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“Boston” is Back!

 

PCC 1059, honoring Boston Elevated Railway, is back in San Francisco, photographed by MSR Member Traci Cox at Muni Metro East in the wee hours of Monday, April 24. Like many of the 17 first-generation F-line streetcars (numbered from 1050-1063, plus 1007, 1010, and 1015), the colors on the tribute livery adorning 1059 were a little off. At that time, Muni only allowed a relative handful of colors in the palette for the PCC tribute paint schemes, but now, there are many more colors available, so we have been working with Muni to improve the historical accuracy of the colors.

The previous color limitation led to the 1059 being originally painted in a red-orange color, at odds with the actual Boston hue. We’ve got it pretty close now as indicated by the photo below (apologies, we can’t find the photographer credit…please let us know if you know who we should credit).


No, Muni didn’t install left-hand doors on 1059 as the Boston PCCs had (this anomaly was and is required by Boston’s 1897 subway. But we did take a look at what Boston logo would be most appropriate: the Boston Elevated Railway lettering that the Beantown PCCs were delivered in, or the later “MTA” logo or map logo. We stuck with the Boston Elevated
Railway lettering both because that was original and because where possible we lke to have authentic exterior lettering or logos that provide clues to the origin of the tribute livery. That logo will be installed before the car goes into revenue service.

Here are two more views of 1059’s arrival at Metro East, courtesy of Traci Cox.

(The night lighting does skew the orange color somewhat.)

[Update] After unloading the 1059, the trailer returned to Brookville with various parts, rather than with another car. [We erroneously reported Pacific Electric 1061 had gone to Brookville. Not yet. Sorry.] Market Street Railway is working with Muni to tweak the colors on that iconic Pacific Electric paint scheme as well, when 1061 does go to Brookville. (It and Brooklyn 1053 are slated to be the next cars to go back east for restoration, though in what order is not clear.) Comments on the first version of this story suggest that the Boston orange might work very well as a more accurate trim color on the 1061. We’re checking that out, and always appreciate comments from knowledgeable fans on colors, as long as they come to us in time to do something about them.

MSR Members: those who receive the hard copy of our newsletter, Inside Track, it should reach US mailboxes in the next couple of days, overseas by the end of next week (we hope…postal services around the world seem to be falling apart).

 

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Muni Heritage Weekend Confirmed for Sept. 9-10

 

Mark it down in ink. Muni’s annual Heritage Weekend has now been confirmed for September 9-10, 2017.

This year marks the centennial of Muni as a bus operator, and we will be working with Muni to showcase several of its historic buses, in addition to the usual array of special vintage streetcars and cable cars that will operate that weekend.

Operating hours will be 10 a.m. until about 5 p.m.  The action will be centered again around our San Francisco Railway Museum, across from the Ferry Building, where our exhibit on the transition from streetcars to buses in San Francisco will take center stage. More details will be forthcoming as they develop, but our Market Street Railway members can count on some special events, including a reception and charter for our more generous members and donors on Thursday evening, September 7, and special riding opportunities for all our members outside the regular weekend operation. Again, details to come on this.

Thanks to all our members and friends for their patience in waiting for the dates to be finalized. Other city agencies besides Muni are involved, so thanks to SFMTA’s Communications group for persisting in getting these dates arranged.

Those planning to visit from far away still have time to lock in the lowest air fares! We hope to see you September 9-10!

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Welcome Back, Harvey Milk’s Streetcar!

The streetcar honoring Harvey Milk, civil rights icon and transit advocate, was rededicated in a ceremony at the Castro Street F-line terminal on Wednesday, March 15. Car 1051, looking factory fresh, was on display at the spare track next to Jane Warner Plaza while a parade of speakers, led by district Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, paid tribute to Harvey Milk — and to Muni’s parent, SFMTA, and Market Street Railway for their respective roles in keeping the F-line up to date.

