Streetcar Found at Lost Hills!

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PCC No. 1008 on Interstate 5 at Lost Hills, CA, en route to San Francisco, July 20, 2012. Paul Lucas photo.

Well, we guessed wrong on the route the first restored double-end PCC would follow to get back to Muni from Pennsylvania. Our volunteer charter coordinator, Paul Lucas, was surpri…wait, we’ll let him tell it (from our Facebook Group).
> “I’m driving down to LA on I-5 and pull off to grab some food. While walking back to my car, something catches the corner of my eye: it’s a streetcar! It’s #1008 sitting on a flatbed truck parked at a gas station. It’s just north of Bakersfield [at Lost Hills]. This seems kind of out of the way if it’s supposedly coming on I-80 from Pennsylvania. Still, talk about a chance encounter!”
We don’t know why this southerly route either, but doesn’t matter. Thanks, Paul, for the nice photo and reporting.
UPDATE: Our board member Jeremy Whiteman reports that No. 1008 arrived at Muni that evening (July 20, 2012) safe and sound and was unloaded the following morning. Our guess is that it will be rapidly entered into the testing phase in preparation for the still-planned America’s Cup weekend service August 25-26.

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Keep an Eye Out on I-80 for a Streetcar

It looks like the first of the four restored double-end PCC streetcars needed to start up E-line service is finally on its way to San Francisco, albeit 16 months later than the restoration contract specified. Sources tell us that PCC 1008, pictured below at the Brookville Equipment facility in Pennsylvania, is due to arrive at Muni on Friday, putting it somewhere along Interstate 80 at the moment.

We’re also told that the second of the four PCCs, No. 1006, painted identically to 1008 in its original 1948 Muni “Wings” livery, could be here in a couple of weeks. Before they could enter service, they need at least 1,000 miles of testing, according to the contract. It is conceivable that this could be accomplished before Muni’s pledged weekend America’s Cup service on the E-line August 25-26, but glitches with most of the single-end streetcars already received from Brookville in this restoration contract aren’t encouraging, especially since double-end streetcars have twice the number of doors (the new door systems installed in this group of cars have been balky) and controls to check.
Since these renovated cars must operate 20 years or more before their next big overhaul, we believe Muni should test them thoroughly before accepting them, and certainly shouldn’t rush the process just for a couple of days of service in August.
Meantime, we’ve gotten a sneak peak at another of the double-end PCCs at Brookville, courtesy of a Pennsylvania TV station that did a report recently on the opening of a new Brookville facility. We’re not able to embed that video here in this post, but if you follow this link and watch the video, you’ll see (just about one minute in) the reporter doing her standup on the steps of PCC No. 1009, resplendent in its tribute livery honoring Dallas Railway & Terminal Company, one of the few operators (other than Muni) to use double-end PCCs. Though the car looks ready to ship in this shot, it’s not clear what the schedule is. In most cases, months of work remain after painting before a streetcar is ready to ship. The fourth double-end PCC in the group, No. 1011, will be the last to return to Muni.
Meanwhile, we’ve learned that more resources have been provided to Muni maintenance to catch up on projects that were stalled for lack of manpower, including the installation of electronic switch controls (called VETAG) on long-sidelined 1914 Muni streetcar No. 130. If completed by late August, as now scheduled, this would in fact give Muni at least one spare double-end streetcar for that two-day America’s Cup service. No. 130 is very tired, both cosmetically and mechanically (hardly surprising for a 98-year old streetcar that has never had a full restoration, which it is slated for in the next few years). But there’s hope that it has enough left to help out on America’s Cup duties in the next 18 months before that restoration.
So, it’s possible Muni may be able to pull together the double-end streetcars they need for the August America’s Cup weekend after all. This requires that the currently operable double end PCCs (Nos. 1007, 1010, and 1015) stay that way; Melbourne No. 496, normally very reliable, doesn’t develop a long-term issue (it has been out recently with a motor problem but is due back in the next few days; 1914-vintage Muni No. 162 remains available, and No. 130 has its switch control installation completed and doesn’t encounter any other problems. If Muni can accomplish that without rushing the newly-returned PCCs into service prematurely, we’ll be the first to cheer.
By the way, we should note that all but one of the 12 single-end PCCs worked on by Brookville under this contract are now back in service, with Nos. 1075 (in Cleveland livery), 1076 (Washington DC), and 1077 (Birmingham) starting to carry passengers in the last month or so. This leaves only No. 1073 (honoring El Paso-Juarez) still being worked on. It ran into some problems during testing, and has fallen to the back of the pack, but work is underway again on it now.
You can always find the current status of every streetcar in Muni’s historic fleet here. Oh, and we don’t forget the cable cars either. Since we’re not part of Muni and receive no government money, your support is essential to keeping this information available and allowing us to advocate for the E-line and quality streetcar restorations. Please consider joining us as a member, or donating now. Thanks.

