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SFMTA Has a Great Blog Going

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That’s the header for the new blog, Moving SF, launched recently by Muni’s parent, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. You can find it here. It’s got a nice mix of current transit news, features, and history.

On top of the great content, we were really flattered today to see a positive piece about, well, us!

That post followed a nice summary of all the events coming up this weekend at Muni Heritage Weekend.

Last week, they wrote a tribute to the great photographs of San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s taken by Fred Lyon, about whom you’ll be hearing more from us shortly.

Lots of other good posts on the SFMTA blog too. And you can subscribe to get posts sent directly to your via email. (By the way, we are implementing a new and improved email subscription mechanism on this, our own site. It should be up and running in a few days. We appreciate your understanding.)

We’re delighted to welcome our partners at SFMTA to the blogosphere, and have added Moving SF to sites we follow on our sidebar.

Historic Buses in Spotlight November 1-2

P1050858Muni’s historic buses are featured in a great column by the Chronicle’s Carl Nolte.

We went out to Woods Division the other day with Carl and toured the historic bus fleet, including the three coaches pictured above, all scheduled to run for Muni Heritage Weekend, November 1-2, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.  (Left to right, 1938 White Motor Coach No. 042; 1975 AM General No 4154; and 1969 GMC “New Look” No. 3287, being prepared by cleaning crews to go to work.)

The AM General coach, pictured in the middle, may seem too modern-looking to be “historic,” but it will turn 40 next year and is important in at least two respects.

First, it represents one of the first instances that Muni management allowed public concerns to influence its vehicle selection. The GMC buses, known internally as “Jimmys,” were noisy and too long for some neighborhood streets. Citizen complaints led to the smaller, quieter “Amys,” as the AM Generals were known by the shops. (Today, Muni’s parent, SFMTA, runs extensive community consultation programs, including one currently underway to advise management on appearance and passenger comfort details of the new Siemens LRV fleet.)

Second, the Amys were the first Muni fleet to be delivered in the livery designed by famed San Francisco industrial designer Walter Landor, featuring the now-familiar Muni “worm” logo and colors including “Sunset Glow” and “California Poppy Gold.”

Because of their smaller size and their parentage, American Motors, the 4100-class was also called “Gremlins,” after the unusual compact car the firm then made.) No. 4154 will be making its operating debut at Muni Heritage Weekend, sharing the same special route as the other historic motor coaches and trolley coaches (including 1950 Marmon-Herrington No. 776 and 1976 Flyer No. 5300): from outside our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart between Market and Mission, via Market, Sutter, Mason, Market, Spear, Mission, and Steuart).

Along with the historic buses, special streetcars and cable cars will operate on Muni Heritage weekend as well, and there’ll be a number of events in the plaza across from the museum: music from a Muni combo; young actress Johnnae Saunders as Maya Angelou, 16-year old San Francisco streetcar conductor; cable car bell ringing exhibitions; chances for kids to color their own historic streetcar and ring that actual cable car bell; special transportation book and memorabilia sales, and much more.

It’s going to be the best historic transit weekend yet. You don’t want to miss it.

 

Celebrating Dashiell Hammett’s 120th Birthday

Sam Spade IT cover

Dashiell Hammett was born May 27, 1894. He essentially created the modern detective novel. His most famous fictional character was Sam Spade. To celebrate Hammett's 120th birthday, and the enduring greatness of the Spade character, we're providing a link to a Feature article that appeared nine years ago in our member newsletter, Inside Track.

It tells the story of how Hammett wove his own rail riding experiences in San Francisco (both streetcars and cable cars) in to his novels. Check it out, and remember, most of the members-only content in our newsletter never makes it to the web. So if you love our historic streetcars and cable cars, or San Francisco history in general, please consider joining Market Street Railway.

The Little Engine That Could!

State Belt Loco No. 2Next weekend (Saturday-Sunday, November 1-2) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you’ll have the special opportunity to ride a streetcar built in the 1890s from our San Francisco Railway Museum up The Embarcadero to the Wharf area, as part of Muni Heritage Weekend.

When you do, you’ll be following the path of another important part of San Francisco’s rail heritage, the State Belt Railroad. The noted San Francisco author and historian Gary Kamiya has a great piece on sfgate.com recounting the history of this freight line. Well work a read.

The State Belt ran the entire length of The Embarcadero and then some, paralleling streetcar lines from Folsom to Broadway, with the most spectacular scenes to be seen right in front of the Ferry Building as the 1937 photo below shows. That’s a Muni E-line “dinky” just to the right at the north terminal, headed for the Presidio via North Beach and Russian Hill, and a Market Street Railway “White Front” car that will loop around Broadway to Kearny before running the length of Third Street to the County Line in Visitacion Valley.

