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Muni Arrival Times Inaccurate Right Now

Don’t try to use the live E- and F-line maps linked to this website right now. This post from SFMTA (Muni) explains why.

The maps we use, customized with icons of streetcars in the historic fleet, are really cool when they work, because they show you exactly which cars are on the line and where they are. We know people all over the world check in on these maps every day to follow their favorite vintage streetcars. The data that feeds those maps is the same that provides arrival times to electronic signs at stops for all Muni bus and rail lines. Muni is in the process of updating the way its buses and railcars communicate their position, but the process has hit a big snag, so riders can’t count on the maps or signs right now. Many vehicles are just not showing up on the database, resulting in displays of much longer wait times than is actually the case. This affects every LRV on the J, K, L, M, N, and T lines, most vehicles on the E- and F-line, and most buses as well.

Of course, when the streetcars of the E- and F-line were in their original service lives, the only database available was your own eyes, as in, “Can I see a car coming?” So just consider it a retro moment.

For reference, F-line headways (the time between streetcars) are 6-7 minutes during the day, 10 minutes in mid-evening, and 15 minutes late night. E-line headways are 20 minutes during that line’s operating hours of 10 a.m.- 7 p.m.

Here are links to the current schedules for the E-Embarcadero line and F-Market and Wharves line on 511.org.

Use the pull-down menus under the route name at the top of the page of these links to select the day of the week and inbound/outbound schedules.

 

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End of the B-Geary, 60 Years Ago

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On December 29, 1956, the last passenger-carrying streetcar ran on the tracks of Muni’s first street, Geary.  Muni became America’s first big city publicly owned transit system 44 years and one day earlier, on December 28, 1912, when it opened the A and B streetcar lines on Geary Street. Soon, four Muni lines were running along Geary from the Ferry Building via Market: the A, which went from the Ferries to Tenth Avenue, then south to Golden Gate Park; the B, which reached Ocean Beach and later Playland via 33rd Avenue, Balboa, 45th Avenue, and Cabrillo); the C, which turned north at Second Avenue then followed California Street west to 33rd Avenue; and the D, which turned north at Van Ness, then East on Union, jogging into the Presidio via Steiner and Greenwich.

last-b-geary-run-122956-wayne-pickering-motorman-copyThe Geary lines were Muni’s busiest by far. The B-line alone required more than 50 streetcars at peak hours. But that fact alone couldn’t save them. We reported on the factors that led to the demise of the B-Geary in 2002 in our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, and later posted here. (You can join Market Street Railway here to get this great quarterly newsletter, either electronically or in hard copy.)

These two photos come to us from Jack Tillmany through our friends at the Western Neighborhoods Project, showing the final passenger run of the B-Geary on December 29, 1956. Car 77, shown here, was not preserved but two other cars of the same class, both Geary veterans, 130 and 162, have been. So has the last PCC ever built in North America, Muni 1040, which carried a load of railfans out Geary the following day, December 30.

The bus line that replaced the B-Geary, the 38, has been Muni’s busiest bus line ever since, and Muni has been working for years to upgrade it to bus rapid transit, still a number of years in the future. Meantime, many San Franciscans continue to regret that streetcars ever left Geary, even 60 years after the fact.

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Merry Christmas…Transit-wise

There’s a long tradition in San Francisco of celebrating the holiday season with streetcars and cable cars.msry-christmas-car-1930s-copy

In the 1930’s, our namesake, Market Street Railway Company (Muni’s privately owned competitor) decorated its all-white private car (named the “San Francisco”, normally used to take school kids on field trips) for Christmas and New Year’s and ran it around town as a goodwill billboard.

santacade-washington-masonIn the 1950’s, the Emporium department store, on Market opposite Powell (where Bloomingdales is today) would charter a cable car with a specially strengthened roof to bring Santa to the store. The “Santacade” always drew big crowds, including a generation of kids who believed that the REAL Santa was at the “Big E” because of course Santa would take the cable car!  (That cable car, by the way, is the one now on the centerfield arcade at AT&T Park.)

1010-west-portal-xmas-portalAlso in the 1950s, West Portal merchants turned the portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel into a fireplace (another proof that Santa rode Muni!!). The streetcar shown, 1010, is one of the ones saved from destruction thanks in large measure to the advocacy of our non-profit, and runs today on the E-Embarcadero line (another of our advocacy successes).

dsc_5248In recent years, Market Street Railway volunteers have decorated one or more F-line historic streetcars. We look to resume this next year when the streetcars have returned to Cameron Beach Yard (shown here) from their temporary quarters at Muni Metro East off Third Street. This year, as always, we’ve decorated the F-line and E-line streetcars with wreaths.

