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On the Road Again

IMG_2221This 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.

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2017 Calendar Now on Sale!

2017 calendar thumbCelebrate 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!

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Patriarch Streetcar Turns 120

578S 2nd and Mission, 1904, SFMTA Archives

Car 578 at 2nd and Mission, 1904, SFMTA Archives

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!

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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!!

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Heritage Weekend Details Emerging

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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.

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Where the Streetcars Used To Go

 

Where the streetcars used to go

That’s the title of a wonderful new interactive map by San Franciscan Chris Arvin. We could yammer on about how it does a great job of showing you the extent of streetcars in three different eras, and how Chris has selected some choice photos to illustrate the various lines, but just click the link above and go find out for yourself.  It’s terrific.

One comment, though. One of the many transit advocates who posted Chris’ great work to Facebook commented, we “demolished our public transit.” That’s simply not true. The vast majority of those streetcar routes shown in the 1940 map still exist, as Muni bus routes (most of them zero-emission trolley coaches, as the streetcars were).

A few streetcar routes that were eliminated were legacy routes established back in the days of multiple companies, when later-established streetcar routes often meandered around to avoid streets already occupied by competitors.

Muni realigned their routes in the 1980s to reflect changing travel patterns of San Franciscans. Buses were far easier to reroute than streetcar lines would have been. No question in our mind that a few of those conversions, such as the B-Geary, were a huge mistake and with foresight, other lines could have sparked higher density development (such as the 12 line on its private right-of-way in the middle of Sloat Boulevard, had it been rerouted through the Twin Peaks Tunnel — which could have served a second Parkmerced, as the M line still serves the original). But on balance, the level of transit service was preserved for San Franciscans. Now to implement logical, helpful streetcar extensions, such as to Fort Mason, the E-line through Mission Bay and Dogpatch, and a branch of the T-line out Evans Avenue to serve Hunter’s Point and enable more density among its route (but that’s another story).

Thanks again for this great gift to the city, Chris Arvin!

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Support for Fort Mason Extension

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The long-proposed historic streetcar extension west from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason Center is gaining momentum.

What you see above is how the terminal inside Fort Mason could look. The streetcars in the photo would turn left just before that wall at top and enter the historic 1914 railroad tunnel to reach Aquatic Park and Fisherman’s Wharf, then on to the Ferry Building and beyond.

Yesterday, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency presented a unanimous resolution to the SFMTA Board of Directors supporting the extension. SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan responded with his own strong support for the extension.

Several members of the public added their public endorsement, including Marina District resident Mike Wilmar. Fort Mason Center Board Chair Jim Chappell recounted how the lack of direct Muni connections to regional transit such as BART and Caltrain makes it hard for many non-profit groups to base themselves at Fort Mason. Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher offered his opinion that the project may have been slow to take root within SFMTA staff because the environmental work, now complete, was performed by the National Park Service, whose property forms half the extension’s 0.85 miles. Now, though, with various obstacles cleared away, it’s time to move forward, he said.

The photo above is taken from the National Park Service’s Environmental Impact Statement. It’s a huge document, but you can download individual chapters, or the whole thing, here.

There is much more to this story, and we will have it for our Members in the next issue of our quarterly newsletter, Inside Track. (If you’re not a member, you can join now and get the current issue sent to you, or request it electronically.)  We will also post further developments in the story here. Also, there is a new Facebook group, independent of Market Street Railway, that also supports the extension. On Facebook, search for “@fortmasonstreetcar” or “Bring Streetcars to Fort Mason Project” and Like that page. Visible public support, especially from those who work and live along the route, in the Marina District, at Fort Mason, or in Fisherman’s Wharf, is critical to its success.

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Reincarnation in PCC Cities

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Muni’s PCC streetcars are painted in tribute to most of the 30+ North American cities that once operated them. Streetcars had disappeared long ago from all but seven of those PCC cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Newark, Pittsburgh, Shaker Heights, Ohio, and San Francisco itself. Now, though, there is a real renaissance of streetcar operation among former PCC cities. Enterprising preservationists in Dallas started the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority in 1983 and El Paso is now restoring PCCs for a downtown line. And there’s a spate of former PCC cities turning to modern streetcars to revitalize neighborhoods. MSR President Rick Laubscher was just in Cincinnati, where their new line is testing in advance of a planned September opening. (Note they kept a shade of yellow, as used on their PCCs, and they started numbering them from where their PCCs stopped.)

Cincinnati_-_last_month_of_streetcar_service_(1951)This renaissance of streetcars in PCC cities is a great story, and we’ll have it, with great details, exclusively for our Members in the next Inside Track, our quarterly member letter, due out in September. Join Market Street Railway now, and you’ll get our just-released newsletter with a colorful story on the vintage Powell Street cable car liveries, which we helped Muni bring back onto the line…and a story on a transformative time for transit in San Francisco 75 years ago, in 1941. If you’re intrigued by historic transit, you really need to join Market Street Railway.