State Belt E 16 at Ferry Bldg c1937 copySo as you enjoy today’s Embarcadero, remember the days when steam and smoke were common sights and sounds on our waterfront.

Tipple Your Way Along the F-line


1061 and Twin Peaks bar sign 17thCastro Elrond Lawrence photo.jpg

The Twin Peaks bar is right at the F-line Castro terminal. Photo (c) Elrond Lawrence.

We’re not in the business of promoting booze, but San Francisco is, after all, a great drinking town, and if you’re going to do that, you need a designated driver.
How about letting an F-line operator fill that role, by patronizing establishments along the route? Our friends at Thrillist have put together a list of bars and restaurants all along the F-line with dandy libations waiting for you along the way.
Take a look here for the entire list. From the Twin Peaks at Castro and Market to Pier 23 (and beyond), it’s a great ride!
Oh, and if you’re looking for a different kind of guide to the F-line, without the bars but with just about everything else concerning the historic streetcars (and cable cars too), drop by our San Francisco Railway Museum or click here to buy our new book ON TRACK.

Kansas City, Outta Here!

1056 ex-MME to Brookville 102014No, we’re not prematurely claiming a World Series victory (though we’re predicting one, of course). We just found it interesting that just as the Giants are about to engage the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series, Muni’s streetcar that honors KC up and leaves town.

PCC No. 1056, which had been painted in a tribute livery to Kansas City, has actually been out of service for a few years now with a cracked bolster (a big metal fitting that connects the car body to the truck (wheel set) underneath the car. (Muni’s shops had started renewing the cream and black Kansas City livery when the damage was discovered, halting the painting midway.

The KC car is the first of 16 Muni PCCs to head east to Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania for a full rebuilding. These 16 cars comprised the original F-line fleet that opened the line in 1995. They’ve had almost 20 years of higher-than-expected use (more than double the original ridership estimates) and need the work.

Within a week, our Members will receive the latest edition of their exclusive newsletter, Inside Track, with much more detail on this car and other scheduled departures for Brookville. If you sign up now, we’ll ship you the newest one and the past three issues as well.

Meanwhile, Go Giants! The next time we hear “Outta Here,” we want it to be Kuip’s Giants’ home run call!

Muni Heritage Weekend November 1-2

These three historic transit vehicles are just some of those that will be operating on Muni Heritage weekend.  From left, 1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach No. 776, 1912 Muni streetcar No. 1, and 1938 White motor coach No. 042

These three historic transit vehicles are just some of those that will be operating on Muni Heritage weekend. From left, 1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach No. 776, 1912 Muni streetcar No. 1, and 1938 White motor coach No. 042

Muni's oldest trolley coach, No. 506, gets its original yellow front restored for the 2014 Muni Heritage Weekend.

Muni’s oldest trolley coach, No. 506, gets its original yellow front restored for the 2014 Muni Heritage Weekend.

The 2014 Muni Heritage Weekend is approaching fast: Saturday-Sunday, November 1-2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Several buses, including trolley buses from 1950 (No. 776) and 1976 (No. 5300), and motor coaches including 1938 No. 042, will carry passengers on a special route from our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart between Market and Mission Streets. The buses will follow Market to Sutter, Sutter to Mason, and Mason back to Market for the return trip.

San Francisco’s oldest streetcar, 1896 No. 578, will be in service from the museum to Pier 39 via The Embarcadero. It rarely carries passengers. Other historic streetcars from San Francisco’s transit history, including 1912 No. 1, 1914 No. 130, 1948 Nos. 1006, 1008, and 1010, are slated to be in service along the F-line along with 1952 No. 1040. Regular Muni fares apply to the F-line streetcar runs.

Additionally, the only surviving cable car painted in the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Sts. livery, No. 42, will be running on the California Street cable car line, whose eastern terminal at California and Market is just a block from the museum. In the plaza across the F-line tracks from the museum, Muni’s motorized cable car (No. 62) will be an interactive display, allowing kids of all ages to ring its bell (the same bell used annually in the Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest). Other vintage Muni transit vehicles, including Muni’s oldest trolley coach, No. 506 (1941) will be on display in the plaza as well.

A variety of public events will take place during the weekend, including a tribute to Maya Angelou, a pioneering African-American transit figure in San Francisco (as well as a famous author). She will be honored with readings about her history as a World War II era streetcar conductor from her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. There will also be music, games for kids, and a special sale of Market Street Railway’s surplus archival materials — books and artifacts of great interest to rail aficionados, but not directly related to our San Francisco focus.