DSC04133.JPGFor sheer enthusiasm and beauty, nothing beats the cable cars decorated every year by gripman and cable car historian Val Lupiz. This year’s prize is Powell Car number 1, in the original 1888 livery of the Powell cable lines with wonderful decorations inside and out. Our volunteers assisted Val and friends in bringing this joy to the streets of San Francisco this season. (Val took the shot below; the others come from our archives.)

powell-1-2016-xmasAs 2016 ends, we at Market Street Railway thanks our 1,000 members and our friends for their ongoing support. We invite everyone who loves the cable cars, streetcars, and San Francisco history in general to join us or support us, to make 2017 a year of preservation and celebration of historic transit.

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Unique SF Transit Gifts at our Museum Store

Looking for unique holiday gifts for friends and family, kids and former kids? Look no further than our San Francisco Railway Museum and Online Store.

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We’ve got a whole range of new merchandise you can’t find anywhere else, because we designed it ourselves in support of our mission to preserve and celebrate historic transit in San Francisco.

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We’ve got four new 11-ounce mugs featuring images from our Vintage Travel Series — original art we commissioned in the style of classic travel posters celebrating destinations along the historic streetcar and cable car lines.

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We’ve got several of these images now available on canvas tote bags too. We have all eight as posters, framed prints, and magnets.

We have magnets for almost every streetcar in the vintage fleet.

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Did we mention tee shirts? We’ve got a crop of new ones, including shirts for both kids and adults celebrating “The Streetcars of San Francisco,” and one especially for dog lovers.

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Speaking of kids, we now have two puzzles available, a 20-piece one for toddlers, and a 100-piece one for a little older child. And, pictured at the top of this post, we have a wonderful wooden model of famed PCC streetcar 1040, the last PCC ever built in North America, sized to fit with standard kids’ wooden train track (like the Thomas the Tank Engine sets).

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And for a laugh, we’ve even made it possible for you to turn Muni off (or on!) whenever you like with this cool light switch cover, one of two we offer. (Thanks to Jeremy Whiteman for the great photo of car 1040 we used, including the Z-Zoo route.)

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There’s a lot more to see and shop for as well, including our exclusive 2017 “Museums in Motion” calendar and our field guide to the city’s historic streetcars and cable cars, On Track.

So either come on down to the Museum at 77 Steuart Street (Steuart Street F-line stop), across from the Ferry Building, between 10 am and 5 pm from Tuesday through Sunday (we’re closed Mondays), or click here to shop online. Move quickly if you want to shop online though. We are unable to offer overnight delivery options so be sure you place your order in time to get it for the holidays. And we do have a wider selection of merchandise at the Museum than we’re able to offer online.

Remember, every purchase you make helps our non-profit Market Street Railway in its mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. Happy Holidays!

 

 

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Take Famed Streetcar No. 1 to See “Lost Landscapes”

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Rick Prelinger’s “Lost Landscapes: San Francisco” is celebrating its eleventh year at the Castro Theater in December. What better way to get there for the showing on Wednesday, December 7, than a ride on Muni’s very first streetcar, car 1, built in 1912. The streetcar ride to the Castro Theater will follow a special reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum.

Here’s a brief description of “Lost Landscapes 11”:

This year’s program features new scenes of San Franciscans working, playing, marching and partying during the Great Depression; unseen footage of Seals Stadium and the Cow Palace in the late 1930s; the reconstruction of Market Street and Embarcadero Plaza in the 1970s; rare footage of southeastern San Francisco and the Hunters Point drydock; the 1975 Gay Freedom Day parade; a 1940s-era ode to our fog; many more newly discovered gems; and greatest hits from past programs.

As always, the audience makes the soundtrack at the glorious Castro Theatre! Come prepared to identify places, people and events; to ask questions; and to engage in spirited real-time repartee with fellow audience members.

Our special reception and charter is for people who already have tickets to “Lost Landscapes,” which almost always sells out, but at this posting still has tickets available. So if you don’t have a ticket to “Lost Landscapes” yet, your first step is to click here to buy one or more to the December 7 showing.  Once you have tickets to the showing, sign up for our special reception and charter.

