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Thank a Muni Operator Today

Today is Transit Drivers’ Appreciation Day. It’s a hard job, and it has gotten harder over the past decade with the increase in traffic on our streets. Muni has painted more “red carpet” lanes for their vehicles’ (and taxis’) exclusive use, but many automobile drivers ignore them.

If you have a favorite SFMTA operator, one you think provides good service and makes your day a little easier, fill out a commendation form. It just takes a couple of minutes. Or when you exit a Muni vehicle today (or any day), just share a simple “thanks”.

As for the photo above, we borrowed it (with permission) from Muni’s Twitter Feed. That’s Mike Delia on an F-line PCC at the Castro and 17th Street terminal. Hat’s off to Mike and all other Muni operators who provide safe service to their 720,000 daily riders.

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E-line Outage Extended Through April

The E-line’s usual streetcars, double-end PCCs like Car 1009, are getting their exercise on the F-line these days.

The E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line will now not return to service until about April 28. The E-line has been temporarily shut down since late January as Muni constructs a long center platform on Third Street opposite Chase Center, the new Golden State Warriors arena opening this fall. 

The E-line streetcars don’t use that track, but Muni Operations said they needed to divert the E-line’s operators to drive some of the substitute T-line buses. Other Muni lines also “contributed” drivers to this effort by reducing service on those lines. The platform work should be finished and T-line rail service should resume by the end of March, but two weeks later, on April 14, Muni will be running buses on the outer half of the N-Judah line while they construct a new platform and perform paving work on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. Here’s a story on the N-line project.

Once again, Muni Operations will be borrowing operators from other lines, including the 14-Mission, 30-Stockton, and 38-Geary. They will use the E-line’s operators for that two week period, too, as well as the operators on the 83X rush-hour Caltrain shuttle.

While we are not at all happy with this situation, we agreed with Muni’s recommendation to not try to restart E-line service for those first two weeks in April (might be less than that if the T-line platform project goes beyond schedule), only to yank it again on April 14 to put the operators on the N-line buses. We do recognize Muni’s operator shortage, but we have made our feelings clear to SFMTA leadership that repeated shutdowns of the E are not acceptable to our members and constituents in South Beach. We are redoubling our efforts to keep this from happening again.

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Variety of Visitors at our Museum

The San Francisco Railway Museum welcomes a wide variety of visitors, some curious about what we do, some well versed on the subject, and some with a specific purpose.

Among our recent visitors was a group of artists called Urban Sketchers: San Francisco Bay Area,who spent a couple of hours making illustrations of scenes in the museum, two of which you can see on their website. Lovely renderings of our old time transportation artifacts.

Visiting the museum on a regular basis in the rainy season is the local group Walking in San Francisco For Health and History. Their tours on rainy days consist of visits to 6 different free museums in the downtown area over a 6 hour period. The schedule for their walking tours of San Francisco historical sites and including its movie history, can be found here.

Members of the Elsewhere Philatelic Society frequently drop by to visit and pick up their highly prized stamp to add to their passports. For more information about this creative, artistic and mysterious group, check out their website.

School groups of all ages often visit. Students in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes find answers in the museum to the transit questions on their worksheets, and practice their new language by asking related questions of the museum staff. Grade school groups learn the difference between streetcars, cable cars and buses, and the basics of how electric traction works. Needless to say, the high point of their visit is playing operator and conductor in the recreated 1911 streetcar platform in the back of the museum. Bell-ringing is encouraged!

As a team building activity, a number of companies in the neighborhood will occasionally hold a scavenger hunt with our museum holding one of the clues. Small groups come in and comb the space looking for the answer to their quest, often enlisting staff for photos or historical help in solving their puzzle. 

Senior groups arrive at the museum eager to relive a part of their lives long gone – the San Francisco of their youth – venues and landmarks seen on film, in exhibits and in our display cases. We show them how the motorman and conductor operated the streetcars of the early 20thcentury in our streetcar platform, share with them the history and a demonstration of the first traffic signal in use in San Francisco in the 1920s, and show videos of the recreational destinations of yesterday and the streetcars that got you there.

For group visits, we ask that you call ahead so we can have adequate staff available, and are able to provide your group with a quality tour. The museum number is 415/974-1948.