We’ve just added a special reception for Market Street Railway Members only at our San Francisco Railway Museum from 5-7 p.m.on Saturday, November 1.  That reception will feature remarks by Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher and Acting Board Chair Bruce Agid, who will also answer Members’ questions.

We’ll have more details on the exact schedule of events in a subsequent post.  Come enjoy!

New Website Platform Up and Running

Whew.  After hundreds of hours of work by Paul Wolborsky, with help from Raye Daniels and great leadership by our board member Todd Lappin, the revamped streetcar.org is up and running this morning.  We’re now on a more stable, more capable platform, which will allow us to add more features for you over time. Please be patient as we work out the inevitable bugs.  Thanks.

Happy 120th to the 14-Mission!

We’re not sure what these guys were celebrating, but we know what WE’RE celebrating today! On September 15, 1894, the first electric streetcars ran on Mission Street. At first they only went as far as China Avenue. Where? Oh, yeah, they call it Excelsior Avenue now. Not much reason to go farther; it was mostly farmland then.

Within a few years, the line was extended to Daly’s Hill (now “Top of the Hill, Daly City”), just across the county line. In 1908, the Mission line (and all the streetcar lines in the City) got a number. Ever since, whether streetcar, motor bus, or electric trolley bus, it’s been the 14-Mission, still one of Muni’s busiest lines, and a lifeline for what has always been a working class corridor of San Francisco (though looks like that’s over, at least north of 30th Street).

The next issue of our members-only newsletter, Inside Track, out in a few weeks, will feature a detailed history of the 14-Mission, with more than a dozen rare photos. If you’re not a Market Street Railway member, supporting our advocacy and positive projects for San Francisco’s historic streetcars and cable cars, this is a great time to join!

Oh, the photo? It comes from the collection of Grant Ute, the noted transit historian and head of the San Francisco Railway Archive, who says it *might* be New Year’s Eve, 1900. We know Car No. 1001 was built by Hammond, the San Francisco firm that later built most of the California Street cable cars still in use today, and we know that nighttime photos in this era were pretty rare. We also know this photo definitely falls into the “don’t try this at home” category.

Happy 120th Birthday, 14-Mission!

