Call Me Ishmael

Actually, Pequod is more appropriate, because we’re talking about the ship, rather than the crew here.
It’s the wildly popular Blackpool boat tram, that 1934 Deco delight, posing at the Pier 39 turnback track in front of a breaching whale off to starboard. No, it wasn’t white nor named Moby.
Actually, we’d never endanger our 44 guests, out for a cruise this last Sunday on one of our Market Street Railway-City Guides tours. We especially wanted a smooth ride for a mystery guest, a high city official who wanted to enjoy a simple family outing. Reports say the sail was smooth, and the open top of the boat made the tour of Market Street’s architecture (and The Embarcadero’s) so much more enjoyable than just being able to look out the windows.
We’ll be doing this again, though perhaps not on the boat until we can be sure of good sailing, probably in the spring. Thanks to Alison Cant for her great organizational skills; Paul Lucas for his help in putting it all together, even printing the tickets and serving as an onboard host; and Mike Frew of MSR and Harlan Hirschfeld of City Guides, who were great tour guide. Thanks, too, to Jeremy Whiteman for the photo.
And oh, by the way, great blurb in the City Insider from Michael Cabanatuan about the boat’s cruise on the J-line following the Cam Beach ceremony yesterday. Especially love the ending:
>On board, passengers took photos, and laughed and smiled. ‘Hey, I’m riding in this funky open air streetcar with Christmas lights,’ one passenger shouted into his cell phone.
>Another rider said the trip was so enjoyable that she extended her journey a few stops. She thanked the operator as she disembarked from the boat car. ‘That was fun!’ she exclaimed.
>How often do you hear that on Muni?
Actually, you hear it quite a lot…on the F-line!

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Honoring Cam Beach

Some photos from this morning’s ceremony renaming Muni’s Geneva Carhouse the Cameron Beach Yard to honor our friend, the late SFMTA Director Cam Beach.
Market Street Railway will present much more detail on this moving ceremony to our members in the Winter edition of our newsletter Inside Track, due out in late December. Members: the Fall edition should be in the mail in the next few days.


A crowd of more than 200 gathered for the ceremony, October 25, 2011, under a new sign on the protective canopy for Muni’s historic streetcar fleet that Cam beach championed.


Mayor Lee led the roster of speakers, which also included Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, Beach Yard Superintendent Karl Johnson, MSR Board members Rick Laubscher and Art Curtis, and Cam’s children Lynn Beach O’Neill and Tim Beach.


Unveiling the plaque honoring Cam that will be placed at the entrance to the Cameron Beach Yard. Left to right, Cam’s wife Carmen Clark, son Tim, daughter Lynn O’Neill, his fellow SFMTA Directors Jerry Lee, Leona Bridges, Bruce Oka, Tom Nolan, and Malcolm Heinecke, next to former SFMTA chair Rev. Dr. James McCray. Just out of frame to the left is Tim and Lynn’s mother Carol Jones. The plaque reads: “Director Beach never met a public transit vehicle he didn’t like. His lifelong enthusiasm for public transportation, especially San Francisco’s fleet of historic vehicles, and abiding dedication to serving the public made him a compelling and dedicated advocate. He always viewed public transit not only for what it was, but for what it could and should be.”

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A Most Fitting Tribute

Tuesday, October 25 at 10 a.m., Mayor Edwin Lee, SFTMA head Ed Reiskin, and many other dignitaries will gather at Geneva and San Jose Avenues in the Excelsior District to rename the Geneva Streetcar Yard, built in 1900, for Cameron Beach.
It is a most fitting tribute.
City Insider on told why today.
So did Muni Diaries, through the voice of Cam’s daughter, Lynn Beach O’Neill.
And so did we, both in our coverage of his untimely death in March here on this site, and in our Member newsletter, Inside Track, in a lengthy article with lots of photos this summer.
Here are excerpts from that article:
Cameron Beach (1949-2011)

