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Sign Up For Our April Trolley Tours

Brussels/Zurich tram

Tram No. 737, from Brussels (1952) painted in tribute to San Francisco’s sister city, Zurich, Switzerland

Trolley Tours are back in 2015!  We’ve scheduled our first three, and will be announcing more in the months to come.

These private charters, arranged by Market Street Railway, give you the chance to ride vintage streetcars not often seen in regular service and along streetcar routes that the vintage cars only follow for events like these.

All the details are here, if you just want to cut to the chase.

Our first excursion, on April 12, brings out Muni’s European PCC, the stylish Belgian adaptation of the U.S. streetcar design seen on the F-line. With exterior livery touting Zurich, San Francisco’s sister city, but interior signs in French and Flemish heralding the city where it actually ran, Brussels, it’s a rolling example of streetcar schizophrenia.  It will run from our San Francisco Railway Museum out the F and J lines to Balboa Park and back.

Boat tram No. 228 on a charter

Boat tram No. 228 on a charter

Our second Trolley Tour is especially for grandparents and grandchildren, on the delightful 1934 boat tram from Blackpool, England.  What better way to delight the little ones than an open air ride along the waterfront, with a guided tour included.

Car No.1 on 17th Street

Car No.1 on 17th Street

Then, on April 26, we’ll have our first “Night Train” event, an evening excursion on beautifully restored 1912 Car No. 1, with beverages and a live band!

Again, for more information and to sign up, click here!

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Geary Car House, with Friends

Geary Carhouse Cars 1 1006Muni’s first streetcar storage and maintenance facility was the Geary Car House, at Geary Blvd. and Presidio Avenue. It opened with Muni’s first lines (the A and B) in 1912 and stopped being a streetcar facility after the Geary lines converted to buses at the end of 1956.  Muni built its Presidio Division bus facility behind this carbarn at the end of the 1940s. Its offices sat above the streetcar storage tracks until the early 21st century.

We saw this shot on eBay but were not successful in getting the original. Still, it’s worth sharing because of the “friends” we found in the photo.

Geary Carhouse Cars 1 1006 copy

That’s double-end PCC No. 1006 on the left in the closeup, with a blank route sign and “Car House” as its destination. Chances are it had come in from the N-Judah, where the double-enders often ran in their early years. Next to it is Car No. 15, signed for the F-Stockton line, and then, lo and behold, Car No. 1, signed for the C-Geary-California line, which it often served in its waning days. Its destination sign, though, shows “Plymouth,” the end of the M-Ocean View line. That could easily have been a “barn rat,” a young railfan of the day, playing around. The ad on the end of one of the streetcars suggests the date is 1951. It’s certainly not later than that because the F-Stockton became the 30-Stockton bus at the end of 1951, and it’s not earlier than 1948 because that’s when No. 1006 joined the fleet.

We were delighted to see this photo, featuring two streetcar friends that are still with us, thanks to Muni’s commitment to preservation (with support from Market Street Railway).

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Sunday Streets on The Embarcadero March 8

New Orleans "Streetcar Named Desire" No. 152 (built 1924) operates in demonstration E-Embarcadero service along with PCC No. 1007 during the 2008 Sunday Streets event.

New Orleans “Streetcar Named Desire” No. 952 (built 1923) runs in trial E-Embarcadero service along with PCC No. 1007 during 2008’s Sunday Streets event.

The weather is scary-summery, leading us to wring our hands over the worsening drought. But there’s an upside: a beautiful day expected Sunday for the first Sunday Streets event of the season, March 8 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Daylight Savings Time!) on The Embarcadero between Third Street and Pier 39. Details here.

This is the now-established event where automobiles are detoured, opening the northbound roadway for bicyclists, tricyclists, unicyclists, skateboarders, and users of virtually any other self-powered vehicle.  Including feet.

