Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

Latest News from Market Street Railway...

Perfect November Saturday on the Waterfront

On a picture-perfect November Saturday morning, we were at Aquatic Park shooting some photos for a forthcoming feature in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track, about an exciting updated vision for extending streetcar service to western Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park, Municipal Pier, and Fort Mason. (Not a Member?  Join now and get the scoop on this.)

Anyway, riding back on the F-line, we hopped off at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market for some shopping. Saw an E-line car coming up from Caltrain with a seated load — great to see ridership building there — and then some great sights on the F that we thought it would be fun to share here.

First, the newest PCC to return to service, Car 1062, honoring Pittsburgh Railways, getting instructions from the inspector at the Jones and Beach terminal, with a Milan tram on the F-line behind it, then double-end PCC 1007 on the E-line.

As soon as we get to the Ferry Building stop, what do we see but another PCC newly returned from its renovation by Brookville Equipment Company, Car 1059, now in its correct orange livery honoring Boston Elevated Railway. (Nice coincidence: Embarcadero Center in the background is owned by Boston Properties, our newest Business Benefactor Member!) The dirt on the roof reflects last week’s storm. Rain deposits carbon from the slide on the trolley pole onto the roofs of cars; it takes the crews a few days to get all the cars clean again.

 

We hear a gong and turn around and what should appear coming up the E-line tracks but the “brandest-newest” PCC to return from Brookville, Car 1063, honoring Baltimore Transit with that city’s original PCC livery of Alexandria Blue, orange, and gray. It has just started its 1,000-mile “burn-in” to check all its systems before entering passenger service.

Three newly refurbished PCCs to brighten an already spectacular day!

 

No Comments on Perfect November Saturday on the Waterfront
Share




Positively (Twenty-)Fourth Street

Okay, the headline reference is anachronistic, because this shot goes WAY back beyond Dylan. So evocative, though, we couldn’t resist the reference.

Few are still around who remember streetcars on 24th Street, now the cultural center of the City’s Latino community and known to many as Calle 24. But here we are in 1938 (based on the streetcar and the automobile license plate) looking east on 24th at York Street, staring at a 35-Howard line streetcar. It has just descended the very steep hill on 24th from its terminal at Rhode Island Street on Potrero Hill, crossed the Muni’s H-line tracks on Potrero Avenue, and is bound for South Van Ness, where it will turn right and continue on that street and Howard to reach the south terminal at the Ferry Building.

On the corner to the right, we see the St. Francis ice cream and candy store — still there! — and beyond it, the Roosevelt theater marquee. The Roosevelt wasn’t a tribute to a president, it was opened by a Dutchman named Roosevelt in 1922, who also owned other businesses on the block, including the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, which reopened early this year after a hiatus.

And by the way, this is not just any old streetcar. This is one of five “Rail Sedans” that Muni’s then-competitor (and our namesake) Market Street Railway bought secondhand from the St. Louis & Suburban Railway in 1936. These cars, built in 1927 by St. Louis Car Company, were far more modern looking than anything else Market Street Railway ever owned. They were purchased when the company began converting lightly-ridden lines to be served by single-operator cars that saved labor costs. According to the definitive history of the Market Street Railway, The White Front Cars of San Francisco by Charles Smallwood, the five rail sedans spent their entire San Francisco career exclusively on the 35-line. The company felt if they spread these cars around to other routes, riders on those routes might demand more of them, and there were no more available.

The mandatory “Eclipse Fender” on the front of these cars in San Francisco detracted from the even more modern look they enjoyed in their original home, equipped with chromed spring bumpers (see photo from Smallwood’s book below).

These Rail Sedans only lasted three years in service in San Francisco, sent to the sidelines when the courts declared the single-operator arrangement illegal. Within two years, Market Street Railway had given up its franchise for the 35-Howard. Muni converted the portions on Howard and South Van Ness to its first trolley coach line (the R, later the 41) in 1941. The 24th Street portion later became Muni’s 35-line bus, and is now the 48-line bus. Sadly, all the rail sedans were scrapped in 1941. They’d sure look great in service on the F and E lines today!

