Memorial Day Tradition: Streetcar to the Cemeteries

Memorial Day has always been a time to honor the departed. For many decades in San Francisco, thousands of people paid their respects by streetcar. From 1902 until 1949, the 40-line ran out Mission Street and continued south all the way to San Mateo, passing the cemeteries of Colma along the way. So many riders would head for the cemeteries on Memorial Day that extra streetcars would be added, many of them running on an extended version of the 14-Mission line or (like the streetcar pictured around 1940 in Colma) a shortened version of the 40-line.
Some of the track in the center median along this part of the route survived until just a few years ago. And of course the cemeteries remain the dominant presence in the town of Colma.

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Meet the Mayor of the F Line Streetcars

The streetcars of the F Line have many attracted fans, lots of dedicated Muni employees, and even a board of directors, but they never had a mayor — until now.
Meet Owen Thomas, the new mayor of the F Market Streetcars on Foursquare, the location-based social networking site. Owen became the mayor after he used Foursquare to “check in” on the F Line  more times than anyone else.
A San Francisco resident who lives on the northern side of Telegraph Hill, Owen started riding the F Line after Muni rerouted the 10 Townsend bus, “I ride the F with a TransLink — I mean, Clipper — card. It’s where the early 20th century meets the late 20th century,” Owen says. “I get a total fanboy thrill when I see a streetcar with a paint scheme I’ve never seen before round the corner past Hotel Vitale.”
Want to steal Owen’s mayoral crown? Just check-in via Foursquare whenever you climb aboard an F Line streetcar. Meanwhile, the F Market also has lots of fans on Yelp (3.5 stars!) and, of course, a thriving community of photographers on Flickr.

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What a Difference a Week Makes!

Geneva Canopy 052610.jpg
Even with the unseasonal rain we’re having, the long-awaited historic streetcar protective canopy is going up in a hurry out at Muni’s Geneva Division. The main frame is almost done, just one week after the first steel was erected. It will be fully paneled on the rear and sides to protect the vintage streetcars from the elements when they’re not in service. The front will be open to facilitate streetcar moves (the building has its back to the prevailing winds, so the open front shouldn’t be a problem. Doors would have added considerable costs). Completion date remains October.

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Third & Market, 70 years ago

July 1 marks the 150th anniversary of rail transit on Market Street. No, that’s not a typo. Rail transit started on Market before the Civil War with a steam engine. We’re putting together an exhibit on this anniversary for our San Francisco Railway Museum, to open this summer, and have come across some interesting shots we’ll be sharing here from time to time.
Third and Market c. 1940.jpg
This one appears to have been taken around 1940. Click on the picture and you’ll get a GIANT view of this shot that shows some incredible street detail. Of course, there’s Market Street Railway streetcar No. 778 on the 15-line, crossing from Kearny onto Third, headed for the SP Depot at Third and Townsend, which then offered trains to LA, not just San Jose!. There’s an outbound K-Ingleside Muni “battleship” of the same class as preserved Nos. 130 or 162. We can’t read the number, so it actually could be one of those two.
San Francisco’s unique Wiley “birdcage” traffic signals, identical to the one preserved in our museum, guard the intersection. There’s the classic deYoung Building, long-time home of the Chronicle (though by then it had moved to Fifth and Mission) looming over the intersection; the deYoung Building is back at the same old stand today after being disguised behind aluminum panels for decades until recently (but now it’s a Ritz Carlton timeshare).
Most fascinating to me, though, are the businesses along the streetfront: a restaurant featuring oyster loaf; a billiards parlor, a chiropractor, Gene Compton’s, part of a popular restaurant chain back then, and my personal favorite discovery: Carl Wilke’s cafeteria in the deYoung building, whose sign peeks out from behind the 15-line streetcar.
As a teenager working in my family deli, in the Grant Market the next block up (Grant & Market, natch), I would walk a few doors down to the Central Tower (former Call Building) kitty corner from the deYoung Building. Carl Wilke was still in business in the mid-1960s, but across the street. I’ll never forget the man. He must have been in his 80s by then, but he still worked there every day. Slender as a reed (probably why he lived into his 80s!) with slicked back white hair (all of it!) and a pencil-thin mustache. He always wore a white shirt and tie, and a starched waiter’s jacket. He was the picture of formality and dignity — running a cafeteria.
THIS picture definitely predates me, but it’s a kick to see a living link in Mr. Wilkie (as I always called him) between these days and times I actually remember.
(Great open-faced turkey sand, by the way. With veg and mashed probably was about a buck and a quarter.)

