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Roaring Back!

For the first time in more than a half-century, a cable car lettered for the O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde line has gripped the cable under San Francisco's streets. Cable car No. 42, retired and sold off after the 1954 cable car system 'consolidation', officially returned to service on June 3, 2005 with Mayor Gavin Newsom on the running board and dozens of other mayors from major world cities onboard.

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O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42 rocketed onto its 'home turf' with passengers for the first time in 51 years. Filled with mayors from around the world, the car is turning from California onto the non-revenue trackage on Hyde Street, part of the line's original route from 1891 to 1954. Mayor Gavin Newsom holds the spot of honor on the left-front running board. Steve Ferrario photo.

Resplendent in the multiple coats of hand-rubbed maroon paint applied by Market Street Railway volunteers (the gold lettering and striping hand-applied by master craftsman Fred Bennett for Market Street Railway) and operating smoothly with the grips, trucks, brakes and rigging installed by Muni's dedicated cable car maintenance team, car No. 42 completed an eleven-year restoration odyssey as it was officially christened the ceremonial cable car of the City and County of San Francisco, reserved for special events such as UN World Environment Day 2005, where it made its debut in its new role.

Sunning itself in the June 3rd noonday sun on the tail track at the Market Street end of the California cable line, the car drew admiring stares from passersby. Then, two alternate-fuel buses pulled up, carrying delegates to the United Nations event, including more than 60 mayors from major world cities. They climbed on No. 42, with Mayor Newsom taking the front left running board position, from which he waved and slapped palms with motorists who rolled down their windows to greet him. All the way, the car's progress was marked by the melodic strains of the rear-end bell, played specially for the occasion by World Champion cable car bell ringer Frank Ware--spared gripman duties for the ride just so he could make music. A regular Cal cable car followed with other delegates and special guests.

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Mayor Gavin Newsom smiles at onlookers as he proudly shows off the latest and greatest addition to Muni's historic cable car fleet, cable car No. 42, lovingly restored by Market Street Railway volunteers and Muni craftspeople. Steve Ferrario photo.

The procession, led by motorcycle police, didn't slow until Hyde Street, when veteran gripman Walter Scott double-checked that the shopman at the switch had it fully over into the Hyde position. Then the car roared around the corner (almost losing a Muni official) and rumbled north on Hyde Street, carrying passengers on its original route for the first time in 51 years. (How long ago was that? It's the last year the Giants won the World Series--when they were still in New York!)

Then the car reversed on the pull-in trackage at Washington & Hyde, rolled east on Washington, and disgorged its mayoral cargo at the Cable Car Barn, where Chinese lion dancers greeted them and led them into the car storage area upstairs to join other guests for a catered luncheon as part of the Transportation Day program of the UN event.

Special delivery
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Market Street Railway President and event emcee Rick Laubscher points out the hand-painted gold-leaf lettering on car No. 42 to Mayor Newsom. Steve Ferrario photo.

But first, a surprise. The crowd of 300 was alerted to watch the Jackson Street pull-in track to the storage area. Car No. 42, having gone 'around the horn', now roared into the barn with a smiling FedEx courier on the running board. As the luncheon's sponsor, FedEx delivered a biodegradable sugar champagne bottle to officially christen the car and welcome it back to the fleet. Mayor Newsom and SFMTA Board Chair Cleopatra Vaughns did the honors.

The attendees then heard remarks by Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, who served as emcee for the event (in his business life, Laubscher's clients include FedEx). Pointing to car No. 42 in its place of honor next to the diners, Laubscher told the crowd that this was "yet another example of how San Francisco recycles--even transit vehicles." He also paid tribute to the late Dave Pharr, and to Market Street Railway board member Mike Frew, present at the lunch, for their work in cosmetically restoring the car (complete list below).

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Steve Ferrario photo.

Top FedEx environmental official Mitch Jackson paid tribute to car No. 42 and its forty operating mates as "the world's oldest zero-emissions fleet, something all of us in the transportation industry can aspire to." Jackson also discussed hybrid vehicle and solar power projects FedEx is undertaking. Mayor Newsom then introduced the featured speaker, Mayor Ken Livingstone of London, who sounded a clarion call for mayors around the world to be more assertive in spurring environmental initiatives.

Unable to attend the ceremony were family members of the late H. Stanley Brown, who lovingly stored car No. 42 for many years at his cattle ranch.

When all was said and done, it was a worthy return for this venerable cable car, now officially back in the fleet.

Market Street Railway volunteers active in car No. 42 cosmetic restoration (1993-94):

  • Mike Frew (Coordinator)
  • Dave Pharr
  • Fernando Canales
  • Jeff Collignon
  • Steve Dean
  • Vince Fabris
  • Eddie Hansen
  • Don Holmgren
  • Tony Marquardt
  • Don McKinsey
  • Bart Nadeau
  • Royce Ong
  • Steve Ricci
  • Hal Wanaselja
  • Bill Wong

Muni employees active in car No. 42 operational restoration (1994-05):

  • Efren Bernal
  • Frank Camilleri
  • Michael Chan
  • Sam Chan
  • Charles Daniels
  • Norbert Feyling
  • Robert Fry
  • Armando Guzman
  • Harry Harrig
  • Larry Harris
  • Thomas Hidayat
  • Patrick Ho
  • Larry Lau
  • Kevin Lee
  • Vince Matushenko
  • Dale Nordbye
  • Theron Obi
  • Kevin O'Brien
  • Ken Russi
  • Richard Schmidt
  • James Shih
  • George Triantaffilidis
  • Kevin Wong

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