But the F-line streetcars will be operating, so it’s a great opportunity to come down and enjoy a ride as part of the day.  (Remember, though, the F-line streetcars cannot accommodate bikes on board.)

Market Street Railway sincerely wishes Muni could put out some of the unique streetcars, like Muni Car 1 and the Boat Tram, for the event, but Muni reports a continuing shortage of trained operators they’ve been trying to address for a couple of years now.  (We’re hoping that something positive in that regard will develop at the last minute, but it’s not likely.)  We’ll have an article about this frustrating training situation in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in early April.

While you’re on the waterfront, stop into our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building to see our exhibit, “Fair, Please,” on how Muni came of age in order to serve the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The Examiner just carried a long article on Muni’s 1915 fair service with lots of quotes from us. Unfortunately, though, the article got mixed up about the historic streetcar extension to Fort Mason. As much as we might wish it to be true, the streetcar extension through the historic 1914 rail tunnel (built in part to bring materials to the Exposition site) will not be hosting streetcars this summer.

The reporter apparently confused the startup of weekend service on the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line between Fisherman’s Wharf and Caltrain, still slated by Muni for July of this year, with the future extension to Fort Mason, for which funding is still being sought. And the headline writer erroneously called the Fair service the “birthing of Muni,” when it was more a case of Muni going from toddler to teenager in the course of a couple of growth-spurt years. But it was still a good piece, and we recommend it.

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1915 Fair Celebration

PH 0443, Van Ness Ave, c.1915 copy

On February 20, 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened. On that opening day, tens of thousands of San Franciscans and visitors paraded north along Van Ness Avenue to reach the fairgrounds at Harbor View (now the Marina District). Tens of thousands more rode streetcars, such as No. 11 (identical to preserved Muni No. 1) shown here on Van Ness in the vicinity of Vallejo Street.

On Saturday, February 21, 2015, you’re all invited to a community celebration marking the fair’s centennial, under the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts (the only surviving structure from the Fair), Lyon and Francisco Streets, from 12 Noon to 5 p.m..  Buffalo Bill Cody, Charlie Chaplin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and other famous 1915 fair attendees will be there (at least in spirit, and through impersonators). There’ll be dancing, music and plenty of historic displays, including ours. All the details are here.

This weekend is also a great time to visit our San Francisco Railway Museum to see our free exhibit, “Fair, Please,” telling the story of how this monumental exposition helped the young Municipal Railway come of age. If you can’t make it to the museum this weekend, not to worry. The exhibit will run through November, just like the fair did a century ago.

You can also read our story about how Muni served the fair. It’s a reprint from our exclusive quarterly member newsletter, Inside Track, filled with inside information, unique stories and rare photos, most of which we don’t share online. Join us today and we’ll send you the last four issues of this award-winning glossy newsletter.

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Market Street Gets a Closeup

GAR Arch on Market 1886

Peter Hartlaub is one of the best things about the Chronicle today. He mines the newspaper’s archives, finding some real photographic gems along with contemporary news coverage. Then he puts them into context, sometimes in the newspaper itself but more often on his blog on sfgate.com.

Today, his article talks about Market Street’s history. It’s a good read and we recommend it.  You should also look at his blog post from a few days ago, that has lots of additional photos of Market Street in the 1800s, including the one at the top of this post. That’s a temporary “triumphal arch” over Market Street’s relatively new cable car tracks in 1886, celebrating the gathering of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans who fought for the Union).

Peter’s pieces dovetail nicely with the talk MSR’s Rick Laubscher will be giving this coming Thursday night, February 19, at the Mechanic’s Institute.  It’s free for Market Street Railway members. Details here.  Hope to see lots of you on Thursday.

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Market Street Past and Future February 19

Looking east on Market Street from Eighth, 1942. Two thousand new apartments are currently being constructed where the old Crystal Palace Market and vacant lot were.

Looking east on Market Street from Eighth, 1941. Two thousand new apartments are currently being constructed where the old Crystal Palace Market and vacant lot were.

