Photo of the (Past) Moment: Ferry Heyday

Ferry Loop from Tower Ralph Demoro shot c1936.jpg

Ferry Loop, April 1936. Ralph W. Demoro photo, Al Schwoerer collection. Click to enlarge.

Al Schwoerer recently posted this on our Facebook Group. The photo is from his collection, taken in April 1936 by the legendary railfan and photographer Ralph Demoro (father of the even more legendary railfan and journalist Harre Demoro.
It’s a classic moment in time, taken from the second floor of the Ferry Building on the very cusp of the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
That changed everything.
Ferry traffic withered and within three years, many of the streetcar lines that served the Ferry Building were diverted to the new East Bay Terminal at First and Mission.
Click on the photo to enlarge it and just look all the action. There’s a Muni bus on its 4-line (later the 32-Embarcadero) headed south, under the “Grand Cafeteria” sign. So few people rode this line that the State Board of Harbor Commissioners, which ran the Port of San Francisco in those days, had to subsidize it. (For you young transit nerds, yes there was a day when subsidized transit lines were the exception, not the (universal) rule. Next to the Grand, you can buy GallenKamp shoes for three bucks. In front of the bus, you got your beer truck. Prohibition is dead! For most practical purposes, it never actually existed in San Francisco, but it did put saloons behind the “speakeasy” curtain, which probably affected this block of The Embarcadero as much as any in the city. If you compare this to a photo of the same block pre-Volstead Act, almost all these storefronts were saloons, and all of them offered “free” lunches, consisting of bread, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and pickles, with the purchase of a “scoop” of beer — for a nickel.
The presence of a 17-line car (No. 129) on the loop, with a Zoo dash sign, tells us Ralph took this on a Sunday or Holiday, since those were the only days the 17 was extended via the 12-line on Sloat Boulevard to Ocean Beach. There’s also a 5, a 21, and a 31 on the loop, along with just one Muni car, a K.
As Al observed in his Facebook post, “lots of interesting stuff going on.” Amen.
We’re going to try to get access to the same location in the Ferry Building to match this photo for the next issue of our members-only color newsletter, Inside Track. If you’re reading this post and you’re not a Market Street Railway member, we can fix that right now. We need your support to keep San Francisco’s historic streetcars on track!

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Brussels ‘Sprouts’ in the (Premature) Spring


Jeremy Whiteman photo. All rights reserved.

Okay, enough with the bad puns. Point is that a historic streetcar long missing from the streets is running again. European PCC No. 737, which served Brussels, Belgium for a half-century, was out for testing last Saturday, while the rest of the historic streetcars took a break because of track construction on Market Street. The tram, confusingly painted to honor San Francisco’s sister city, Zurich, Switzerland at the request of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, reportedly performed well during trials on the J, L, and M lines. Jeremy Whiteman took this great shot on 19th Avenue near Junipero Serra on the M-line, with early poppies providing color and perhaps a slight echo of Flanders fields near the tram’s original home.
The tram was acquired from a broker in Brussels 10 years ago when Muni was looking for possible additional groups of streetcars for the F-line. Since the car was a European version of a PCC, with many of the same components, the thinking went it would be easy to maintain. But the tram had been modified over the years with a number of now-obsolete electronic components and other changes had been made that took awhile to remedy, so the car’s service has been sporadic.
It is still an important part of the fleet, and Saturday’s tests sparked encouragement that the tram could soon enter regular service again. A few tweaks are still needed; then it’s on to operator training. We hope to see the tram in service soon.

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F-line Buses All This Weekend

The F-line will be served by buses rather than streetcars both Saturday and Sunday, January 18-19.

Saturday’s switch is caused by the removal of the disused crossing on the inbound (Wharf-bound) track at Fremont and Market, part of the abandoned Transbay Terminal loop. (The inbound switch at First and Market was removed last Saturday; the outbound switch on the Castro-bound track at Fremont will be removed next month.)

Sunday, apparently related to potential celebrations following the NFC Championship Game (the 49ers play in Seattle), ALL electric transit service except Muni Metro is being motorized and the overhead on Market Street de-energized. All Market Street lines, including the F, will operate via 11th and Mission Street.

Normally, January weekends would be about the best time to substitute buses for streetcars on the F. This weekend is expected to be warm and beautiful, summer-like (or even better). But removing the crossing and switches on Market Street make the F-line smoother and reduce wear and tear on the streetcar wheels a little. Our recommendation: come on down anyway, walk the wonderful Herb Caen Promenade along The Embarcadero, and visit our San Francisco Railway Museum, which will be open each day, 10-6.

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Contribute to our 2015 Calendar!

We’re less than two weeks into 2014, but we’re already looking ahead to next year!
The annual Market Street Railway calendar has gained a great reputation around town and around the heritage transit community. The photographers who contribute to it get a nice credit for their portfolio, given the very high quality reproduction and large format.
If you’re serious about your photography and you love San Francisco’s historic transit vehicles, we invite you to contribute to our 2015 calendar. That great shot above is by Adolfo Echeverry, a contributor to our 2014 calendar. We love shots like this that show off distinctive architecture or street scenes in addition to the streetcars or cable cars.
You can learn all about submitting photos to our calendar on our Flickr group. Look forward to seeing new photographers join us for 2015 and receiving more great photos from previous contributors!

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F-line Switch Removal Saturday; Buses Substitute

There will be no streetcar service on the F-Market & Wharves line all day Saturday, January 11. Sewer work is taking place on Market between Fremont and Third; crews are taking the opportunity to remove the disused track switch at First Street that used to connect to the now-demolished Transbay Terminal. Motor coaches will substitute for the streetcars, with Wharf-bound buses detouring via Second, Mission, and Fremont Streets to go around the work site. (We don’t currently post comments to… — Read More

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No Way to Start Its Centennial Year!

Tim Jue photo via the Market Street Railway Facebook group. A collision involving historic streetcar No. 162 early Saturday afternoon (January 4) caused significant but hopefully largely cosmetic damage to the vintage vehicle, which had just begun its centennial year of service. In an article, the Chronicle grossly overstated the extent of the damage, describing the streetcar as “totaled,” which is simply wrong. Purchased by Muni in 1914 from the Jewett Car Company of Ohio, No. 162 was one of… — Read More

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