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Welcome Home, 162!

One of Muni’s original streetcars, Car 162, built in 1914 by the Jewett Car Company of Ohio, returned to San Francisco today following extensive accident repairs by the firm of Carlos Guzman, Inc. in Signal Hill, near Long Beach.

The streetcar was badly damaged on January 4, 2014, when it collided with a semi-truck that ran a red light in front of the streetcar on The Embarcadero at Bay Street. Muni elected to send the car to a contractor for repairs instead of repairing it in-house.

Car 162 was unloaded at Muni Metro East in the morning of Monday, April 23, 2018. Close inspections will be performed to ensure all the mechanical and electrical components are functioning as they should be. Then, the car will be tested for 1,000 miles before reentering service. Simultaneously, Muni is “burning in” PCCs returning from their rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania for the same 1,000 miles (Car 1050 is currently in that process, with Car 1053 awaiting its turn) and similarly testing newly arrived Siemens LRV-4s, of which 20+ are now on the property, with maybe half of those accepted. So it may take time to get the 162 on the street.

These photos were taken as the car was being unloaded; access to the interior was not available at that point, but it was clear that the cosmetic quality of the restoration is superb, with all seats stripped and freshly painted and varnished, and the headliner (ceiling) stripped and painted in the end sections, varnished in the center section.

We will have a feature article on the restoration of the 162 in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track. To get it, you’ve got to be a Member of Market Street Railway, so please take this opportunity to join us!

We hope that the 162 will be accepted in time to provide substantial days of service this summer on the E-Embarcadero line.

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Sayonara Cincinnati

PCC streetcar 1057, painted in tribute to Cincinnati, is on its way back to Brookville, Pennsylvania for a complete renovation, part of the contract to restore the 16 original F-line PCCs. Thanks to Allen Chan for the photo of it being loaded at Muni Metro East.

In the foreground, Car 1010, a double-end PCC awaiting its own turn at Brookville.

Next finished streetcar expected back should be 1052.

 

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Meet MSR Board Chair Carmen Clark April 17

Carmen Clark, pictured above with SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, is a long-time public transportation leader. She has served as executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, interim executive director of SFMTA (Muni) and has provided executive consulting services to numerous Bay Area and national public transit agency.

We are delighted that she is the new chair of the Market Street Railway Board of Directors.

Come meet Carmen for a casual, candid conversation about our organization’s goals and activities, and a discussion about the state of transportation in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

This is the first in a series of quarterly receptions we’re hosting at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, across from the Ferry Building (F-line Steuart Street stop; Muni Metro/BART Embarcadero station; 2, 6, 9, 14, 21, 31 buses).

Carmen’s talk starts at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 17. Doors open at 6:45. The event is FREE to Market Street Railway members. They may each bring guests for the suggested donation of $5 each. Non-members may attend on their own for a suggested donation of $10. Each attendee gets a complementary glass of wine, a beer, or a bottle of water. Katie Haverkamp, chair of our celebration committee, will lead the evening’s festivities and MSR President Rick Laubscher will be available to answer questions as well.

You’ll enjoy meeting Carmen, guaranteed. No RSVP is needed; just come and enjoy: 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 17.

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Sacramento Street on Powell!

Few people realize that most of the cable cars that run on the two Powell Street lines originally ran on Sacramento and Clay Streets. Before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the Sacramento-Clay line ran all the way from the Ferry Building to Golden Gate Park (at Sixth Avenue and Fulton). It shared ownership with the Powell lines. A number of new cable cars were locally built in 1893-94 by Carter Brothers to serve the Midwinter Fair in the Park. One of them was Car 511.

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, the 511 was one of a couple of dozen Sacramento-Clay cable cars resting in a car barn on outer Sacramento Street. These cable cars were spared the flames that engulfed the original Powell Street fleet of identical cars at Washington and Mason Streets. Rebuilding the system in the aftermath, the Sacramento-Clay cable cars became Powell Street cable cars, replaced on a portion of that line by double-end cable cars rebuilt from cable cars salvaged from Market Street service. (Electric streetcars took over Market Street and the flatter, outer portions of the Sacramento-Clay line.)

