That’s why we want to take a minute to congratulate the leadership of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on their stunning bus modernization program.
Led by the SFMTA Board chaired by Tom Nolan, Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, and Director of Transit John Haley, the SFMTA has turned Muni’s bus fleet from an aging, scattered, and frankly ugly bunch of vehicles into a sleek, green, and homogeneous group of trolley coaches and motor coaches.
Historically, Muni procured buses in a disjointed manner, constrained by past practices and an overly complicated process that often included demands for custom features rather than proven design and technology. The current leadership team pushed hard to simplify and accelerate the procurement process, using innovative ideas such as “piggybacking” their order on another city’s (Seattle, in the case of trolley coaches) to get faster delivery and economies of scale.
All the new coaches come from New Flyer Industries of Winnipeg. The SFMTA board last week approved the purchase of 33 additional 60-foot articulated zero emission trolley coaches (shown above) to join 60 already here. There are also 225 60-foot hybrid-electric motor coaches and 200 40-foot standard motor coaches already here or on order. Later this year, Muni will order 40-foot standard zero emission trolley coaches as well, completing the program.
The new buses are all over the city, further lowering Muni’s carbon footprint, already among the lowest of any major bus operator in North America. A few of the 60-foot motor coaches even did recent emergency fill-in duty on the T-Third line briefly when LRV service was disrupted (below).
Kudos to the SFMTA leadership team for this dramatic overhaul of Muni’s bus fleet. (We now resume our regular historic programming. 🙂 )2 Comments on Celebrating New Buses
Market Street Railway and San Francisco City Guides are again collaborating on a memorable vintage streetcar ride along Muni’s historic F-line. The spring tour is Sunday, May 22, 1:30-3:30pm on-board the last PCC built in North America for Muni in 1952, offering views of the sights and sounds along the F-line on Market Street and The Embarcadero.
No. 1040 has been faithfully restored to its 1950s appearance, looking just like this shot of a charter at the end of 1956 at Geary and Market, when it closed out service on the B-line. It’s a great match for the historic architecture en route, including Lotta’s Fountain and the Palace Hotel in this photo.
Join tour guides Ethan Chickering from City Guides and Paul Lucas from Market Street Railway on one of our priceless “museums in motion” 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.
Sign up today for $40 per person. (Market Street Railway members receive a 25% discount, well beyond the usual 10% member discount on merchandise.) Seating capacity is limited. Your ticket purchase provides the funds required to charter the streetcar from Muni, so all ticket sales must be final. All proceeds go to support Market Street Railway and City Guides in their work to keep San Francisco’s transit history alive.No Comments on Take a Trolley Tour on the Last PCC May 22
A great event at the Cable Car Barn May 6 to celebrate the 85th birthday of the incomparable Willie Mays. How incomparable? President Obama sent a video tribute calling him “the greatest living ballplayer,” great enough for the president to award Mays the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
Why the Cable Car Barn? To “bring together two moving national landmarks”, as President Obama said. He noted that San Francisco’s cable cars were named the first national historic landmark that moved, “except for Willie running the bases.” The president’s fandom was plain to see, as was that of the invitation-only in-person audience that came to see cable car 24 (naturally) dedicated to No. 24, Willie Mays.
SFMTA Board Member Malcolm Heinecke, who is also Mays’ personal attorney, thought of the tribute. Market Street Railway helped SFMTA implement it by providing the car’s history, which turns out to be wonderfully appropriate.
Originally built in 1887 for the Ferries & Cliff House Railway, the original owner of the Powell cable lines, Car 24 received its last major renovation by Muni crafts workers in 1958, the year the Giants — and Willie Mays — moved to San Francisco from New York. It’s also the only cable car to go on a “road trip” will still in active service with Muni — representing San Francisco at the big Chicago Railroad Fair in 1949 (where it actually operated on a short stretch of specially-built cable track) and to the Shriner’s Convention in Los Angeles in 1950.
