San Francisco Municipal Railway (1940s)
Built 1948 • Operational • Tribute livery
This car is painted in tribute to the ‘Magic Carpets’, as Muni’s first five modern-design streetcars were known.
When the PCC streetcar debuted in 1936, some cities lined up quickly to buy them, but in San Francisco, the privately-owned Market Street Railway Co. couldn’t afford further capital investments, while the Municipal Railway was prohibited by the City Charter from paying patent royalties covering several PCC features.
Muni’s solution was to have these five streetcars custom built without the patented items. The double-end ‘Magic Carpets,’ numbered from 1001 to 1005, arrived in 1939, wearing this blue & gold livery. They made every other San Francisco streetcar look old-fashioned with their sleek appearance, which even included wheel covers that made the cars look like they were hovering, rather than rolling, along the street - hence the nickname.
While the five cars looked identical, they featured a mix of trucks and controls, perhaps to evaluate options for future purchases. As it turned out, of course, World War II precluded any thought of buying more for the duration.
By the time Muni had funding for more new streetcars, St. Louis Car Company, which built the ‘Magic Carpets,’ had revamped its PCC design, and, importantly, the city had repealed the regulation that precluded patent payments. Thus, its next purchase, in 1948, while also double-ended and similar in appearance, were true PCCs.
By this time, Muni had moved on to a new green and cream livery (modeled on Nos. 1006 and 1008). All ten of the 1948 cars were delivered in the new livery, but when No. 1010 was restored in the early 1990s, it was painted in the handsome blue and gold livery to honor Muni’s first modern, magical streetcars.
All five of the original ‘Magic Carpets’ were retired by 1959, and only one survives. No. 1003 still carries passengers today at the Western Railway Museum at Rio Vista Junction in Solano County.
As for No. 1010 itself, it served Muni’s J, K, L, M, and N lines from 1948 to 1982, and was then retired and stored before being fully restored for the opening of the F-line in 1995.