Keep an Eye Out on I-80 for a Streetcar
July 18, 2012
It looks like the first of the four restored double-end PCC streetcars needed to start up E-line service is finally on its way to San Francisco, albeit 16 months later than the restoration contract specified. Sources tell us that PCC 1008, pictured below at the Brookville Equipment facility in Pennsylvania, is due to arrive at Muni on Friday, putting it somewhere along Interstate 80 at the moment.
We’re also told that the second of the four PCCs, No. 1006, painted identically to 1008 in its original 1948 Muni “Wings” livery, could be here in a couple of weeks. Before they could enter service, they need at least 1,000 miles of testing, according to the contract. It is conceivable that this could be accomplished before Muni’s pledged weekend America’s Cup service on the E-line August 25-26, but glitches with most of the single-end streetcars already received from Brookville in this restoration contract aren’t encouraging, especially since double-end streetcars have twice the number of doors (the new door systems installed in this group of cars have been balky) and controls to check.
Since these renovated cars must operate 20 years or more before their next big overhaul, we believe Muni should test them thoroughly before accepting them, and certainly shouldn’t rush the process just for a couple of days of service in August.
Meantime, we’ve gotten a sneak peak at another of the double-end PCCs at Brookville, courtesy of a Pennsylvania TV station that did a report recently on the opening of a new Brookville facility. We’re not able to embed that video here in this post, but if you follow this link and watch the video, you’ll see (just about one minute in) the reporter doing her standup on the steps of PCC No. 1009, resplendent in its tribute livery honoring Dallas Railway & Terminal Company, one of the few operators (other than Muni) to use double-end PCCs. Though the car looks ready to ship in this shot, it’s not clear what the schedule is. In most cases, months of work remain after painting before a streetcar is ready to ship. The fourth double-end PCC in the group, No. 1011, will be the last to return to Muni.
Meanwhile, we’ve learned that more resources have been provided to Muni maintenance to catch up on projects that were stalled for lack of manpower, including the installation of electronic switch controls (called VETAG) on long-sidelined 1914 Muni streetcar No. 130. If completed by late August, as now scheduled, this would in fact give Muni at least one spare double-end streetcar for that two-day America’s Cup service. No. 130 is very tired, both cosmetically and mechanically (hardly surprising for a 98-year old streetcar that has never had a full restoration, which it is slated for in the next few years). But there’s hope that it has enough left to help out on America’s Cup duties in the next 18 months before that restoration.
So, it’s possible Muni may be able to pull together the double-end streetcars they need for the August America’s Cup weekend after all. This requires that the currently operable double end PCCs (Nos. 1007, 1010, and 1015) stay that way; Melbourne No. 496, normally very reliable, doesn’t develop a long-term issue (it has been out recently with a motor problem but is due back in the next few days; 1914-vintage Muni No. 162 remains available, and No. 130 has its switch control installation completed and doesn’t encounter any other problems. If Muni can accomplish that without rushing the newly-returned PCCs into service prematurely, we’ll be the first to cheer.
By the way, we should note that all but one of the 12 single-end PCCs worked on by Brookville under this contract are now back in service, with Nos. 1075 (in Cleveland livery), 1076 (Washington DC), and 1077 (Birmingham) starting to carry passengers in the last month or so. This leaves only No. 1073 (honoring El Paso-Juarez) still being worked on. It ran into some problems during testing, and has fallen to the back of the pack, but work is underway again on it now.
You can always find the current status of every streetcar in Muni’s historic fleet here. Oh, and we don’t forget the cable cars either. Since we’re not part of Muni and receive no government money, your support is essential to keeping this information available and allowing us to advocate for the E-line and quality streetcar restorations. Please consider joining us as a member, or donating now. Thanks.