Our event starts at 5:00 p.m. with a wine and cheese reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum at 77 Steuart Street, across from the Ferry Building,

At 5:55 p.m. sharp, the beautifully restored Car 1 with its gorgeous wood paneling and rattan seats, will leave the museum, with you on board, wine glass (or beer) in hand, for a quick trip up the Embarcadero to Pier 39 and back before heading out Market Street on your private ride to Castro and 17th Street, just steps from the Castro Theater. You’ll enjoy special entry to the theater, avoiding the lines. (But, remember, you must have your ticket to the show already.)

The price of the excursion is $30 for members of the public, but Market Street Railway members receive a 25% discount (via a coupon code at check-out). All proceeds go to support Market Street Railway in its work to keep San Francisco’s transit history alive.

Sign up for our reception and charter here.  (And don’t forget, you need a separate ticket for the showing of “Lost Landscapes.”)

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Second Renovated PCC Back From Contractor

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The second of 16 PCCs streetcars that made up the original F-line fleet is back in San Francisco and is beginning testing, with the hope of having it back on the F-line carrying passengers by the end of November.

Car 1051, painted in the “simplified green and cream” paint scheme used by Muni on its streetcars in the late 1960s and 1970s, is dedicated to the late Harvey Milk, who rode streetcars painted like this between his Castro Camera store and City Hall when he was the city’s first gay elected supervisor in 1978, up until his assassination on November 27 of that year. The 1051 appeared in the movie “Milk”.

Car 1056 returned to San Francisco last month.

Streetcars currently at the Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania under the contract include 1055, 1059, 1060, 1062, and 1063.  Based on the order in which they were shipped, the 1060 should be the next to return to San Francisco, perhaps by the end of this month. These cars have had 21 years of very intense service since they were first renovated in the early 1990s.

There is additional, very interesting news regarding the Brookville contract, but we’ll give it to our members (including those who join us now) first in the next issue of Inside Track, our exclusive member newsletter, which should be out before month-end. Members, watch for it, and remember, you can get it at least a week faster if you opt for the electronic version rather than the printed one. (Just send an email with your name and email address to info@streetcar.org and say you want to switch.)

 

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City Hall Avenue, Around 1913

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Almost no one is still with us who actually saw the street named City Hall Avenue.  It ran parallel to Market Street, half a block north, and stretched just two blocks between Leavenworth and Larkin Streets. The massive but poorly built City Hall and neighboring Hall of Records filled the north side of the street.

Because of the municipal buildings, it was an important street, at least until April 18, 1906, when the giant earthquake shook the shoddily built City Hall to the ground. As an important street, it rated a streetcar line, the Tenth and Montgomery line of United Railroads, a meandering route that started at Tenth and Bryant, crossed Market, zigzagged on Polk and Grove to run along City Hall Avenue, then turned north on Leavenworth to Post, Post to Montgomery (where those two streets intersect Market Street), and then north via Montgomery and Washington to Kearny Street.

In the photo above, looking west from Leavenworth Street and dated around 1913, City Hall Avenue looks like a ghost town. The old City Hall is gone, with plans being made to build the grand new one we love today two blocks away. The Hall of Records, not too badly damaged in the quake, has been fixed up and is back in use, but it too is headed for demolition as a new vision for a grand Civic Center takes shapes. The only other buildings in the shot were thrown up after the earthquake and look temporary, which they turned out to be. The overhead wires and tracks turn from Leavenworth Street (to the right in the photo) onto City Hall Avenue.

14938351_10209745024253921_2384041602252333076_nThe map to the left shows the street grid of the time, with City Hall Avenue just to the right of Market Street, with a plaza connecting the two where Hyde Street is today.

So why put a photo without streetcars on a streetcar site? Because streetcars were pretty rare on this line by this time.

With the abrupt shift from cable cars to streetcars on Market Street after the quake, and establishment of other streetcar lines, the meandering Tenth and Montgomery line became an anachronism, just a few years after its opening in 1900. It only drew decent ridership during rush hours, with so few riders the rest of the time that United Railroads kept the small single-truck “dinkys” (identical to preserved Car 578) on the line, while other lines got bigger streetcars. Before long, service was cut to the minimum necessary to retain the city-awarded franchise to use the streets.