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Hear Mayor Art Agnos’ Inside Stories of Embarcadero Transformation March 21

Nothing has improved San Francisco more in the past 30 years than the transformation of its waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero. The city’s mayor at the time, Art Agnos, bucked some strong special interests to achieve the removal of the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway in front of the Ferry Building, replacing it with a surface roadway, pedestrian promenade, and — of course — streetcar tracks.

Earthquake-damaged Embarcadero Freeway, 1990

Mayor Agnos was aided in all this by his deputy mayor for transportation, the late Doug Wright (who was serving as Market Street Railway’s board chair at the time of his death in 2014). Art Agnos will share inside stories of how he and Doug got all those things done — including making sure the tracks were laid for the future E-line — at the next edition of Inside Track Live at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street (across from the Ferry Building) on Thursday, March 21, from 6 to 7 p.m.

Today’s Ferry Plaza

Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, who was active in advocating for the waterfront improvements, will converse with Mayor Agnos and moderate questions from the audience.

The Embarcadero is part of Art Agnos’ legacy

This special event is free for Market Street Railway members. We request that nonmembers donate $5 at the door to support our mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. Attendance is limited to 50 people. Please join us!

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Homeward Bound Bumblebee

Muni PCC 1057 at Tehachapi, February 19, 2019

This newly renovated Muni PCC streetcar is bringing sunshine on cloudy days as it makes its way back to San Francisco. Car 1057, painted in the eye-popping yellow of Cincinnati Street Railway Company, should arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday, February 20, based on its reported location in Tehachapi on Highway 58 in southern California on the morning of February 19. These photos were posted by Dustin Mosher to our Facebook group.

The combination of the bright yellow and the three green stripes around the car earned it the nickname “The Bumblebee” when it first arrived in San Francisco to help open the permanent F-line in 1995. It was one of 14 streetcars purchased second-hand from Philadelphia’s SEPTA agency and renovated by Morrison-Knudsen in Hornell, New York, painted in the historic liveries of other cities that once ran this iconic American streetcar. After more than 20 years of rigorous daily service, that original F-line fleet was sent back East again, this time to Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania, for a complete refurbishment.

We should note that the usual route for streetcars going to and from Brookville in this contract is straight out Interstate 80, which passes right by Brookville. But I-80 was closed over Donner Summit over the weekend due to a big snowstorm, which you can see from the photos also touched Tehachapi. We’re sure Muni will want to give 1057 a good bath when it arrives.

The return of Car 1057 leaves four streetcars at Brookville to complete the current contract. Car 1058, in the famed Chicago Transit Authority’s “Green Hornet” livery, is due back in a couple of months, followed by three original 1948 double-end Muni streetcars. Car 1015, painted to honor Illinois Terminal, could be back in June, with the other two, Cars 1010 and 1007, scheduled to arrive by October.

Brookville also has two additional unrestored double-end streetcars on its property currently, purchased by Muni from a Connecticut museum. These cars, originally from Philadelphia’s “Red Arrow” suburban line, have PCC bodies but different types of trucks, and would require extensive work to change the location of the trucks and make other modifications in order work on Muni’s system. The restoration estimate provided by Brookville is considerably higher than Muni believes the cars are worth and Muni is consulting experts to see if a more reasonable cost is achievable. We’ll have more details in our exclusive member magazine, Inside Track, due out next month.

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Broad “Daylight”

PCC 1061 passes the Phelan Building at Market & O’Farrell, Feb. 14, 2019. Traci Cox Photo.

What a perfect Valentine’s Day gift to San Francisco. The return of a PCC whose livery has stolen a lot of hearts with its appropriate-for-the-day red coloring. Car 1061 is painted in tribute to Pacific Electric, the legendary Southern California system that once stretched from San Bernardino to Santa Monica, and from the San Fernando Valley to Newport Beach. P-E only had a handful of streamlined PCCs in its enormous fleet, and they were unique: double-ended, with front and center doors on each side, like no other PCCs built. They had no standee windows. They ran almost exclusively on the Glendale-Burbank line. When P-E was closing its operations, they were sold to Argentina. None survives today.

