E-Embarcadero Demonstration Shows Promise

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New Orleans No. 952 in E-line demonstration service at AT&T Park. Rick Laubscher photo.

Today’s E-Embarcadero line demonstration service from Pier 39 to Caltrain showed, on the one hand, how smoothly the vintage streetcars can share the tracks with N-Judah and T-Third Street light rail vehicles. On the other hand, it demonstrated several areas — none surprising — that need to be addressed before regular service can begin. Identifying problems was a key reason that Muni COO Ken McDonald wanted the demo service, which will be repeated from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday, September 14th.

For example, Market Street Railway quickly posted signs at the southern Embarcadero stops directing E-line riders to use the low-level side platforms — not the high-level center Muni Metro platforms — but not surprisingly, many riders missed them. We have pledged to create a full set of permanent signage for the E-line to address that problem at the time regular service begins.

A technical glitch that needs fixing — hopefully before the next demo on September 14th — is the northbound switch at Folsom, where the E-line diverges from the N and T which go into the subway there. That switch, which should be automatic, wasn’t working today, so conductors on the vintage trolleys had to get out and throw it by hand.

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A young family at the ballpark, having just ridden PCC No. 1007 on the E-line from Pier 39. David Dugan photo.

Plenty of riders came out to take part in the free demonstration service, especially later in the morning. And it’s a good thing that the E-Embarcadero streetcars were on the line because, north of the Ferry Building they were needed to reduce the crush loads on the F-line. Muni added three shuttle buses on top of the regularly scheduled vintage shuttles, and everything was packed. Apparently, the Mayor’s Sunday Streets idea worked to get more people to the Wharf, instead of fewer, as Wharf merchants had feared. The closed northbound traffic lanes of The Embarcadero were filled with skaters, walkers, and bikers (including one guy on a penny-farthing bike, what a hoot!). The two vintage streercars out on the E-line — PCC No. 1007 and New Orleans ‘Desire’ No. 952 — looked right in place!

Get ready for the next demonstration E-line service, Sunday, September 14th from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

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E-Embarcadero Line Service for Sunday Streets

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Car No. 1 on E-line tracks at Folsom, 2001. Rick Laubscher photo.

Thanks to an initiative by Market Street Railway, there will be demonstration service on the E-Embarcadero line from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf in conjunction with upcoming city events. Not only that, but rides will be free!

On Sunday, August 31, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, two or more vintage streetcars will run on the E-line in conjuction with the Sunday Streets San Francisco program which closes northbound traffic lanes from the Bayview District to Chinatown along a number of waterfront streets to allow for various activities.

The vintage cars to be used haven’t been chosen at this writing, but they have to be double-ended, so they’ll be selected from among the three double-end PCCs and available vintage cars (sadly, the Boat Tram doesn’t count because — to gain ADA accessibility — only one side’s door is usable).

Then, on Sunday, September 14, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, E-line cars will return to the route for eight hours of operation, covering the second Sunday Streets program in the morning and the neighborhood fair for the South Beach-Rincon Hill-Mission Bay Neighborhood Association, which occurs between 1:00 and 4:00 pm on the Bay side of The Embarcadero between Pier 40 and McCovey Cove.

Muni will use the days to evaluate various aspects of E-line street operation to aid in planning for the permanent line start up, now planned no sooner than 2010, when adequate numbers of vehicles will be available for full-time operation.

Come out both days for the free rides, and support the E-line!

We want to hear from you! Send us your photos and stories from your day on the E-line, and we’ll select a few to publish on the blog. Contributions from members and guests are always welcome.

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Fast Pass Project Update

Several years ago, artist John Kuzich began collecting Muni Fast Passes for an art project that is nearing completion. He’s created a number of small collages and completed three out of a set of four large panels using the passes. Along with flyers posted around town and word of mouth, Market Street Railway helped John connect with riders and their accumulated passes through our website, and our member newsletter, Inside Track. The public response to his appeal for donated passes has been phenomenal.

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Artist John Kuzich presents Market Street Railway director Alison Cant with the Fast Pass collection. Market Street Railway photo.

Today, thanks to John, Market Street Railway is the recipient of a nearly complete archive of Muni Fast Passes — from their introduction in May of 1974 to the present day. To complete this set, we need passes for the months of May, June, and August, 1974. John also needs extra copies of April and May, 1976 — difficult to find as Muni was on strike at the time.

Our thanks go to John for his outstanding job of conserving and displaying this unique aspect of living in San Francisco.

If you would like to donate any of the still-needed Fast Passes, send us an email at [email protected], or contact John Kuzich here.

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Streetcar No. 162: Tested Tough!

During the reacquisition and restoration of 1914 Muni streetcar No. 162, we sought out vintage photos of the car, almost all of which we’ve featured in our member newsletter Inside Track already — except these two. Seems that our ‘newest’ vintage streetcar has never been afraid to get into a scrape … literally.

The first picture — taken at Market & Geary in 1936 — shows why San Franciscans called the gray Muni cars ‘battleships’. Well, actually, it was more the color and size of the car, but in this case, also the plating!

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Market Street Railway Co. ‘White Front’ car No. 152, headed for the Ferry on the 17-Haight & Parkside line, either didn’t see No. 162 on the D-line, slipping past Lotta’s Fountain to merge onto Market, or vice versa. Whichever motorman was at fault, the result is clear: the White Front lost. From what we can see, it looks like No. 162 got away with just a paint scrape.