Following a speech by Mayor Ed Lee, officials unveiled a photo blow up of a new plaque mounted on the car honoring Mays. Then everyone piled onto Car 24 for a ceremonial ride that included a very rare, probably unprecedented moment: reversing the car on the barn’s motorized turntable with a full load to point it to the exit gate on Washington Street. Click the black video box below to see it.
Then Car 24 and guests were off for a brief trip “around the horn”, as cable car folk describe the non-revenue turn left on Powell from Washington used to put cable cars into and out of service. Willa Johnson, one of Muni’s two female gripmen, took the controls for the run. The Chronicle’s Steve Rubenstein wrote a great story on the whole event. Again, click the black box below to watch Car 24 leave the barn for the first time as “the Willie Mays cable car.”
It was great to see Willie Mays ringing the conductor’s bell on his cable car, and even more to see the outpouring of genuine affection for someone who has been a positive symbol of San Francisco to millions of people — just as the cable cars have.No Comments on Say Hey! Say Willie!
NextBus, Muni’s vendor for live displays showing where every vehicle is on every route, has launched the full-time E-Embarcadero map. You can now see what’s on both the E- and F-lines by clicking here, then selecting the map you want: F-line only, E-line only, or a combination (as shown in the screenshot above).
We thank NextBus (which labels its maps here “NextMuni”) for including the icons (which we supplied them) of the actual streetcars that are on the line, a big plus for trainspotters. The F-line cars have the icon plus the car number, the E-line cars have the icon plus “E-Embarcadero” so you can tell which car is on which line when you have both lines up on the map at the same time.
Fun little feature (intended or not): the E-line map shows the route that both E and F cars currently take along the T-line to reach their temporary base at Muni Metro East. In the screenshot, you can see that Car 1080 has activated its GPS in anticipation of pulling out onto the F-line. Note that the Third Street trackage is NOT revenue trackage at the moment, though Market Street Railway is advocating extending the E-line along this route (and west to Fort Mason from the Wharf) to tie together all the city’s major waterfront attractions with a single historic line.
Thanks again to NextBus for getting the E-line map up and running.
2 Comments on E-line NextBus Map Working!
Today marks the beginning of daily service on the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line, which will now run daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Fisherman’s Wharf to AT&T Park and the Caltrain Depot along The Embarcadero and King Street. It’s a major service expansion following nine months of the weekend-only service that inaugurated this long-anticipated line.
And what greeted the E-line streetcars on their first day of daily service? A too-familiar sight on the original historic streetcar service, the F-line: buses instead of streetcars.
Today (April 23) is the first day of the new Muni operator signup. Operators throughout the system are changing routes and modes (bus, streetcar, light rail, cable car) as their union’s contract allows them to do, based strictly on seniority. When this happens, Muni has to train hundreds of operators on their new modes (though every one of them, by contract, has to be qualified to operate a bus from the beginning of their career).
What this means in practice is that, at the beginning of these signups, operators are assigned to the F-Market & Wharves line who haven’t yet completed streetcar training. They’re given buses to drive instead.
That’s why at Noon today there were six buses on the F-line and only nine streetcars. It appears there’s a run or two missing as well.
All five E-Embarcadero runs are out and all are filled with double-end PCC streetcars. (Actually, the E-line runs HAVE to be streetcars because buses can’t use the roughly paved streetcar/light rail right-of-way south of Mission Street — the right-of-way used by the F-line, north of Mission, is smooth enough for buses.)
We only know that all the E-line runs are filled at the moment because we went down there and counted the cars ourselves. (We’d love to tell you the scheduled headways of 15 minutes are being kept, but they’re not. Several times, we saw two cars 2-5 minutes apart with a gap much longer than 15 minutes afterward.)
Anyone should always be able to know how much service is currently on ANY Muni line, and where the vehicles are, by consulting the live map on NextMuni, which has included the E-Embarcadero line on the Saturdays and Sundays it’s been running since last August. However, the E-line is mysteriously missing from the live map today. It doesn’t show up as a route you can check, as it used to. (If you want to check the current F-line service — what cars [and, sigh, buses] are on the line and where they are, click here.
