"I'm Ugly Now, But Just Wait..."
June 25, 2011
The last of Muni’s precious fleet of double-end PCC streamliner streetcars is now on the road, headed for Broookville, Pennsylvania and complete rebuilding under Muni’s contract to bring 16 more fully restored PCCs to San Francisco’s streets.
And boy, does this one need restoration.You could call it the ultimate test.
Quick background: Of the almost 5,000 PCC streetcars manufactured in the U.S. between 1936 and 1952, only about one percent was double-ended: the operator can just switch ends and go back the other way without the need for a track loop. The forthcoming E-line from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf, promised in time for America’s Cup in 2013, needs double-end cars to start up.
Muni bought 10 of these rare double-enders in 1948; eight survived until retirement in the 1980s; one of these is now at a museum in Australia. Of the seven still in Muni hands, three are on the street now, painted in tribute liveries to cities that ran double-end PCCs (Nos. 1007, 1010, and 1015). The remaining four are part of the current contract with Brookville Equipment Company. Nos. . and 1008 went to Brookville first and should return later this year, both painted in their original 1948 Muni green and cream “Wings” livery. No. 1011 followed them east more recently and will return in a tribute livery to our namesake, Market Street Railway, Muni’s private competitor, which dreamed of ordering double-end PCCs but could never afford to. All of these double-enders, including No. 1009 (which will be painted in tribute to Dallas) are being completely rebuilt to like-new condition, but with modern communications capabilities and full accessibility.
No. 1009, shown here, is in by far the worst condition of the group. After retirement, it was stored outdoors on a Bay pier for almost 30 years. Vandals got into it and lit a fire at one point. Parts were stolen at other times. But these rare double-end vehicles are also among the highest capacity PCCs ever built, and thus valuable for E-line service. So, it was included in the bid package. These cars originally had wood and canvas roofs, a carryover from old streetcar practice. This accounts for the “sunroof” you see. When it’s rebuilt, it will have a steel roof, like the ones already restored.
The contract, covering complete rewiring of 11 PCCs and total rebuilding of five others, comes in at more than $18 million, averaging more than $1.1 million per car. By comparison, a new modern streetcar costs considerably more than twice that figure, and a new light rail vehicle (like Muni’s Breda LRVs) about four times as much.
All of the streetcars in the order are expected to be back and operational in time for America’s Cup. The single-end PCCs in the order will allow for increased service on the F-line, while the four double-end PCCs, plus the three already in service, will form the base fleet for the E-line, the tracks, wires, and stations for which are already in place, sharing the southern Embarcadero with N and T line LRVs and the northern Embarcadero with the F-line.