The second picture — taken during World War II judging from the blue and gold livery on No. 162 and the presence of the Navy Shore Patrol — demonstrates two truisms about Muni’s battleships: 1) you don’t want one of them to hit you broadside, especially if you’re a truck with a high center of gravity; and 2) the ‘energy-absorbing’ ends of the car do their job well, splintering to absorb impact without ruining the car frame or passenger compartments. Best guess on the location, based on available visual evidence, is Fifth & Market, westbound. (Anybody have a more definite site? Let us know in the comments below.)

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This accident may be what caused the sagging platform on one end of the car, which both Market Street Railway volunteers and Muni worked to correct, with some (but not total) success. Not a safety issue though; over the years many Muni and Market Street Railway Co. cars ended up with mildly twisted platforms from this kind of accident.

If anyone has photographs in their files of any of the preserved San Francisco streetcars during their original service lives (before their original ‘retirement’), we would love to have copies for our archives. That includes cars No. 1, 130, 162, 578, and 798. Feel free to send low-res files to [email protected] and we’ll let you know whether it’s a photo we don’t yet have, and work out proper recognition for your donation. Many thanks!

» About Muni Streetcar No. 162
» Back In Business!

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Photo of the Week: August 20, 2008

Potjie photo. Our Photo of the Week is a great shot of F-line PCC No. 1055 on The Embarcadero, shot from inside car No. 130 on its way to Fisherman’s Wharf. We think this image really captures what a unique and beautiful experience it is to ride along San Francisco’s grand waterfront boulevard on the F-line, and we hope you enjoy it. Submitted by Potjie to the Market Street Railway public Flickr group. Let us know what you think in… — Read More

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Museums In Motion 2009 Calendar

The cover of our 2009 calendar shows 1914 Muni ‘Iron Monster’ No. 162 — on the streets of San Francisco for the first time in 50 years — next to its twin sister, No. 130. Cover photo by David Dugan. Market Street Railway’s 2009 Museums In Motion calendar is available for purchase. This 11×16 inch full color calendar features thirteen beautiful photos of Muni’s historic streetcars and cable cars in action on the streets of San Francisco, along with 24… — Read More

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Saturday Mobs on the F-Market & Wharves

Another sordid Saturday morning on the F-line. Eleven a.m., Ferry Building, Wharf-bound. A mob of people waiting as Birmingham 1077 pulls up (see, some of those Newark streetcars DO run!). It’s already packed, but the operator squeezes a few more people in. Then he can’t get the rear doors closed because a passenger is standing on the door-opening treadle and apparently doesn’t understand English (a WHOLE lot of those folks, Europeans, on the line today). An F-line operator tries to… — Read More

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Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip

There is no more recognizable icon for the distinctive flavor of San Francisco living than the cable car. And who better to memorialize that venerable tramway than the author of the unforgettable classic, The Purple Cow. Gelett Burgess may have been sorry he wrote The Purple Cow, but it’s likely he never regretted writing the 1901 classic, The Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip, which captures the essence of operating the cable car’s grip device by which the conductor attaches… — Read More

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A Banner Day at the Museum

Rick Laubscher photo. Today, we raised the profile of the San Francisco Railway Museum with a new 12-foot high banner on the museum’s Steuart Street frontage. We have already noticed an uptick in visitors from the better visibility of the museum to the busy pedestrian traffic between the Ferry Building and the foot of Market Street. Thanks to Market Street Railway vice president Craig Walker for his leadership on this project and to director Alison Cant for a lot of… — Read More

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Driving Equality

African-American employment and leadership has become a proud Muni tradition. San Francisco Municipal Railway photos. As part of our mission, Market Street Railway creates displays on-board the historic streetcars to educate San Franciscans and visitors on interesting aspects of the city’s transit history. We call it the Museums in Motion project. This is an online version of one of those displays. H. Welton Flynn, longest serving city commissioner in San Francisco history. San Francisco didn’t always have a reputation for… — Read More

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Chron: “Streetcar driver was warned before crash”

New Chronicle story tonight on the paper’s website, SFGate. Excerpt: The chief operating officer for the Municipal Transportation Agency, Ken McDonald, said he happened to observe the same operator running her streetcar at what he described as an unsafe distance behind another streetcar on Market Street near Van Ness Avenue around 5:15 p.m. Monday and phoned central control to report the problem. He said he stayed on the line while central control contacted the operator and advised her to put… — Read More

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Chron: F-line “too popular for own good”

In his column today, Chuck Nevius of the Chronicle has essentially repeated a story the paper’s Carl Nolte wrote a couple of years ago: the F-Market & Wharves line attracts more riders than the streetcars can handle. (This just in…!) Nevius quoted me out of context in the article (I’m shocked, SHOCKED!) when he seemed to suggest that Market Street Railway is in favor of doubling the streetcar count on the F-line. What I said was that the line had… — Read More

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Streetcar Accident on The Embarcadero

Milan tram No. 1807 rear-ended ‘Pacific Electric’ PCC No. 1061 today headed northbound on The Embarcadero right-of-way at Washington Street (just north of the Ferry Building). The Chronicle reports that fourteen people were injured. The Chronicle story is here. There are Muni rules about one rail vehicle following too close to another. At this writing, it is not clear what happened. What is clear, if you look at the reader comments attached to the Chronicle article, many people have already… — Read More

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What Have We Learned?

Twenty-five years after the reappearance of vintage streetcars in San Francisco, what have we learned? And how can we apply what we’ve learned to improving future operations? Those are the questions Market Street Railway’s leadership raised with its members, and with leaders at Muni over the past year. Market Street Railway photo. Quick background: vintage streetcar service in San Francisco, though originally proposed by Muni itself in 1979, only gained real impetus with the successful demonstration project known as the… — Read More

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