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Since his passion and determination grabbed the attention of San Franciscans in the 1970s, Harvey Milk has been a household name here. His terrible assassination in 1978 brought global attention to his human rights advocacy, specifically for LGBTQ people. The movie “Milk” in 2008 brought his story to millions more around the globe.
In 2009, Market Street Railway urged the SFMTA to dedicate a PCC streetcar used in the movie, No. 1051, to Harvey. It wears the simple green and creme paint job commonly used on the Muni streetcars of that day — the streetcars Harvey boarded at the old East Portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel on Castro Street and rode to City Hall to do his job — or sometimes, to protest.
For Harvey Milk was also a dedicated transit advocate, one of the strongest on the Board of Supervisors of his day. He didn’t really have a choice, in one sense, because he didn’t own, or want, an automobile. Living on the limited income from his small camera store on Castro Street and the part-time salary of Supervisors (which was $9600 a year in 1978), he took Muni’s streetcars and buses everywhere. He was the first Supervisor to buy and use a Fast Pass, and believed that attractive, affordable mobility was the key to livability in cities.
Market Street Railway created interior displays for the streetcar when it was first dedicated, celebrating the different facets of Harvey Milk. When the car was rededicated March 15 of this year following a total rebuilding, we restored those internal displays. We were delighted at the ceremony when SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley asked us if we could help create external signage to let people who see the car on the F-line know that it’s Harvey’s car, without making too big an impact on the historic livery the car wears. (By the way, the unique and diverse liveries are a major reason SFMTA prohibits advertising on the outside of the historic streetcars, a position we have steadfastly supported for decades).
Car 1051 now wears this decal over its front door, paying visible tribute to Harvey to boarding riders and passersby. It reads, “Dedicated to Harvey Milk, 1930-1978: SF Supervisor, Human Rights Champion, Transit Advocate.”
We were able to do this thanks to a generous grant from Ambassador James Hormel and his husband Michael Nguyen, which will also enable us to expand and maintain the displays on Car 1051 and tell the story of Harvey Milk, Transit Advocate, in other media and forms as well. We thank Jim and Michael for their support. We welcome your donations to Market Street Railway to help us bring more positive attention to Harvey Milk and other transit advocates in our city’s history as well. Just click here to help us. Thanks!No Comments on Visible Pride for Harvey Milk
By the time historic streetcars returned to San Francisco’s streets for the first Historic Trolley Festival in the Summer of 1983, the annual LGBT Pride Parade was already a summertime fixture on Market Street. Even then, the parade was such a major event that streetcar service was suspended for its duration. But that first year of the Trolley Festival, two of the Trolley Festival cars showed their own pride by joining in. Here we look through the Blackpool boat tram used in the first Festival to see Muni Car 1 strutting its stuff.
The streetcars were busy that weekend, though. In special service, Car 1 made a couple of trips in from Ocean Beach on the N-line to pick up parade attendees and bring them through the Sunset Tunnel, then down Church and up 17th Street to Castro.
That particular boat tram, No. 226, was leased from the Western Railroad Museum in Solano County. It was so popular that Market Street Railway leaders went out and acquired one, No. 228, that Muni could own, and then we got another one, No. 233, just a few years ago. The 226 has not operated at its museum home for decades, resting with various ailments.
Happy Pride Week, everyone!No Comments on Vintage Pride: 1983
Co-founder of Market Street Railway and respected San Francisco historian Paul Rosenberg has passed away after an extended illness. He was 72.
Paul graduated from Lowell High School and the University of California Berkeley. He was an early member of one of the great San Francisco groups, the Irish-Israeli-Italian Society as well as other groups, and served on Market Street Railway’s board for many years. One of a small group of historians and transit supporters who founded our non-profit in 1977, he was a pillar of our organization in its formative years.
Paul’s career was as a San Francisco civil servant, but his avocation — where he left his heart — was San Francisco history. No one knew more about the nooks and crannies of the city’s history, and he delivered his knowledge in the form of wonderful stories.
On our Facebook group in recent years, Paul could always be counted on to help date an obscure transit photo, not only by the vehicles and the buildings, but also by political advertisements that appeared in the picture. He was a kind and open man, who shared freely and modestly; a real San Franciscan.
