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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.
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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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.1 Comment on Getting Ready for Muni Heritage Weekend
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.No Comments on Take a 1950 Trolley Bus to Streetcar Movies Sept. 24
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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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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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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This just in…the first of 16 PCCs to be rebuilt under the current contract with Brookville Equipment Corporation is on the road back to San Francisco. Muni Car 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, has been thoroughly renovated and is on the road toward California right now. The shot above is the car leaving the Brookville facility in Pennsylvania.
Car 1056 had been out of service the past few years because of a cracked bolster (the piece under the body that sits on top of and connects to the trucks (wheel sets and motors). That critical piece must be expertly repaired or replaced to ensure the long-term operation of the restored car. It is one of the areas Muni will look at very closely before accepting the car and returning it to service. As Car 1056 was generally considered to be in the worst condition of the original F-line fleet covered by the current contract, it was sent first. Thus, Muni’s team will watch closely to make sure the car has truly gone from worst to first.
Logos and car numbers will be applied by Muni’s maintenance team after arrival. The car must be “run in” — tested extensively before acceptance — which requires 1,000 miles of service. That usually takes place on the outer ends of the J, K, and L lines.
We’ll let you know when the car has arrived at Muni Metro East! And 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.2 Comments on On the Road Again
Celebrate the colorful streetcars and cable cars of San Francisco with our 2017 calendar, now on sale in our online store and at our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building at 77 Steuart Street.
The new year marks the centennial of the J-Church, San Francisco’s oldest surviving streetcar line, and our calendar brings its history to life with a full page of text and photos about the wonderful, wandering J and its backyard right-of-way.
But that’s just the icing on the cake, because the real star of the calendar is 13 great full color photos of vintage streetcars and cable cars in action on the streets of San Francisco.
We’ve limited our print run of the calendar this year, so don’t wait to get yours!
Note to our members at the conductor level and above ($100 or more per year): as you know, you get a FREE calendar as part of your membership. We’ll be sending out the vouchers for these by the end of the month. If you’re not a member, and love this calendar as much as we do, this is the perfect time to join Market Street Railway at the $100 level or higher — and get your free calendar right away!2 Comments on 2017 Calendar Now on Sale!
According to our historian, the redoubtable Emiliano Echeverria, 120 years ago, August 10, 1896 (give or take a day), a new streetcar was delivered for service in San Francisco. Streetcars themselves had only become a viable transit technology eight years before in Richmond, Virginia. San Francisco got its first streetcar line only four years before, in 1892, but transit companies led by Market Street Railway Company were replacing cable car lines with streetcars and building new lines with the electric vehicles.
The first streetcars that appeared in San Francisco looked a lot like cable cars, except for the trolley pole on the roof that conducted electricity from the overhead wire. That wasn’t surprising. The standard cable car design of the time, the “California Car” (named after the California Street cable car design still used today), was popular with riders, with open end sections and a closed center section. And many of the early San Francisco streetcars were built by cable car builders.
That new streetcar delivered in August 1896 still operates today. Built by Hammond, which later built today’s fleet of California Street cable cars, No. 578 is the oldest passenger transit vehicle in America still on the operating roster of a public transit agency. It survived because it was turned into a work car after the 1906 earthquake and was kept around in that capacity before being restored by Muni’s crafts workers for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the earthquake in 1956.
We’re going to run a special feature to celebrate Car 578‘s 120th birthday in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, with many more historic photos of this patriarch of San Francisco’s streetcar fleet. Join Market Street Railway now so you don’t miss it!
And you’ll be able to actually ride this unique streetcar on Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Come to our San Francisco Railway Museum to get your seat!
Happy 120th Birthday, Car 578!!No Comments on Patriarch Streetcar Turns 120
SFMTA is starting to publicly share some of the details of Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25.
As in past years, bus and streetcar activity will be based near our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building. Vintage streetcars including Muni Car 1, 1948 double-end PCCs 1006 and 1008, and others still to be determined will be part of regular E-Embarcadero line service that weekend, and we expect the last PCC built in North America, the 1040, to be in regular service on the F-line all weekend. As a special treat, we also anticipate having 1952 Brussels, Belgium PCC 737 (painted to honor Zurich) on the F-line. This car has not operated in some time, and this is contingent on ensuring a trained operator is available.
The oldest streetcar in the fleet, 1896 “dinky” 578 will again provide special excursion shuttles between our museum and Pier 39 along The Embarcadero, joined by one or both of our 1934 Blackpool, England open-top boat trams.
The theme this year is “Green Machines”, emphasizing Muni’s zero-emission vehicles, especially their trolley coaches, which this year celebrate their 75th anniversary as part of Muni’s fleet. One of Muni’s first ten trolley coaches, the 506, should be curbside for walk-throughs, housing a photo display of trolley coach history. Two trolley coaches from succeeding generations, 776 (Marmon-Herrington, 1950) and 5300 (Flyer, 1975), will recreate Muni’s very first trolley coach route, the R-Howard. Most of that historic route is still under wire that is today only used for non-revenue (no passenger) movements, but on this weekend, you’ll be able to ride a vintage trolley coach out Howard Street and down South Van Ness Avenue and back through the Mission District. We’ll have full schedule information readily available at the museum when you arrive at the event.
Motor coach arrangements and route are still pending; we’ll offer those details as we have them.
As for cable cars, our 25-year campaign to help Muni bring back all the historic liveries that the Powell Street cable cars have worn since 1888 reached its conclusion recently with the ninth and final tribute livery launched on Powell car 12. All nine of the tribute cars will be on the Powell lines all weekend (barring unanticipated maintenance issues); it’ll be a great opportunity for shutterbugs. And, continuing its tradition, O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42, restored in a joint effort by our volunteers and Muni crafts workers, will again operate in regular service on the California Street line.
At the museum, we’ll have an array of new merchandise including our 2017 calendar with some fantastic photos including vintage shots of the J-Church line, whose centennial we’ll be celebrating next year. We’ll also have special chances to meet key MSR and Muni leaders and ask them questions. Watch this space for more information on that, and other events for members and friends that week. We’ll keep you informed here.7 Comments on Heritage Weekend Details Emerging