We know that Muni is actively training new streetcar operators for the F-line. We hope they’ll be on the streets — with their streetcars — soon, so the buses can go back to the barn!
UPDATE, April 25: Muni Planning Director Julie Kirschbaum apologizes for the lack of an E-line NextMuni map, attributing it to a glitch on the vendor’s part. She says she’ll alert us when it’s fixed; then we’ll alert you!2 Comments on Buses Back on the F as E Starts Daily Service
This photograph is of a cable car transfer that is part of our Market Street Railway Archives. It’s for the Hayes line (now the 21-Hayes bus), inbound (going toward the Ferry). The date of the transfer, overprinted with ink as was the custom) was April 18, 1906. The time punched on the transfer was 5:00 a.m.
We believe this is a genuine transfer, though it can’t easily be inspected more closely because it was donated to us already encased in plastic. It symbolizes the final minutes of one of the most extensive cable car systems ever built in the world.
As this 1905 shot shows, cable cars ran along Market right up until the Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906. Five cable lines headed west on our main street from the Ferry, branching off at McAllister (now the 5-line), Hayes (the 21), Haight (the 7), Valencia, and Castro (now pretty much the F-line). The earthquake wrecked the cable machinery and in some places twisted the tracks.
The system’s corporate owner, United Railroads (a Chicago-based conglomerate) took the opportunity to “temporarily” string overhead wire on Market and had electric streetcars operating there within a few weeks, as seen above. (They had wanted to convert to faster, cheaper streetcars on Market for years, but “City Beautiful” advocates, who hated the overhead wires, had stopped them. They greased the wheels of government in the quake’s immediate aftermath with bribes, and we’ve had overhead wires on Market ever since.)
You can ride along during the last days of Market Street cable service and learn much more about the City that was by viewing our “Trip Down Market Street” video. Thanks to archivist Rick Prelinger and film historian David Kiehn, we obtained a great copy of the film made on or about April 14, 1906, just days before the quake, by pioneering professional filmmakers the Miles Brothers, who bolted a hand-cranked camera onto the front of a cable car and rode down Market Street from Eighth Street to the Ferry Building. Click below for a preview.
In the full 11 minute video, Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, author of ON TRACK and a noted San Francisco historian, tells you what you’re seeing on every block along the way in this memorable film, including social, economic, and political history to go with the transit history. It’s all woven together seamlessly, bringing this wonderful film, “A Trip Down Market Street,” to life.
You can see the full 11 minute video free at our San Francisco Railway Museum, open daily except Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. You can view the earthquake day transfer shown above at the museum too. For just $12.95, you can also buy your own copy of the film at the Museum, or right here at our online store (scroll down the store page until you reach the video). Remember, Market Street Railway Members get 10% off.
Finally, please take a moment to reflect on the enormous power of nature, as reflected in Ecuador and Japan during the last few days. Our condolences to all those who have lost loved ones to these terrible tremors.No Comments on 110 Years Ago: Earthquake Ends the Cable Era
Somehow, the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle has managed to forget — or ignore — that today is the centennial of the birth of their greatest columnist ever, Herb Caen. (They did, belatedly, make a post to their Facebook group.)
The self-described “Sacamenna Kid” left Sacramento for San Francisco while still a teenager to become the radio columnist for the Chronicle, and got handed a general column, first titled, “It’s news to me,” in 1938.
It’s hard to explain to those who didn’t experience Caen firsthand just how much his daily newspaper column shaped this city and its people. If you were mentioned regularly in his column, you were famous in this town. Just for that. When he moved from the Chronicle to the Examiner in 1950, and back in 1958, he immediately took more than 30,000 readers with him each way. Just like that.
His 16,000 columns totaled more than 14 million words over the years. He coined some of those words himself, like “beatnik.” His six-day-a-week musings, easily the longest-running newspaper column in American history, were the talk of the entire Bay Area.
Caen wrote about every facet of life in the city, including transit. We collected some of his column tidbits for a display in Muni Car 130, which is dedicated to him. We’ll share a few here.