This great photo comes to us from the Facebook Group San Francisco Remembered, where it was just made the group photo. Thanks for letting us share.

No Comments on Positively (Twenty-)Fourth Street
Share




Just Visiting

We stopped by Cameron Beach Yard this afternoon and what should be peeking out but the first of Muni’s new light rail vehicles, built by Siemens. Car 2001 was nestled in between 1914 Muni Car 130 (not visible, at right) and (visible to the left) 1952 Brussels, Belgium PCC 737.

There are Bredas under the canopy as well, which Market Street Railway fought for ten years to have built to protect the most vulnerable historic streetcars, which were then based at what was known as Geneva Division, built for some of the city’s first streetcars in 1900 and a Muni property since 1944. It was renamed for Cameron Beach, a board member of Muni’s parent, SFMTA shortly after his untimely death in 2011. (Cam had previously been vice chair of our nonprofit’s board.

But shortly after the facility was dedicated to Cam, the historic streetcars started leaving, as F-line (and later E-line) operations, maintenance, and storage were shifted across town to Muni Metro East. The reason given: rail replacement in the big LRV division across the street, Green Division, meant the tracks at Cameron Beach were needed for LRVs.

But that job, well behind schedule, is finally approaching the finish line, and we’re told the historic streetcars will return to Cameron Beach as soon as February 2018 — just three months for now.

And that Siemens LRV — just visiting during its testing operations, but we know that if Cam Beach himself had seen it today, he would’ve broken into his famous ear-to-ear grin and said, “Oh, YEAH!”  Because Cam loved effective rail transit, old cars or new!

1 Comment on Just Visiting
Share




Van Ness and McAllister, Nov. 1, 1917

This photo from the SFMTA Archive was taken exactly 100 years before the date of this post, on November 1, 1917. No streetcars in the picture, but we do see important infrastructure: the poles that hold up the wires that bring power to the streetcars.

We’re at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street, looking northeast across Van Ness. City Hall, then new, sits on the southeast corner of this intersection. Across Van Ness, we see an apartment building with ground floor retail that’s still there. If you click the photo, at left center at the corner of Redwood Street, you can see a shop offering vulcanizing services (presumably for tires). Van Ness is so wide, and so devoid of traffic, that automobile drivers felt free to park perpendicular to the curb — or parallel, whatever they wanted.

On the left, we see a metal pole with a metal cap belonging to the privately owned United Railroads, used for the 5-McAllister line that ran essentially the same route as today’s 5-Fulton bus.

On the right, a concrete pole belonging to the Municipal Railway, then less than five years old. Van Ness, one of the city’s widest streets, hosted the H-Potrero streetcar line on this stretch of the street (replaced in 1949 by the 47-Potrero trolley bus).

Muni generally preferred concrete poles for their streetcar lines. They used streetcar rail for reinforcement. The poles on Van Ness were installed in 1914 without streetlights. Those were bolted on in the late 1930s, as Van Ness was readied for an increased flow of automobile traffic from the new Golden Gate Bridge.

Bringing the light pole story up to date, the metal poles came to Muni with the rest of the private company’s infrastructure in 1944, when the city took over. The metal poles on lines that were converted to trolley coach, many are still in use.

As for the concrete poles, they have badly deteriorated, as would be expected after a century. In planning the new Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, SFMTA (Muni’s parent) proposed replacing the old concrete poles with modernistic metal ones. They felt this was necessary not only because many of the old poles were structurally unsound, but also because the poles needed to be taller because the trolley bus wires were being moved from the curb lanes to the center right-of-way.

But at the last minute, after repeated public outreach and hearings, a group of influential people in Pacific Heights demanded that the old poles and lights be retained or replicated. After negotiations, they settled for getting rid of the modern lights and substituting some old-timey looking lights that have no history in San Francisco.

But hey, those concrete poles lasted a century. The one is this picture is still there (although the metal pole on McAllister has been replaced, probably when the State of California was built a quarter-century ago on the spot occupied by the bar in the photo offering Golden State Beer for a nickel).

And oh, by the way, traffic on much of Van Ness was diverted today to clear two lanes for sewer replacement, one component of the BRT project.