When City Hall Avenue itself was ripped up within a few years of this photo, United Railways rerouted this line along existing tracks on Larkin and McAllister Streets, and it held on until 1931. Very few photographs have come to light of the early days of streetcars on this line but at least we have the tracks, and a vanished street, to look at.

Thanks to John A. Harris for posting the photo on the Facebook group San Francisco Remembered, and to Kevin Walsh for posting the map there with his comment. Thanks too to Emiliano Echeverria, who corrected a couple of facts in the post, which is now updated.

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Rainy Day on Market, World War II

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Weather forecast says rain’s on the way for the Bay Area. As good a time as any to share this photo of Market Street, looking east from Fifth Street, taken during World War II (likely 1943 or early 1944). Rich detail in this photo. The blue and gold N-Judah on the outside track is trying to squeeze past the automobile so it can catch up to the competing 5-McAllister streetcar (with the flashy “zip stripe” on the side) of our namesake, Market Street Railway.

American flags and a striped banner hang from the streetcar span wires. The switches from the inside tracks to Fifth Street, where the 40-line interurbans to San Mateo terminated, are visible around the traffic cop with his bright raincoat (was it white or yellow?). Engulfed in the crowd at the extreme center right of the shot (to the left of the word “The” for the Owl Drug Company store at the corner) is the patented Wiley “birdcage” traffic signal unique to San Francisco. How were motorists and streetcar motormen expected to see it? (You can see an operating one at our San Francisco Railway Museum.) Next to the birdcage, a small porcelain traffic sign, put there by Triple-A, points drivers toward the Bay Bridge entrance at Bryant Street (no connecting freeway then!).

Gray’s Navy Blues and GallenKamp Shoes are two of the stores in the building on the north side of Market, which would be ripped down a quarter-century later to build the Powell Street BART station and Hallidie Plaza. The awnings of the ground floor retail store in the Flood Building (where Gap’s flagship store is now) are just visible at the top. The patterns on the sea of umbrellas make us wish this shot was in color.

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Don’t Miss Fred Lyon’s Photo Exhibition

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Today, the New York Times’ Lens blog posted a long-overdue tribute to one of San Francisco’s greatest street photographers, Fred Lyon. The post includes 16 great San Francisco images, including the one above, one of our favorite shots, showing a pipe-puffing businessman in the late 1940s helping the crew push a Powell Street cable car off the turntable, not an uncommon site back then.

There’s a great free exhibition of Fred Lyon’s San Francisco photos showing through October 21 at the Leica Gallery, 463 Bush Street.  If you miss it, you’ll be sorry. We also recommend you purchase his great coffee table book, San Francisco Then, available at  at the Leica Gallery and also at our San Francisco Railway Museum. We also have a great set of notecards at the museum featuring Fred’s San Francisco images. Take time to savor the work of this San Francisco treasure, still active at 92!

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Fleet Weekend Service Adjustments on E, F

The weekend of Fleet Week (that’s Saturday-Sunday, October 8-9 this year) is one of the most crowded weekends along The Embarcadero with pedestrians, motorists, and transit riders all jamming in along the waterfront to see the Navy ships, the Blue Angels air show and more. This year, the Italian Heritage Parade takes place Sunday on top of it all, closing Jefferson Street (and the F-line route) through Fisherman’s Wharf for a time.

img_6497Muni has just announced some service adjustments for the weekend on the E- and F-lines.  Here they are:

Saturday

F-Market-Wharves: streetcars will run regular service, except that if pedestrians spill over onto the trackway in the Wharf areas (which has happened before), F-line cars would be switched back at Pier 39. There will be supplemental bus service as well on the F.

E-Embarcadero: streetcars will turn back at Pier 39 to lessen congestion on Jefferson; however, if the F-line is cut back to Pier 39, E-line cars would then be cut back to the Bay Street crossover, two blocks farther south.

Sunday

F-Market-Wharves: streetcars will switch back at Pier 39 for the Italian Heritage Parade from 8 a.m. until the end of the parade.

E-Embarcadero: streetcars will switch back at Bay Street for the Italian Heritage Parade from 8 a.m. until the end of the parade.

Here’s a tip for people driving into the city for the events: park in Mission Bay where there are several lots and either take the T-line on Third Street and transfer to the E-line at 2nd and King (AT&T Park) or walk to the Caltrain depot and take the E from there.  E cars will have space in that direction.

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