Nice Topper New Orleans!

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Recently repaired streetcar no. 952 at the Noe Street F-line stop. Jamison Wieser photo.

New Orleans “Desire” streetcar No. 952 has a new lid… to some extent anyway. It sprung a pretty good leak, and after patching, the paint shop realized they didn’t have enough of the mustard-yellow paint that’s been used on the roof since it came to San Francisco ten years ago (how time flies).
But then they realized (we had just published an extensive article on the Perley Thomas cars in their home town in our last member newsletter Inside Track) that on their home turf, the St. Charles cars’ roofs are actually painted a medium green, offsetting the olive body paint. Swish, swish, the job was done, and 952’s back on the road again.

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E-Embarcadero “On the Waterfront” this Sunday

STELLLLLAHHH!  Marlon Brando made his name in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and cemented it in “On the Waterfront.”  The two come together on Sunday, April 26 (not Brando, he’s still dead) when the Streetcar Named Desire (New Orleans No. 952) operates on the waterfront as part of this year’s first “Sunday Streets,” the wildly successful program inaugurated last year by Mayor Newsom.

The service is a demonstration of the future E-Embarcadero line, which will share part of its route with the F-Market & Wharves from Fisherman’s Wharf along the Embarcadero, but where the F-line turns onto Market towards the Castro, the E-line will continue down the Embarcadero to the Ballpark and Caltrain.

DSC_1989.JPGAs a big bonus, “Desire” will be joined by the streetcar most desired by locals, 1914 Muni car No. 162 (pictured at last year’s event), still in pristine condition after being stored under cover this past year following its successful restoration. The two cars will operate E-line service from the Caltrain north along The Embarcadero from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  To carry as many people as possible, the cars will turn back at Pier 39 (but the permanent E-line will operate all the way to the Wharf terminal).

Come join the fun and make it a big success once again.

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Never Let the Facts…

…get in the way of a good story. That’s what cynical old journalists told me way back when I was a cub reporter. Still true, as I’ve learned again in talking with some media folks — and even more, reading blog comments — about the Streetcar No. 1 restoration contract.
Here are some facts I reported to media people. Only a couple made it into any of their accounts.


Rust and rot damage on streetcar no. 1

  • Amortized over the anticipated lifetime of this renovation (50 years), the project is more cost-effective than any other major Muni vehicle rehabilitation
  • Muni is currently planning to spend about the same amount as the No. 1 contract to renovate EACH of the 150 Breda light rail vehicles on their property: a $275 million tab (unfunded to date). That renovation won’t be amortized over 50 years, but just 20, after which the Bredas are due for scrapping. And the Bredas need this work after just 10 years of service vs. No. 1’s 97 years.
  • Over the life of the renovation, the cost is less than replacing streetcar No. 1 in the fleet with a plain old diesel bus. Those wear out and are scrapped every 12 years, so you’d need four buses over the life of the renovation. Those four would cost about $2 million in current dollars. Want lower-polluting hybrid buses?  Much more.  Want to match the zero-pollution of pure electric streetcar No. 1 with a trolley bus, which also lasts longer than diesels? It’d still cost more.

What’s more dispiriting than ignored facts, though, is the emergence of people who seem to think San Francisco should be more like, I don’t know, say, Houston. Homogenize everything. Wreck history. Lowest common denominator.
But then I remembered that the same kind of outcry came from the do-nothing crowd after the 1989 earthquake, when it was obvious that City Hall was no longer safe. Whatever else you may think of him, Mayor Brown stood up for doing it right, against a lot of criticism. Funny how no one is critical now that they’ve seen the results. I think we’ll see the same thing with streetcar No. 1.

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Car No. 1 Renovation Contract Awarded

Muni’s governing body, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, has awarded a contract to Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania to completely renovate Muni’s flagship streetcar No. 1. The contract is for $1.88 million including a possible $100,000 in spare parts.


Car No. 1 has been out of service for almost three years with a wiring problem. Last restored in 1962 for Muni’s 50th anniversary, it was decided to undertake a complete overhaul rather than patch it up one more time. The goal is to have the venerable streetcar (pictured here on its very first trip on December 28, 1912 with Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph at the controls) ready to play a starring role in Muni’s 2012 centennial, which Market Street Railway is helping organize.

Brookville, which modernized PCC streetcars for Philadelphia’s SEPTA and has worked on Muni’s ex-Newark PCCs, was the only bidder on the contract. We know of at least two small streetcar restoration outfits that wanted to bid, but either couldn’t meet the city’s bonding requirements or didn’t want to deal with the myriad unrelated requirements imposed by the city in its contracts. After finalizing contract formalities, Muni expects to authorize Brookville to pick up the car within a few weeks. The contract calls for it to be returned to San Francisco within twelve months after pickup.

In other streetcar restoration news, Muni is currently evaluating proposals from two companies to rewire the 11 troubled ex-Newark PCCs (streetcar Nos. 1070-1080) and completely restore five ex-Muni PCCs, four double-end streetcars (1006, 1008, 1009, 1011) and single-end No. 1040, which is the very last of some 5,000 PCCs built in North America. That contract is expected to be awarded in June, with the first Newark PCC returning finished within 12 months, and the first ex-Muni PCC returning within 24 months.

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Muni Budget Trauma

Our friends at Muni called the other day and asked if we would post the following announcement on our blog, as part of their effort to get the word out to the public on their budget problems and give people a chance to comment in various public forums. We’re happy to help; it’s printed unedited below. One note: it looks like Muni has pulled from consideration any possible separate fare increase for the vintage streetcars. (They had put a possible… — Read More

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