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21st Century Barn Raising

They raised the first steel posts and roof beams yesterday for the new Geneva Canopy. This is the culmination of more than a dozen years of advocacy by Market Street Railway to give the irreplaceable historic streetcar fleet protection from the elements when the vintage streetcars are not on the streets. (We have a major article on this in the new issue of our newsletter, Inside Track, which will be mailed to our members next week.) Muni’s most valuable preserved… — Read More

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Harvey Milk Day Volunteers Needed

Were he still alive, Harvey Milk would turn 80 this coming Saturday. This year California will honor it as the first Harvey Milk Day and locally the Castro District will be celebrating one of our greatest local heroes with a full day of activities. Market Street Railway is hosting an open house–or perhaps, open trolley is more appropriate–in no. 1051. The streetcar which is painted in Muni’s green and cream scheme of Harvey’s era made a brief appearance in the… — Read More

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Coming to Grips

The Bold Italic is a site which shares local San Francisco knowledge, but it’s nothing like the star ratings and reviews found at Yelp. In Coming to Grips, Tara Ramroop shares the story of how she got hooked on cable cars. Many of our readers will probably notice some factual mistakes — there are only three cable car lines, not four, and calling a cable car a trolley is a sin that ranks up there with using the word “Frisco.”… — Read More

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Bike to Work Day

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton, traveled through his kingdom by bike. In America today bicycles are often marginalized as just something used on the weekends for fun or sport, or for the kids to use until they are old enough to get their drivers license. Look at just about any street in America today and you’ll find the car is king with cyclists–if considered at all–are relegated to a dangerous and narrow strip between moving traffic and parked cars which… — Read More

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What Muni’s Service Cuts Mean for the F-Market & Wharves Line

Muni’s 10% service cuts are now in effect, but not all lines are equally affected. As SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland described it in this morning’s Chronicle article, “These are surgical, data-driven changes to maintain as much capacity as possible during our busiest service periods while still providing us significant savings.” A few lines are not affected at all, such as the N-Judah, because of its heavy ridership, or any of the cable car lines, because their minimum service levels are… — Read More

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10% Less Muni Service Starts Tomorrow

Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, May 8th, Muni service will be significantly reduced. All routes will be effected with reduced frequency. Most of the community service routes such as the 35-Eureka and 37-Corbett will have reduced hours, ending at 9:30 and on weekends starting later. Frequency guides are available onboard Muni vehicles (look for a blue and black pamphlet) and more information is available at

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Remembering The Loop, As It Was in 1930

Our friends over at Muni Diaries recently steered us toward this vintage film from 1930. It appears to be home movie, and the good stuff starts at around 0:23, when we get a superb view of The Loop — the once-famous streetcar turnaround at the foot of Market Street — as seen from the second floor of the Ferry Building. Check out all those Iron Monsters! Also worth noticing: The pedestrian bridge that used to connect the Ferry Building to… — Read More

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The LA Times Finds Streetcar Magic in San Francisco

Last weekend the LA Times ran a nice article in its Sunday travel section about the simple pleasures of the F Line, and how San Francisco’s vintage streetcar fleet adds such color to everyday life in the city. Author Caitlin Fitzsimmons writes: I always imagined a trainspotter as an English eccentric in an anorak, lurking about railways junctions and scribbling down train numbers in notebooks. I found this an inexplicable pastime until I discovered the joy of spotting different F… — Read More

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