On Thursday, February 19 at 6 p.m., the venerable Mechanics’ Institute will present a double-barreled program on the past and future of Market Street, featuring the transportation policy director of SPUR, Ratna Amin, and Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher.

All the details and signups are here.

Market Street Railway members, SPUR members, and Mechanic’s Institute members are free. Public tickets are $15.  Note that we will check those who reserve seats as Market Street Railway members, but you can still join us in time if you’re not a member yet.

Rick will present photographs illustrating Market Street’s history as San Francisco’s main transportation and business artery, with commentary on the different eras the street went through, particularly the long-troubled, now resurgent mid-Market area. He’ll also sign copies of our guidebook, On Track, which will be available for sale at the event.

Ratna will outline the plans now under way to make traveling along Market Street safer and better.  We expect a lively interchange with the audience as well.

If you’ve never visited the Mechanics’ Institute, it is worth the trip all by itself.  Its building at 57 Post Street, designed by noted architect Albert Pissis (who created the classic Emporium facade on Market, among other works) opened in 1910 and has been faithfully preserved. Entering the chess room is like time travel.

Come join us February 19 at the Mechanics’ Institute.

BART Civic Center Station Construction at Market and 7th Streets, late 1960s.

BART Civic Center Station Construction at Market and 7th Streets, late 1960s.

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Rain? Check Out Our Museum (and Big Sale!)

Jewel City

Rain, rain, DON’T go away, we need you. But what to do this weekend amid the raindrops?  How about a trip to our San Francisco Railway Museum, tied into a sojourn through the wonderful Ferry Building Marketplace? Beyond our recently opened exhibit on the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, you can take advantage of a storewide sale on books: 25% off, including the incredibly beautiful book on the fair by Laura Ackley. Get 25% off on our popular guidebook On Track as well, plus numerous local history and transit books. DVDs, including our exclusive narrated 1906 Trip Down Market Street, are also 25% off this weekend.

If you can’t make it down this weekend, you can still capture these rainy day savings by going to the books and media section of our online store and using the savings code 22FILLMORE.

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Party Like It’s 1915!

1915 sign Ferry Building lowres

One hundred years ago this month, San Francisco launched perhaps its greatest party ever. Officially, the nearly year-long fair at Harbor View (now the Marina District) — the Panama-Pacific International Exposition — celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal.  To city leaders and residents, though, it was really a celebration of the city’s own resurrection from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.

To build excitement about the forthcoming fair, the city installed lights in 1914 that outlined the Ferry Building tower at night, along with a lighted “1915” above the famous clock. On the Bay side, ferryboat riders all saw the big neon sign running the length of the building: “California Welcomes the World — Panama-Pacific Exposition.” The lights signs stayed up through the end of the fair.

Thanks to a great idea by San Francisco historian and civic leader Donna Ewald Huggins, the lights and “1915” sign are coming back next month, expected to be dedicated March 3. Carl Nolte’s Chronicle story this morning has the details (but note that the content is behind the on-again Chron paywall, so the link may not work for everyone).

The signs and lights cost $80,000, the biggest single chunk coming at the last minute from Bay Area philanthropist Tad Taube.  We thank Tad, Donna, and all the others involved in this great project.

The photo above, from our archives, shows the 1915 sign on the Ferry Building amid a cluster of streetcars operated by Muni and its competitor United Railroads. The banner strung above the Ferry Building entrance — “The Panama Canal is Open”, the “Ball Park” dash sign on the A-Geary streetcar, center, (Ewing Field was a couple of blocks off the line, on Masonic), and the automobile license plate tell us its late summer 1914.

At our San Francisco Railway Museum through October, see our exhibit “Fair, Please!” on how Muni came of age by serving the 1915 fair. At the museum or on our online store, you can also buy a wonderful new book by Laura Ackley on the fair.

