The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), America’s first publicly owned urban transit system, begins its 100th year of operation today. Created early in California’Â™s Progressive Era, in part as a reaction to a corrupt privately owned transit company, Muni opened its first lines on Geary Street 99 years ago on December 28, 1912. Ever since, Muni has played a big part in the lives of San Franciscans, taking them to work, study, shop, and play.
Fifty Thousand San Franciscans came out to cheer the opening of the Municipal Railway on Geary Street, December 28, 1912. Muni Archives.
As Muni’s non-profit preservation partner, Market Street Railway has already released its 2012 Centennial Calendar (which will be available at a reduced price when our museum reopens January 4). MSR members also took the lead in creating a wonderful book documenting Muni’s first century.
Official Centennial events are still being planned by Muni. Market Street Railway has made detailed suggestions and stands ready to assist with making such events a success. We’ll let you know as soon as specific events are announced, to allow maximum time for your planning. Meantime, here’s to Muni’s 99th birthday!
Hey, we’re thinking ahead. Our 2012 calendar is a big success, but we’re already starting work on the 2013 version. Our annual Museums in Motion streetcar and cable car calendar is a very important part of our fundraising, and we’re putting out the call to all photographers who’d like to see their work published in our gorgeous large format calenda to submit photographs.
The back cover of our 2012 calendar includes thumbnails of the large images we used on each month’s main page. Click to enlarge.
You can do that by clicking here to access our Flickr group and just follow the directions on the post to submit your photos. You can also sign into the site with your Facebook ID.
Photographers are always fully credited with email address and website published in the calendar and are given five calendars for their own use. We’re answering questions about calendar submissions on that site.
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San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcar No. 1 on Stockton Street at Market, the terminal of the original F-Stockton line, Christmas Day 1944. Roy D. Graves photo, Market Street Railway Archives.
It’s December 25, 1944. We’re at Stockton at Market Street, the terminal of Muni’s original F-line. And welcoming riders on this Christmas Day 67 years ago is none other than Car No. 1, recently repainted from its original gray and maroon “battleship” livery into Muni’s brighter blue and gold. It is ready for another trip on the F, past Union Square, through the Stockton Tunnel and Chinatown to reach North Beach, then on Columbus Avenue, North Point, Van Ness and Chestnut to the Marina District. (If you think this sounds like today’s 30-Stockton, you’re right. The original F is its direct ancestor.)
There was a glimmer of brightness on the war horizon this day, too. More than three years after Pearl Harbor, Allied forces had turned the tide against both Germany and Japan. While there would be months of fierce fighting ahead, the end of the war was now in sight.
On the Home Front, transit systems across America were overwhelmed with riders driven from their automobiles by gasoline and tire rationing. The strain was showing on Muni. Only three months before, it had taken over operation of its private competitor, Market Street Railway Company, only to find its equipment and facilities near collapse. Yet the system soldiered on, making do however possible. In a way, the soon-to-be-popular song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” described the need to defer needed repairs: “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” (By the way, that song made its debut on the lips of Judy Garland in Vicente Minnelli’s movie “Meet Me in St. Louis,” which also gave us the song, “Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolley.”)
Our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, is about to publish the second in a multi-part history of Muni, “Muni At War,” with lots of rarely- or never-before seen photos, including this one, which we acquired from a collector on eBay. If you’re not a member of Market Street Railway, this is a great time to join because new members will also received the last issue of Inside Track, with photos and text describing the origins and first 30 years of Muni’s history.
As for Car No. 1 itself, it’s fully restored to its original appearance and ready to play the starring role in Muni’s centennial year. We’ll be operating a charter of the streetcar in the next few months for members only, riding the rails west of Twin Peaks in a rare treat. (Another great reason to join MSR.) Watch here for details.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now (or celebration of your choice)!
Our San Francisco Railway Museum will be closed for inventory and cleaning between December 24 and January 2. We’ll be open again Tuesday, January 3 at 10 a.m. You can still shop for gifts online, and of course, the F-line streetcars and cable cars are operating daily.
We’ll also be here with some new posts next week. Stay tuned and Happy Holidays.
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PCC No. 1071, painted to honor Minneapolis-St. Paul, testing recently on West Portal Avenue. Yellow isn’t traditionally thought of as a year-end holiday color, but that Twin City Rapid Transit livery still makes for nice “gift wrap” for PCC No. 1071, which (fingers crossed) entered revenue service for good today. It has been here more than a year after having been completely rewired at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, but as we’ve reported in our member newsletter, Inside Track, getting… — Read More
Decorated Powell cable car No. 13 at the Market Street turntable. Jeremy Whiteman photo. Our friend, cable car gripman Val Lupiz, has done it again. As in past years, he and his friends have decorated several cable cars for the holidays. We wanted to make sure you didn’t miss this one in particular: green and red Powell car No. 13, painted in the United Railroads livery the Powell cars wore after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. It’s a vintage transit… — Read More
Restored Muni PCC No. 1040 at Muni Metro East, December 15, 2011. (Yes, it can run the outer end of the L-Taraval line, and others, too.) Click photos to enlarge. During its “first life” at Muni, PCC No. 1040 was always the kid, the youngest in the fleet. Indeed, it is historic for being the last of nearly 5,000 streetcars of this type built in the U.S., coming off the assembly line at St. Louis Car Company in 1952. Now,… — Read More
In Southern California, they called them “the Big Red Cars,” the streetcars and interurbans of the famed Pacific Electric Railway, that once connected downtown Los Angeles to destinations as far-flung as San Bernardino and Newport Beach. PE, as it was widely known, only had a handful of PCC streamliners, honored by the eye-catching livery on Muni’s car No. 1061. That paint scheme was inspired by the “Daylight” steam train colors of PE’s big brother Southern Pacific (as modeled by preserved… — Read More
In the gloaming on West Portal Avenue, PCCs honoring Toronto (1074) and Los Angeles (1080) are about to turn onto the L-Taraval line for testing and training, December 8, 2011. Photo copyright Jeremy Whiteman. One of our ace volunteer photographers, Jeremy Whiteman, is out and about these days west of Twin Peaks, tracking the moves of the PCCs in the 1070 class — the cars numbered between 1070 and 1080 recently returned from being rewired and having the door controls… — Read More
Well, not literally, since it burned down 45 years ago, but visually, you can revisit a fabulous piece of San Francisco history on this new DVD — or give it as a gift for the holidays. Sutro’s was THE place to go for ice skating when I was a kid. Before that, for decades, it was the city’s unparalleled palace of swimming, with seven salt water pools heated to different temperatures. But the biggest attraction for many was all the… — Read More
Once in awhile, people contact us (mistakenly believing our non-profit actually operates the historic streetcars) complaining about strange characters wandering up and down the aisles of the F-line streetcars. We tell them it’s part of our city’s history, and here’s a proof point from 1928. The leather boots suggest a possible refugee from the Folsom Street Fair; the beard suggests a prolonged spell in the wilds of Mendocino, uh, farming. Then there’s that jacket with the puffy cotton belt thingy… — Read More
We’ve told you about the great Muni Centennial book created by five of our members. This coming Sunday, December 4, from 2-4 p.m., you have the chance to meet three of the authors, discuss Muni and San Francisco transit history with them, buy the book and have them sign it. This informal book signing will take place at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, right at the Steuart Street F-line stop across from the… — Read More