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Railway Museum Exhibits & Features

The San Francisco Railway Museum features both permanent and special exhibits that entertain and inform visitors about how streetcars and cable cars built the unique city we know today.

Current Exhibits

Joy Ride: The Trolley Festivals That Gave Birth To The F-Line

It was 1983. The city’s famous cable cars were no longer climbing halfway to the starts. In fact, that entire National Landmark system was being demolished to the dirt for a total reconstruction.

The Democratic National Convention was due in San Francisco the following summer, along with millions of regular visitors. Could anything replace the cable cars while they were gone? A small group of business people and railfans had an idea. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Come find out how these Trolley Festivals made history!

Take Me Out!


For almost a century in San Francisco, the ‘family car’ was a streetcar or cable car that ran on rails, not just for commuting or shopping, but for any trip that stretched farther than a few blocks from home. Riding the rails around town wasn’t just a way to get there; it was an enjoyable escape.

Market Street Railway, in collaboration with Muni and the San Francisco Public Library, celebrates the days when the streetcar was just the ticket to experience art, athletics, and the outdoors — a ride to freedom and fun for a nickel — in a new exhibit at the San Francisco Railway Museum entitled Take Me Out.

The exhibit features vintage photos and artifacts of bygone San Francisco destinations served by streetcar, such as Playland, Seals Stadium, Sutro Baths, Fleishhacker Pool, the Fox Theater, and more. An accompanying video mixes vintage motion picture film of San Francisco at the height of its streetcar era with remembrances of men and women who rode the cars to attractions all over town.

Permanent Features


The museum also permanently displays a variety of wonderful artifacts telling the story of the city’s transportation history, including dash signs, fare boxes, even a famed Wiley ‘birdcage’ traffic signal, the peculiar way San Francisco’s intersections were controlled for decades.

The centerpiece of the museum is a faithful replica of the motorman’s platform of a 1911 San Francisco streetcar, a class of 100 streetcars of which no originals survived. This display includes a complete set authentic operating equipment that kids of all ages can manipulate to learn how typical electric streetcars work.


David Dugan photo.

This display ties in with our future ‘Teaching Trolley’ project, which will feature an actual vintage streetcar operating in service on the lines, outfitted with an onboard educational curriculum that will also be made available to schools and parents through a special section of the streetcar.org website.

To fulfill our goal of making this a ’21st century museum honoring 19th Century technology’, much of the museum’s content is virtual: video touchscreens where visitors can access a variety of material, including historic motion picture footage and photographs and electronic versions of special exhibits that have previously been mounted in the museum space.