Our mouth slightly ajar, we stood at Eighth and Market yesterday and watched a woman leap lightly and gracefully aboard a moving streetcar, all the while smoking a cigaret. Thus did all the institutions of our age tremble and totter, thus did man lost one of the last of his “inalienable rights,” the right to hop on streetcars in motion. We almost dare not ask — “What next?”— From Caen’s first daily Chronicle column, July 5, 1938
A well-dressed drunk staggered aboard a Powell Street cable and gave a dollar to the conductor, who handed back nine dimes in change. Each time the conductor walked through the car (it was jampacked) the souse handed him another dime—which the conductor took without looking up. After the stew had forked over a dime for the fifth time, he turned to a fellow passenger and complained thickly: “Y’know, we jush gotta get ridda these cable cars. They’re too damn expensive!” — 1950
The haunted lower stretches of Market Street, fitfully alive with the ghosts of the streetcars that used to rattle down to the loop in front of the Ferry Building; gone now the Roar of the Four, gone the era of the ferry, gone everything but the gray tower whose four clocks are living on borrowed time…Baghdad-by-the-Bay. — 1950
THAT WAS SAN FRANCISCO: When it was an honored S.F. custom to get a transfer from the streetcar conductor (even if you weren’t gonna use it) and hand it to the corner newsboy—who in turn would give it to a customer along with a newspaper; newsboys all over town worked this “free” ride sales gimmick (and the trolley lines made dough anyway)… — 1950
THE VIEW FROM HERE: Yes, I feel twinges of nostalgia and arthritis, but I refuse to succumb. Nostalgia is the Ess Eff disease, sometimes fatal and not designed for looking ahead, which is what editorial-we are doing today. Today I am reborn. I feel young again! OK, middle-aged plus 10. If there’s such a thing as a second childhood, I’m experiencing it. Nevertheless, I would like to walk away from the Loyal Royal and mount one of those beautiful old streetcars now running on Market St. They’re the best thing that’s happened to this town since—well—Willie Brown. They take you into the past in the nicest possible way, down almost to the Ferry Building, a landmark filled entirely with memories and the ghosts of seamen gone, not to mention “Peg-Leg Pete,” the one-legged seagull that posed on a piling for equally forgotten tourists armed with box Brownies. –February 12, 1996
We miss Herb. His wit, his style, his verve. Truly Mr. San Francisco.5 Comments on Herb Caen: A Centennial to Celebrate
Editor’s Note: This story is an updated version of one originally published in our quarterly member newsletter, Inside Track, in 2004, to mark the 50th anniversary of the cable car massacre of 1954. Inside Track always contains exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else (at least until much later). We depend on memberships to further our mission of Preserving Historic Transit in San Francisco, so please join Market Street Railway or donate. Thank you.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, May 16, 1954, several hundred San Franciscans gathered at California and Hyde Streets. They weren’t late-night shopping at Trader Joe’s, but rather were protesting what was then happening to the previous occupants of that property–cable cars.
Well after midnight, O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde car No. 51 crested Russian Hill and approached the old carbarn and powerhouse, headed for history.
The car, built in 1906 (and still in service today on California Street), was swarming with riders, some carrying protest signs.
Other like-minded people waited outside the carbarn. For a time, they blocked Muni efforts to pull No. 51 inside, until the police were called. While the cable car wars weren’t yet over, that moment was the last time a cable car ran the full length of a line that opened in 1891.
Seminal year: 1954
The ‘Battle of Car 51’ in 1954 was a seminal moment in what was a decade long political and social war over San Francisco’s beloved cable car system. The place where cable cars were invented in 1873 had seen many cable lines converted to streetcars right after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. In 1912, Muni’s first streetcar lines, on Geary, replaced a privately owned cable car operation.
In those days, all cable car lines were privately-owned. The California Street Cable Railroad Co. (Cal Cable) owned its namesake line (which ran on California all the way to Presidio Avenue near Laurel Heights), the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, and a five-block shuttle that ran on Jones between O’Farrell and Market.