Car 511 (renumbered to 11 in the 1970s) soldiered on for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st in different liveries (paint schemes), but when it came time last year to freshen up the 11, Cable Car Superintendent Ed Cobean asked Market Street Railway what would be an appropriate livery for this car in its 125th year of service. We suggested its original Sacramento-Clay livery of Tuscan Red with tan and white trim, with the rocker panel on the side emblazoned with the name of its original owner (which happens to be an early company that bears our non-profit’s name). Ed graciously agreed, and the cable car body shop and painters did a beautiful job on the car, which went back into service today, with Val Lupiz gripping.

Jeremy Whiteman captured this fabulous photo at the Hyde and Beach turntable.  He has contributed many great photos to our organization, especially its annual calendar (we expect the 2019 calendar in our museum and online in June).

The 1890s Sacramento-Clay livery on Car 11 brings to ten the number of Powell cable cars that now wear heritage liveries seen on these cable cars over the past 130 years, since the Powell lines first went into service in 1888. Our nonprofit is proud to have taken a leading role in bringing these liveries back to life, adding authentic color to the iconic cable cars. In coming months, we’ll be talking more about advocating for further improvements to the irreplaceable cable car system.

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Brooklyn is Back!

The streetcars just keep on coming (and in one case, going back). PCC 1053, painted to honor Brooklyn NY, arrived back in San Francisco April 1 (no foolin’) after being thoroughly rebuilt at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, part of that company’s contract with Muni to renovate the 16 PCCs in Muni’s original F-line fleet.

It was streetcars (or as they were often called in New York, trolleys) that famously inspired the nickname of Brooklyn’s professional baseball team, which was originally dubbed the “Trolley Dodgers” (later shortened). That baseball team later moved to some other town, somewhere.

Anyway, the streetcars in the current $30 million-plus Brookville contract include 13 single-end streetcars (numbered from 1050 to 1063) that had been acquired from Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit agency second-hand, plus three double-enders (1007, 1010, and 1015) that were bought new by Muni in 1948 and retired from their first service life in 1982. This group of PCCs was initially renovated by Morrison-Knudsen in upstate New York in time to open the F-line in 1995.

The 1053 arrived with its wonderful seal of the City of New York on the sides, but also with duplicate numbers on both ends of the car, high and low. It turns out that at some point in the past 20 years, Muni shops doing work on the 1053 added the extra sets of numbers and Brookville simply replicated that.  Not a big deal; it will be corrected before the car goes into service.

Like previous cars in this contract, the 1053 will now undergo testing for 1,000 miles before being accepted by Muni. This contract includes a one-year warranty on the streetcars.

That warranty is being put to use on Car 1060, which went back into service last July but was found to have significant roof leaks when this winter’s storms hit. Brookville will carry out the warranty work at their factory in Pennsylvania. Here’s the 1060 being loaded for the return trip, courtesy Allen Chan on our Facebook group.

The 1060 will join two single-end PCC painted in tribute to transit systems of the city-that-shall-not-be-named that the Dodgers moved to 60 years ago (1052 – LA Railway, and 1061 – Pacific Electric), which are the next to return, in that order, to San Francisco), plus double-end 1015, which is being used as the prototype for restoring the two double-enders still at Muni (1007 and 1010), as well as the two ex-Red Arrow cars (18 and 21, to be renumbered 1012 and 1013) that Muni acquired from the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut last year. Negotiations to add the Red Arrow cars to the contract have not yet been concluded, and work on them cannot begin until that’s done.

Two more single-end PCCs, 1057, wearing the Cincinnati tribute livery, and 1058, honoring Chicago Transit Authority, are still at Muni waiting for their turn at Brookville.

As always, we’ll keep you up to date on the comings and goings.

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Opening Day, with Car 1!

In a welcome surprise, Muni Operations assigned its flagship streetcar, vintage 1912 Car 1, to regular E-line service today, the first time that has happened since the E-line opened for seven-day service two years ago.

It caught our usual coterie of fan-photographers off-guard, but we managed to catch a shot of it, above, pulling in to Muni Metro East at the end of the day.

The special appearance was probably because of the Giants’ home opener at AT&T Park on the E-line. The team is celebrating its 60th year in San Francisco. When the Giants arrived in 1958, Car 1 had already been retired from its first operating life for seven years and was sitting on a dark pier, its motors removed, marked for static display in a museum that never came to pass.