We shall miss him greatly and owe him a great deal. Our hearts go out to his wife Sherrie, pictured above with Paul, and their son Coleman.
UPDATE: We received this message from Paul’s wife, Sherrie Katz Rosenberg:
“On Sunday morning, June 18, 2017, my beloved husband of 32 years, Paul Rosenberg, passed away, after a short battle with liver disease and a long battle with lung cancer. His death seemed to be painless. He is survived by our son, Coleman Rosenberg, and me. His funeral will be at our family’s temple, Beth Israel Judea, on Sunday, June 25th at Noon followed by food and conversation. BIJ is at 625 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco, CA 94132. We will also be siting Shiva – taking visitors and having a brief service – on Monday and Tuesday from 6 to 9 pm, with the service at 7. This is also at the temple.
“I am overwhelmed with the love and support that has poured in over the last days from his friends and family.
“In lieu of flowers, if you would like, feel free to make a donation in his memory to the charity of your choice or to the Lowell High School SF Alumni Association, P.O. Box 320009, San Francisco, CA 94132.”
The long-running dream of transforming the 1901 Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse into vibrant community space got a $3 million boost, making it far more likely to become reality.
As reported in Hoodline, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, which bought the building in 2004 from Muni, appropriated the $3 million at its June 15 meeting, bringing total approved funding for the project to $11 million.
The project involves two structures that sit next to each other, both originally built for the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway Company but incorporated into the private United Railroads within a couple of years of being finished. The Office Building at the southwest corner of San Jose Avenue and Geneva Avenue housed workers for the adjacent streetcar storage area (now Muni’s Cameron Beach Yard, to which the historic E and F line streetcars will return later this year). The powerhouse housed large electric generators for the line. Both are built of brick, both suffered damage in the 1906 earthquake, but survived. Muni took them over in the 1944 merger with United Railroads’ successor, Market Street Railway Company, our namesake. Together with the adjoining tracks, they served as Muni’s only streetcar facility from 1957 until the Green Light Rail Division was opened across the street in the late 1970s.
The 1989 earthquake damaged the two buildings further. Muni abandoned them at that point and wanted to tear them down. But community pressure to preserve the historic buildings led then-Mayor Willie Brown to direct Muni to sell them to the Recreation and Parks Department. A very active non-profit preservation group, Friends of Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, sprang up, led by Dan Weaver. We have had preliminary discussions about providing historical displays in the restored buildings to interpret their importance to transit.
But the Office Building (confusingly referred to as the Car Barn) still awaits funding for restoration. The current funding will finish design plans for both buildings but only provide construction funding for the large open space of the Powerhouse, which will be turned into a multi-purpose community performance and meeting space.
We salute Dan Weaver and all the supporters of this great project. We hope the remaining funds can be found soon to restore the Office Building too.1 Comment on Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse Gets Funding
Eastern Fort Mason Tunnel entrance at the foot of Van Ness Avenue.The Examiner has a comprehensive update today on the proposed historic streetcar extension to Fort Mason. It tells the story better than we could, so click on that link above and read it for yourself.
We’ll just add that we have been working on this for a very long time. It had gotten snagged in an unrelated matter. Not long after the Environmental Impact Statement had been certified in 2013, the National Park Service announced it would study the possibility of moving the Alcatraz ferry landing from Pier 31 to Fort Mason. This attraction, which draws over a million visitors a year, would have overrun Fort Mason, with or without a streetcar line, in our opinion. We opposed it, as did Fort Mason Center, which operates that center for nonprofits. So did the Fisherman’s Wharf merchants and numerous other groups that do support the streetcar extension.
The threat of moving the ferries led Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the Marina, to put a hold on moving the streetcar extension forward until the Alcatraz ferry location was settled. Now it is; it’s staying at Pier 31. Supervisor Farrell has told us he supports the streetcar extension and this grant application.
The uncertainty in Washington over, well, almost everything, but specifically National Park Service funding does raise a question over how much longer it will take to get the extension built (the post of money funding the grant the Examiner discussed is approved, but we still have to win it!). So one of the things this grant would study is the possibility of an interim terminal short of the tunnel, with the tunnel rehabilitation (about $10 million) and Fort Mason loop to be done in a Phase 2.