Despite the body differences between the P-E prototype and its San Francisco cousin, the spectacular red, orange, and silver livery, similar to that worn by the famed “Daylight” steam trains operated by P-E parent Southern Pacific between LA and San Francisco, was an obvious choice to be included in the initial group of 14 single-end PCCs restored by Muni for the F-line in the early 1990s. One hitch, though: only a limited palette of colors was approved, so the orange came out more as a red-orange, offering limited contrast to the red body of the car.

When the car went to Brookville Equipment Company for its rebuilding, Market Street Railway worked with Muni to get the orange corrected, and you see the result, in the great first-day-of-service photo above by Traci Cox. For comparison, here’s a shot of a P-E prototype back in the day. Note that the P-E livery was assigned to Car 1061 in the initial restoration contract of the early 1990s before Muni exercised an option to add three of its own-double-end PCCs to that contract. There have been endless rail fan debates about whether a single-end car is appropriate for the P-E livery, but with front and center doors, like the prototype, the livery was easier to replicate than it would have been on one of Muni’s double-end cars, with doors at each end, and no center door.

Word is that the next car to return from Brookville, Car 1057, painted in tribute to Cincinnati, could pull into town next week, followed in a couple of months by the final single-end PCC, Car 1058, painted in the Chicago Green Hornet Livery. That would leave only those three original Muni double-end cars we mentioned above still at Brookville, undergoing their complete rebuilding just like the 1061 and the other PCCs in the 16-car contract. Car 1015, painted to honor Illinois Terminal, could be back in June, with the other two, Cars 1010 and 1007, scheduled to arrive by October. We’ll keep you updated on those schedules.

For now, enjoy the glory of the Daylight colors, sparkling even in this rainy weather.

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Black Barrier-Breakers in San Francisco Transit

In recent decades, memorable African-American leaders have made history in San Francisco transit. There’s Curtis E. Green, Sr., the first black general manager of a major US transit agency. H. Welton Flynn, first black San Francisco City Commissioner, and leader of Muni’s governing boards for many years. Larry Martin, a powerful and persuasive head of Muni’s operators’ union.

For this year’s Black History Month, we’ll reach back further in time, to highlight three women and one man who broke barriers in transit.

Charlotte Brown and Mary Ellen Pleasant: In April 1863, Charlotte Brown boarded a horse-drawn streetcar run by the Omnibus Railroad Company. The operator told her she wasn’t allowed to ride because she was Black. She told him she had always ridden the streetcars and was very late to her appointment. When a white woman on board complained about her presence, the operator physically removed Charlotte from the car.

Omnibus Railroad horsecar on Montgomery Street

She brought Omnibus Railroad Co. to court – twice – and won. It was a huge victory, happening just after black people were allowed to testify against whites in court. Another Civil Rights pioneer, the noted African-American entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant, had the same experience in 1866, before the earlier suits were finally adjudicated. Pleasant successfully challenged streetcar segregation all the way to the California Supreme Court and won. These women changed California history, some 90 years before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and changed national history.

Audley Cole: Audley was the first black operator ever hired by Muni, in 1941. He passed the civil service examination by leaving his race off the form. After he was hired, white operators refused to give him the training necessary to start work. Fourteen operators decided to be suspended rather than train him, and the operators’ union threatened a $100 fine against any operator who trained him. The one white man who tried to train him was beaten so severely he was hospitalized.

Audley Cole

After three months, with support from the ILWU and the general manager of Muni, he finally received training directly from the head of Muni’s training department. At Muni, he fought for fairer treatment for future black employees. 3 years later, there were nearly 100 black employees at Muni. “Civil service is dedicated to fair play,” said Cole. “It’s a job for which I have qualified and I want it. I’m going to get it.”

Maya Angelou: Now remembered as a famed author and poet, Maya Angelou’s first job – in 1943, when she was 16 – was as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She wanted the job initially, she said, because she “liked the uniforms.” When she tried to apply, no one at the Market Street Railway office would give her the job application.

Maya Angelou

She didn’t give up – she went back to the office every single day and sat in the waiting room. Eventually, a manager approached her and allowed her to apply. (She said she was 18, the minimum age). She became the first Black female streetcar operator in San Francisco. During that summer, she likely operated the 7-Haight and 5-McAllister lines (today’s 5-Fulton). Market Street Railway is proposing that Streetcar 798, of the type she worked on, be dedicated to her memory when it is restored (hopefully, to start later this year).