But Car 1 got a second life in 1962 when it was restored by Muni craftsworkers to commemorate Muni’s 50th anniversary. (That of course was the year that the Giants WOULDA won the World Series IF ONLY Willie McCovey had hit that line drive a foot higher or to the right of Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Candlestick, but we digress.)

Today, as for the past two seasons, E-line cars like 1011 (above) carried lots of happy fans between Fisherman’s Wharf and the game. It and other Muni streetcars on the E-and F-lines carried special Giants’ 60th Anniversary flags today, supplied by our generous volunteer James Giraudo and installed at 2 a.m. by the dedicated Joe Hickey, who oversees our flag program. Like the rest of us, Joe didn’t know Car 1 was going into service, so it didn’t have the flags on it, but it hit a home run anyway. (So did two Giants, Joe Panik and Evan Longoria, but the home team lost anyway, 6-4 to Seattle.)

By the way, the Giants flags also appropriately appeared on Powell Cable Car 24, which is dedicated to the greatest Giant, Willie Mays. Val Lupiz did a dandy job decorating Car 24 with help from James Giraudo, Jeremy Whiteman, and Frank Zepeda!

Discussion at the ball park today centered around some major league “firsts” set over the weekend, which got us to wondering whether this was the first time in its 105-year life that Car 1 had carried fans to a baseball opening day. The answer? Probably.

In 1914, the San Francisco Seals moved to a brand new ball park, Ewing Field, on Masonic Avenue. Muni built a spur track from Geary Street along Masonic to serve the new ball park, and assigned some runs of the A-line to Ewing on game days. No run assignments survive from those days, but Car 1 was based at Geary Division, just three blocks away, in 1914, so it’s at least a possibility it served Ewing Field for that year’s opening game (which the Seals lost to Oakland, 3-0). The photo below shows a Muni streetcar of Car 1’s type (possibly Car 1 itself) on the A-line at the Ferry Building with a “Ball Park” designation on the dash. The “1915” on the Ferry Building tower signifies the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but the photo was taken during the 1914 baseball season, and the “ball park” reference is to Ewing Field.

Ewing Field was a disaster for baseball, even foggier and windier than Candlestick was in later decades, so the Seals moved back to Recreation Park at 15th and Valencia Streets in 1915 (served by United Railroads/Market Street Railway streetcar lines, but not Muni lines). Muni’s investment in the Masonic Avenue spur turned out to be largely a waste, as it was never again used in revenue service and largely torn out by the late 1930s.

The Seals stayed at Recreation Park until 1931 when they moved to a new Seals Stadium at 16th and Bryant. Market Street Railway streetcars on the 22 and 25 lines served Seals Stadium directly, while Muni’s H-Potrero line was a block east. Car 1 operated on the H-line in the late 1910s and early 1920s out of Potrero Division, but it was back at Geary Division and usually assigned to the F-Stockton, D-Van Ness, or C-Geary-California, so it probably never made a Seals Stadium opening day. (The Giants played their first two seasons at Seals Stadium while Candlestick Park was being built. Millions of fans over Candlestick’s 40 year history as the home of the Giants took Muni diesel buses to the games.)

Market Street Railway is proud to count the San Francisco Giants as one of our business supporters. Play ball! Go Giants!

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Boat from “Beach to Beach” May 6

UPDATE, April 6 — This event SOLD OUT in record time. We’ll announce future excursions through a blog post here or in our monthly email newsletter. To subscribe to either or both, click here.
We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary year of the Twin Peaks Tunnel with a special excursion along the streetcar lines it created. Though we’d love to go through the venerable tunnel itself, the overhead wires were converted years ago to allow only modern light rail vehicles. But we still found a way to make the trip unique: we’ll use Muni’s “convertible” — open-top 1934 Blackpool, England Car 228, known to all as the “boat tram”.

The boat will sail from Cameron Beach Yard at Geneva & San Jose Avenues, across from the Balboa Park BART station (and the J, K, and M line terminals) at 1:30 p.m. sharp on Sunday, May 6, for a two-hour jaunt along the M-Ocean View (opened in 1925), the L-Taraval (opened in 1919) to the Zoo terminal near Ocean Beach. There’ll be a photo opportunity at the Zoo. Then back on the L to West Portal, and along the first tunnel line, the K-Ingleside (opened in 1918) back to Cameron Beach.

So you can say you’re going from Beach to Beach and back to Beach when you take this special ride.

