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PCC Streetcar Makes a Cameo in Harvey Milk Movie

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Focus Features photo.

The much anticipated movie about Harvey Milk, shot on location in San Francisco, is coming up on its Thanksgiving Day release, and a long trailer is now available. F-line PCC No. 1051 appears as an extra. That's the car in the simplified Muni green and cream livery, appropriate for the 1978 period of the movie (though you would have been hard pressed to find any PCCs that shiny by that point). And if you pause the clip at the right spot, you'll see a flash frame of the car's roll sign: "F-Market/Castro". Oops! The current roll signs have the Twin Peaks lines on there. They could've made it a K, L, or M which would've been accurate. Unfortunate, because the clip makes it look to this observer -- who knew all the principals of that tragedy pretty well, and lived in the neighborhood at the time -- that the filmmaker tried hard to get the details right.

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Focus Features photo.

Oh, you'll also notice something else in the clip. The front pole of the car is up. But unlike one of the great streetcar goofs in movieland -- the operation of Pacific Electric sreetcars with both poles up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit -- the flash frame in the clip gives the impression that No. 1051 was actually backing up to let a crowd through.

Beyond the Hollywood hype is the reality that Harvey Milk was the strongest public transit advocate on the Board of Supervisors in his day, and rode Muni streetcars to work at City Hall every day. The next Museums in Motion in-car display we create is going to remind F-line riders of Harvey's transit advocacy. We've been looking hard for any photos of Harvey riding Muni or with streetcars in the picture. If you know where we can find one, please let us know. Thanks.

» About Muni Streetcar No. 1051
» Muni Streetcar Dedicated to Supervisor Harvey Milk
» Harvey Milk Remembered

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Perhaps the filmmakers decided it was worth a bit of historical inaccuracy to have the word “Castro” featured prominently on the roll sign in that scene. Did any of the Twin Peaks lines ever sign for Castro in that fashion?

This movie looks fantastic. I can’t wait.

Why do you trolley fans have to nitpick everything? F, K, L, Whatever. Can’t you just enjoy the preview without finding things wrong?

I wish trolley fans would be less obsessive over accuracy, because recently when I told a visiting friend we were on a train from Boston, the man in front of us turned around to tell me I was wrong, it was from some other city and only painted like Boston, and the color was all wrong too. He ruined the moment with accuracy that really wasn’t important and I’d rather not see you do that with Milk, because it looks like it will be fantastic, whether the train says F or L.

@ John — the comment was an observation, not an obsession. When a continuity director in a major motion picture goes to such lengths as ensuring that automobiles in the frame are not only of the correct vintage, but bear license plates from the correct year, it’s done to help people feel like they’re really being transported in time. When something like this slips through, which many San Franciscans who were here at the time will notice, it’s disruptive to that carefully painted picture. That’s all.

As for the “Boston” car incident, Market Street Railway has gone to some lengths, in postings on the cars and our website, to make clear that the paint schemes “honor” the various cities that operated PCCs in the past (and in Boston’s case, the present as well). We do that because we don’t want to mislead people into thinking that each of these cars actually ran in the city it is painted to honor. We do it because we do want to accurately represent the history of the actual car, as well as of the PCC era in American transit.

I guess that rider in front of you must have read the signs on the car. Sorry it disrupted your ride.

I’m just feeling validated that I noticed the F-Market slip-up today as I watched “Milk” but wondered if I was wrong because it was clear that attention to historical detail was impressive in this film. And, I also did not react with criticism- just observation.

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