We salute all those who have stood up to racism, sexism, and discrimination in San Francisco’s transit industry…for more than 150 years!

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London Buses in SF: 1952

London RTL-type double-deck bus on Market Street at Eighth, 1952

The librarian for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Van Niekerken, comes up with some dandy articles by digging through the newspaper’s voluminous archives. Somehow, we missed this great story and photos, showing three double-deck London Transport buses coming to, and driving through, San Francisco on a cross-country British tourism promotion in 1952. The photo above shows one of the RTL-type buses (predecessor to London Transport’s famed Routemasters) on Market Street at Eighth, sharing the street with three “Iron Monster” Muni streetcars. The Whitcomb Hotel is on the left behind the bus, with the Fox Theater farther up the street on the right.

The London buses have New York bus license plates, as well as their own UK registration. And their roll signs read “GREETINGS FROM BRITAIN” in the square sign box, with “TO SAN FRANCISCO” in the rectangular box below. Presumably, that lower box could be changed to show whatever city they were currently visiting.

Because California’s overhead road clearances didn’t always anticipate vehicles this tall, they brought along telescoping poles that they could use to test the clearance before driving through. The photo below shows a tight squeeze going under the Southern Pacific Railroad trestle on El Camino Real in Colma. This is a particularly interesting photo. The old tracks for the 40-line interurban streetcar to San Mateo are still in place, and well south of the San Francisco city limits, we see a Muni White Company motor coach trailing the double-decker. That’s something of a mystery. During this period, Muni operated the developer-funded 76-Broadmoor line, connecting a new subdivision in Daly City to Muni lines in the city, but it never went this far south. (Maybe it was an escort vehicle, causing three steps behind the royalty of the double-decker.) There’s still a rail crossing at this point: BART, which took over the old SP right-of-way.

London double-decker squeezing under the Southern Pacific railroad trestle in Colma.

Muni did try out a double-decker bus at one point much later on, a demonstrator that didn’t catch on. For higher capacity, they chose articulated buses instead, or what the British, with their gift for great phrases, call “bendy-buses”.

And of course, double-deck buses are commonplace sights in San Francisco today, most of them open top tour buses. Tourists: don’t forget to come to the San Francisco Railway Museum to buy that sweatshirt that you DID forget at home! 🙂

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Remembering Cam Beach

Cam Beach with Muni’s oldest streetcar, 1896-vintage Car 578

Cameron Beach would have turned 70 today. San Francisco’s transit system would be better if he were still with us. But that wasn’t to be. On March 19, 2011, he died suddenly of a heart attack. At the time of his death, he was a member of SFMTA’s Board of Directors, having been appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2007, following his retirement as Chief Operating Officer of Sacramento Regional Transit.

On his 70th birthday, we want to share his story and his spirit with those who never knew him, and those who were among his many friends.

On the SFMTA board, Cam quickly won the respect of his fellow directors for his tremendous depth of knowledge and experience and his unswerving commitment to meeting the needs of the public. In an interview, he said, “I have always viewed issues from the user’s point of view.  How is the passenger or the motorist or the person looking for a parking place or the bicyclist or the pedestrian going to perceive our action?” He enjoyed great respect from employees across SFMTA, because they knew he understood the demands of their jobs, but also couldn’t be “bs’d” because of that detailed understanding of operations and maintenance. With a lifetime of knowledge about Muni, starting as a young rail and bus fan, you couldn’t fool Cam, and he in turn educated his fellow SFMTA Board members in a way that was insightful and optimistic, concentrating on the possibilities instead of just the shortcomings. Everyone who knew Cam knew he was a straight shooter, looking for positives wherever possible, refusing to play “gotcha” games and deal in oneupmanship.

First and foremost, Cam Beach was a San Franciscan, believing in the enduring promise of this city, while certainly not blind to its shortcomings. He was born January 26, 1949, at Letterman Hospital. He grew up in Cow Hollow, went to high school at Sacred Heart and Galileo, from which he graduated. Growing up in the city, he rode Muni everywhere, and became a lifelong fan of the system, incredibly knowledgeable about its history and operations. Even as he built a career and raised a family in Sacramento, his heart stayed here, and he was delighted to visit as much as possible, and finally relocate. Going out on foggy days from his West Portal home, Going out on foggy days, he’d sometimes wear a sweatshirt emblazoned “Old School San Francisco Native”.

