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Roof Job (1 Comment)

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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Let It Snow (or At least Rain!) (1 Comment)


We’ve gotten so used to seeing the orange trams from Milan on Market Street and the waterfront that it can be a tad jarring to see them in their native habitat, especially a scene like this. In an average year, Milan sees snow on seven days or fewer. Of course, that’s seven days more than the annual snowfall in San Francisco, where long-time residents still marvel at the once-in-a-couple-of-decades dustings we get on Twin Peaks!

(The photo at the top, taken in 1985, comes from Heritage Railway magazine by way of our Facebook Group. The shot below comes from a Milan tourist site.)


Here’s hoping we get at least some more rain here soon. After our big storm last month, it’s been dry as a bone!

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Centennial of the (Original) F-line

F-4a  car 4  leaving Stockton Tunnel IB  7-30-46small copyOn December 29, 1914, the original F-line opened: the San Francisco Municipal Railway’s F-Stockton line. It was Muni’s sixth streetcar line and was given impetus by the huge Panama-Pacific International Exposition which opened just two months later at the end of the new F-line on Chestnut Street, in what’s now the Marina District.

The original F-line ran just one block east of the Powell Street cable car lines (then owned by private competitor United Railroads). The F-line, though, provided a much faster trip to Chinatown and North Beach because of the Stockton Tunnel, completed just one day before the line opened. The Stockton Tunnel was built primarily for streetcars, but unlike Muni’s later Twin Peaks and Sunset Tunnels, it was shared with other vehicles.

The photo above, from our archives, shows Muni streetcar No. 9 emerging from the south portal of the Stockton Tunnel in 1946, ready to run the final five blocks past Union Square to its terminal at Market and Stockton. (Soon, the line would be extended over former Market Street Railway tracks to reach the S.P. Depot at Third and Townsend Streets.)

The wonderful 1916 photo below, courtesy of the SFMTA Archives, shows a scene almost unimaginable today: Stockton and Vallejo Streets with no one on the sidewalks and just one parked car. Chinatown did not yet reach this far west. Today, Stockton Street is considered Chinatown’s main commercial street, with Grant Avenue primarily for tourists.muni03_historic_handout_web

Muni records from 1920 show that it took 17 minutes to ride the F-line its whole length, from Market and Stockton to Chestnut and Scott.  Today, it seems like it takes 17 minutes to ride just the 6 blocks on Stockton through Chinatown from Columbus to the tunnel on the 30-Stockton, the trolley bus line that replaced the original F-line streetcars in 1951.

Okay, we exaggerate. No question, though, that the congestion along Stockton Street (along with strong demands from leaders of the Chinatown community for better transit) was a major driver of the new “Stockton Tunnel,” the Central Subway, which is being built underneath Fourth and Stockton Streets (including underneath the existing tunnel) to carry Muni’s T-line trains starting in 2019.

But that’s the future. Today, we celebrate the past: the centennial of the original F-line and the Stockton Tunnel. Happy 100th Birthday!


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Happy 102nd Birthday, Muni!

Muni, Opening Day, 12/28/1912On December 28, 1912, America’s first big city transit line owned by the people themselves opened. In San Francisco, on Geary Street. The San Francisco Municipal Railway broke the pattern of transit systems owned by private companies.

This shot, from the SFMTA Archives, shows some of the 50,000 San Franciscans who showed up to cheer “their” new streetcars on Opening Day, looking west at the intersection of Grant Avenue and Geary. Car No. 3 is in the foreground, Car No.2 across the intersection, and, leading the parade, Car No. 1, with Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph personally serving as motorman.  Car No. 1 still serves as the flagship of Muni’s streetcar fleet, 102 years later, completely rebuilt a few years ago thanks to San Francisco’s strong commitment to its history (with some help from Market Street Railway’s advocacy).  It runs occasionally on the F-Market and Wharves line.

Come to our San Francisco Railway Museum to see the story of Muni’s quick expansion from this first Geary service to a network serving much of the city — completed in just over two years to serve the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. (The museum will be closed December 30-January 1 for inventory and New Year’s Day, but after that will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays on our winter schedule.)

Happy 102nd Birthday, Muni!

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Happy Holidays!

MSR Holiday Card 2014

And, as a reminder, our San Francisco Railway Museum will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.  We’ll also be closed for inventory December 30-31.  Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. December 26, 27, 28, 29 and January 2, 3, 4.  Starting January 5, we go onto our winter schedule for three months, when we’ll be closed Mondays, open Tuesdays-Sundays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

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“The Mayoral Limo”



From “Willlie’s World,” the Sunday opinion column of former Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

“Sometimes I feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of mayors.

“I hopped onto a packed-to-the-rafters F-line trolley the other night and the driver immediately announced, ‘Ladies and gentleman, you are riding in the mayoral limo.’