Thanks as always to SFMTA for preserving the photographic history of transit in San Francisco.

2 Comments on Van Ness and McAllister, Nov. 1, 1917
Share




Baltimore Blues

Of all the comments we’ve received about Muni’s restored PCC streetcars over the past 30 years, nothing comes close to carping about colors. “You’re half a shade off there, you know.” “I can’t believe you didn’t get that green right.” And on and on and on.

Which is why you can call this a pre-emptive post. All you Baltimore Transit experts who look at the photos in this post with your fingers twitching to launch a tirade, step back from the keyboard and read the rest of the post first.

In a lifetime of photography, I (MSR President Rick Laubscher) have never seen such an odd color shift from the actual as I got today in photographing newly restored PCC 1063, honoring Baltimore Transit, which arrived at Muni Metro East first thing this morning.

When i first laid eyes on the 1063, just inside the shop, the color seemed to be accurate — a blue-green some call teal, some cyan. But when I photographed it, the result is way more blue than it really is, as seems evident in my photos above and below. (Also, the orange belt rail looks redder than it actually is.)

I had seen earlier shots of the car, taken at Brookville Equipment Company before it left for San Francisco, that concerned me because the body of the car, which is supposed to be a very unusual teal tone, looked flat-out blue. Which would be wrong. But another photo from Brookville looked just right, and we were told the car actually matched the sample panel we created after consultation with the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, which restored authentic Baltimore Transit car 7407. Both shots that looked too blue, in SF and Brookville, were taken indoors, so maybe it’s the temperature of the artificial lighting affecting the camera sensors. All I can say is that when I looked at it with my own eyes, it looks correct. Weird.

The right color was even more important because when it was first restored for Muni, in the early 1990s, Muni only allowed eight colors to be used in the palette for all the PCCs. Consequently, a number of the restored cars were indeed a “half-shade off”, including the 1063. (The actual Baltimore paint scheme is just below in the snow, with 1063 in its 1990s paint just below that.)

Anyway, on the recommendation of several people we respect, including then-head of Muni historic rail maintenance Karl Johnson, we opted for the original Baltimore PCC scheme, dating back to 1936. In working with the museum in Baltimore, we were told that photographs of their 7407 might appear to show silver lettering and logos, but the originals were actually gold, so we made them that way.

Without exact, modern paint codes, which we could not obtain for the 1063’s teal, you have to do the best you can. The different temperatures of old film don’t make it easier. The color photos of the Baltimore yellow/orange online, for example, run the gamut from almost as yellow as 1063 used to look to as orange as Muni’s Milan trams. And it’s important to remember that traction companies often mixed their own paint, and some cars came out of the repair shop in a slightly different shade than it went in. In the days of old lead-based paints, oxidation played a major role as well, which is why some old-timers swear a particular paint scheme is “off” when they’re remembering the oxidized shade, not the shiny color it wore when factory fresh.

Whatever. Car 1063 is here; it looks as good inside and out as the six cars already delivered in this restoration contract (1051, 1055, 1056, 1059, 1060, 1062). Don’t know when it will hit the streets for testing and its 1000-mile testing before being accepted for service, since 1055 is ahead of it. When it’s out, we expect to see a whole lot of photos in different lighting conditions. And when people see it in person, on the street, not through an internet post, it’s going to look right.

By the way, the 1063 came out on the return trip that took Pacific Electric 1061 to Brookville for rehab. No additional cars left today.

3 Comments on Baltimore Blues
Share




The Lineup

Passing by Muni Metro East as today’s afternoon faded into evening, what should appear but a lineup representing 105 years of San Francisco transit history. Right to left, 1912 Car 1, the first publicly owned streetcar in America, getting ready to go out on a charter. Next to it, 1948 PCC 1015, signed for training duty. And then one of the new 2017 Siemens LRVs, number 2006, still being tested.

Not something you can see in any other US transit agency. But Muni makes it happen!

1 Comment on The Lineup
Share




121 Years in One Day

Muni Supervisor Robert Parks, who trains operators on every type of streetcar and light rail vehicle in the city, may have set a record today.

