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The Eyes Behind Our 2018 Calendar

Our 2018 Museums in Motion Calendar is one of the best we’ve ever offered in terms of the quality of photography. If you haven’t bought yours yet, you can get it at our online store or at our San Francisco Railway Museum.

We’re grateful to the fine photographers who contribute their work to the calendar every year. We’d like to share some more information about them.

Traci Cox

“Traci is an SFMTA operator who has been a rail fan for as long as he can remember. When he’s not operating on the F-line, he’s often out with his camera, catching great streetcar and cable car shots.” Here’s Traci’s site.

Jeremy Menzies

“Jeremy is a photographer and archivist for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Muni’s parent. Jeremy has done fabulous work in organizing and scanning SFMTA’s collection of priceless historic photographs of San Francisco, including collections inherited from past competitors United Railroads and the Market Street Railway Company (our namesake).” Visit the great SFMTA photo archival site Jeremy manages.

Father Kevin Mueller

“Kevin is from Baltimore, Maryland and has been an operator at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum for 38 years. He visits San Francisco every summer to ride and photograph MUNI. The 2018 MSRy calendar is the fourth to use some of his photos. He owns a 1947 Baltimore Transit Co. bus which has been used in two movies.” Kevin’s site.

Joel Salomon

“Joel Salomon has been a trolley fan his entire life and has visited San Francisco several times over the years since he was a child with his parents. It has been over 60 years that  Hyde St. car operated regularly over the Hyde St. cable car line. Joel submitted the photo of car 42 cresting Hyde St. taken last year during the Heritage Weekend. Living in Allentown, PA, Joel is a long time volunteer at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in south central Pennsylvania.”  Some of Joel’s photos.

Jeremy Whiteman

“Jeremy Whiteman, a Bay Area local, has been a contributor to the Market Street Railway calendar for many years and is a past member of our Board of Directors. He is active with the Western Railway Museum in Solano County  He is regularly out and about in San Francisco with his camera and often grabs great shots.” See Jeremy’s work.

Wayne Worden

“Wayne is a street photographer living in Vancouver, B.C. He visits San Francisco two or three times a year making it a point to spend some time capturing the MSR. His images have been selected for the calendar in the previous two years.” Wayne’s website.

Just FYI, we’re already at work on our 2019 calendar. If you’d like to see some of the photos that were submitted by these and other great photographers, visit our public Flickr site and search under 2019msrcalendar. You can also upload your photos there anytime.

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Another Rebuilt PCC Enters Service

The seventh PCC streetcar from the original 1995 F-line fleet reentered passenger service on this drizzly January 10, 2018, after successfully completing 1,000 miles of testing, It was then formally accepted by Muni from the restoration vendor, Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania.

Car 1055, like the other 12 single-end PCCs in the contract, came to Muni from Philadelphia, where it operated for almost a half-century. While the other PCCs in that group are painted in tribute to some of the other 32 North American cities that once ran PCCs, 1055 wears its own “as-delivered” 1948 green livery with cream and red trim. It’s even adorned with an authentic decal near the front door, instructing boarding passengers to “Please move to rear to speed your ride”, donated courtesy of Harry Donohue of the Friends of the Philadelphia Trolleys and applied by the Muni shops before the car entered service. Thanks to Ken Kwong of our Facebook group for the photo.

Meanwhile, the ninth car in the contract, 1050, arrived safely at Muni Metro East following the long journey from Brookville and will soon enter testing. It now wears the red and cream livery of St. Louis Public Service Company, one of the largest operators of PCCs back in the day. Allen Chan posted the photo below of 1050 arriving at MME on January 7.

Sandwiched in between those two cars, in order of delivery, is Car 1063, painted in tribute to Baltimore Transit Company. On New Year’s day, just a couple weeks after reentering regular service, it was badly damaged in an accident on Third Street.

According to Muni statements, the driver of a box truck swerved from the right hand southbound lane on Third Street against the left turn signal directly into the path of the streetcar, which was operating below the 25 mile per hour limit on that stretch of road. We are told video footage from the streetcar itself shows all this. We do not know if the truck driver was charged by police or whether the truck is insured.

The repairs to Car 1063 will be very expensive because the right front corner of the car, where the worst damage occurred, houses much of the streetcar’s electrical control equipment. We will let you know when a final decision has been made on whether the car would be repaired in-house or sent out on a contract. If the latter, it would likely have to be a separate contract from the Brookville renovation contract that refurbished the car in the first place. Muni had accepted the car, relieving Brookville of all liability for it, and the renovation contract does not include repairs. Scoping and bidding a separate contract would likely take many months.

