Photo of the (Past) Moment: Steamed Up at Castro

We’ve got an engaging exhibit at our San Francisco Railway Museum, a series of “then and now” photos of locations along Market Street celebrating 150 years of rail transit along our main drag.  One period most folks don’t know about is the time that upper Market was all steamed up.
Steam train at Castro 1880s.jpg

This shot (from the collection of the late Walter Rice) was snapped on Market near Castro, sometime between 1880 and 1888. We’re looking at what’s called a “dummy and trailer” combination. The “dummy,” to the right, is actually a mini steam engine. This being San Francisco, you’re already asking, “Where were the NIMBYs?” But a quick look up the hill reveals precious few neighbors to complain, at least at this end of the line.

The car to the left, emblazoned “Market Street Railway Co.” (one of several companies of that name over the decades, including our non-profit today) was probably a former horse car. When this “Market Street Extension” line went in, horse cars ran from the Ferry out Market as far west as Valencia. But even though  the city cut through a piece of what’s now called Mint Hill at Dolores and Duboce to extend Market westward, the grades on this part were still too steep for horse power.

But not for steam, nor for cable cars, which took over this route in 1888, running from the Ferry Terminal all the way out Market to Castro, then south on Castro over the Hill to 26th Street in Noe Valley. (The Castro Street part of the cable car line lasted until 1941; the Market Street part was replaced with streetcars right after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.)

“All the Way Out Market” is the name of the “then and now” exhibit at the museum, which is free, and open every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (except Mondays, when we’re closed). We’re at the F-line Steuart Street stop at the south end of Ferry Plaza, behind Hotel Vitale at 77 Steuart Street. Pay us a visit and check out other exhibits, historic films on view, and our unique collection of San Francisco gifts as well!

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Call for 2012 Calendar Photos

As many who read this site know well, Market Street Railway is a member supported non-profit organization and the streetcar and cable car preservation partner of the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). We receive no government funding and depend on membership dues, donations, and proceeds from sales of our merchandise to support our preservation and transit advocacy.
Our annual Museums in Motion streetcar and cable car calendar is a very important part of our fundraising and we would like your help putting together our next calendar, because 2012 is a special year.

A century of Muni

In 1912 the San Francisco Municipal Railway opened it’s first streetcar line on Geary Street and became the world’s first public transit system in a major city. Three years earlier voters had decided they were going to rebuild San Francisco better than it was before, by publicly funding a transit service that would better serve the people.
It would become the dominant model around the world as private transit operators declined.
In 2012 we plan to tell the story of "The People’s Railway" in our Museums in Motion streetcar and cable car calendar. Help us by sharing your photos from the first century of Muni in our flickr group.

Submit your photos

We’re particularly looking for high-quality photos of currently running F-line streetcars and cable cars for the feature photo, which all but fills an 11″ x 16″ page each month, a great format for showing off your shots. The main picture will be paired with historic black and white photos on the facing (calendar grid) page, relating to the same theme, location, or time period. We’re looking for more unconventional perspectives, framing and composition. Over the last few years we’ve been getting away from 3/4 shots and the feedback has been that these are some of the most interesting photos. Here is what some of the 11″x 16″ main page photos in our 2011 calendar looked like:

We also will not be limiting it to vehicles painted in Muni colors because liveries of other cities have been part of the fleet, and part of the fabric of San Francisco, for over a quarter of a century. We are limiting our feature photos to only streetcars and cable cars though, not modern light rail vehicles or buses.
To submit a photo all you need to do is post it on flickr (a free photo sharing site) and tag it msrcalendarsubmission.
There’s no limit to how many photos you may submit by tagging msrcalendarsubmission, but please help us out by selecting what you think are your best and not simply tagging every photo.
Photos should be landscape (horizontally) oriented, in color, and at least 3,000 x 2,000 pixels. We know many of you don’t post high-resolution versions to Flickr, but any photos submitted for publication should be available as camera original JPEG or RAW files without watermarks.
Photographers are always fully credited with email address or website published in the calendar and are given five calendars as a thank you. Please leave a comment if you have questions or suggestions for our next calendar.

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Photo of the (Past) Moment: Circus on Market!

As readers of our member newsletter, Inside Track, saw last month, we found a fabulous photo.

Circus on Market at Powell c1899 web.jpg

Our members got lots of detail on this photo. We’ll summarize here by saying this appears to be a parade by the Ringling Brothers Circus in September 1900. Note the elephants in the lower left (click on the image for a larger version). Regular cable car service is mixed right in with the pachyderms and circus wagons and crowds line the streets. We’re looking out a window of what would today be the San Francisco Shopping Centre, opposite the foot of Powell Street. The vacant lot would later become the Flood Building, still there today. And for you “Where’s Waldo?” fans, try to find someone – man or woman, boy or girl, in the picture who is not wearing a hat or cap.  (If you do, you have sharper eyes than us!)

You get great historic content like this, plus the inside scoop on Muni’s historic streetcar and cable car operations, by becoming a member of Market Street Railway and receiving Inside Track. New members get the last four issues included with their membership!

Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the photo. We’ll preempt the most obvious one: yes, you could certainly say mid-Market is still a circus today.

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Pier 70: Even More Reason to Take the E-line There

The Port of San Francisco has gotten a lot more developer interest in historic Pier 70 than they expected, according to the Chronicle’s City Insider.  Last fall, we outlined the value of historic streetcar service to Pier 70.  We noted that Muni has already invested significant money in a partially-completed streetcar loop off the T-line that could allow the future E-line historic streetcar service to terminate near front door of Pier 70, just north of the landmark Bethlehem Steel headquarters building, pictured below, at 20th and Illinois Streets.

800px-OldBethelemSteelHeadquartersInSanFranciscoAt20thAndIllinois.jpgMarket Street Railway strongly believes this loop should be completed expeditiously and used as the southern E-line terminal. The current proposed terminal, which would be shared with the N-line at the Caltrain Depot, can only be used by double-end historic streetcars, of which Muni has relatively few, while the Pier 70 terminal can be used by every historic streetcar in the fleet. Adequate low-level boarding platforms already exist along the stretch of the T-line that would be shared, and the existing high-level T-line platforms can be used to board wheelchairs on E-line streetcars.

The E-line streetcars would provide an attractive public transit connection between Pier 70, the fast-developing Mission Bay/UCSF neighborhood, the Giants’ ballpark, South Beach, the Ferry Building, the Barbary Coast/Golden Gateway neighborhood, the Cruise Ship terminal, Fisherman’s Wharf, and, later, Aquatic Park and Fort Mason.  It would connect more National Landmark Districts than any other transit line in America.

We call on Muni and the Port to work together to bring the E-line to Pier 70, increasing the value of this priceless historic district.

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