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Page Two / Our not-so-latest posts.

Celebrating Dashiell Hammett's 120th Birthday

Dashiell Hammett was born May 27, 1894. He essentially created the modern detective novel. His most famous fictional character was Sam Spade. To celebrate Hammett’s 120th birthday, and the enduring greatness of the Spade character, we’re providing a link to a feature article that appeared nine years ago in our member newsletter, Inside Track. It tells the story of how Hammett wove his own rail riding experiences in San Francisco (both streetcars and cable cars) in to his novels. Check it out, and remember, most of the members-only content in our newsletter never makes it to the web. So if you love our historic streetcars and cable cars, or San Francisco history in general, please consider joining Market Street Railway.

Tipple Your Way Along the F-line

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The Twin Peaks bar is right at the F-line Castro terminal. Photo (c) Elrond Lawrence.

We’re not in the business of promoting booze, but San Francisco is, after all, a great drinking town, and if you’re going to do that, you need a designated driver.

How about letting an F-line operator fill that role, by patronizing establishments along the route? Our friends at Thrillist have put together a list of bars and restaurants all along the F-line with dandy libations waiting for you along the way.

Take a look here for the entire list. From the Twin Peaks at Castro and Market to Pier 23 (and beyond), it’s a great ride!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a different kind of guide to the F-line, without the bars but with just about everything else concerning the historic streetcars (and cable cars too), drop by our San Francisco Railway Museum or click here to buy our new book ON TRACK.

Last Restored Double-End PCC Joins Active Fleet

The last of its class is now back in service, fully restored.

Muni was one of the few transit agencies that owned PCC streetcars that could be operated in regular service from either end. These double-end streetcars had significantly more flexibility than their much more common single-end cousins. Muni purchased a group of ten from St. Louis Car Company in 1948 and added them to a group of five similar-looking cars that were not technically PCCs, purchased in 1939.

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PCC No. 1011 on Market Street during testing, May 5, 2014. Copyrighted photo by Peter Ehrlich

The ten bought in 1948, known inside Muni as “torpedoes,” because of their extra length and shape, were oddly assigned to lines, such as the N-Judah, that didn’t need double-end cars, and were soon converted to operate as single-end cars. In that capacity, these cars, Nos. 1006-1015, soldiered on through the early 1980s. Two, Nos. 1012 and 1013, were scrapped along the way, and one, No. 1014, was put on permanent loan by Muni to a museum in Australia. The other seven though, survived, and now, the last of these, No. 1011, has finished testing following a full restoration and is available for regular service.

This car is painted in tribute to our namesake organization, Muni’s old competitor Market Street Railway Company (MSRy), which dreamed of owning modern streetcars like the PCC in the late 1930s, but could never afford them. The striking livery features the solid white ends that were a trademark of MSRy, and its “zip stripe” on the sides echoes what they put on some of their old streetcars to make them look, well, zippy. It has garnered many positive comments on the street during testing. Some have said it is also a fitting livery because today’s Market Street Railway led advocacy efforts to preserve and then restore this special group of historic streetcars.

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No. 1011 on its way out of town for restoration in 2010. It had been in storage for almost 30 years and had been vandalized in that time.

Three of the other six restored double-end PCCs are in Muni livery (No. 1010 in the blue and gold of the original double-end 1939 streamliners) and Nos. 1006 and 1008 in the green and cream “wings” 1948 livery in which they were delivered.) The others pay tribute to other cities that ran double-ended PCCs. You can explore the story of each of these streetcars by clicking here.

No. 1011 entered passenger service at 9 a.m., May 15, 2014. Keep an eye out for No. 1011 on the street by following the live F-line map, and go ride it while it still has that “new car smell.”

Welcome back to the fleet, No. 1011.

Walgreen's Invents New Transit Vehicle

Underneath the very intersection of historic transit in San Francisco, in the basement of the old Emporium (now a food court named — wait for it — the Food Emporium), is a shiny new Walgreen’s. Kind of a mini-Walgreen’s, actually. There are a couple of bigger ones within a block or two (are drug stores multiplying like Starbucks?)