Currently under reconstruction at Brookville: Cars 1052, 1053, and 1061. The next car slated to go to Brookville is 1015, the first of three-double end cars to be covered under the Brookville contract. It is still at MME while discussions between Muni and Brookville continue about whether to substitute two ex-Red Arrow double-end cars (with PCC bodies) for two of the cars covered by the contract. We’ve covered this story for our Members in our quarterly magazine, Inside Track, and will have an update in our next issue. Join Market Street Railway now and don’t miss out!

 

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Rebuilt PCC 1050 Heads to SF, Honoring St. Louis

 

Our “spies” are everywhere, as evidenced by this photo posted by Jim Kulczyk in a Facebook group called “Civil Defense Fire Vehicles.” He writes: “My sister is a truck driver somewhere in [Southwest Pennsylvania] and caught this electric trolley being transported on a flat bed. Couldn’t help but notice the CD insignia. Looks to be in great museum condition.”

Well, yes, but more than that it should be in great OPERATING condition because it has just finished being thoroughly rebuilt at Brookville Equipment Company, the eighth of 16 vehicles in Muni’s current contract with Brookville. Car 1050 returns to San Francisco wearing the livery of one of the largest PCC operators ever, St. Louis Public Service Company (SLPS). We are delighted to see a PCC car in SLPS livery. Muni bought 70 PCCs second-hand from SLPS between 1957 and 1962, and one of those cars ran here in St. Louis livery during the Trolley Festivals of the 1980s.

Muni retains that car (renumbered to its original SLPS 1704) as one of about a dozen non-operational cars of this class, which have now been in dead storage for 30 or more years. None is currently slated for rebuilding, though some may be put back into service sometime in the future if demand warrants. But since no one knows when that might be, Market Street Railway encouraged Muni to repaint the 1050 into St. Louis colors as an overdue honor to that great system.

About that Civil Defense decal near the front door that caught Mr. Kulczyk’s attention: Market Street Railway suggested that be included, based on historic photographs that showed it to be common on SLPS cars during the era when that CD sign was common. (Muni streetcars had them on their windshields for a time as well, though it was unclear exactly where the streetcars could take you that represented an improvement over anyplace else on the streetcar system in case of a dire emergency. We like to see details gotten right where we can do so, though, so there it is.

This is a spot of good news in the wake of the collision on New Year’s Day evening that seriously damaged the most recent PCC in this contract to return to regular service, Car 1063, honoring Baltimore. We will provide updates on that event, and on 1050’s arrival in San Francisco, as we learn of them. When 1050 arrives in San Francisco, it is expected that the first of three-double end PCCs covered by the contract, Car 1015, will depart for Brookville and its complete rebuilding.

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“Newest” PCC Streetcar Collides with Truck

Around 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the newest PCC streetcar to reenter regular service following a complete rebuilding collided with a large box truck while returning to the carbarn after completing its day’s work on the F-line. The impact knocked the streetcar, No. 1063 (painted to honor Baltimore Transit), off the track and turned the truck on its side. No injuries had been reported by the time this post was made. The streetcar had no passengers aboard at the time of the collision.

Car 1063 was southbound on Third Street, headed for Muni Metro East, its storage and maintenance base, when it collided with the truck at Mission Bay Boulevard South. The 1063 suffered extensive damage to its door side front corner. The driver’s side corner and the rest of the car appeared undamaged, though it is possible there could be frame damage underneath. Damage to the truck was also extensive.

Observations made at the scene seem to indicate that the truck was struck in the middle of its box behind the cab, with the force of the impact flipping the truck on its side and derailing the streetcar. The angle of impact suggests that the truck was turning left from southbound Third Street onto eastbound Mission Bay Boulevard South at the time of the collision. This was confirmed to news media by a Muni spokesperson.

The intersection is signalized for both streetcars and motor vehicle traffic, with separate left turn signals that are interlocked with the streetcar signals so that only one or the other is given a signal to proceed at a given time. No information has been released regarding the setting of the signals at the time of the collision; however, we were told at the scene that there should be security camera footage from the streetcar and perhaps from surrounding buildings that could determine who was at fault.

Car 1063 had reentered regular service within the last month after being completely rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, part of a contract covering 16 Muni PCCs. Like all streetcars going through the rebuilding program, Car 1063 had to successfully complete a 1,000-mile “burn in” period, during which all systems including propulsion and brakes had to be thoroughly tested and the car had to pass braking tests required by the California Public Utilities Commission before it was certified to carry passengers.

There have been several collisions involving T-line light rail vehicles on Third Street (which is used by F- and E-line streetcars on their way to and from the car barn). These have involved cars or trucks turning left in front of streetcars running in private rights-of-way, such as on The Embarcadero, King Street, and Third Street. In a collision almost exactly four years ago, a truck pulled in front of vintage streetcar 162 on January 4, 2014 at Bay Street and The Embarcadero, causing significant damage to the streetcar (which is currently being repaired in Southern California). The trucker was found at fault and Muni received a substantial insurance payment.