Our namesake, Market Street Railway Co. (MSRy), owned the two Powell lines of the era, the Powell-Mason to the Wharf (still there on the same route), and the Washington-Jackson, which ran through Pacific heights all the way to Alta Plaza Park at Steiner Street. (MSRy also owned the Castro cable line, which closed in 1941, and the Sacramento-Clay line, which used a portion of the very first cable car route, shut down in 1942).When Muni bought out MSRy in 1944, it inherited the Powell cable lines. In 1947, Mayor Roger Lapham proposed replacing the Powell cable cars with twin-motored buses capable of climbing the hills. This public relations blunder of historic proportions unleashed the fury of San Franciscans led by a woman from Telegraph Hill named Friedel Klussmann.
In an era when ‘ladies’ weren’t supposed to speak out or take the lead on policy matters, she galvanized opposition to Lapham’s plan, which was repudiated at the ballot box by a margin of more than 3-1, enshrining protection for the City-owned Powell cable lines in the City Charter. (As for those replacement buses, they had a brief and undistinguished career on other routes. Market Street Railway has helped Muni preserve one of them for its historic value.)
Cal Cable collapses
Meanwhile, the private Cal Cable company was rapidly careening downhill, financially at least. Labor strife (including a 25-day strike in 1949), construction of the Broadway Tunnel (which shut down the Hyde tracks in 1950), and finally the cancellation of its insurance, caused it to shut down its operations and file for bankruptcy in August 1951.
In January 1952, following voter approval, the City bought Cal Cable for $139,000, and within a week reopened all three lines, including the Jones shuttle. Less than two years later, in November 1953, two Muni rehabilitation bond issues, which would have paid for rebuilding the California Street cable car tracks and partly rebuilding the powerhouse and barn at Hyde and California, failed at the ballot box.
By then, Muni was under increasing financial pressure itself because it faced a $4 million deficit (a rounding error today, but in those days, politicians believed a transit system should at least break even, as indeed Muni had done for most of its history).
Muni and City officials did take their financial situation seriously, though.
In this same time period, streetcar service was cut to a bare minimum, with buses taking over all but the tunnel portions of lines nights and weekends. (Muni had been unable to win voter approval of a City Charter amendment to allow one-operator streetcar service. Even the then-new PCC streetcars were required at the time to have a conductor as well as a motorman).
In the aftermath of the bond defeat, a flurry of proposals quickly emerged to ‘consolidate’ cable car service in the name of saving money. City Public Utilities General Manager James Turner favored abandoning all three Cal Cable lines, continuing to run only the City Charter-protected Powell lines.
Two members of the Board of Supervisors, first Francis McCarty, then J. Eugene McAteer, proposed combining the inner end of the California line with the Hyde Street portion of the O’Farrell line to create a new California-Hyde line. (McAteer also proposed extensions for both the Hyde and Powell-Mason lines into the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, where he happened to hold restaurant interests.)
Cars vs. cables
There was strong Downtown opposition to the O’Farrell line, tied to the City’s desire to make O’Farrell a one-way street, in part to serve a proposed (later built) garage opposite Macy’s. (The O’Farrell line already operated in both directions for two blocks on Pine Street, which had been made one way in 1941.
An elaborate set of warning lights altered motorists to an oncoming ‘wrong way’ cable car, but automobile advocates were unhappy with this arrangement.)
An attorney, Morris Lowenthal, began speaking out against the cuts and allied with Friedel Klussmann and others to forge an opposition movement. The active role of Mrs. Klussmann, by now widely regarded as the cable car savior, made politicians begin to twitch, as they had already seen the passion she aroused in 1947. The Downtown interests, whose main target was O’Farrell, apparently approached Ms. Klussman and offered to support a compromise where the Hyde line and Jones shuttle would be combined to provide through service, abandoning only the tracks on O’Farrell. Mrs. Klussmann said no. McAteer backed off his California-Hyde proposal and told Mrs. Klussmann he would support a Board of Supervisors resolution to save all five cable lines. This caused her forces to postpone a voter initiative drive to accomplish the same thing. At the last minute, though McAteer changed his position again, throwing his weight behind a compromise plan to create the cable car system we have today, by ripping out the California line west of Van Ness, combining the Hyde trackage with the inner portion of the Washington-Jackson line, and scrapping the outer part of Washington-Jackson between Hyde and Steiner.