Doug Wright, 1946-2014

Doug Wright, Chair of Market Street Railway’s Board of Directors and a noted urban planner who helped transform San Francisco’s waterfront by leading the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway and replacing it with an acclaimed ground-level boulevard, died July 30, 2014 at Marin General Hospital. He was 68. His death resulted from a stroke.
As Deputy Mayor for Transportation under Mayor Art Agnos, Wright was director of the Embarcadero transportation program, responsible for planning, designing, and financing the integrated boulevard, pedestrian and bicycle promenade, light rail, and streetcar project stretching from Fishermans’ Wharf to the site of the Giants ballpark and the Caltrain Depot on King Street. The initial plan for the boulevard left the double-deck freeway, which blocked off the Ferry Building from the city, in place, respecting voter’s wishes. But after the Loma Prieta Earthquake badly damaged the freeway in October 1989, Wright led successful efforts to demolish it, enabling the complete transformation of San Francisco’s northeast waterfront.
“I could never have made that decision to tear down the freeway without Doug Wright by my side, convincing me that it was the best thing to do for the people of San Francisco,”said former Mayor Art Agnos.
Wright’s work in San Francisco was only a part of his nationwide influence in replacing planned and partly built urban freeways with sustainable transportation systems that created more livable cities.
Douglas G. Wright was born April 28, 1946 in Des Moines, Iowa. After graduating from that city’s Roosevelt High School, he attended the University of Iowa, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1968 and a Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning in 1970.
From 1970 to 1973 he served as a city planner in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to Portland, Oregon, where he served from 1973 to 1979 as City Planning Director and Chief Transportation Planner under Mayor Neil Goldschmidt.
In Portland, Wright led the replacement of the Harbor Drive freeway along the Willamette River with a park. He also led the city’s successful effort to transfer federal funding from a freeway proposed by Robert Moses to a new light rail system, a first-of-its-kind event that became a model that numerous American cities have since followed. Wright even helped Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) draft the successful Congressional legislation that enabled such federal funding transfers.
In 1979, Wright became Associate Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Carter Administration, under Secretary of Transportation Neil Goldschmidt. In this role, he represented Goldschmidt in cities across America that were grappling with outdated freeway plans. Wright’s command of transportation, development, and political knowledge created a practical, achievable framework that showed leaders of these cities a path to a more livable urban environment, while still retaining mobility. Numerous cities used Wright’s counsel and the legislation he had help create to “trade in” federal freeway funding for transit and appropriately scaled roadway projects.
In 1981, Wright joined the administration of San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein as Director, Planning and Development and Assistant General Manager of the Public Utilities Commission. In this latter role, he served as General Manager Rudy Nothenberg’s designee on the San Francisco Planning Commission.
In 1988, Wright became Mayor Agnos’ Deputy Mayor for Transportation, a position he held until 1991, when he opened his own consultancy, Douglas Wright Consulting. In his consulting role, he initiated and helped manage the development of a Muni bus turnaround at Steuart and Mission Streets into the Hotel Vitale, a project that brings its parent agency, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, well over a million dollars a year in revenue and will ultimately result in city ownership of the hotel. Extending his achievements in San Francisco and Portland, Wright played a key role as a consultant in the City of Seattle’s decision to tear down its elevated double-deck waterfront freeway on the waterfront, known as the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
At the time of his death, Wright was consulting for BART and on transportation and development projects for the cities of Oakland and Sacramento. He had become Board Chair of Market Street Railway in January and was working on several important initiatives, including extension of historic streetcar service from Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason Center.
“Doug was one of the most complete people I have ever met,” said Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher. He was a deeply knowledgeable, passionate yet practical advocate who achieved great professional success. At the same time, he nurtured a full, rich family life and achieved a rare level of work-life balance. All who knew him will greatly miss him, no one more than his colleagues at Market Street Railway.”
Wright was a long-serving member of the board of directors of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as well as Market Street Railway. He was also a devoted Giants fan. After nearly 20 years of treks to Candlestick Park, Doug cheered on the Giants at more than 340 games at AT&T Park.
He is survived by his wife Lillian Hames, 61, with whom he shared 24 love-filled years of marriage; by his daughter Alison, 31, with whom he has hiked countless National Parks; by his daughter Alexandra, 23, who he has proudly cheered on in softball, Little League baseball games, and in life; and by his brother Denny Wright, 63, of Oregon City, Oregon.
A memorial service for Doug is planned on August 28 at 2 p.m. at Cavallo Point, Fort Baker. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Doug’s memory may be made to Market Street Railway or to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

See “How Transit Built SF” Tuesday Night

Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher will present “How Transit Built San Francisco” at the Excelsior Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 4400 Mission Street (between Ocean Avenue and Silver Avenue), Tuesday, July 29 at 7 p.m.
Rick will include slides that depict the development of transit in the city and how it shaped development of our neighborhoods over the decades. Some of the content is drawn from his new book, “On Track: A Field Guide to San Francisco Historic Streetcars and Cable Cars,” published by Heyday.
The talk is free. Autographed copies of the book will be available at the event. They’re also available at our San Francisco Railway Museum, or here in our online store.


No Streetcars on F-line This Weekend

A combination of events has left the F-line without streetcar service on one of the biggest visitor weekends of the year, July 25-26. You’ll only see buses on the F-line all weekend.
The historic streetcars’ overnight base was moved last month to Muni Metro East, just off Third Street and the T-line, to allow rails to be replaced near their long-time home at Cameron Beach Yard across town. This means that the historic streetcars now enter and leave F-line service via tracks along the southern Embarcadero. The last two blocks of these tracks, from Howard Street to the F-line tracks just south of Market, were built for the future E-line and had not been used in regular service. So, for several years now, they have been used by the [San Francisco Marathon](http://www.thesfmarathon.com) as a staging area.
It was too late to change that for this year’s Marathon, which starts Sunday morning, but Muni has told the Marathon organizers that they will have to find an alternative location by next year’s event, because the E-line is slated to be in regular weekend service by then.
Market Street Railway was not aware of this operating conflict until last week. We don’t know when Muni, the owner-operator of the F-line, first learned of it, but in any event, the Marathon had a firm contract in place and is an important part of the summer scene in the City. But the streetcars are too, so it’s unfortunate that this conflict is keeping the streetcars off the streets this weekend.
Months before either we or the Marathon organizers knew that the streetcars were to move their base, we got together at the Marathon’s initiative, and created mile markers for the runners that celebrate the historic streetcars, using the graphic images created by our ace designer David Dugan. So a touch of irony there.
The Marathon has also made a generous donation to Market Street Railway, for which we thank them. We and the Marathon organizers agree the streetcars themselves, not just images, should be on the street when the race runs in 2015 and beyond.