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Streetcars needed for America’s Cup now 16 months late

According to an Examiner story, Muni is planning to run extra streetcar service for America’s Cup events scheduled August 26 and 27, and during Fleet Week in October as well. The story says Muni will activate the long planned E-Embarcadero line for special service on those days only.
The article focuses on how Muni will find and train the extra operators needed for this service. Under Muni’s labor agreement, operators already in the system qualify for new assignments by seniority, and, if they are not already trained in operating specific types of streetcars, must be given that training before they can carry passengers. Eric Williams, president of the Muni operators’ union, is quoted in the article as saying, “Between the lack of bodies and the infrequent training program, I can’t see them being able to get the extra service running, which is a shame, since we all think extra streetcar service would be a great idea.”

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Muni does continue to train streetcar crews, albeit for ongoing operations rather than specifically for America’s Cup. Here’s a recent shot of crews and trainers at the end of the L-Taraval line with 1914 Muni streetcar No. 162. Jeremy Whiteman photo, click to enlarge.

But the article misses what may be an even higher hurdle: finding enough streetcars for the service. Four of the streetcars that were supposed to be the backbone of E-line America’s Cup service are sitting in a factory in Pennsylvania. All should have been here many months ago.
Details on that below. First some background.
Market Street Railway is a leading advocate of permanent E-line service, for which all the track and boarding platforms have been in place almost a decade now. (The initial operating segment of the E-line will share F-line tracks and stops from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building, use three blocks of its own track, already installed, then join the T and N lines south of Folsom on The Embarcadero and King to reach the Caltrain depot.)
To make it possible to start up the E-line, we specifically championed restoring Muni’s last four original double-end streamlined PCC streetcars, because there is currently no way to turn single-end streetcars (those, like a bus, that can only be operated from one end) at the Caltrain terminal or anywhere near it. Of Muni’s 34 streetcars actually operable at this writing, only five are double-ended. (Three of these, Nos. 1007, 1010, and 1015, are PCCs from the same original 1948 fleet as the four now being restored.) The Examiner story states that Muni will be running five cars on the E-line. That leaves zero margin for breakdowns, completely contrary to common transit industry practice.
Indeed, a Muni planner recently told a community group that they would likely have to mix streetcars with buses on the E-line. However, it is questionable whether buses can operate on the E-line (and N and T-line) trackway between Caltrain and Folsom Street. Unlike the relatively smooth F-line Embarcadero trackway farther north, where supplemental buses can and do operate, the trackway south of Folsom was not designed to accommodate buses, featuring large stones protruding from the pavement throughout the route, which, if navigable by buses at all, would produce both a rough ride for passengers and lots of wear and tear on the buses’ suspension.
Availability of double-end streetcars for this initial America’s Cup service was not supposed to have been a problem, because the first of the four double-end PCCs restored under the contract with Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania was supposed to have been delivered to Muni a full sixteen months ago. All four were supposed to have been completed and delivered eight months ago.
None of the four has left Brookville at this writing. Muni engineers and project people have not explained why, at least not to us.
There have been recurring rumors that the first of the four, either No. 1006 or the identical No. 1008, may leave Brookville in the coming week, but we have been hearing similar rumors for months. Whenever the first double-end car arrives, according to the contract Muni will test it (without passengers) for 60 days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Given the (excuse the expression) track record of the 12 single-end PCCs already delivered to Muni under this Brookville contract, with repeated reliability and functionality problems in most of the renovated cars detected by Muni maintenance during testing, it seems highly unlikely that this first returned double-ended PCC could be ready to carry passengers during the August America’s Cup event, unless Muni rushes it through the testing cycle, potentially sacrificing the opportunity to solve shortcomings in the car by accepting it too quickly.
Even if it did manage to accept one additional double-end PCC, that would provide just a single spare streetcar for E-line service. The contract gives Brookville 90 days to deliver the second double-end PCC after Muni accepts the first one and notes “The contractor proceeds at its own risk prior to SFMTA’s written approval of the pilot double-end] PCC streetcar.” In other words, it’s not in Brookville’s financial interest to rush any more of the double-end PCCs to San Francisco until the first one is fully accepted. That would seem to extend well beyond the planned Fleet Week service as well. (The other two double-ended PCCs currently at Brookville, besides 1006 and 1008, are [1009 and 1011.)
There’s no question this renovation is a big job. Double-end PCC bodies are precious, since so few were ever built. This contract calls for a a complete remanufacturing of the cars, which were in poor to awful condition when they left San Francisco. Nonetheless, the vendor agreed to this schedule, and Muni has planned on having these cars in plenty of time for the first America’s Cup activities.