Thanks to McAteer’s flip-flop, that ‘compromise’ cable car alternative (so called because it kept at least some of the Cal Cable trackage) faced no competition on the June 1954 ballot. The Public Utilities Commission had already irked cable car supporters by shutting down the Jones Street shuttle in February, then really fanned the flames by closing the O’Farrell line and the Cal line west of Van Ness on that May evening, without waiting for the June vote.
The Klussmann-Lowenthal forces girded for battle against ‘Proposition E’ while Downtown interests campaigned for it. That kind of face-off has been a staple of San Francisco politics for a century. What was different this time is that the Public Utilities Commission, which ran Muni at the time, interfered in the election in a way that would be unthinkable today. They put an outside public relations man, David Jones, on the City payroll, with explicit instructions to get Prop E approved. Jones set up bogus committees of ‘cable car ladies’ and ‘labor’ intended to confuse voters into thinking this plan was agreeable to the Klussmann forces. He issued misleading statements in the campaign, such as “every cable car on the street today is here to stay.” Literally true at the time, since the O’Farrell cars were by then off the streets, along with half the Cal cars, and while the Washington-Jackson line was to go, the cars on it would stay, on the new Powell-Hyde line. Ads paid for by the ‘Cable Car Festival Committee’, the David Jones-front ‘ladies’ group’ said “Yes on E–Keep the cable cars rolling…bring back the Hyde Street grip”–another extreme stretch, since a ‘no’ vote would have kept twice as many cable cars running, and retained the entire Hyde Street operation on its traditional alignment, not just the Russian Hill slice.
When voters pulled the levers in June 1954 following this deluge of disinformation, they passed Prop E by a scant 12,000 votes. Allies of Mrs. Klussmann, led by attorney Morris Lowenthal and his ‘Cable Car Vigilantes’ group (including eager young volunteers like Philip Hoffman, now MSR’s historian) rapidly qualified an unprecedented initiative to amend the City Charter to undo what Prop E had done. Again, Jones, still on the City payroll, went to work. Merchants groups were offered zoning changes to permit parking lots in exchange for their opposition to the cable car restoration initiative, Prop J. Muni books were cooked to make a claim that the smaller cable car system implemented by Prop E was saving money, when in fact, deficits were actually higher than when all five lines were running.
This all came out in a subsequent trial, when Lowenthal sued Jones and won. However, by that time, Prop J had lost. Turner and Jones were both found liable and Jones was forced to return two months pay to the City. However, the judge ruled that, “Illegal campaigning by city officials, even if accomplished, as here, by gross misrepresentations and all the tricks of the political arena, is not sufficient ground for invalidating an election by court action.” The votes stood. Half of the City’s cable car system was gone forever.
Still with us
While the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line is a half-century gone now, it lives on, not only in the Hyde Street trackage (now operated as part of the Powell-Hyde line), but in many of the cars that originally ran on the line.
When Muni eliminated about three-quarters of the mileage of the old Cal Cable lines, dozens of the double-ended maroon and yellow cable cars were sold off as surplus.
In the mid 1990s, Market Street Railway volunteers, led by the late Dave Pharr and master craftsman Fred Bennett, spent thousands of hours meticulously restoring one of these, O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde car No. 42, to its original 1906 condition, including solid tongue-and-groove ends and ornate hand lettering and striping. The car, reacquired from a rancher in Santa Maria who had protected it from the elements, is now again part of Muni’s fleet — the only one wearing the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde livery — serving as Muni’s ceremonial cable car and carrying the public every year during Muni Heritage Weekend.
