MSR Loses a Leader

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Market Street Railway photo.

Dave Pharr, one of America’s leading streetcar preservationists, died of heart failure in San Francisco October 26, 2003. He was 70.

Nearly one hundred of his friends gathered for a memorial service celebrating Dave’s life on Saturday, November 8, 2003 at the Market Street Railway restoration facility at Market Street and Duboce Avenue, which a mourner called ‘Dave’s true home’. Muni Executive Director Michael Burns and Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher jointly unveiled a plaque at the service renaming the site the David L. Pharr Historic Streetcar Facility.

Dave was a veteran of both the US Army and the Salvation Army. After serving as a second lieutenant in the armed forces, he came to San Francisco and opened a hot dog stand at Powell & Market, where he could watch streetcars in one direction and cable cars in the other. He later took up duties as a counselor for the Salvation Army, where he served in responsible positions for more than twenty years.

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Dave’s real passion, though, was historic preservation—specifically the vintage streetcars of Muni’s highly-popular F-line. In the early 1980s, he joined a young nonprofit organization called Market Street Railway that dreamed of permanent historic streetcar service on Market Street and The Embarcadero. Besides serving on its board of directors, he donated incredible amounts of his time and effort to restoring one-of-a-kind vintage streetcars from around the world. More than a dozen of these vehicles have benefited from Dave’s touch through the years, and his efforts can be seen every day on the F-line.

For the past fifteen years, he devoted all his time to this preservation effort, supervising dozens of volunteers while continuing to perform much of the work himself. Dave was a fount of knowledge about the streetcar fleet, so much so that many maintenance leaders and workers at Muni—which operates the F-line—came to depend on him for advice and counsel, which he always gave freely. He was an exceptional man in the literal sense of the word, friendly and open to all who called on him, and very modest despite his accomplishments.

Dave is survived by his brother James Pharr of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and many hundreds of friends and admirers.

If you’d like to share you own stories and thoughts about Dave Pharr, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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