“To which some guy in the back piped up, ‘They don’t have limos in Mineola.'”

Mayor Brown grew up in the tiny Texas town of Mineola.

Just shows again that you never know who you’ll see on the F-line.

(Thanks to Adolfo Echeverry for the great photo, from our Facebook group.)

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Cable Car Holiday Tradition

DG0005, Californa St cable car decorated for Christmas, California at Presidio, early 50's(Phillip Scherer)We’ve been loving the decorated cable cars on the Powell and California lines this holiday season (see photo below). The idea of decorated cable cars actually goes back at least 65 years to the last desperate years of the California Street Cable Railway Company.

After Muni took over the Powell Cable lines in 1944, “Cal Cable” soldiered on with its three lines: California from Market all the way out to Presidio Avenue (where the car above is pictured, in front of the old Jewish Community Center); O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde (the northern end of which was later incorporated into one of the Powell lines); and the Jones Street shuttle from Market to O’Farrell. But Cal Cable, a small privately owned company, was getting deeper and deeper into financial straits. This led to creative fund-raising ideas, such as soliciting “all over” advertising for some of their cable cars, precursors to the ghastly ad “wraps” we see today on Muni LRVs and buses (but thanks in part to our advocacy, not on the historic streetcars!).

The shot above dates to the last holiday season of operation for Cal Cable. It has to be 1950, since the trolley bus wires are in place for the impending conversion of Muni’s 1-California to trolley coaches. Cal Cable shut down operations in mid-1951 when they were unable to get insurance, leaving their cables silent for holiday season of that year. (Muni took over Cal Cable and resumed operations in early 1952.) The car is sponsored by Hiram Walker, a Canadian distiller, and advertises its Imperial whiskey.

Below, we see a decorated California Street cable car headed downtown from Powell Street in a December 17 photo from the SFMTA blog.

Night Street Scenes and Cable CarsHappy Holidays, everyone!


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Now THAT’S a Storm!


The breathless media hype aside, yes, we actually did have a pretty good soaker on December 11; biggest we’ve seen in a few years (which is like saying that first Budweiser tasted great … after a month in Saudi Arabia). Yet, in context…

Church and Market, c.1930

Now THAT’S a storm. Market, looking east at Church in 1931. That high riding 1550-class Market Street Railway car, on the 8-Market line, just skates across the pond, its Eclipse fender riding the waves.  That Willys Knight on the left is up to its hubs.

This intersection was very prone to flooding until the Muni Metro subway was built beneath in the 1970s, incorporating drainage improvements (hat tip: Emiliano Echeverria).

Compare that scene to today, with PCC No. 1074, honoring Toronto (where the bigger problem is snow) crossing that same Market and Church intersection, puddle-free. (Thanks to Matt Lee for the photo, from our Facebook Group.) The building you see at the corner in the 1931 shot gave way to the Safeway parking lot. (Not an improvement.)Church and Market 1074_121114 copy


The streetcars soldiered through the storm, while the cable cars sat in the barn for the second rain in a row, pulled from the streets by management for “safety reasons.” The cables no doubt were on the street back in that 1931 storm, on Castro, Clay, O’Farrell, and Jones as well as Powell, California, Hyde, and Mason. In fact, the cable cars — and their skilled crews — have regularly handled storms like today’s over the past century plus. Current SFMTA management, though, shows an abundance of caution with the cables.

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Dressed for the Season


On our Facebook Market Street Railway group, photographers are reminding us that the holidays are upon us, and San Francisco’s historic rail vehicles reflect that. Above, Adolfo Echeverry’s great night shot combines PCC No. 1073 (honoring El Paso-Juarez, with wreath supplied by our volunteers) and the cable car turntable at Powell and Market, with its banners promoting holiday shopping across the street at The Emporium (Westfield’s San Francisco Centre). Below, Curley Reed captures Powell cable car No. 10 taking the plunge down the Hyde Street Hill. If you’re on Facebook, search for Market Street Railway and choose the “group” so you can comment and post photos as well! And if you”re not a member of Market Street Railway yet, click here to learn why you should be!



Oh, and don’t forget, ’tis the season to get great gifts, either at our San Francisco Railway Museum or our online store.

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‘Tis the Season


Our elves were out and about this rainy Sunday, making sure the F-line streetcars, whether naughty or nice, all got their wreaths mounted on the front end for the holiday season. At the 17th and Castro terminal, now reopened after renovations to the surrounding Jane Warner Plaza, Market Street Railway volunteers Shanan Delp, William Watt, and Jeremy Whiteman.

10372210_10152541444561239_2408627319082403510_nJeremy has been a busy guy, helping out on cable car decorating as well, as indicated in this post from our Facebook group. We like to see as many folks as possible involved in making the historic streetcars and cable cars look great for the season.

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