What Have We Learned: Operations

In What Have We Learned? we discussed what we have learned since the first Trolley Festival 25 years ago about the pluses and minuses of various vintage streetcar types in F-line service. Now, we discuss what we’ve learned about operations over that period.

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F-line operator Robert Parks pulls up car No. 228 — the Blackpool Boat Tram — to load at the Ferry Building on a shuttle run. Rick Laubscher photo.

Looking back at the first Trolley Festival, it’s easy to forget how much the streetcars’ surroundings have changed in the last quarter-century. After all, Market Street is still Market Street. But automobile traffic on our main drag has gotten far heavier. So has the ridership on the cars themselves. And of course the F-line itself is twice as long as in Trolley Festival days. Have F-line operations adapted to these changes?
Not so much. Despite sporadic efforts by Muni to improve service in the past, longtime bottlenecks remain, delaying service and contributing to bunching. Market Street Railway and the current leadership of Muni have had productive discussions on how to make things better. The problems — and solutions — fall into a few specific categories.

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Next Stop: Mission Rock

Map showing E-Line loop in Mission Rock District

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Meet Me in St. Louis

Judy Garland’s great singing made the 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis,” about the 1904 World’s Fair. The film debuted two original songs with enduring popularity. “The Trolley Song,” as in “Clang, clang, clang went the trolley…” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” now a part of the holiday music canon. The film also produced … Liza Minnelli, because Garland met her future husband, Vincente Minnelli, on the set (he was the director).

Anyway, it’s fitting that “The Trolley Song” was written for a film about St. Louis, because it was a great streetcar town longer than almost any other. In fact, Muni bought 70 PCCs from St. Louis second-hand in 1957 to finish the conversion from two-operator “Iron Monsters” to one-operator cars. Those St. Louis cars, numbered from 1101-1170, comprised two-thirds of Muni’s streetcar fleet. One of them, Muni 1128, was painted back to St. Louis red and cream livery and given back its St. Louis number, 1704, to operate during the 1980s in the Market Street trolley festivals, the proof of concept that led to the permanent F-line. Muni still has 1704 and eleven other ex-St. Louis PCCs in storage, and it’s hoped that red and cream livery will be seen on Market Street again.

In the meantime, take a look at St. Louis PCCs, and some Peter Witts too, in their native environment. Some great shots here:

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Tales from the Grip: ‘Rookie bites’

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Rookie bite —
1) A minor injury to the fingers or palm, consisting of a small (but painful) blood blister caused by the skin being pinched between the release latch and the main upper portion of the grip and/or track brake handle. As the name derisively indicates, this type of injury is most often suffered by inexperienced gripmen and conductors. The wearing of heavy gloves usually precludes any such injuries.
2) A title for a column consisting of several loosely related stories that aren’t really long enough for a column in and of themselves, but rather thrown together in a desperate attempt to fill a page with some kind of entertaining and semi-coherent story line, as opposed to some mindless, meandering rambling that can just go on and on and on…

(Hmmm … half a column already — not bad.)

Mila-no, thank you
California & Market, at the terminal, awaiting departure time. A voice, in a heavy but perfectly understandable Italian accent, comes from behind me.

“Excuse, please, you go to Fish’man’s Wharf, ah, Pier 39?”

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Next year’s calendar

Even though 2009 has barely started it’s already time to start planning for next year’s annual calendar. Last year we extended the invitation to submit photos for the calendar to our Flickr group as a contest. We had a lot of great photos to choose from and photos from both Tammy Abraham and Simon Batistoni are featured in this year’s calendar. Here’s how to enter your photos for the 2010 Museums in Motion calendar.

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The Ballad of an F-line Trip

In 1901, the poet Gelett Burgess penned a poem that celebrated a cable car ride. Specifically, The Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip chronicled the feeling of riding what was then San Francisco’s newest cable car line, the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, which had opened ten years before. The rule of that day was that any new cable car line was ‘inferior’ at the crossings to older lines, meaning that a gripman on the new line had to drop… — Read More

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Milano Nocturne

Muni tries to pull its Milan “Peter Witt” trams in from F-line service by 9:00pm because of community complaints about their noise. No such restrictions in their hometown. Check out this incredible parade of various Milan trams, from twins of Muni’s Milanos to the latest seven-truck supertram.

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G’Day! Melbourne Tram Returns to Service

SFMTA photo. It was indeed a good day yesterday (January 16), when Muni’s refreshed Melbourne tram debuted on the F-Market & Wharves line. The 1928 tram’s return to service showed off a fresh paint job and spiffy side panel markings identifying its home town, along with new, discreet running lights to meet state Public Utilities Commission standards. The identifying decals are courtesy of the State of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital. It’s part of a growing cooperative effort,… — Read More

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Goodbye, Columbus!

Fred Matthews photo, Walter Rice collection. It’s 1951 and the “F” in the sign boxes of those Muni “A-type” cars might as well stand for “finished.” Because the original F-line, the F-Stockton, opened in 1914 between Market Street and the Marina District via Chinatown and North Beach, is wrapping up its 37-year run. Here we see car Nos. 39 and 19 passing each other at the intersection of Columbus Avenue and North Point Street. The new double wire strung outside… — Read More

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