Castro Merchants Board Chair Daniel Bergerac, and head of the Castro Community Benefit District, Andrea Ailello, also spoke. Both emphasized the importance of the F-liine to Castro residents and businesses.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin pointed out that Harvey Milk was the first elected official in San Francisco to use a Fast Pass, Muni’s then-new payment method. SFMTA Board Chair Cheryl Brinkman praised the F-line for making transit both effective and attractive. All speakers had good things to say about Market Street Railway’s advocacy for the streetcars and for the Castro.  (*blush*)

After the ceremony, Car 1051 returned to Muni Metro East for final preparations by the shops before it enters revenue (passenger) service on Saturday. The video above shows it leaving the terminal after the ceremony.

Car 1051 is the first of 16 cars from the original F-line fleet to be fully refurbished under a contract with Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. The second car to enter service will be 1056, honoring Kansas City, which should be carrying passengers within a couple of weeks. Two more cars from the order will arrive in San Francisco within a couple of weeks as well.

We’ll have a report for our members on the details of the restoration and what Muni found during testing in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, out in early April. (If you haven’t joined us yet, this is a great time.)

 

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First Rebuilt PCC, Honoring Harvey Milk, to be Welcomed Back March 15

 

The first of 16 PCC streetcars to go back into service following a complete rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15 at the F-line terminal on 17th Street at Castro and Market.

Streetcar 1051 will be rededicated to Harvey Milk, to whom it was originally dedicated in 2009. The streetcar contains informational displays, prepared by Market Street Railway, celebrating Harvey Milk not only as a pioneering openly gay elected official and champion on LGBTQ rights, but also as a vocal advocate for public transportation.

Milk was the first member of the Board of Supervisors to regularly use a Muni Fast Pass. He rode PCC streetcars painted exactly like the 1051 between his City Hall office and his home and camera store in the Castro. District Supervisor Jeff Sheehy will speak, as will SFMTA officials and a representative of the Castro Merchants, a strong supporter of the F-line.

“We are proud to welcome this streetcar back into Muni service fully restored, rebuilt and ready for action,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation, in a SFMTA news release. “The Harvey Milk streetcar honors the memory of Supervisor Milk. His legacy is well-known and this permanent exhibit honors his life and draws additional attention to his efforts to improve Muni and make San Francisco a better place to live.”

The historic streetcar displays the simplified green and cream livery of the 1970s and is the same Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) model that was in service at that time. It was featured in the film “Milk,” starring Sean Penn, which debuted in 2008.

The current $31.5 million rehabilitation of the original 16 PCCs in the F-line fleet, which were built between 1946 and 1948 and were last overhauled 25 years ago, includes re-engineering of the electrical and propulsion systems, inspection of current ancillary electrical systems and rewiring all lighting systems. The cars are being “skinned” down to their frames, which are inspected and repaired where needed. New sheet metal is applied over the whole body.

The streetcar will be open for public inspection before and after the brief 10:15 ceremony and is then cleared to enter regular passenger service. Come by for the event, and then look for the shiny new car on the street.

 

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Buses & Streetcars: New Exhibit at SF Railway Museum

View Northeast on Market Street From 2nd Street | March 29, 1951. SFMTA Archives

This coming October marks 100 years since Muni ran its first buses. We chronicle a century of coexistence — and competition — between buses and streetcars in San Francisco in a new exhibit now open at our San Francisco Railway Museum.

Originally obtained to extend the reach of Muni’s streetcar lines, buses got bigger and more capable but still were relatively unimportant until World War II. Then, after the war, they sidetracked streetcars to become the dominant form of transit in the city.

Come see this free exhibit at the museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, across from the Ferry Building, Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Oh, and come in soon: we’ve just put our great 2017 calendar on sale at the museum only, for just $5 (down from $12.95).)

Later this year, our members will be able to peruse an enhanced version of the exhibit in our quarterly newsletter, Inside Track.  Join now!

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Great Displays at SF History Days March 4-5

 

San Francisco History Days, the popular annual event, fills up the historic Old Mint at Fifth and Mission Streets this weekend. Hours are 10-5 Saturday, March 4, and 10-4 Sunday, March 5.