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Did we mention that Muni’s Cincinnati tribute PCC, the 1057, known locally as “the bumblebee” for its stripes and yellow body,  is one of the most photographed cars in the fleet?  Join now!

 

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Celebrate 99 Years of the J-Church July 10

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How about a Sunday excursion on a 102-year streetcar along a 99-year old streetcar line?  How about growling up through Dolores Park while all the techies and friends in the park stare with mouths agape, asking “how’d I miss THAT?”

It’s the latest Market Street Railway Trolley Tour, Sunday, July 10 from 1:30-3:30, starting and ending at our San Francisco Railway Museum. You’ll roll up Market Street, then out the J-line all the way to Cameron Beach Yard, where the historic streetcars are kept, and back to town.  Great views, beautiful wood paneling and seats on the streetcar, and new friends to make.

Sign up here!  Remember Market Street Railway Members get 25% off, so for them it’s $40.  For non-members, $50.  (But you non-members can join here first and get the discount.)

Join us for the preview of the J-line Centennial and just a plain swell ride on July 10!

 

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First Videos of “White Front” Powell Cable Car 12

Right on schedule, Powell Cable Car 12 returned to service at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 15, 2016. For the first time in 72 years (back when it was numbered 512), it was wearing the “White Front” livery of our namesake, Market Street Railway Company, which merged with Muni in 1944. The video above shows the 12 leaving the Washington-Mason car barn for the first time in revenue service since its restoration.

The photograph below, taken just few blocks away at Powell and California by the great rail photographer Will Whittaker,, shows how the car looked in service the first time it was in this livery, in 1944. We wrote more about this car, and our initiative to restore historic liveries to the Powell Street cable car fleet here.

60-2k WJ car 512 on Powell at California, 1944, WCW sm copy 2

The video below shows the first time Car 12 spun the Powell-Market turntable in revenue service today.

Finally, here’s a shot of two of the many proud parents of Car 12, SFMTA’s Ed Cobean, in overall charge of cable cars, and his maintenance right-hand, Carol Wolther. The first-run gripman, Randy Dea, is ready to go in the background.

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We’ll have much more about this car and our livery restoration program in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in July.  Meantime, welcome back, Car 12!

 

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“White Front” Cable Car Returns

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Powell Street cable car 12 returns to service today after an extensive rebuilding process that lasted more than two years. Its return marks the completion of a project that Market Street Railway has supported Muni on for more than 20 years. Powell 12 now proudly wears the famous “White Front” livery of our namesake, Market Street Railway Company, that all Powell cars wore from the mid-1930s until 1944, when Muni took over its private competitor, acquiring the Powell cable lines as part of the deal. The livery is very simple: all white on the ends, all green on the sides. That was deliberate. Market Street Railway Company was in increasing financial trouble and wanted to keep labor costs down wherever possible. An earlier Market Street Railway Company livery, displayed on Powell Car 9, featured red window sashes. (The company painted all its streetcars and cable cars in the simpler scheme shown above.)

Since the Powell-Mason streetcar line opened in 1888, the “halfway to the stars” cars have worn numerous liveries (paint schemes) adopted by the five companies that have owned the Powell lines over the past 128 years. From bright yellow to red to green to blue to maroon, the history of Powell liveries is a kaleidoscope of color. Generally, though, the Powell cars were only one color at a time.  (There were interesting exceptions, which we’ll address in the next issue of our newsletter for members onlyInside Track, due out in July.)

In 1973, for the centennial of the first cable car line, one car was reconstructed and painted in the original 1888 livery of the Powell Street Railway Company (a subsidiary of Ferries & Cliff House Railway), thanks to Charles Smallwood, who was then cable car superintendent. The handsome livery on Powell Car 1 was just restored to its 1973 appearance with Market Street Railway’s help.

The maroon and sky blue livery was so well liked that the rest of the fleet was painted in a simplified version of it during the cable car system rebuilding of the 1980s. However, one car, Powell 3, was left in the previous Muni green and cream livery. This gave us, and some folks at Muni, an idea. Why not share other vintage Powell liveries with today’s riders? So over the past 30 years, as Powell cars went into the carpentry and paint shops for major rebuilding, various vintage liveries were applied to them.  Here’s a look at all of them. (Scroll down to the thumbnails of the various cable cars and click on any of them for the story of that car and its livery.)

The wonderful restoration work is a tribute to Muni’s dedicated cable car crafts workers. Market Street Railway helped by researching the liveries, preparing drawings and specifications and creating and purchasing decals for the cars that replicate the original owners’ logos (which were hand-lettered in the early decades of the cable cars.

Car 12’s debut marks the last of nine different liveries worn by Powell cars. Most of them are on the street most days of the week. We are working with Ed Cobean, Muni’s current cable car boss, to have all of them out, if possible on Muni Heritage Weekend this year, September 24-25.

Welcome back to this important piece of San Francisco history, bringing the famous “White Front” livery back to Powell Street for the first time in 72 years!

 

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