E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service.

As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and coasting through the switch, but Cars 1009 (above, photo by Paul Lucas) and 1015 (below) do not coast freely enough to reliably clear the switch. It is a very odd problem, like nothing we’ve heard before. Muni management claims they are working to diagnose the problem with the switch and fix it.

In the meantime, Muni maintenance has pulled out all the stops to keep those two cars off the E-line as much as they can, but it’s not always possible. Yesterday (February 1), both 1009 and 1015 were on the line, with blank destination signs when heading southbound, and cards in the windshield stating their final destination was the ballpark stop at Second and King Streets. The cars then turn left at Fourth Street onto the T-line and reverse at the crossover on Channel Street, across the Fourth Street Bridge (below).

What this means is that riders waiting for a Wharf-bound E-line car at the Caltrain stop face a double headway when these cars are in service, since they can’t make the Caltrain stop. Given the problems Muni has had keeping regular headways on the E-line anyway, this can mean a wait of up to an hour between Wharf-bound E-line trains for riders. Muni has put up signs at the Caltrain E-line stop alerting riders to this problem and suggesting they walk (or take an N-Judah) two blocks east to the Second and King stop instead.

Market Street Railway has strongly recommended that Muni address this problem by assigning double-end vintage cars to the E-line to provide steady, reliable service to all stops. Melbourne 496, New Orleans 952 (shown below in 2008), and Muni cars No. 1 and 130, all on the active roster, have all used the Sixth and King terminal during earlier E-line demonstration service without incident.

Muni, however, has responded to our recommendation by saying that because of its continuing shortage of qualified streetcar operators — a problem that has gone on for well over a year now — it is unable to supply the second crew member (a conductor) required on those particular streetcars. (Substituting buses for streetcars on the E-line is not an option because the right-of-way south of the Ferry Building is paved in a way that is rougher than the F-line right-of-way north of the Ferry Building, making bus operation unfeasible.)

While we appreciate that Muni didn’t cancel these E-line runs altogether, this erratic service pattern on the E-line discourages the growth of ridership, especially among residents along the line looking for a reliable service. We will keep you up to date on this problem.

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Clarifying the 1947 Threat to the Cable Cars

This week is the 70th anniversary of the failed effort by Mayor Roger Lapham (at left in the photo above) to “junk the cable cars.” It’s truly something to celebrate, and it has engendered several news articles, such as this badly flawed one, which confuses the cable cars with streetcars and doesn’t know how to spell “trolley” and this one recounting the fight.

Most of these accounts get a fundamental point wrong, and it’s an important one.  Lapham’s misguided effort was only aimed at the two Powell Street lines. Even if he had succeeded, the three lines run by the private California Street Cable Railway Company (Cal Cable) would have remained, and they made up more trackage than the two Powell Street lines.

The Powell lines came under city ownership in 1944, when the private Market Street Railway Company (our namesake) was taken over. Lapham, a businessman with no government experience and no sentiment for history (sound familiar?) blindly ignored the affection San Franciscans felt for the cables and roused up powerful opposition led by Friedel Klussmann, who continued her stalwart defense of the cable cars for the rest of her life. Today, the failed cable car shutdown attempt is the only thing anyone remembers about Lapham’s time as mayor.

It should be pointed out, though, that IF he had succeeded in shutting down the Powell lines, the California lines might well have died out within a decade as well. If Muni had gone out of the cable car business in 1947, Friedel Klussmann and her allies might well have been unable to convince the city to take Cal Cable over and operate its lines when the private company went broke in 1951. The combined cable system ended up getting cut in half in 1954, leaving us with the arrangement we have now: two busy Powell lines branching out to Mason and Hyde to reach two parts of Fisherman’s Wharf, and a truncated California Street line that abruptly ends at Van Ness (it used to go past Fillmore all the way to Presidio Avenue) and attracts far fewer riders because of its route.

An important remaining tangible object of that failed 1947 shutdown is one of the ten Faegol Twin Coach motor buses Muni bought specifically to replace the Powell cable cars. Lapham used these buses, which looked very modern for the era (and featured the same bodies as a fleet of trolley buses Muni bought a few years later) as props to try to convince voters to scrap the cables. One of the buses was even posed misleadingly next to a Cal Cable car, which as we said was not threatened by Lapham’s proposal (photo below).

The buses were assigned to other lines and were ultimately retired. Muni reacquired No. 0163 from a museum many years ago. Market Street Railway volunteers helped refurbish it cosmetically after it arrived in town, and we’ve asked Muni to display it this fall for Muni Heritage Weekend, the annual celebration of San Francisco transit history we co-sponsor with Muni’s parent, SFMTA. The dates for this celebration have not yet been finalized, but it’s looking like September 9-10.