Anyway, just so you don’t think you’re dealing with some kind of national chain or anything, they’ve got a sign saying they’ve been in San Francisco since 1937. And to PROVE it, they’ve got a drawing of a cable car. With a trolley pole on top. Wait. No, it’s a streetcar. Running on a cable car track. (Dear railfans, no lectures on Washington DC or Manhattan streetcar conduit systems, please. And no, we don’t think they intended to show the old Fillmore Hill counterbalance.)

Wait, maybe it’s a hybrid.

Or maybe it’s just a mistake.

Dear Walgreen’s-in-San Francisco-since-1937. Look here to learn the difference between how streetcars and cable cars look and work. And oh, by the way, we’ve got a great field guide for you to carry in your Market Street stores. (Smile.)

Photo of the (Past) Moment: Centenarian at Birth

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Muni streetcar No. 130, still in service, at Geary and Grant, c. 1920. Click to enlarge.

This year, two Muni streetcars celebrate their centennials. Both were bought from the Jewett Car Company of Ohio in 1914 as part of an order of 125 streetcars to serve lines Muni was then building to serve the following year’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

These two streetcars, No. 130 (now painted in its later 1940s blue and gold livery) and No. 162 (now under repair) are the only two streetcars remaining from that group of 125.

One the lines Muni opened initially with the Exposition in mind was the D-Van Ness. It ran from the Ferry via Market, Geary, Van Ness, and Union Streets. Initially, It then followed new tracks on Steiner, Greenwich and Scott Streets to reach the Exposition grounds at Chestnut. After the fair was over, the tracks on Scott were torn out and the line was extended on Greenwich into the Presidio, the route it followed until the D-line ended in 1950. Click here for a great story by Grant Ute on how Muni served the fair.

Here’s the earliest shot we’ve ever seen of No. 130. It’s on the D-line, Ferry-bound on Geary at Grant. The end sections have been glazed, as Muni did with all its streetcars once it learned how much riders hated the original open end sections out in the Fog Belt. That was done in the late 1910s, so this shot probably dates to the early 1920s.

We found this little gem yesterday at the Hunter’s Point Artists Open Studio Event, a wonderful way to spend a spring afternoon. The original print (which we would love to find) had been copied by Stacey Carter, an artist who specializes in historic industrial, military, and transportation scenes. You can see her work here. Thanks to Stacey for letting us share the shot.

Oh, one more thing. The D-line was probably most famous for a conductor who supposedly worked on it and was dubbed Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-car line. Click that link for a fun story. (Hint: his shenanigans didn’t happen on the D.)

Our non-profit helps preserve not only photos and stories that illuminate our city’s transit history, but also the very streetcars themselves. In fact, we purchased No. 162 from a museum and helped Muni restore it for service on the F-line. Please consider joining or supporting us. Thanks!

"The Streetcar Named Common Sense"

That’s how Joel P. Engardio, columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, described Market Street Railway’s proposal to extend the E-Embarcadero line, south through Mission Bay and Dogpatch, sharing existing tracks of the T-Third light rail line.

In his April 27 column, Engardio cited strong support for the extended line in the neighborhoods it would serve. “We are exploding with development and we need more transit options,” Engardio quoted Janet Carpinelli, president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, as saying. “Putting in the E-line is a no-brainer, especially when the T-line is so inefficient.”

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A Milan tram passes a T-line light rail vehicle on Third Street at 23rd Street in Dogpatch.Since October 2012, Muni’s Milan trams have been housed at Muni Metro East a few blocks away, with no incidences of them interfering with T-line operations when they enter and leave service via Third Street through Mission Bay and Dogpatch. This part of Third Street is slated for major residential and commercial development. Photo Copyright Peter Ehrlich.

The column also supported our belief that the relocation of the proposed Warriors Arena site to Third and 16th Streets makes E-line service through Mission Bay and Dogpatch even more important.

Engardio also laid out the case for extending the E-line at its other end, from Fisherman’s Wharf to serve Aquatic Park, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Ghirardelli Square, and Fort Mason.

Again, here’s the link to Engardio’s column.