Cam and 578 cropped.jpg

In 1963, a boy climbed onto a 41-Union line trolley coach in Cow Hollow. He noticed that the driver’s gilley box, in view at his side, had a decal of a Muni PCC streetcar on it. The boy asked the young trolley coach driver if he liked streetcars. “I told him I did,” recalls that driver, Art Curtis, now Market Street Railway’s secretary, and that started a friendship that lasted literally to his last day.”
Cameron Beach never lost a boy’s enthusiasm for the things he loved. As a man, he rose to the highest levels of the public transit industry, a consummate professional respected for his judgment and integrity. Yet, if he saw a streetcar or bus special to him, he’d flash a 13 year-old’s grin and exclaim, “Oh, yeah!” He felt that same passion for his hometown, San Francisco, and even more for his wife, Carmen Clark, and his children, Lynn, Steve, and Tim.
Cam Beach was born January 26, 1949, at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. He grew up in Cow Hollow, went to high school at Sacred Heart and Galileo, from which he graduated. Growing up in the city, he rode Muni everywhere, and became a lifelong fan of the system, incredibly knowledgeable about its history and operations.
So it was no surprise to friends and family when the young man embarked on a transit career. That career spanned 44 years, including 25 years with the Sacramento Regional Transit District, from which he retired as Chief Operating Officer in 2006. He also worked for a class one railroad, private bus charter and leasing firm, and an airline. In his career, Cam started up and managed local, suburban, and intercity bus services as well as light rail and heritage streetcar operations.
At the requiem eucharist service for Cam at Grace Cathedral on March 24, attended by hundreds of friends, he was remembered movingly, and with humor, by his friend since boyhood, The Rev. Dr. Don MacInnes, in his homily. “Who else do we know who moved so artfully from streetcars to buses, and brought peace to advocates and enthusiasts in the name of a greater good: moving people in the best way possible?”
“But what of the man?” Rev. MacInnes continued. “Scores of emails speak of his integrity, sense of fairness, commitment to principled integrity; many remember his ready response when faced with a tough challenge: “I think we can work something out!”
In her eulogy, Cam’s daughter, Lynn Beach O’Neill, brought many to both tears and laughter in recounting their adventures together, such as the time Cam had to deliver a bus to Los Angeles and took her along, as she used the bus as a giant playroom. While Cam and his first wife, Carole, raised their three children largely in Sacramento, Cam frequently took his children on field trips to San Francisco to tour Muni routes, staying in touch with his hometown.
As his retirement at Sacramento Regional Transit approached, Cam joined the board of directors of our organization, where his wise counsel and infectious optimism were invigorating to all his fellow board members. Early in 2003, he was joined on our board by Carmen Clark, a transportation consultant who had headed the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and served as interim executive director of Muni. It was love at first sight. They married at Grace Cathedral and took a California Street cable car to their reception. They lived in West Portal, taking advantage of the Muni Metro service to travel downtown daily and constantly delighted in each other’s company. “If there was ever a match made in heaven,” says Art Curtis, “it was that of Cam and Carmen. An awesome and happy couple!”
Cam’s transit expertise and passion for his hometown came together when Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him to the board of directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation on March 1, 2007. On the SFMTA board, Cam quickly won the respect of his fellow directors for his tremendous depth of knowledge and experience and his unswerving commitment to meeting the needs of the public. In a recent interview, he said, “I have always viewed issues from the user’s point of view. How is the passenger or the motorist or the person looking for a parking place or the bicyclist or the pedestrian going to perceive our action?”
Cam also championed Muni’s historic streetcar service while on the SFMTA board. He recognized that it not only brought more than 23,000 people where they wanted to go every day but it also helped Muni put its best foot forward to the public, something he believed was increasingly important. He was a strong supporter of increasing F-line streetcar service to meet rising demand, for the start up of the E-Embarcadero line, and the extension of service to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason.
Cam balanced his public service on the SFMTA board with his transit consulting business, Beach Consulting, and – to the greatest extent possible – time spent with Carmen and his family.
Cam’s committee and board memberships include serving as Chair of California Operation Lifesaver, past chair of the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Light Rail Committee and vice chair, APTA Committee on Public Safety, and member of the APTA Alternate Fuels Committee, APTA Heritage Streetcar Subcommittee, and APTA Light Rail Transit Forum. He also served several terms on the board and as chairman of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, which operates the Western Railway Museum in Solano County. There, Cam was a continuing champion of restoration and operation of vintage northern California streetcar, interurban, and railroad equipment.
On the evening of March 19, 2011, Cam had just returned home from a business trip to southern California. He went into his bedroom to unpack and was stricken; paramedics arrived almost immediately but could not revive him. Cam Beach was 62.
The chair of the SFMTA board, Tom Nolan, called Cam “a pillar of transit expertise and insight on our board; a close friend and colleague, who had an unparalleled passion for Muni, our customers, and the future of this system.”
Many other tributes have flowed in from those in the transit community who knew Cam. On April 19, the SFMTA board unanimously voted to rename Geneva Division, the home of Muni’s historic streetcars, after Cameron Beach. Market Street Railway was among those urging that this specific facility be named for him. As a boy, he loved to go to Geneva to see its mix of sleek PCCs and the last of the boxy “Iron Monsters,” like preserved No. 162. As a man, he presided over the dedication of the protective car barn, or canopy, that will protect the historic streetcar fleet, a project he strongly supported.
Now, that protective canopy, along with the entire vintage streetcar facility, will bear Cam Beach’s name. We also note that the nation’s most prestigious transit organization, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), honored Cam recently with its award for Local Distinguished Service, celebrating both his operational career and his governance excellence at SFMTA.
We will post highlights from the dedication ceremonies here.

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More F-line Service. But More Streetcars?

The good news: Muni has added more sorely needed F-line service on weekends. The bad news: the additional service is mostly provided by buses, at least for now.
The additional service was long planned, and depended on additional streetcars being available – specifically, some of the 16 streamliner PCCs being renovated by Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania. But that contract does not appear to be going well. The first PCC of the batch has been back in San Francisco more than a year and is still unreliable. (Our members will get a full report on the nature of the problems in the new Inside Track newsletter being mailed next week.)


Pilot PCC No. 1071 on a test run at the L-Taraval Zoo terminal, September 29

Trying to push things forward, Muni put the pilot streetcar, No. 1071, into passenger service this summer, but had to withdraw it almost immediately because of unreliability. It went back into service last Tuesday after more testing without passengers, but it failed on the line two out of its first three days in service, having to be towed back to Beach Yard (formerly Geneva), where the vintage streetcars are maintained.
Nonetheless, Muni plans to start putting six additional streetcars from the Brookville order into service as early as this week, after modifying some components that were found unreliable in the pilot car.
Meantime, buses are filling those new weekend runs on the F-line, but there are a couple of problems.
First, it appears that most bus operators are not turning on the GPS transmitter that makes their vehicle visible on the “NextMuni” displays at F-line stops or on our live F-line map. (If you see a four digit number beginning in 8 on the live map, without an image of a streetcar next to it, that’s a bus with GPS turned on.)
Second, as SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin volunteered to us the other day, lots of riders just plain don’t want to ride the buses, letting them pass them by at F-line stops. So they’re not helping reduce overcrowding as much as more streetcars would.
To their credit, SFMTA project, maintenance, and operations leaders have been open in discussing the challenges of the renovated streetcars with it, and they express a resolve to end up with reliable vehicles from this contract.
We’ll see how those new streetcars do in service when they appear, and we’ll keep you updated on this important issue here and in our newsletter.

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