The Third Street tracks were blocked for several hours while the truck was righted, the streetcar re-railed, and the intersection cleared. Buses replaced LRVs on the T-line while Third Street was blocked.

The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the collision. A damage assessment on the streetcar will be made by Muni, but even a cursory visual inspection indicates Car 1063 will be out of service many months.

We will keep you up to date on developments on this story.

 

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Happy 2018 and Thanks!

We at Market Street Railway wish everyone a happy and healthy 2018. We want to take the opportunity to thank all our members and donors, including the many who joined, renewed, or contributed in the past week.

We ourselves were deluged with repeated solicitations from all kinds of worthy organizations in the past month, the same or similar appeals coming over and over both in email and snail mail. We elected instead to send out just one email request to our members and friends to consider a year-end donation, and we’re pleased with the response. We try to respect your time and do as much as we can to keep historical tidbits coming your way even as we continue our advocacy for streetcar extensions, restorations, and service improvements.

We couldn’t do any of this without you, and we just want to say thanks!

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Happy 105th Birthday, Muni!

On December 28, 1912, 50,000 people flooded Geary Street near Market.

They were there to cheer a streetcar!

More exactly, ten streetcars, lined up in numerical order pointed west, led by Car 1.

It was the opening of the first publicly owned transit system in a major American city: the Municipal Railway of San Francisco.

The new city-owned streetcar line on Geary was a product of the Progressive Era, which called for ownership of public utilities by the public, not by private corporations who did it to make a profit. “Muni”, as it soon came to be known by all San Franciscans, competed fiercely against private competitors until all transit routes were consolidated under city ownership mid-century.

The opening celebration saw San Francisco Mayor James Rolph, Jr. board Car 1, place one of the first forty nickels ever minted in San Francisco into the farebox, put on his motorman’s cap, and personally pilot the first car out Geary. San Franciscans considered it a very big deal, and supported Muni’s growth over subsequent decades.

For Muni’s centennial in 2012, Market Street Railway successfully advocated for the complete restoration of Car 1, which became the star of centennial celebrations, just as it was on that first day, December 28, 1912.

On a recent private charter of Car 1, a birthday party for a prominent San Franciscan (yes, you can charter it or other vintage streetcars for your own private ride), guests who had never experienced a ride on a vintage streetcar were incredulous that the city would still have — and operate — its very own streetcar. And the smiles and stares of onlookers along The Embarcadero reinforced that story line. San Francisco cares about its history, remembers its past, and puts it to work!

Happy 105th, Muni! San Francisco wouldn’t be what it is without you!

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Santa Claus Was Coming to Town

One of the joys of the San Francisco holiday season 50 or 60 years ago was the arrival of Santa Claus. Not down the chimney on Christmas Eve, but weeks earlier, down Powell Street on a cable car. Along with thousands of San Franciscans of a certain age, I (Rick Laubscher, Market Street Railway president) remember it well.

For many years after World War II, the Emporium chartered a cable car each year, decorated it, and carried Santa Claus downtown on its roof. At the turntable, he climbed down, crossed the street, and took up residence up on the toy floor (the fourth, if I remember right), just below the stairs to the roof rides. My mom brought me downtown (on a streetcar, of course) to see this spectacle a few times, and I firmly came to believe that the Emporium Santa had to be the real Santa (as opposed to Macy’s Santa) because he arrived on a cable car.

The photo above is before my time. Based on the license plate of the car at right, it is somewhere between 1948 and 1950. You can see that the procession contained more than just Santa. There’s a clown peering out from the rear platform and a horseback rider with the world’s biggest sombrero (Feliz Navidad!).

The shot below comes from the late 1950s. Looks somewhat scaled down from earlier years. The roof just looks like a cable car roof instead of the Beach Blanket Babylon hat we see above. No visible clown, no sombrero guy. But hey, it’s all about Santa anyway, right?

By the way, this shot would be impossible to replicate today. This first block of Powell Street, between Market and Ellis, had its historic street lamps removed and replaced by ugly square modern lights as part of the Market Street rebuilding in the 1970s. Trees were planted on both sides of the tracks that are now nearing the end of their useful life and thrust the whole block into shadow. One goal Market Street Railway has in 2018: include this block of Powell Street into the project currently being planned to revitalize Powell from Ellis to Geary. We would like to see all of lower Powell Street return to its historic look from 1910 to 1970, incorporating wider sidewalks for pedestrians and placing the cable cars and historic street lamps at center stage.

Oh, a trivia point: Santa always used the same cable car: Car 504, with a specially-strengthened roof to support Santa and the loudspeakers and decorations. That car was retired in the mid-1990s, but in true San Francisco fashion, it has taken on a new and useful life. Muni leased it to the San Francisco Giants, where it can now be seen from everywhere in the ballpark, sitting proudly on the centerfield concourse, renumbered 44 to honor Willie McCovey. (Powell car 24, still in operation, was dedicated to Willie Mays last year).