This year there’s a special treat: SFMTA (Muni’s parent) has created a great slideshow from its Archives to celebrate the centennial of the J-Church, Muni’s oldest surviving line, which has of course been operated by streetcars its entire 100-year life. Here’s a sneak peek. 

Market Street Railway will have a historic display too, as will dozens of other city history groups. We’ll also be offering our 2017 calendar at a special price, along with unique pint glasses and coffee mugs displaying vintage San Francisco streetcar advertisements.

It’s a great event. Stop by!

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“Service Improvement” on the F-line? You decide.

If you’re riding the F-line this sunny Saturday morning, you’ll find fewer streetcars out there, and longer wait times. But not to worry, it’s a “service improvement.”  Who says so? Muni.

Muni’s parent, SFMTA, sent out a blog post entitled “More Muni Forward Service Improvements Roll Out”. The F-line is mentioned. But when you click through to the story, it’s, well, a different story.

After listing other “improvements” (including cutting back a major crosstown bus line to eliminate transfers to the 14-Mission), they take on the F-line.  “As we fine-tune service to better match demand, a few routes with extra capacity will also see reductions in service, [including the] F Market & Wharves line in the morning and afternoon.” Well, we see the F-line every single day, with every car passing by our San Francisco Railway Museum. Tell the folks stuffed on board the cars about the “extra capacity” they don’t need.

Oh, but wait, Muni then goes on to explain: “Note on the F Line: In recent months we’ve seen issues with streetcars and buses crowding at the line’s terminal at 17th and Market streets. This slight reduction in service frequency is expected to help make the line more reliable.” Huh? If the streetcars are crowding the terminal, it’s because of poor line management. And who is responsible for that? The riders?

Beyond the facts of the rollout, there’s the way it was done — with zero public outreach. After this story was posted, we got an angry call from the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District leadership, asking what we knew about it. The answer: nothing, because we learned about it from the public notice along with everyone else. Turns out the Castro Merchants weren’t informed either. So there was no chance for suggestions of other ways to solve whatever issues might have arisen.

After we learned of this, we did call Muni service planner Julie Kirschbaum, who told us something different than what the official release said. She said the issue was a shortage of both streetcars and trained operators for the F-line. But the fact is that there is not a shortage of streetcars for current operations, and Muni has gotten around the training issue, which has now dragged on for over a year, by assigning buses to regular F-line runs. Has that changed? We weren’t told.

In any event, we are going to be looking very closely at this, working toward further adjustments at the next sign-up period in a couple of months, and advocating for F-line service improvements that are actually improvements. We’ll keep you posted.

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Stunning Composite Photographs

 

This isn’t new, but if you haven’t seen these wonderful composite photographs by San Francisco photographer Sean Clover, you’re in for a treat.

These are just a couple of them, comparing the damage caused by the 1906 earthquake and fire with the exact same location today.

Above, the gate of the cable car barn on Washington Street just east of Mason, showing how Car 155 was crushed by falling bricks. Within a few hours of the original photograph, it and all its mates from the Powell Street cable lines would be incinerated. (They were replaced by cable cars used on the Sacramento-Clay lines, stored out of the fire zone. Some of these cars, much rebuilt, are still on the Powell lines today.)

Below, two of the California Street cable cars of the type built in 1907 to replace the ones destroyed in the earthquake pass between Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, with 1906 rubble from Nob Hill to the right.

 

We’re lucky to live in a city with artists as talented as Sean Clover.

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E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service.

As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and coasting through the switch, but Cars 1009 (above, photo by Paul Lucas) and 1015 (below) do not coast freely enough to reliably clear the switch. It is a very odd problem, like nothing we’ve heard before. Muni management claims they are working to diagnose the problem with the switch and fix it.

In the meantime, Muni maintenance has pulled out all the stops to keep those two cars off the E-line as much as they can, but it’s not always possible. Yesterday (February 1), both 1009 and 1015 were on the line, with blank destination signs when heading southbound, and cards in the windshield stating their final destination was the ballpark stop at Second and King Streets. The cars then turn left at Fourth Street onto the T-line and reverse at the crossover on Channel Street, across the Fourth Street Bridge (below).