While the bodies of the cable cars that ran on the California and Hyde lines were identical, the grip mechanisms were not, so each line had its own dedicated fleet. After the ‘consolidation’ of 1954, Muni standardized all the grips, then picked the best double-end cars from both lines–California Street, and O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde–to be used on the reconstituted California Street line. Six ex-O’Farrell cars, Nos. 50, 51, 53, 56, 57 and 58, migrated to the California line, where they still run today.2 Comments on Cable Cars 1954: A Huge Loss
The two links tell the story pretty completely. We just love this streetcar, a true rarity in transit today: a vehicle built exclusively for working on the system (instead of carrying passengers) that is still doing what it was built to do, for its original owner, a full century later. We don’t know of a comparable car, in North America at least.
When our volunteers restored it to its original appearance in 1992 (it had been heavily modified over the decades), it was reintroduced to the public on Muni’s 80th birthday, December 28, 1992. The redoubtable Carl Nolte described it thus, in the Chronicle
Even decked out in brand new gray paint with gold trim and flying four little flags, car C-1 would never be mistaken for a thing of beauty. It looks a bit like an outhouse mounted atop a dump truck, the kind of thing a small child might make out of blocks of wood.
Impressed by its role as the centerpiece of Muni’s birthday celebration, Nolte dubbed it “drudge made queen for a day.” Queen of the work cars forever, as far as we’re concerned.
And this also gives us the chance to share three great photos. The top one is the first known photo of C-1, taken March 17, 1916, obviously brand new. Below it, a matching shot we helped stage after the restoration in 1992. We’ll finish with a shot with a shot of C1 on Presidio Avenue near Geary in the 1940s when it had extra stuff bolted onto it.
Happy Birthday, C-1!1 Comment on Second Century for C-1
Today is the 120th anniversary of the opening of Sutro Baths, a remarkable wood-and-glass Victorian confection at the western edge of the continent (and the city), aptly named Land’s End. Adolph Sutro, mining magnate and mayor, built the baths as an attraction for the growing city, residents and visitors alike. Seven pools filled with seawater heated to different temperatures, as shown in this Golden Gate National Recreation Area photo.
But the site was a long way from where people lived back then. To get there, Sutro built his own streetcar line. This was a common practice of land developers across America in that era. The flip side was also true: private streetcar companies often built amusement parks and other attractions at the ends of their lines to attract weekend riders.
The photo above shows a Sutro Railroad electric streetcar (of the same design as preserved No. 578, though larger) with a piece of Sutro Baths just behind it and the huge, very ornate Cliff House, which burned to the rocks in 1907, visible in the background.
The Sutro Railroad Company didn’t last long, soon becoming part of San Francisco’s near-monopoly private transit company, known in different incarnations as Market Street Railway Company and United Railroads. They operated Sutro’s streetcar line as their 2-Clement line. Shortly after the publicly-owned Municipal Railway opened its B-Geary line in 1912, it was extended to Ocean Beach, but not by outer Geary (because the 2-line was already there), but by jogging down to Cabrillo Street. Loyal Muni riders could walk up to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths from there.
Muni took over the old Market Street Railway, including the 2-Clement line and its wooden terminal shed, in 1944. Many San Franciscans remember the smells of hotdogs and grease from the snack counters inside the terminal.
Muni was already planning to convert the 2-Clement to buses when a fire destroyed the terminal in 1949, truncating streetcar service. The pools themselves were closed shortly after, with an ice rink installed in a desperate attempt to make the ramshackle structure pay its way. Finally, in 1966, Sutro’s was incinerated in a spectacular fire. The ruins of the foundation are now a popular hiking spot, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, reachable by — the successor to Muni’s B-Geary line, the 38-Geary bus, which took over the outer end of the old 2-Clement.
As part of our San Francisco Railway Museum’s current exhibit on streetcar advertising through the years, we created a coffee mug bearing this historic Sutro’s ad.
You can purchase the mug at the museum or in our online store. And you can see more Sutro’s ads and learn more about how streetcars served recreational destinations in the city at the museum as well.
Happy memories on this anniversary day to all who remember Sutro’s! And if you’d like to learn more about Sutro Baths and see a treasure trove of photos, visit our friends at Outside Lands.No Comments on Sutro Baths’ 120th Anniversary