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Fleet Updates / News and updates about the operations, acquisitions and restoration of San Francisco's historic streetcars and cable cars

On Donner!

Two beautiful sights in one: snow falling this morning on Donner Summit (keep it coming!) and PCC No. 1009, painted in tribute to Dallas, headed back to San Francisco. MSR Member James Giraudo caught this great action shot.

No. 1009 arrived safely in the city this afternoon, completing its return trip to Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania for refitting of the traditional-style door motors that work better than the computerized ones installed during the recent overhaul program.

No. 1009 should be back in service soon. Meanwhile, its twin, No. 1011, painted to honor our namesake, Market Street Railway Company (which wanted, but could never afford, PCCs) has been going through its “burn-in” period, where operators test the car without passengers for 1,000 miles to ensure everything works as it should. No word yet on when that car might enter service.

The "Euro-PCC" is Back in Action.

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Photo by Brice Crandall, San Francisco Railway Museum. Click to enlarge.

After an extended absence, the most exotic looking PCC streetcar in Muni’s fleet is carrying passengers again, working the F-line shuttle run from the Wharf to the Ferry Building yesterday (Saturday, February 15, 2014), after a prolonged absence waiting for some parts specific to the car, followed by operator training, led by Muni’s Robert Parks.

You can read all about this streetcar here. The slender design (just 7’3” wide, almost two feet narrower than the F-line’s widest cars) was needed for narrow European streets. This car was built for and ran its whole life in Brussels, but after it got to San Francisco, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom asked that it be painted to honor San Francisco’s sister city of Zurich, Switzerland, which ran skinny trams of the same general body type (though not with the patented PCC components designed by an American group of transit leaders, called the Presidents’ Conference Committee, in the mid-1930s).

The juxtaposition of a livery that honors a Swiss city coupled with an interior that still has signs in French and Flemish, Belgium’s two languages, is understandably confusing, so we’ve taken to referring to No. 737 as the “Euro-PCC” to cover all the bases. It’s fun to ride, so start looking for it on the F-line.

Brussels 'Sprouts' in the (Premature) Spring


Jeremy Whiteman photo. All rights reserved.

Okay, enough with the bad puns. Point is that a historic streetcar long missing from the streets is running again. European PCC No. 737, which served Brussels, Belgium for a half-century, was out for testing last Saturday, while the rest of the historic streetcars took a break because of track construction on Market Street. The tram, confusingly painted to honor San Francisco’s sister city, Zurich, Switzerland at the request of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, reportedly performed well during trials on the J, L, and M lines. Jeremy Whiteman took this great shot on 19th Avenue near Junipero Serra on the M-line, with early poppies providing color and perhaps a slight echo of Flanders fields near the tram’s original home.

The tram was acquired from a broker in Brussels 10 years ago when Muni was looking for possible additional groups of streetcars for the F-line. Since the car was a European version of a PCC, with many of the same components, the thinking went it would be easy to maintain. But the tram had been modified over the years with a number of now-obsolete electronic components and other changes had been made that took awhile to remedy, so the car’s service has been sporadic.

It is still an important part of the fleet, and Saturday’s tests sparked encouragement that the tram could soon enter regular service again. A few tweaks are still needed; then it’s on to operator training. We hope to see the tram in service soon.

No Way to Start Its Centennial Year!

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Tim Jue photo via the Market Street Railway Facebook group.

A collision involving historic streetcar No. 162 early Saturday afternoon (January 4) caused significant but hopefully largely cosmetic damage to the vintage vehicle, which had just begun its centennial year of service. In an article, the Chronicle grossly overstated the extent of the damage, describing the streetcar as “totaled,” which is simply wrong.

Purchased by Muni in 1914 from the Jewett Car Company of Ohio, No. 162 was one of an order of 125 streetcars obtained to serve new routes built initially to serve the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It was headed south on The Embarcadero at Bay Street when it collided with a tractor-trailer rig loaded with an oceangoing container.

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the accident. Very fortunately, injuries are reported to be minor. Also fortunately, the underframe of the streetcar slipped under the chassis of the trailer, avoiding what could have been severe damage to the streetcar frame, which is far more difficult to repair than the wooden cab structure, which is designed to absorb impact in just this way. The streetcar’s controls were also bent badly, and the extent of damage there will have to be evaluated.

No. 162 retired from its first Muni career in 1958, then spent 45 years at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside County before being reacquired in 2003 by Market Street Railway for Muni, through donations from our members. Following a period of restoration, No. 162 returned to service in 2008.

It is hoped repairs to No.162 can begin soon. Muni’s shops are experts in this kind of damage repair, with both experienced electrical and mechanical workers and the best team of transit carpenters shop in the country, who support both the cable cars and historic streetcars.

Toot Toot!


Muni’s “newest” streetcar, 1934 Blackpool boat tram No. 233, ran under its own power today at Cameron Beach Yard, less than a week after it arrived in San Francisco from England. Enormous credit goes to Muni’s vintage streetcar shop crew, who swarmed the boat upon arrival. They repaired bumper and panel damage incurred at the museum that had custody of it (that’s the repaired end in the photo), painted all the seats, cut down the tower atop the center cab (which came disassembled anyway), so that the car would work under our lower wire, painted and installed the new tower, trolley base and trolley pole, and reconnected the power.


And it worked.

The plan calls for testing Friday, followed by a trip to our San Francisco Railway Museum, where the car will be on display Saturday and Sunday. No public rides yet, but just looking at it will make most people smile.

Congratulations to the Muni maintenance team for a fantastic effort!

New Boat Could Be on Display This Weekend


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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