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Double Play on 16th Street

Muni launches its new 55-Sixteenth Street bus route today, running from the BART station at 16th and Mission to Mission Bay, serving the new Benioff UCSF Children’s Hospital and everything else in that fast growing neighborhood.

This means that 16th Street will host a double-double of Muni routes:  The five-five and the two-two, much better known as the 22-Fillmore, one of the City’s most venerable transit lines.

Today is the beginning of a big transition for the 22, a very long crosstown line that starts at the Marina Green and makes a giant “L” through Pacific Heights, the Western Addition, Upper Market, the Mission, and Potrero Hill.  Its traditional route (since the very beginnings) has taken it over Potrero Hill on 18th Street to reach Third Street, but once overhead wire is strung along 16th Street (which will somehow take three years, though it used to take three months or less when Muni had large overhead wire crews), the 55 will go away and be replaced by a rerouted 22-Fillmore trolley coach running all the way along 16th to Third.  At that point, the trolley wires on Potrero Hill will be taken over by a rerouted 33-Stanyan — ANOTHER double number route, and, it should be noted, San Francisco’s very first trolley coach route, opened by our namesake, erstwhile Muni competitor Market Street Railway Company in 1935.

In celebration of today’s double play with the 55 and 22, we bring you a 1948 shot from our archives of two 22-Fillmore streetcars passing each other at 16th and Bryant, where both the 55 and 22 now run. Fitting for two reasons: Seals Stadium on the left, where myriad double plays were turned over the decades, and, just out of frame to the right, the Double Play bar, still there today!

The next issue of our Member newsletter, Inside Track, will have a special feature on the history of the 22-Fillmore, with photos you can’t see anywhere else. Join now, and we’ll also send you our feature on one of the world’s most unusual transit lines, the Fillmore Hill counterbalance (which was the northern extension of the 22-line until 1941).

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Roof Job

Powell 1 Bay Taylor 2015 Zach Ho photo

Readers of our quarterly member newsletter, Inside Track, just got the inside scoop on the restoration of Powell Street cable car No. 1. The photo above, posted by Zach Ho to our Facebook group, shows Powell 1, in its 1888 livery, at the Bay and Taylor terminal of the Powell-Mason line.

That photo inspired noted San Francisco historian Emiliano Echeverria to post the photo below, from the Louis L, Stein, Jr. collection. It’s the same cable car — er, at least a part of it — at the same angle, at Golden Gate Park (Fulton Street and Sixth Avenue) in 1894.

This cable car, No. 506, was part of two groups of cars built for the Sacramento Street line. These cars survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the original Powell Street fleet did not, so the Sacramento Street cable cars were transferred over to Powell, where the survivors still run today.

506 at 6th and Fulton 1894, Louis Stein collection

As Inside Track readers know, Powell No. 1 was specially put together for the 1973 centennial of the world’s first cable car line (on Clay Street, built by Andrew Hallidie). Muni carpenters removed the roof from car No. 506, the frame of which was in very rough shape, and built a new cable car under that old roof. They salvaged the seats from No. 506 as well.

Painted in the original Powell Street Railway Company maroon and sky blue livery by cable car barn foreman (and rail historian) Charlie Smallwood, the look proved so popular that when the cable car lines were rebuilt from 1982-84, all but one of the Powell cars were repainted into a simplified version of this livery.

Taking inspiration from Powell No. 1 and the one remaining green and cream car (No. 3), Market Street Railway has supported Muni over the last two decades in bringing back other historic liveries once worn by Powell Street cable cars.  There are now eight Powell cars wearing historic liveries, from 1888 to 1982. (One of them, on Car No. 15, represents the Mason Street version of the 1890s livery you see above on No. 506.)

We’ve illustrated all of them, plus the regular Powell livery and two California Street liveries, on a colorful poster available in our online store or our San Francisco Railway Museum.  (We have a streetcar fleet poster, too!)

You can get exclusive news and features delivered to you every three months in Inside Track by joining Market Street Railway.

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