Happy New Year from (Glub) Down Under

If you’ve been following the news at all, you know that Australia is in the midst of historic flooding, following torrential rains that in turn followed an extended (and devastating) period of drought. Our hearts go out to all those affected. But the rain has also replenished reservoirs, brought salvation to farmers and ranchers, and given the country a good rinse — including its historic trams in Melbourne.< Melbourne 856 in rain 120810 Howard Clark Photo.JPG
Here, from our friend Howard Clark at the Sydney Tramway Museum, is a photo he snapped recently in Melbourne, with heritage “City Circle” tram No. 856 on the relatively new Docklands line (a little like our future E-line). The vintage 1940 tram of the SW6 class, identical (except the livery) to our 1946 model No. 916, probably hasn’t seen this much concentrated rain in her lifetime!
Speaking of No. 916, it has been in San Francisco more than a year now, but due to understaffing in Muni’s shops, they are just now able to begin needed modifications to make it operable here.  (Remember, they drive on the left Down Under, so all the door controls have to be switched, above and beyond the normal modifications needed.)  Also, though the tram was supposed to arrive in operating condition, Muni found leaking door air valves requiring replacement parts. Market Street Railway is arranging for the parts; we could really use donations of any size to help get them across the pond. You can donate here. (Click the radio button for “Acquisition and Restoration Fund.”)
And if you feel like getting really wonky about Melbourne trams, here’s your dream site.

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Happy 98th Birthday, Muni! And for your present…

On December 28, 1912, Mayor James Rolph, Junior stepped onto a streetcar platform at Geary and Kearny Streets. He deposited one of the first 40 nickels to be minted in San Francisco into the farebox and took the controls, piloting the streetcar westward out Geary to Tenth Avenue, to open America’s first publicly owned big city transit system. Here’s a picture of that first run, with the Mayor highballing across Jones Street.

1_122812_Geary_Jones.jpg

And as a 98th birthday present, Muni welcomes back that very streetcar, No. 1, from a total rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania.

Car 1 at Metro East 122410.jpgThe work took longer than expected — the contract called for delivery in May, but the contractor took great pains to preserve the historic fabric of the streetcar. From initial observation, they did a fabulous job on the appearance of the streetcar.  Of greatest importance, of course, is how it runs.

One day short of its 98th birthday, it took its first tests after delivery in the Metro East yard, just running back and forth on a track inside the yard.  It will not operate on its birthday proper — hey, you should get that day off! — but there is still talk of a ceremony later this week. We will let you know as soon as we hear anything.

Market Street Railway is working with Muni on its 2012 centennial, where No. 1 will play a central role. Those wishing to volunteer to pitch in on events for the centennial should send us an email here.

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Do Not Open Until (Just After) Christmas!

Muni (and Market Street Railway) got the Christmas present of a lifetime delivered today.  At 7:30 this morning, SIlk Road Trucking rolled up to the Metro East light rail facility at Cesar Chavez and Illinois Streets and unloaded a special gift, shrink-wrapped in white, just in time for the holidays. 

Naturally, like little kids, the temptation was too great to resist, so a little corner of the package was torn open to see what’s inside…and oh, my!!!!

mystery streetcar.JPGBut we can’t spoil the surprise. For now, let it be said that this one may be unwrapped for the public as soon as next week in a special ceremony. Check back here for details.

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A Powell Promenade!

Our friends at Streetsblog San Francisco offer some solid coverage of an offer Audi has made to the city: install two blocks of pedestrian amenities, including widened sidewalks and seating areas, on Powell Street between Ellis and Geary. We won’t duplicate what they wrote, but will note that beyond the pedestrian benefits, which could be considerable, this should make cable car operation in that area safer and more reliable.

With parked automobiles and trucks in the curb lane, running board riders take the risk of getting whacked by vehicle mirrors if they let it all hang out just a little too far. And motor vehicles pulling in and out of the parking spaces can cause significant delays.

Powell-Promenade.jpgWe’re assured that the design shown above is only conceptual; final decisions will be made locally.  We hope so. The concept of the Otis Spunkmeyer lookalike drinking some kind of green Caribbean cocktail on Powell is a tad jarring. To add to the somewhat surreal scene, there’s no cable car in sight, but riding the tracks we can clearly discern — a vintage VW Microbus!  Did Ken Kesey design this?

Seriously, if they actually intend to install benches like the ones “conceptually” shown, the people who actually occupy them probably won’t look like the folks in the drawing. Will the result be inviting to pedestrians, or will it turn into a gauntlet like you often find in the cable car passenger queue at Powell and Market?

Just asking.

With the right installation, though, this could be a huge plus for lower Powell Street, giving pedestrians much needed additional room to walk and clearing the way for at least a modest improvement in cable car service.

Best of all, if this temporary installation works, it can help pave the way for something permanent, perhaps modeled on the existing one-block cable car plaza between Market and Ellis.

The promenade is scheduled to be installed by April 2011. It is being managed by the Union Square Business Improvement District.

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First Run of 1071

Another step forward for Muni’s program to get its 11 PCCs from the 1070 class into permanent, reliable service.  Streamliner No. 1071, painted to honor its original (1947) owner, Twin City Rapid Transit of Minneapolis-St. Paul, operated under its own power from Muni Metro East, on the T-line at Cesar Chavez Street near Third Street, across town to Geneva Division some seven miles away.  It’s believed to be the first time this streetcar, acquired by Muni six years ago, has… — Read More

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Chicago’s “Green Hornet” Livery Coming to the F-line

When Muni created its F-line PCC streetcar fleet in the early 1990s, they decided to paint the streamliner streetcars in the liveries (paint schemes) of some of the 30 North American cities that once operated this great streetcar design. Storage limitations at the time restricted the “palette” of colors they could use to eight.  That meant choices had to be made. Everyone wanted a streetcar to pay homage to Chicago, because the Windy City had one of the largest PCC… — Read More

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Going Out With Style on California Street

Muni is shutting down the California Street cable car line for an estimated six months starting in January, to replace a variety of mechanical components under the street and do some track work. They’ll apply lessons learned to try to make the next phases — covering the two Powell Street lines — go faster. Makes sense, since the Cal line has very low ridership compared to the Powell lines. Thanks to cable car gripman (and Market Street Railway member) Val… — Read More

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RIP Transbay Terminal Streetcar Hump

A wrecking ball knocked the triple-track streetcar “hump” on the Transbay Terminal into oblivion today. The 71-year old building itself is next, really the final chapter in clearing the site for the billion-dollar terminal that will replace it, hoped to include stations for both high speed rail and Caltrain in addition to buses. The “hump” was a streetcar ramp built in front of the terminal between First and Fremont Streets, just south of Mission. When it opened on January 15,… — Read More

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It’s Official: Geneva Canopy Dedicated

SFMTA CEO Nat Ford (pictured at the microphone above) led the cheers today at the dedication of the new Geneva Canopy project — the covered storage facility for 24 streetcars in Muni’s historic fleet. The building was erected under a $6.9 million design build contract with Shimmick Construction.  An SFMTA press release put the total project cost at $10.1 million dollars, meaning that so called “soft costs” came to about a third of the total, despite the fact that design… — Read More

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