Photo of the Month: Upon Reflection

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Kevin Sheridan photo.

We’ve occasionally been featuring photos from our current Museums in Motion calendar as our “photo of the month”, but this month will be a little different. Our photo this month comes from June of our 2011 calendar, which has just been finalized and sent off for printing.
Kevin Sheridan captured this reflection of Los Angeles streetcar no. 1052 on the future E-line right-of-way on The Embarcadero near Howard Street, with the Bay Bridge in the background. When the additional streetcars now under renovation return to Muni and operating funding is identified, the E-Embarcadero line will make historic streetcars an everyday sight between the Ferry Building and the Ballpark.
Our annual calendar is an important fundraiser for our non-profit organization and an important thank you to our members, without whom Market Street Railway wouldn’t exist. I am especially proud of how well next year’s calendar turned out, so you can expect to hear–and see–much more soon. If you are a Merchant and interested in carrying the calendar in your store, please contact John Hogan at the San Francisco Railway Museum by calling 1 (415) 974-1948.

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Last Tour at Transbay Terminal

The public is invited to take one last look around Transbay Terminal this Friday.  The formidable ediface, which started life as a modern (and Moderne) home for trains from three different companies and is finishing it as a forlorn bus shed, was built by the State of California as a terminal for trains crossing the Bay Bridge from the East Bay and beyond — as far as Chico on the old Sacramento Northern.
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They built it…but they did not come, at least in terms of adequate numbers of passengers on the long distance interurban trains. Within a couple of years, only the Key System was still running trains across the bridge, and by the late 1950s, that ended too, as the lower deck of the Bay Bridge was converted to accommodate the burgeoning suburban automobile count. Since then, AC Transit buses have been the predominant tenant.
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Streetcars ran to the front door of the Transbay Terminal, too — three tracks in front, serving both Muni and the old Market Street Railway. On opening day for streetcars to Transbay, the confusion caused by splitting the terminal between the Ferry Building and Transbay created what is arguably the greatest traffic jam in Market Street history.  The last streetcar, on the F-line, ran in 2000, just before the line was extended back to the Ferry Building and on to Fisherman’s Wharf.
To mark the closing of Transbay Terminal and its replacement with what backers envision as something like “Grand Central Station-West,” Caltrans has organized public tours this Friday, July 30, at 12 Noon and 1, 2, 3, and 4 p.m.  Meet at the ground floor entrance on Mission Street between First and Fremont Streets. They promise a behind-the-scenes look at areas that have been closed off, including Cuddles Bar, the shoe shine shop, and the Terminal jail. Click here for more information on the new Transbay Center.  
UPDATE: Carl Nolte’s great Sunday Chronicle column, “Native Son,” has now been posted online, with lots of detail, including an interview with Market Street Railway member Grant Ute.

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Storage & Link: Tale of Two Photographers

Our 2011 calendar has just gone to the printer. We should have them in stock at our San Francisco Railway Museum around Labor Day. One of our best contributors over the years is Market Street Railway member Bill Storage, who takes fantastic night shots in particular.

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In Bill’s photo blog, “The Eye Game,” he describes what went into some of his distinctive historic transit shots, like this one of a California Street cable car. It’s well worth a read, even for non-shutterbugs.

In this era of digital photography where the governing mantra seems to be, “No problem, we’ll fix it in Photoshop,” Bill demonstrates a dedication to traditional methods, including the use of old-fashioned flashbulbs, sometimes in multiple arrays, to get just the right lighting effect. Bill’s photography makes scenes we’ve seen over and over again look fantastically fresh. A rare gift.

Bill’s work is reminiscent to me of a man I consider the greatest railroad photographer of all time. His name was O. Winston Link and he chronicled the dying days of steam on the Norfolk & Western Railroad. He died in 2001. Three years later, a museum celebrating his photography opened in Roanoke, Virginia.
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Link was a commercial photographer with an affinity for trains. When he heard that the N&W, the last large scale user of steam locomotives, was converting to diesel in the 1950s, he launched a project to capture some of the magic of steam. But he went so far beyond the “three-quarter view” of the vehicle itself to capture slices of America – admittedly posed – that could be described as the photographic equivalents of Norman Rockwell paintings.
Such photos as the 1956 Hawksbill Creek Swimming Hole, shown here, are masterpieces of lighting, with dozens of flashbulbs arrayed just to illuminate the kids in the pond at the precise moment the steam locomotive thunders by on the trestle. No motor drive: one shot only.
Some of Link’s best work is captured in the 2000 book The Last Steam Railroad in America. (If you decide to buy, following this link will earn Market Street Railway a commission from Amazon.com)
The more you look at Link’s work, mostly black and white but some color too, the more evocative it becomes, even if you’re not a railfan.
That’s another thing Bill Storage has in common with the great Link: the ability to put transportation vehicles into a living context, make them seem like an integrated part of their environment, rather than something apart. That’s what we try to do in our calendar every year as well. We’ll post here the moment it’s available at the museum and at our online store.

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The Original BART Logo

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Speaking of Miniatures…

We posted yesterday about a photographic technique that makes real-life scenes look like minutely detailed miniatures. Well, why have fake fakes when you can have real fakes?  (Ease up, modelers — just kidding!) Seriously, we were impressed with the detail in a couple of photos of a portable HO gauge streetcar layout displayed at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside County a few weeks back.  They come to us from Market Street Railway member Bob Davis. The photo at… — Read More

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F-line Milan Tram in Miniature

Raymond Moreno photo. No, that is not a fantastically detailed scale miniature of the Ferry Terminal. Photographer Raymond Moreno has scaled down one of San Francisco’s real-life streetcars using the tilt-shift photographic technique. Tilt-shift is an increasingly popular effect recently been featured in several ad campaigns and, as you can see, has the effect of turning real life into a scale model. “I am always on the look out for photo opportunities that might lend themselves to the tilt-shift treatment.… — Read More

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Third Street Memories

June 30 marked the three year anniversary of the T-Third Street line opening. We asked Market Street Railway’s historian, Phil Hoffman, to share his personal memories of the old Third Street streetcar operation, along with some history of the lines back when it opened in 2007. On the old Islais Creek bridge, Market Street Railway Co. had to share one of its tracks with freight trains. San Francisco Public Library photo. Far from busy Third Street and its two streetcar… — Read More

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America 234, Market Street Rail 150

Eighty-four years after the Declaration of Independence was, er, declared on July 4, 1776, the first street railway on the Pacific Coast opened. It was an odd-looking railroad-type coach, powered by steam, running from Third and Market (pictured below) to 16th and Valencia.  By 1867, the noisy steam engine aroused enough neighbors’ ire to be replaced by horsecars. (Guess they preferred the manure.)  Cable cars took over as the predominant Market Street transit in 1883, succeeded by electric streetcars in… — Read More

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Muni Service Expansion Planned for September

Several years of funding cuts by both the city and state have taken their toll on transit in California. Most agencies have been forced to raise fares and cut service to cope. Here in San Francisco, Muni riders have suffered from fare increases and two rounds of service reductions in just the last year. Most recently service was cut by 10% in May, including an early shutdown of community service routes that provide essential connections from major transit corridors to… — Read More

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