See more details here. Don’t miss this very special excursion.

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New Heritage Cable Car Livery Selected

Thanks to a rare photo posted by cable car gripman and historian Val Lupiz, Market Street Railway has selected its next heritage cable car livery. We’re calling it the “blank slate” livery.

Ten of the Powell Street cable cars are painted in heritage liveries — the paint schemes Powell cable cars actually wore at different points in their 130 year history.  But no heritage liveries have yet been applied to California Street cable cars as yet because, except for one brief experiment by Muni when it took over the line in 1952 and applied its standard green and cream livery to one car, the Cal cars have always worn their iconic maroon livery with sky blue trim.

Except when they wore no livery at all.

As we can clearly see in the photo, taken at California and Hyde Streets in 1908, the California Street Cable Railway Co. rushed to resume service as quickly as possible following the 1906 earthquake and fire. As new cable cars came in from Hammond & Sons, they elected to stick some right out on the street without painting them. You can see the familiar ribbon with the line’s destinations on the end of the car on the right, while the car on the left just wears its “birthday suit”: glorious tongue-and-groove wood.

“This was a fabulous discovery,” said Rick Laubscher, President of Market Street Railway. “The cable car painters work hard all the time creating all the other liveries for the cable cars, and they do a great job. So we’re recommending that when the next newly rebuilt California Street cable car emerges from the carpentry shop that all the painters take a well-earned vacation for a couple of months and put it out there just as it is: in its raw, naked state, emblematically reminding us of the harried months and years after the big Shake and Bake, when speed mattered more than beauty.”

“I support this idea, even though it will make life harder for my fellow gripmen and gripwomen,” Lupiz added. “Now, when clueless tourists on the Cal line ask, “Where does this car go?”, we just point to the end of the car. So we might actually have to answer the question now. But it’s worth it.”

We haven’t yet put this fabulous idea to Muni.  Maybe tomorrow morning, Monday April 2, we’ll think better of it.  🙂

UPDATE, APRIL 2 — Just to be clear (because we guess it wasn’t clear enough in the initial post), this was an April Fool’s post.

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Kids Priced Out of Cable Car Experience?

The very good Chronicle columnist, Heather Knight, raises a provocative question today, one that we have raised before.

In her column (which is behind a paywall, so we’re excerpting it below), she notes that many kids today are denied the unique experience of a cable car ride due to cost. Cable cars have fares separate from all other Muni services — and much higher. For example, to get from Downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf on an F-line historic streetcar would cost a family of four (two adults and two children five or older) $8.20 if they paid in cash on the streetcar or $7.50 using Muni Mobile. Riding a cable car between the same two points would cost that family $28.00 — more than three times as much. That’s because cable car fares are a flat $7.00 one way for anyone over 4 years old. And no transfers, either.

Here are some excerpts from Knight’s column:

Pretty much everything related to raising kids in San Francisco is too expensive. From buying a house to renting an apartment to affording groceries and child care, it all adds up. And up and up.

The fares for those charming symbols of San Francisco that climb halfway to the stars, as Tony Bennett so famously crooned, have blasted through the stratosphere. And unlike the rest of Muni’s public transportation system, there aren’t discounts for kids ages 5 to 18. Or transfers to get you back for free within 90 minutes…

Yes, to ride the cable cars from Powell and Market Streets to Fisherman’s Wharf and back just because it’s fun for kids and a quaint part of our city’s history will set that family back $56…

San Francisco isn’t even nickel-and-diming us anymore. Is “dollaring” a word? When it comes to City Hall and its fees, it should be.

“It’s extremely expensive,” acknowledged John Haley, director of transit for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “You can either eat for a day, feed your kids or ride the cable cars.”

Me? I’ll feed my kids.

Haley didn’t try to justify the fares, though he said the agency’s board is looking at a variety of fare adjustments. Revenue on the cable cars has actually dropped since the fare went up. I’m no economist, but gee, maybe the price should be lowered?…

Haley noted that operating the historic cable cars is very expensive and that while city residents with Clipper cards do ride the California line in big numbers, the Powell lines are used almost entirely by tourists ‘with fistfuls of money waiting to get on.’