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Merry Christmas…Transit-wise

There’s a long tradition in San Francisco of celebrating the holiday season with streetcars and cable cars.msry-christmas-car-1930s-copy

In the 1930’s, our namesake, Market Street Railway Company (Muni’s privately owned competitor) decorated its all-white private car (named the “San Francisco”, normally used to take school kids on field trips) for Christmas and New Year’s and ran it around town as a goodwill billboard.

santacade-washington-masonIn the 1950’s, the Emporium department store, on Market opposite Powell (where Bloomingdales is today) would charter a cable car with a specially strengthened roof to bring Santa to the store. The “Santacade” always drew big crowds, including a generation of kids who believed that the REAL Santa was at the “Big E” because of course Santa would take the cable car!  (That cable car, by the way, is the one now on the centerfield arcade at AT&T Park.)

1010-west-portal-xmas-portalAlso in the 1950s, West Portal merchants turned the portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel into a fireplace (another proof that Santa rode Muni!!). The streetcar shown, 1010, is one of the ones saved from destruction thanks in large measure to the advocacy of our non-profit, and runs today on the E-Embarcadero line (another of our advocacy successes).

dsc_5248In recent years, Market Street Railway volunteers have decorated one or more F-line historic streetcars. We look to resume this next year when the streetcars have returned to Cameron Beach Yard (shown here) from their temporary quarters at Muni Metro East off Third Street. This year, as always, we’ve decorated the F-line and E-line streetcars with wreaths.

DSC04133.JPGFor sheer enthusiasm and beauty, nothing beats the cable cars decorated every year by gripman and cable car historian Val Lupiz. This year’s prize is Powell Car number 1, in the original 1888 livery of the Powell cable lines with wonderful decorations inside and out. Our volunteers assisted Val and friends in bringing this joy to the streets of San Francisco this season. (Val took the shot below; the others come from our archives.)

powell-1-2016-xmasAs 2016 ends, we at Market Street Railway thanks our 1,000 members and our friends for their ongoing support. We invite everyone who loves the cable cars, streetcars, and San Francisco history in general to join us or support us, to make 2017 a year of preservation and celebration of historic transit.

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Unique SF Transit Gifts at our Museum Store

Looking for unique holiday gifts for friends and family, kids and former kids? Look no further than our San Francisco Railway Museum and Online Store.

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We’ve got a whole range of new merchandise you can’t find anywhere else, because we designed it ourselves in support of our mission to preserve and celebrate historic transit in San Francisco.

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We’ve got four new 11-ounce mugs featuring images from our Vintage Travel Series — original art we commissioned in the style of classic travel posters celebrating destinations along the historic streetcar and cable car lines.

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We’ve got several of these images now available on canvas tote bags too. We have all eight as posters, framed prints, and magnets.

We have magnets for almost every streetcar in the vintage fleet.

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Did we mention tee shirts? We’ve got a crop of new ones, including shirts for both kids and adults celebrating “The Streetcars of San Francisco,” and one especially for dog lovers.

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Speaking of kids, we now have two puzzles available, a 20-piece one for toddlers, and a 100-piece one for a little older child. And, pictured at the top of this post, we have a wonderful wooden model of famed PCC streetcar 1040, the last PCC ever built in North America, sized to fit with standard kids’ wooden train track (like the Thomas the Tank Engine sets).

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And for a laugh, we’ve even made it possible for you to turn Muni off (or on!) whenever you like with this cool light switch cover, one of two we offer. (Thanks to Jeremy Whiteman for the great photo of car 1040 we used, including the Z-Zoo route.)

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There’s a lot more to see and shop for as well, including our exclusive 2017 “Museums in Motion” calendar and our field guide to the city’s historic streetcars and cable cars, On Track.

So either come on down to the Museum at 77 Steuart Street (Steuart Street F-line stop), across from the Ferry Building, between 10 am and 5 pm from Tuesday through Sunday (we’re closed Mondays), or click here to shop online. Move quickly if you want to shop online though. We are unable to offer overnight delivery options so be sure you place your order in time to get it for the holidays. And we do have a wider selection of merchandise at the Museum than we’re able to offer online.

Remember, every purchase you make helps our non-profit Market Street Railway in its mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. Happy Holidays!

 

 

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Take Famed Streetcar No. 1 to See “Lost Landscapes”

  Rick Prelinger’s “Lost Landscapes: San Francisco” is celebrating its eleventh year at the Castro Theater in December. What better way to get there for the showing on Wednesday, December 7, than a ride on Muni’s very first streetcar, car 1, built in 1912. The streetcar ride to the Castro Theater will follow a special reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Here’s a brief description of “Lost Landscapes 11”: This year’s program features new scenes of San Franciscans working, playing, marching and partying during the Great Depression; unseen footage of Seals Stadium and the Cow Palace in the late 1930s; the reconstruction of Market Street and Embarcadero Plaza in the 1970s; rare footage of southeastern San Francisco and the Hunters Point drydock; the 1975 Gay Freedom Day parade; a 1940s-era ode to our fog; many more newly discovered gems; and greatest hits from past programs. As always, the audience makes the soundtrack at the glorious Castro Theatre! Come prepared to identify places, people and events; to ask questions; and to engage in spirited real-time repartee with fellow audience members. Our special reception and charter is for people who already have tickets to “Lost Landscapes,” which almost always sells out, but at this posting… — Read More