Cam was a long-time Market Street Railway Member who joined our Board of Directors in 2001, even before he retired from his job Sacramento. Early in 2003, he was joined on our board by Carmen Clark, another transportation professional with deep experience in San Francisco. It was love at first sight. They married at Grace Cathedral and took a California Street cable car to their reception. It doesn’t get much more San Francisco than that.

Cam Beach and Carmen Clark

Though Cam left our board when he joined SFMTA’s in 2007, he never lost his love for the historic streetcars and cable cars. He recognized that they not only brought almost 50,000 people where they wanted to go every day, but they also helped Muni put its best foot forward to the public, something he believed was increasingly important. He was a strong supporter of increasing F-line streetcar service to meet rising demand, for the start up of the E-Embarcadero line, and the extension of service to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason.  

2007 Bus Rodeo

As his many friends know, Cam loved buses too, perhaps just as much. That’s why Market Street Railway was happy to support Muni’s motor coach maintenance team in its restoration of one of Cam’s favorite vehicle types, the Mack buses he grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s. We paid for new tires and upholstery, things Muni couldn’t obtain through their regular channels. Now that the Mack is completely restored, we will be asking SFMTA to dedicate that coach, No. 2230, to Cam, as a complement to its naming of the historic streetcars’ home at Geneva and San Jose Avenues, as Cameron Beach Yard.

Restored 1956 Mack Coach 2230 at Levi’s Plaza

To further honor Cam’s memory, we are inviting our members and friends to make a donation to help us buy tires for the very historic bus Muni’s team is restoring now: a 1947 Twin Coach dual-engine bus bought by Muni for the express purpose of replacing the Powell Street cable cars. The arrogant actions of then-Mayor Roger Lapham in ordering the bus purchase were met by the people power led by Friedel Klussmann, the citizen who mobilized women and men to stop Lapham’s plan and save the Powell cable cars. This bus and its siblings ended up running on mostly minor Muni routes, but still retain a potent place in history for where they DIDN’T run.

Newspaper clip featuring the Twin Coach type now being restored at Muni

If you’d like to help remember Cam’s memory by contributing to the restoration of this bus, you can do so here, choose “Fleet Enhancement Fund”, and note in the box that your donation is in Cam’s memory. Thanks so much!

We at Market Street Railway are proud and honored that Carmen Clark today serves as our Board Chair. Her own decades-long commitment to better transit is reinforced, she says, by the many things she learned from Cam, and by his unswerving dedication to making Muni better. On her desk, she keeps a verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson she says reminds her of Cam’s virtues. We agree:

DEFINITION OF A SUCCESSFUL LIFE

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

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“Torpedoes” on the F-line

Muni’s biggest PCC streetcars have been nicknamed “torpedoes” by fans since shortly after they arrived in San Francisco in 1948. The 50’5″ behemoths are four feet longer than the far more numerous single-end PCC streamliners, and a full nine feet wide. The origin of the nickname is a bit obscure, but many think it derives from the sleekness of the design.

There are seven of these cars in Muni’s vintage streetcar fleet. Three are currently being completely rebuilt at Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania. The other four have been fully engaged for the past few years causing the waterfront on the E-Embarcadero line between Fisherman’s Wharf and Oracle (formerly AT&T) Park and the Caltrain depot.

But the two-month shutdown of the E-line that started January 22 has seen the torpedoes reassigned to the F-line, which means they’re quite visible on Market Street and the northern Embarcadero, where their extra-large capacity is put to good use. At the top, Car 1011 passes Pier 23 Cafe (great place for an affordable meal and music on the waterfront, by the way), headed for another trip up Market to Castro Street, while below, Car 1009, painted in tribute to Dallas, crosses over Don Chee Way from The Embarcadero to Steuart Street, bound up Market at night.

When the E-reopens at the end of March, the four active torpedoes will shift back, so grab a ride up Market on one now! They’ll be joined by the end of this year by their three siblings currently at Brookville.

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