Streetcar History Talk at California Historical Society April 30

Here’s an announcement from the California Historical Society about a talk Wednesday, April 30, at 6 pm at their headquarters, 678 Mission Street, between Second and Third. Come by and chat with Rick!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 6:00pm Ten Lions Talks - How Streetcars and Cable Cars Shaped San Francisco’s History San Francisco wouldn’t be the same without its colorful streetcars and cable cars. These vintage forms of public transit are not only practical ways to explore the city, they’re “joy rides” that jangle through a mix of historic buildings and vibrant new development, filling your ears with the sound of cables clicking as steel wheels rumble under your feet. At the same time, they’re a fleet of unique traveling museums. Rick Laubscher, author and president of Market Street Railway, will tell a few of the remarkable stories of San Francisco’s cable cars and streetcars detailed in his new book, On Track. Part travel and field guide, part civic and engineering history, this book has everything—from illustrations and specs to a trainspotter’s checklist.

Free for CHS and Heyday members

$5 general admission

California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco

RSVP here

In partnership with Heyday

Warriors Arena in Mission Bay Boosts Importance of Extending the E-Line

The Warriors now say their future lies on the border of Mission Bay and Dogpatch, instead of a mile farther north on Piers 30-32. The 125-foot tall, 18,000-seat arena the basketball team proposed to build over the Bay along the southern Embarcadero is now slated for a site the Warriors just bought on the east side of Third Street, between South and 16th Streets.

Unlike the Pier 30-32 site, this site fits within current zoning and would need only a fraction of the approvals and reviews of the pier site. Prominent opponents of the pier site, including former Mayor Art Agnos and former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, are cheering the Warriors’ choice of the Mission Bay site, so while no proposed development ever encounters totally smooth sailing in San Francisco, this one looks to have a strong chance of actually getting built.

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A vintage PCC streetcar, in special service, pauses at the station on Third Street that would serve the new Warriors arena, as a T-line light rail vehicle heads in the other direction. Market Street Railway advocates permanent E-line vintage streetcar service through Mission Bay and Dogpatch by the time the Warriors arena opens, slated for 2018. Copyrighted photo by Kevin Sheridan.

That makes the extension of the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line even more important. Muni’s parent, SFMTA, now says they’ll begin preliminary weekend service on the E-line next year, but only between the Caltrain Depot (Fourth and King Streets) and Fisherman’s Wharf. As our members and readers of this blog know well, Market Street Railway is joined by a growing number of neighborhood and business groups in advocating the extension of the E-line, west from the Wharf to Fort Mason on new track, and south from Caltrain along the existing T-line tracks on Third Street, terminating at Muni Metro East at Cesar Chavez and Illinois Streets.

This southern extension would connect the rapidly multiplying residential developments in Mission Bay and Dogpatch, the fast-growing UCSF Mission Bay campus, the Giants’ mixed-use development just south of China Basin and the large proposed developments at Pier 70 with all the waterfront attractions to the north, including the Ferry Building, the Exploratorium, and the Wharf area.

The E-line extension was already justified, in our view, by the existing and in-process developments alone. Add a new arena that will host in excess of 200 events a year, and an extended E-line becomes a necessity to avoid gridlock in the neighborhood.

Remember that the T-Third light rail line, which currently turns east at Fourth and King to follow the waterfront before dipping into the Market Street Subway, will be rerouted into the Central Subway when it’s finished in 2019. That’s great for those moving between the arena and Moscone Center, Powell Street BART, Union Square, and Chinatown, but it also means no more direct rail service from Mission Bay and Dogpatch to the southern Embarcadero. An extended E-line would provide that service and continue to popular destinations to the north, up to and including Fisherman’s Wharf. The E-line makes it easy to combine a day or meal at the Wharf with an evening event at the arena.

You can read about, and download our comprehensive vision for the E-line here. Note that since we published our vision last year, we’ve joined Dogpatch neighbors and businesses in advocating that the E-line extend farther south than shown in the document, all the way through Dogpatch.

We’ll continue to work with neighborhood and business groups along the E-line to make our vision a reality. It’s clearly needed more now than ever.