Muni has run demonstration E-line service a couple of times before in conjunction with Sunday Streets activities, such as this run with double-end PCC No. 1007 in September 2008. However, no more than two cars were used on any given day, mostly to check stations and switches (which all worked fine).

We at Market Street Railway try to support Muni in its historic streetcar and cable car operations however we can, but we are not part of Muni, receive no government money, and, on behalf of our 1200 members, play an advocacy role for better service. In this case, we respectfully express our disappointment with the handling of this contract, both in terms of the major delays in delivery of the streetcars, and the flaws in the cars when they arrive. It should be noted that both the award and much of the execution of this contract predates the tenure of current top SFMTA management, which has so far acted positively in response to concerns we have raised with them.
That said, it’s our position that Muni should NOT attempt to run the two-day E-line service in August unless they are confident they can provide a full set of reliable streetcars and trained crews for it. Further, these crews and cars should not come at the expense of adequate F-line service. Two generations of SFMTA management have told us a major reason they have held off on E-line service is because they want to be sure they don’t hurt the F-line to start up the E. We agree.
To be clear, we strongly advocate PERMANENT E-line service at the earliest possible date. We believe, though, that Muni needs several more double-end streetcars than the ones currently operational or being renovated, and we continue to work with them to get those additional cars restored.
Demand for attractive transit along the waterfront (and along proposed extensions we support to Fort Mason and Mission Bay) will continue to grow. Trying to jam in two days of service without adequate crew training or streetcars seems counterproductive to us.

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Grand Old Flags…All of Them!

All summer long, the F-line streetcars are bedecked with flags: the American flag over the front door on all cars, and the flag of the city, state, or country they represent on the other side (as shown below with the Minnesota flag above the operator’s window of Twin City Rapid Transit PCC No. 1071).

On this Fourth of July, we’d like to tip our hat to three Market Street Railway members who have donated funding or volunteered their time to make this colorful addition to the F-line operation possible.
Joe Hickey is a Muni employee who, on his own time, mounts the flags on staffs and ensures they’re properly fitted into the holders on the front corners of the streetcars. He also replaces those that are lost or worn out.
James Giraudo is a California Highway Patrolman based in Truckee, who also operates a flag company and has donated many flags to the cause, even creating hard to find ones.
Dennis Frazier is an Air Force veteran from San Diego who has regularly and generously donated funds to pay for the flags we need beyond the ones that are donated by James.
Thanks to all of them. It’s members and volunteers like them that help our non-profit give Muni meaningful support to keep the F-line streetcars looking great.
We need your support to expand our support for the F-line and help strengthen our advocacy for startup of the E-line between the Wharf and Caltrain, its extension to Fort Mason and Mission Bay, and restoration of more vintage streetcars.

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All-Door Boarding on All Muni Vehicles

Muni has just implemented all-door boarding, the first system in the country to do so. That includes F-line streetcars. People with cash must board at the front door, but those with Clipper cards, Muni Passports, or valid transfers (any proof of payment) can board (legally) at the back doors. Muni has even created a video outlining the basics of the new system, with enough old photos of buses and streetcars to make it worth looking at just for that. As… — Read More

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