Hmmm. Not the most visitor friendly comment we’ve heard lately, and sadly, it seems to show a management attitude that sees the cable cars as something other than an integral part of the Muni network. Haley also seemed to shrug off the long lines at the cable car turntables caused by layovers well in excess of what Muni’s labor contract stipulates.  “Schedule adherence is an issue for us,” Haley told Knight.

Back to Knight’s column:

As loyal readers of this column know, my 4-year-old is obsessed with all things Muni. Well, nearly all things Muni. The buses, the subway trains, the F-car? You bet. The cable cars? He’s ridden those maybe once or twice ever. While he’s free until his next birthday, it would still cost $42 for his older brother, my husband and me to ride with him round-trip…Muni should start giving free cable car rides to kids under 12 so long as they’re with a paying adult with proof of city residency.

The idea came from an email I received in response to the column on riding every Muni bus line in one day. David Kiely is a father of three boys and a South of Market resident.

‘It’s come up, more than once, that our kids have never ridden a cable car,’ Kiely wrote, noting his family is priced out and that kids shouldn’t be charged the full rate. ‘It’s a little thing that would mean a lot.’

Stacey Randecker Bartlett, a Potrero Hill mom of two kids, thinks all public transit in the city should be free for all kids. But a $14 round-trip ride on a cable car even for kids as young as 5?

“That’s insane,” she said.

She said San Francisco needs to decide whether the cable cars are purely a tourist attraction, in which case they should be removed from control of Muni and marketed as an amusement ride. Or if they’re actually public transportation, in which local families shouldn’t be charged the equivalent of a nice meal for riding.

“You just told that family, ‘Get in a car, get in an Uber, get in a Lyft, get in a taxi,’” she said. “For that rate, you could drive a family and park in the most pricey Union Square garage.”

To be fair, the free Muni program for low-income youth does allow them to ride cable cars for free, too. But it seems ridiculous that all other city kids have to pay $14 for a round-trip.

If Muni deems free cable car rides for all city kids unworkable, why not give discounts to San Francisco residents, like so many other tourist attractions do? Coit Tower’s elevator ride to the top costs $8 for non-resident adults and $6 for city residents. Kids ages 5 to 11 are charged just $2.

I finally took the boys there for the first time on Sunday (on the 39-Coit, of course), and the views were gorgeous. You can’t see dirty needles or smell urine from that high up. My 4-year-old peered out the windows on his tiptoes and said, “Let’s look for Muni buses!” The Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Botanical Gardens all offer reduced or free admission for residents, too.

Justin Bass would support the change. The Lower Pacific Heights resident also has a 4-year-old Muni-obsessed son. His boy, Quincy, had a Muni-themed birthday party, spends his free time either riding buses or tracking them on the Next Bus app, and knows the names of his favorite drivers. There’s Keith from the 24-Divisadero, Ramsey from the 44-O’Shaughnessy and Shalisha from the 1-California.

But he doesn’t know the names of any cable car gripmen because he hardly ever rides cable cars. Let’s change that, shall we?

Yes. Let’s change that. Market Street Railway is letting Ms. Knight know we support her idea. Muni uncoupled cable car fares from bus and streetcar fares 35 years ago now, and has seemingly not missed an opportunity to squeeze more revenue from the cables. We’ve advocated for many years for lower cable car fares, especially for kids, because it has seemed to us that high fares discourage many families from getting that unique experience. But also, from the local angle, it’s critical that kids growing up in the Bay Area today be acquainted with all modes of public transit, the better to become regular users and advocates when they grow up. And currently, cable car fares that are more than five times higher than the kids’ fare on any other Muni vehicle discourages those kids from embracing this central part of our city’s transit heritage.

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Colors, Forms of the F-line

San Francisco’s vintage streetcars, particularly the streamlined PCCs that provide most of the service on the E and F lines, keep attracting the eye of artists. We particularly like George Clapper, who we learned about the other day when we got a “pingback” request from another website, informing us that they had linked to our site.

When we clicked on the link, our eyes were dazzled by a panoply of colors and shapes, photos by Mr. Clapper that show close-up details of the streetcars.  We just had to share it. So take a look!

For the fans, that’s the headlight of Car 1070, painted in the livery that it wore for decades in Newark, New Jersey, earlier in its life. See how many other cars you can identify from the slivers of their bodies on the site.

Tributes like Mr. Clapper’s are a reminder that our streetcars are more than just transit. They have become an iconic part of our city that catch some very sharp eyes!

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