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City Hall Avenue, Around 1913

Almost no one is still with us who actually saw the street named City Hall Avenue.  It ran parallel to Market Street, half a block north, and stretched just two blocks between Leavenworth and Larkin Streets. The massive but poorly built City Hall and neighboring Hall of Records filled the north side of the street. Because of the municipal buildings, it was an important street, at least until April 18, 1906, when the giant earthquake shook the shoddily built City Hall to the ground. As an important street, it rated a streetcar line, the Tenth and Montgomery line of United Railroads, a meandering route that started at Tenth and Bryant, crossed Market, zigzagged on Polk and Grove to run along City Hall Avenue, then turned north on Leavenworth to Post, Post to Montgomery (where those two streets intersect Market Street), and then north via Montgomery and Washington to Kearny Street. In the photo above, looking west from Leavenworth Street and dated around 1913, City Hall Avenue looks like a ghost town. The old City Hall is gone, with plans being made to build the grand new one we love today two blocks away. The Hall of Records, not too badly damaged in the quake, has been… — Read More

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Rainy Day on Market, World War II

  Weather forecast says rain’s on the way for the Bay Area. As good a time as any to share this photo of Market Street, looking east from Fifth Street, taken during World War II (likely 1943 or early 1944). Rich detail in this photo. The blue and gold N-Judah on the outside track is trying to squeeze past the automobile so it can catch up to the competing 5-McAllister streetcar (with the flashy “zip stripe” on the side) of our namesake, Market Street Railway. American flags and a striped banner hang from the streetcar span wires. The switches from the inside tracks to Fifth Street, where the 40-line interurbans to San Mateo terminated, are visible around the traffic cop with his bright raincoat (was it white or yellow?). Engulfed in the crowd at the extreme center right of the shot (to the left of the word “The” for the Owl Drug Company store at the corner) is the patented Wiley “birdcage” traffic signal unique to San Francisco. How were motorists and streetcar motormen expected to see it? (You can see an operating one at our San Francisco Railway Museum.) Next to the birdcage, a small porcelain traffic sign, put there… — Read More

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Don’t Miss Fred Lyon’s Photo Exhibition

Today, the New York Times’ Lens blog posted a long-overdue tribute to one of San Francisco’s greatest street photographers, Fred Lyon. The post includes 16 great San Francisco images, including the one above, one of our favorite shots, showing a pipe-puffing businessman in the late 1940s helping the crew push a Powell Street cable car off the turntable, not an uncommon site back then. There’s a great free exhibition of Fred Lyon’s San Francisco photos showing through October 21 at the Leica Gallery, 463 Bush Street.  If you miss it, you’ll be sorry. We also recommend you purchase his great coffee table book, San Francisco Then, available at  at the Leica Gallery and also at our San Francisco Railway Museum. We also have a great set of notecards at the museum featuring Fred’s San Francisco images. Take time to savor the work of this San Francisco treasure, still active at 92!

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Terrific Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend was the best of the five that have taken place so far. Biggest crowds, more kids and families, more vintage vehicles operating, more variety in the routes operated. Kudos to everyone involved on Muni’s side — and there were dozens, operators, mechanics, supervisors, and more, directed by Ed Cobean. Here are a few shots of the action. The weekend started with a ceremonial run of O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42 over Hyde Street trackage it hadn’t felt in 62 years. The car, under the command of ace grip Val Lupiz, operated like a charm. The old Hyde terminal was just a switch, because the cars were double ended. Val took the opportunity to put the car on the Turntable, using the switch at the terminal to change tracks first, so photographers could get the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. (No, it doesn‘t fit on the turntable.)   Muni’s fabled streetcar number 1 was out and about, signed for its original route, the “A-Geary.” This weekend, it operated along Market to Castro on Saturday on the F-line and to Pier 39 on The Embarcadero on Sunday. 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Muni’s… — Read More

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Here Comes Muni Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend got off to a great start with a special reception, sponsored by Market Street Railway, honoring San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board Chair Tom Nolan, who just received a prestigious industry award. The universally-respected Nolan, a steady hand in leading SFMTA for many years, was just named board member of the year by the American Public Transportation Association. Following the invitation-only reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum, everyone hopped on 1934 Blackpool, England boat tram 233 for a sail along The Embarcadero to Pier 39 and back, spotting a bigger boat at the Pier 27 Cruise Ship Terminal.  (Click the center of the screen below to see!) The new-but-traditional colored lights on this boat were made possible by contributions at the museum to our “Float the Boats” fund, enhancing these two wonderful ambassadors from Blackpool. Boat tram 233 itself was brought to San Francisco by Market Street Railway in 2013 and given to Muni thanks to a generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping underwritten in part by FedEx Trade Networks. Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25, starting at 10 a.m. and wrapping up between 4 and 5 p.m., there’ll be lots of vintage transit action.… — Read More

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