Lost Streetcars of San Francisco, Now Lost in Missouri

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ex-Muni PCC streetcars in St. Charles, Missouri. Scott Tiek photo.

The odd story of the Lost Streetcars of San Francisco has taken another very odd — and unfortunate — turn.
Here’s how the odyssey begins: During the 1980s, after Muni began selling off some of its old PCC streetcars to make way for more modern Boeing LRVs, a gentleman in South Lake Tahoe purchased 18 of the cars with an eye toward someday establishing PCC service in the Lake Tahoe area.

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No. 1127 in Tahoe (2006). Telstar Logistics photo.

That was his goal, but alas, it never happened. Instead, the fleet of ex-San Francisco PCCs spent two decades languishing incongruously in the snow, hundreds of miles from the Bay Area.
Fast-forward to 2007: Nine of the Tahoe PCCs (including former Muni cars No. 1113, 1127, 1139, 1145, 1148, and 1169) were sold to Whittaker Builders Inc., a real estate developer that planned to convert them into bookstores, coffee shops, and sushi bars
in a large housing development under construction in St. Charles,
Missouri. If funds were available, a few of the PCCs would also be used
to create a local streetcar line.

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A San Francisco PCC arrives in New Town (2007) Whittaker Homes.

That never happened either. Instead, Whittaker Builders got caught up in the housing bust and filed for bankruptcy in October 2009. So what became of San Francisco’s former PCC streetcars?

They are now wasting away in a an open field near St. Louis:

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No. 1127 again, now stranded in Missouri (2010) by Scott Tiek

Photographer Scott Tiek, who shot these lost PCCs recently (and whose photos we’re reposted here), summarized their fate:

Two years later and they are still sitting here rotting away. The
problem seems to be coming up with the estimated $26 million in start
up cost it would take to get the line running. Whittaker spent $243,000
buying & transporting the 9 cars from a seller in South Lake Tahoe,
California. They were hoping the city could help pay for a portion of
the rail development with federal funds. Alas Whittaker Builders filed
Chapter 11 bankruptcy Oct. 15, 2009 so I am sure this project is dead
now.”

Obviously, the fate of these ex-Muni PCCs is unknown, and they’re now even farther away from home than before. Yet at this rate — after their meandering journey through Lake Tahoe and Missouri — it wouldn’t be all that surprising to hear they’re headed to the moon next.

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No. 1113 a long way from home (2010). by Scott Tiek

2012 UPDATE: Sadly, these streetcars were scrapped following a fire and the bankruptcy of the developer who owned them.

(more…)

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Empirical Data Proves the Intangible Benefits of Vintage Streetcar Service

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It’s a fact that streetcar service can help cities reduce traffic congestion and boost economic development. More difficult to quantify, however, are the intangible benefits that come from offering a beautiful and efficient way for people to get from Point A to Point B.
So let’s consider this photo an empirical data point. Captured last week on Market Street near the Beale intersection, it shows two passengers enjoying the ride on PCC No. 1057, in service on the F Line, en route to Fisherman’s Wharf. As any armchair ethnographer can clearly see, these urban travelers are definitely enjoying the ride.
Photo by Todd Lappin/Telstar Logistics

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Video: How to Replace a Streetcar Railbed (In 56 Hours)

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Over the course of a few days last weekend, Muni replaced a large section of streetcar railbed around the intersection of 18th and Church streets near Dolores Park in San Francisco.

The project is part of the J Church Improvement Project, but the vintage streetcars of the F Line will benefit as well, as they too traverse this stretch of rail while traveling to and from their base camp at the Geneva Yard.

Happily, a few amateur infrastructuralists were on hand document the work, and it’s interesting stuff to see. Apart from the photos above, one neighbor also produced a short video of the project, which you can watch here:

Congratulations to Muni for getting the job done in just 56 hours!

(Special thanks to our friends at Muni Diaries for the tip, Brian M. for the photos, and Debbie for the video.)

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Last Call for 2011 Calendar Photo Submissions

For those of you interested in submitting photos for our 2011 Museums in Motion Calendar, the deadline to submit photos for the 2011 Museums in Motion calendar will be May 31, 2010.

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Please be sure you have posted any photos you’d like considered to Flickr and tagged them msrcalendarsubmission so we won’t miss them.
We like to feature the newest members of the historic fleet each year, so we’re especially interested in photos of D.C. Transit streetcar 1076, Melbourne tram 916 (which is not in regular service, but will be by next year) and cable car no. 15. And please keep tagging photos throughout the year because we’ll use the same tag again for next year’s calendar.

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Sunday Streets Returns to the Waterfront this Sunday

San Francisco’s popular street closure program returns for it’s third year this coming Sunday, March 14, on the Embarcadero between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. A large group of pedestrians and cyclists gathered during Sunday Streets when it expanded into the Mission District last year. Jamison Wieser photo. Sunday Streets is a smaller version of Bogata, Columbia’s wildly popular Ciclovía program which closes over 70 miles of roadway every Sunday and holiday to allow the public to walk, run, bike,… — Read More

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That’s One Long Streetcar Ride!

MSR Board member Todd Lappin got a shock this morning near Park City, Utah on a ski trip, when he came across this sight on Interstate 80. It’s Muni PCC No. 1080, painted in Los Angeles Transit Lines livery, bound for Brookville, Pennsylvania, and a complete rewiring under Muni’s contract with Brookville Equipment. It’s the fourth of 16 PCCs to head for Brookville under the contract. By the way, No. 1080 is signed “E-Embarcadero/Pier 39.” Uh, you shoulda taken the… — Read More

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Photo of the Month: Ten Years of Wharf Service

The F-Market line extension from lower Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf opened in March 2000. In the 10 years since, the vintage streetcars have been a boon to Wharf businesses, including Pier 39, the entertainment complex at the eastern edge of the Wharf area popular with tourists. Almost every hour is ‘rush hour’ on the F-line. After the sun goes down, when most other Muni routes draw sparse ridership, F-line streetcars are usually still packed, even late into the evening.… — Read More

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