We still hope the entire extension can be done all at once, but this is a sensible approach given what’s going on in DC. An initial extension that got closer to Ghirardelli Square and Aquatic Park and within easy walking distance of Fort Mason would have the great benefit of being able to separate the terminals for the E- and F-lines, which currently share the same single-track terminal on Jones Street. That would improve the operating reliability of both lines.
We’ll keep you updated on the status of the grant application. We thank SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and his staff for their support of the grant, and our Board Member Carmen Clark for her efforts in working with SFMTA staff and that of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, in preparing the grant application.No Comments on Fort Mason Streetcar Extension Update
Muni’s paint shop folks put the finishing touch on newly-returned PCC 1059, applying the “Boston Elevated Railway” decal prepared by our ace graphic designer, David Dugan.
The 1059 should be entering “burn-in” activities in the next few days. This is the acceptance period for each of the 16 cars in the current rehabilitation contract with Brookville Equipment Company following their complete renovation. This involves running the car without passengers for 1,000 miles to test all systems and ensure the car meets Muni’s specifications before they accept it for service. It will join PCC 1060 on the commonly-used test route that literally runs from “Bay to Breakers”: Muni Metro East, on the shores of San Francisco Bay in Dogpatch, via tracks of the T, F, J, K (or M) and L lines to the Zoo at Ocean Beach. (The streetcars are not in passenger service and do not have their GPS turned on, so you can’t track them online.) The 1060 is more than halfway through its testing period so should be carrying passengers soon. It too needs a finishing touch: the chrome-plated “wings” on either side of the headlight, which will be installed when they arrive.
Two of the next three cars due to return from Brookville will wear “new” vintage liveries from cities that once ran PCCs. Car 1062 is the next one due back, and will proudly wear Pittsburgh’s red and cream livery. It is scheduled to be followed by Car 1055, which will again wear its as-delivered Philadelphia livery (all these cars were acquired by Muni second hand in the early 1990s from Philadelphia’s transit agency). After 1055 returns, Car 1063 should be next to come back, adorned in the original teal of Baltimore, instead of the later Baltimore livery it wore before it went east for restoration. We’ll let you know when they arrive. When they do, Car 1053, representing Brooklyn, and Car 1061, representing Pacific Electric, will head back to Brookville for their turn in the renovation shop. We’ll keep you updated.3 Comments on Boston’s Back in Business
UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT. If you’d like to be the first to know when our next trolley tour will happen, ask to be added to our excursion notification list by emailing us at [email protected].
Sunday, June 4, one of the famous 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” will cruise again on the tracks of the F-line, with a guided tour of everything historic along the route from our friends at City Guides and our own Paul Lucas. It’s a private charter, and seats are limited.
Here’s the link with all the information. You don’t want to miss this!No Comments on Private Cruise on the Boat Tram, Just for You, June 4
In the early 1950s, as tens of thousands of San Francisco families decamped for the new surrounding suburbs, merchants grew more and more anxious about getting customers into their stores. Muni’s response: a “Shoppers’ Shuttle” — actually two of them, one serving Market Street/Union Square and one the “Miracle Mile of Mission” between about 16th Street and Army Street (now Cesar Chavez Street).
When they started up in 1953 and 1954, the shuttles only charged a nickel (as opposed to the then-regular fare of 15 cents). The presumption, apparently, was that shoppers would be happy to save a dime on routes that duplicated numerous regular Muni lines on Market and Mission.
They ran weekdays midday only, which should have kept incremental operating costs to a minimum, since a few drivers could easily be diverted from regular lines to the shuttles between rush hours. Routes varied over the years. A third line was added in 1966 that generally went from Civic Center to the Second and Harrison Streets area (but what was there, then?).
In this shot from the SFMTA Archives, we see 1938 White motor coach 060 decked out for the “Mission Shuttle” with 5 cent flags and signs alerting intending riders to the bargain. It looks like it was taken around the rollout of Mission Shuttle service in November 1954 at Muni’s Ocean Division (where the Green light rail facility is now at Ocean and San Jose Avenues).