What this means is that riders waiting for a Wharf-bound E-line car at the Caltrain stop face a double headway when these cars are in service, since they can’t make the Caltrain stop. Given the problems Muni has had keeping regular headways on the E-line anyway, this can mean a wait of up to an hour between Wharf-bound E-line trains for riders. Muni has put up signs at the Caltrain E-line stop alerting riders to this problem and suggesting they walk (or take an N-Judah) two blocks east to the Second and King stop instead.

Market Street Railway has strongly recommended that Muni address this problem by assigning double-end vintage cars to the E-line to provide steady, reliable service to all stops. Melbourne 496, New Orleans 952 (shown below in 2008), and Muni cars No. 1 and 130, all on the active roster, have all used the Sixth and King terminal during earlier E-line demonstration service without incident.

Muni, however, has responded to our recommendation by saying that because of its continuing shortage of qualified streetcar operators — a problem that has gone on for well over a year now — it is unable to supply the second crew member (a conductor) required on those particular streetcars. (Substituting buses for streetcars on the E-line is not an option because the right-of-way south of the Ferry Building is paved in a way that is rougher than the F-line right-of-way north of the Ferry Building, making bus operation unfeasible.)

While we appreciate that Muni didn’t cancel these E-line runs altogether, this erratic service pattern on the E-line discourages the growth of ridership, especially among residents along the line looking for a reliable service. We will keep you up to date on this problem.

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Clarifying the 1947 Threat to the Cable Cars

This week is the 70th anniversary of the failed effort by Mayor Roger Lapham (at left in the photo above) to “junk the cable cars.” It’s truly something to celebrate, and it has engendered several news articles, such as this badly flawed one, which confuses the cable cars with streetcars and doesn’t know how to spell “trolley” and this one recounting the fight.

Most of these accounts get a fundamental point wrong, and it’s an important one.  Lapham’s misguided effort was only aimed at the two Powell Street lines. Even if he had succeeded, the three lines run by the private California Street Cable Railway Company (Cal Cable) would have remained, and they made up more trackage than the two Powell Street lines.

The Powell lines came under city ownership in 1944, when the private Market Street Railway Company (our namesake) was taken over. Lapham, a businessman with no government experience and no sentiment for history (sound familiar?) blindly ignored the affection San Franciscans felt for the cables and roused up powerful opposition led by Friedel Klussmann, who continued her stalwart defense of the cable cars for the rest of her life. Today, the failed cable car shutdown attempt is the only thing anyone remembers about Lapham’s time as mayor.

It should be pointed out, though, that IF he had succeeded in shutting down the Powell lines, the California lines might well have died out within a decade as well. If Muni had gone out of the cable car business in 1947, Friedel Klussmann and her allies might well have been unable to convince the city to take Cal Cable over and operate its lines when the private company went broke in 1951. The combined cable system ended up getting cut in half in 1954, leaving us with the arrangement we have now: two busy Powell lines branching out to Mason and Hyde to reach two parts of Fisherman’s Wharf, and a truncated California Street line that abruptly ends at Van Ness (it used to go past Fillmore all the way to Presidio Avenue) and attracts far fewer riders because of its route.

An important remaining tangible object of that failed 1947 shutdown is one of the ten Faegol Twin Coach motor buses Muni bought specifically to replace the Powell cable cars. Lapham used these buses, which looked very modern for the era (and featured the same bodies as a fleet of trolley buses Muni bought a few years later) as props to try to convince voters to scrap the cables. One of the buses was even posed misleadingly next to a Cal Cable car, which as we said was not threatened by Lapham’s proposal (photo below).

The buses were assigned to other lines and were ultimately retired. Muni reacquired No. 0163 from a museum many years ago. Market Street Railway volunteers helped refurbish it cosmetically after it arrived in town, and we’ve asked Muni to display it this fall for Muni Heritage Weekend, the annual celebration of San Francisco transit history we co-sponsor with Muni’s parent, SFMTA. The dates for this celebration have not yet been finalized, but it’s looking like September 9-10.

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