In the morning (above), he trained operators on Muni’s newest model of LRV, Siemens car 2001, delivered earlier this year. (The first Siemens cars are due to start carrying paying passengers next month.) Above. 2001at the N-Judah Ocean Beach terminal.

Then, he got a call — could he do a shop move, transferring 1896 single-truck “dinky” 578 across Cameron Beach Yard.

The same operator running one of the very the newest streetcars in America and the oldest passenger streetcar still on the roster of a US transit agency in the same day — vehicles built 121 years apart. That’s gotta be a record!

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that Robert moved the dinky “across town,” which he called us to correct. We regret the error but are still in awe of his “double-header”.

2 Comments on 121 Years in One Day
Share




10/15/17 — Twice!

Here are two photos at the same location. One taken 100 years ago today, the other taken…today.

On October 15, 1917, United Railroads photographer John Henry Mentz shot the black-and-white photo at the top, looking north from 18th Street on what was then called Kentucky Street. Soon, Kentucky would have its name changed to match the street it connected with several blocks north at China Basin — Third Street. (To the south of Islais Creek, Railroad Avenue would get Third Street’s name as well.)

The tracks going straight belong to the 16 and 29 lines of United Railroads. A block north, at Mariposa, you can see them bend right onto a viaduct that took them over the busy Southern Pacific railroad tracks that ran east-west along 16th Street. The viaduct would last more than a half century longer before being demolished, later used by automobiles and trucks.

The tracks turning to the left belong to the 22-Fillmore streetcar line, which turned onto Kentucky and terminated in the carbarn on Third near 23rd Street. A municipal election is near, hence the campaign posters, including the one to “Re-elect George Lull City Attorney” over the saloon door to the left. A lone Model-T sits at the curb by the saloon, and a horse-drawn wagon lingers at the corner of Mariposa.

Fast forward to today. The 22-Fillmore STILL turns this corner, beginning its terminal loop (though it has been a trolley bus line for almost 70 years). The streetcar tracks on Third that disappeared in 1941 are back, carrying Muni’s T-Third line for the past ten years. There’s a track switch in the intersection again as well, but this time, it’s for the short-turn streetcar loop that was started during T-line construction and is only now being completed. The saloon is gone, replaced by a popular Dogpatch restaurant, Moshi Moshi. Can’t be sure, but it’s probably the same building, much altered. That building, though, will soon give way to new housing in this rapidly changing neighborhood, as will the venerable Carpenter’s Union hall on the right side of the photo. And the new Warriors arena, Chase Center, is now rising where the north end of that streetcar viaduct used to be.

What a difference a century makes…and doesn’t make. (Long live the 22 and streetcar tracks on Third!)

Thanks to our friends at SFMTA Archive for the historic photo.

1 Comment on 10/15/17 — Twice!
Share




Boat Tram An Added Attraction at Fleet Week

Blackpool “boat tram” 228 joined in the celebration of Fleet Week this past weekend, thanks to a decision by Muni to operate the popular 1934 open-top tram. Here are a few photos from a very happy weekend.

At the top, MSR board member and #1 boat fan Katie Haverkamp caught some sailors in uniform enjoying the ride. (Muni has a tradition of letting military members in uniform ride free!)

Below, MSR member Steve Souza caught the boat cruising with a full load toward the Wharf.

Thanks to everyone at Muni who had the “can-do” attitude that got the boat on the street  this weekend. We hope Muni will agree to operate a boat every year for Fleet Week!

No Comments on Boat Tram An Added Attraction at Fleet Week
Share




Boat Cruising This Weekend!

In a welcomed decision, Muni has launched one of the 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” to help carry crowds along The Embarcadero enjoying Fleet Week 2017!

Open-topped boat Tram 228 will be shuttling between The Ferry Building and our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8 from 11 am to 6 pm. Come out and enjoy a ride.

Thanks to Muni for operating it on one of the most warm and beautiful weekends of the year, and thanks to Matt Lee for the photo of the boat at the Ferry Building taken at the beginning of its weekend.

No Comments on Boat Cruising This Weekend!
Share




|