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New Boat Could Be on Display This Weekend

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Muni’s Otto Granados working on the body of Blackpool boat tram No. 233, October 29, 2013. George Bernal photo from our Facebook group.

The second Blackpool Boat Tram that Market Street Railway just acquired for Muni may be ready to show off as part of Muni Heritage Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

The Muni shops have already shortened the trolley pole tower that sits above the tram’s center cab (used in Blackpool because their double-deckers require higher trolley wire, but too tall for our wire height). They’re also repairing minor bumper damage incurred at the English museum where it was picked up. They’ll soon reconnect the power and test it to ensure it runs as it did in England. If successful, it could be on display on The Embarcadero near our San Francisco Railway Museum this weekend. Public rides will have to wait until next summer, though Muni’s other boat tram, No. 228, may be carrying passengers part of Heritage Weekend.

Here’s the official news release on the new boat:

“BOAT TRAM” TO BE UNVEILED IN SAN FRANCISCO FedEx Trade Networks, global freight forwarding arm of FedEx, handled transport of this highly iconic vehicle from the United Kingdom.

SAN FRANCISCO, October 30, 2013 — A very unusual, very popular transit vehicle has crossed the Atlantic to resume its career of delighting riders on a waterfront route, albeit two oceans away from its original home. Bay Area residents and transportation enthusiasts will be able to view it this Saturday and Sunday during Muni Heritage Weekend, taking place near the city’s famed Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street.

The 1934 “boat tram” from Blackpool, England “set sail” on board a cargo ship September 24 to join a twin in San Francisco, California, for planned operation on the city’s famous “F-line,” which serves the Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown areas with historic streetcars from around the world. (Electric urban rail vehicles are called “trams” in the UK, and “streetcars” or “trolleys” in the US.)

The arrangement between two not-for-profit preservation groups aims to benefit historic transit operations in both San Francisco and Blackpool, by bringing a second boat tram to serve growing waterfront transit needs in the American city while providing funding to help restore a vintage double-deck Blackpool tram for possible future operation back on its home network.

Market Street Railway, which serves as the non-profit preservation partner of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (a department of the City and County of San Francisco), acquired boat tram No. 233 from the Lancastrian Transport Trust (LTT), a British non-profit, for an undisclosed sum. No. 233 is one of 12 trams LTT acquired from Blackpool Transport when the tramway declared them surplus to operational requirements.
Recently, LTT and Blackpool Transport have announced the merger of most of their historic collections for potential joint operation. However, since Blackpool Transport already has three boat trams, No. 233 was not included in this amalgamation and remained surplus. At the same time, LTT desired funding to continue its restoration of double-deck Blackpool Standard tram No. 143, built in 1924.

“This arrangement benefits all parties involved,” said Eric Berry, LTT Trustee. “We will now be able to continue restoration work on our historically important double-deck tram, whilst the three boat trams owned by Blackpool Transport continue to provide service there.”

“We’re delighted to have acquired this boat tram, while helping LTT fund its restoration project,” said Rick Laubscher, president of Market Street Railway. “San Francisco’s transit agency has been operating an identical boat tram for 30 years; it’s one of the most popular vehicles in the city’s vintage streetcar fleet. Acquiring No. 233, which we intend to donate to the city, will allow more people to ride this popular open-air vehicle type in San Francisco.”

Much of the cost of shipping the 42-foot long, 20,000 lb. boat tram was handled by FedEx Trade Networks, the freight forwarding arm of global shipping giant FedEx. “FedEx Trade Networks is honored to have been a part of this transcontinental move,” said Fred Schardt, president and CEO, FedEx Trade Networks. “We’ve shipped everything from underwater research tools to high-altitude equine housing units. But even for us, this represented a first.”

Twelve of these open-topped boat trams were built for Blackpool Transport, a public agency, in 1934. Three still occasionally operate in Blackpool along the promenade on the Irish Sea, to the delight of riders. Over subsequent decades, other boat trams ended up in museums (two in Britain, two in the U.S.) or were scrapped. One of these 12 boat trams, numbered 228, came to San Francisco in 1984 to participate in that city’s “Historic Trolley Festival,” a summertime demonstration project that grew into a full-time streetcar route called the F-line.

The F-line runs six miles from Fisherman’s Wharf along the waterfront and then along the city’s main street, Market Street, to reach the Castro District. The F-line carries approximately eight million riders per year as part of San Francisco’s regular transit system, called Muni, part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

For the past 18 months, No. 233 has been on loan from LTT to Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, located in County Durham, England, just south of Newcastle upon Tyne. There, it has joined several historic trams owned by the museum in ferrying visitors around the grounds. “We are glad for the opportunity to have had this boat tram visit us,” said Paul Jarman, Keeper of Transport of the Beamish Museum. “We wish it well in its new San Francisco home.”

About Market Street Railway Market Street Railway is an independent non-profit organization with more than 1,000 members that focuses on preserving historic transit in San Francisco. It serves as the preservation partner of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which owns and operates the city’s public transit system, known as Muni. Market Street Railway, founded in 1976, receives no government funding, relying on support from its members and donors and from the operation of its San Francisco Railway Museum.

About FedEx Trade Networks FedEx Trade Networks and its predecessor companies have more than 100 years of experience in international trade. The company’s advanced technology and network of worldwide locations and alliances enables it to provide comprehensive ocean and air international freight forwarding, customs brokerage, Global Order Logistics, distribution and surface transportation, trade advisory services, and advanced e-commerce and trade facilitation solutions. FedEx Trade Networks has the resources and support to help customers of all sizes navigate the intricacies of shipping goods globally. For more information, visit http://ftn.fedex.com.

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