The shuttles did not generally do a booming business, despite the low fare. It was never clear how many non-shopper riders just hopped aboard because it was the first bus that came along while they were waiting, or who just like saving a dime (no Fast Pass or Clipper Card then!).
According to the definitive book on Muni operations, Inside Muni, all three of the Shoppers’ Shuttle routes were abandoned September 10, 1980. But this may have been just a technical route abandonment. The author of this post doesn’t recall seeing any Shoppers’ Shuttle buses after BART construction on Market and Mission began in the late 1960s. Perhaps readers can comment on their recollections of when the service ended.
This bus, however, would have only made a special guest appearance on the Shoppers’ Shuttle, in all likelihood. Because of its diminutive size (seven feet shorter than a standard White bus), it was regularly assigned to serve Telegraph Hill and North Beach riders on the 39-Coit line (because it could make the tight turn at the Coit Tower parking lot.) It lasted there until about 1974for another 20 years before being retired. It was subsequently purchased by a Muni employee and painted back into its original 1938 orange and black livery.
Its twin, 062, also a Coit Tower bus, has been restored by Muni to operating condition and is also painted in its as-delivered orange and black (no, it’s not for the Giants, nor for Halloween!). Unlike the 060, the 062 has been restored to its original fleet number, 042 (when Muni culled out the fleet of the “Baby Whites”, they renumbered the three survivors 060-062.1 Comment on Shoppers’ Shuttle
UPDATE: As of May 5, Mona had raised more than $16,000,138% of her goal. THANK YOU to all who donated.
Fifteen years ago, the artist Mona Caron painted a wonderful mural on a wall on Church Street at Fifteenth Street. Now, according to Hoodline, the mural is deteriorating and Mona is seeking funding to conserve and restore it.
If you’d like to help, here’s the link. It’s a wonderful work of art and historic interpretation. Our organization, Market Street Railway, supported the creation of the original mural, which Mona dedicated to our long-time faithful volunteer and board member, Dave Pharr.No Comments on Help Preserve Mona Caron’s Market Street Railway Mural
On April 28, 1892, the first electric streetcar ran in San Francisco on a line that started just a few feet from our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart Street. The first practical electric streetcar system in the world was created by Frank J. Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888, so San Francisco was — then as now — an early adopter. (But then and now, it was also a NIMBY town because civic opposition to overhead wires kept streetcars off Market Street itself until the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed the obsolete Market Street cable car system.)
The communications group at our partner, SFMTA, issued this great blog post today, which really says it all about that first electric streetcar line, and has two great vintage photos, so we won’t repeat their excellent content here. We borrowed the photo above so we could run a shot of the city’s oldest preserved streetcar, No. 578, built less than four years after that first run and very similar in appearance (though a tad shorter). This “California-type” body design, borrowed from the double-ended California Street cable cars of the day, was the early standard for San Francisco streetcar design, though it had already been surpassed by larger streetcars by the time of the 1906 earthquake.
It should be noted that 25 years ago, San Francisco put on a parade of streetcars to commemorate the centennial of San Francisco service. The tracks on Market Street had been upgraded for the forthcoming permanent F-line, but they weren’t being used yet, and it had been five years since the last Trolley Festival had graced Market Street. So Muni and Market Street Railway teamed up to bring life to those unused tracks with a parade featuring a variety of the old streetcars, with costumed San Francisco historic characters riding along on the boat tram.
Here’s a link to a great video of that parade. The video also includes lots of Trolley Festival activity from the 1980s. Worth watching as a way to celebrate this 125th anniversary.
And to close this post, a shot of 1912 Moscow tram 106 in the parade, the last time it has operated in San Francisco. The parade used BOTH tracks on Market to run vintage cars side-by-side. (We need a lot of help to get that Moscow tram restored…larger, already ADA accessible streetcars are rightfully ahead of it in the restoration queue.)
So there’s been a lot to celebrate in the 125 years of electric streetcars in San Francisco. Market Street Railway is working on some exciting projects to get the next 125 years of to a historic start! Please join us!
1 Comment on Happy 125th to San Francisco Electric Streetcars