The Emporium, of course, is long gone, though its 1896 Market Street facade and its iconic dome, slightly relocated, are features of the modern Westfield San Francisco Center that now occupies the south side of Market across from the Powell Street cable car turntable. But decorated cable cars are still a feature of the season in San Francisco, thanks to efforts led by cable car gripman and Market Street Railway member Val Lupiz. Here’s a wonderful montage of 2017’s decorated cable cars that Val shared. (Click to enlarge.)

May we add one more thing? Our mission is preserving historic transit in San Francisco. We’d very much appreciate it if you could take a moment and make a year-end tax-deductible donation of as little as five dollars by clicking here, or by joining Market Street Railway as a member by clicking here.

Happy holidays from Market Street Railway!

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Hail and Farewell, Mayor Ed Lee

In transit jargon, the trip to the carbarn after completing the day’s runs is the pull-in. A man who helped revitalize San Francisco’s transit system has unexpectedly — and very sadly — finished his runs, way too soon.

Mayor Edwin Lee died suddenly of a heart attack in the early hours of December 12, 2017. He was just 65 years old.

Pictured above on a boat tram at the opening of the E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line in 2015 with then-Supervisor Julie Christensen, we will always remember Mayor Lee for his delight with the historic streetcars. But he meant far more to the city’s transportation system than that.

As Mayor, Ed Lee put a team in place at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, parent of Muni, that dramatically improved the condition of the vehicle fleet, replacing hundreds of buses (both trolley coaches and motor coaches) and began the replacement of the light rail vehicle fleet. Led by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and Director of Transit John Haley, the LRV procurement and bus replacement were carried out in a fraction of the time that previous fleet replacements took.

He appointed strong bicycle advocates, disabled advocates, and transit advocates to the SFMTA Board of Directors. The Board’s strongest bicycle advocate, Cheryl Brinkman, is now the Board Chair.  These appointments are part of an important legacy.

 

And we also remember how Mayor Lee took delight in Muni’s centennial celebration in 2012, even repeating what his predecessor “Sunny Jim” Rolph had done a century before — personally take the controls of Muni’s very first streetcar (yes, the very same streetcar) to kick off the celebration.

Two bells, Mayor Lee. Rest in Peace.

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Snow in San Francisco 85 years ago today

Yep. It happened on December 11, 1932 — one of the few snowfalls in the city proper that actually stuck to the ground, if only for a little while. According to the site “California History,” The City recorded its coldest temperature ever, 27 degrees fahrenheit, on this day. This photo from Charlie Smallwood’s definitive history of the Market Street Railway, The White Front Cars of San Francisco, shows Car 206 on the 1-line at Sutro Division, 32nd and Clement Streets, during a 1932 snowfall. Thanks to Hans-Christian Kasper for sharing it to our Facebook group.

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Welcome Back, Cable Car 22!

The double-deuce hits the street Wednesday, November 29 after being out of service eight years!

UPDATE 11/29: Turns out the November 29 runs were for advanced testing…stand by for an announcement on passenger service.

Its failing frame and rotting wood were certainly entitled to take a few years off, for Car 22 (once 522) is one of the relatively few surviving original Ferries & Cliff House Railways Cars from 1887. It started on the vanished Sacramento-Clay line, but moved over to the Powell lines in 1906, after the original Powell fleet was destroyed, along with the Washington-Mason car barn, in the earthquake and fire.

One by one, most of the original 1887 cars eventually wore out, even after being rebuilt once before (in 22’s case, in 1956). Some were replaced by essentially completely new cable cars built by the Woods Carpentry Shop, with virtually nothing remaining of the original.
However, 22, along with Powell Cable Cars 17, 24, and 27, still retain significant parts of their original 1887 construction, when they were built by Mahony Brothers of San Francisco.  So this car is one of the oldest in the fleet.  (Most of the other “original” Powell cars date to 1893, and most of the Cal cars oriignally date to 1906-07.)

According to recently retired Cable Car maintenance supervisor Norbert Feyling, “All credit belongs to carpenter Mark Sobichevsky, who took on a massive rebuild that other people ran away from.” Norbert continues, “Big credit also goes to Bryant Cao, Keith and the other new carpenter hires for which this was a training ground, painters Danny Hicks and Richard Lee, Harry Stewart, John Malia and their machinists, engineer John Becker, and all the shop mechanics who completely replaced the trucks and running gear so she’ll drive as sweet as she looks. All done in house, by Muni personnel.”

We celebrate the return of Powell Cable Car 22 to the active fleet. Thanks to Russell Stanton of the Cable Car Division for posting this photo of 22 to our Facebook group.

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