Ever forget a birthday? We did, until Jeremy Menzies, who runs the great SFMTA Photo Archives, reminded us. Here’s his blog post on the 100th birthday of Muni’s only purpose-built work car, No. C-1.
The two links tell the story pretty completely. We just love this streetcar, a true rarity in transit today: a vehicle built exclusively for working on the system (instead of carrying passengers) that is still doing what it was built to do, for its original owner, a full century later. We don’t know of a comparable car, in North America at least.
When our volunteers restored it to its original appearance in 1992 (it had been heavily modified over the decades), it was reintroduced to the public on Muni’s 80th birthday, December 28, 1992. The redoubtable Carl Nolte described it thus, in the Chronicle
Even decked out in brand new gray paint with gold trim and flying four little flags, car C-1 would never be mistaken for a thing of beauty. It looks a bit like an outhouse mounted atop a dump truck, the kind of thing a small child might make out of blocks of wood.
Impressed by its role as the centerpiece of Muni’s birthday celebration, Nolte dubbed it “drudge made queen for a day.” Queen of the work cars forever, as far as we’re concerned.
And this also gives us the chance to share three great photos. The top one is the first known photo of C-1, taken March 17, 1916, obviously brand new. Below it, a matching shot we helped stage after the restoration in 1992. We’ll finish with a shot with a shot of C1 on Presidio Avenue near Geary in the 1940s when it had extra stuff bolted onto it.
Today is the 120th anniversary of the opening of Sutro Baths, a remarkable wood-and-glass Victorian confection at the western edge of the continent (and the city), aptly named Land’s End. Adolph Sutro, mining magnate and mayor, built the baths as an attraction for the growing city, residents and visitors alike. Seven pools filled with seawater heated to different temperatures, as shown in this Golden Gate National Recreation Area photo.
But the site was a long way from where people lived back then. To get there, Sutro built his own streetcar line. This was a common practice of land developers across America in that era. The flip side was also true: private streetcar companies often built amusement parks and other attractions at the ends of their lines to attract weekend riders.
The photo above shows a Sutro Railroad electric streetcar (of the same design as preserved No. 578, though larger) with a piece of Sutro Baths just behind it and the huge, very ornate Cliff House, which burned to the rocks in 1907, visible in the background.
The Sutro Railroad Company didn’t last long, soon becoming part of San Francisco’s near-monopoly private transit company, known in different incarnations as Market Street Railway Company and United Railroads. They operated Sutro’s streetcar line as their 2-Clement line. Shortly after the publicly-owned Municipal Railway opened its B-Geary line in 1912, it was extended to Ocean Beach, but not by outer Geary (because the 2-line was already there), but by jogging down to Cabrillo Street. Loyal Muni riders could walk up to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths from there.
Muni took over the old Market Street Railway, including the 2-Clement line and its wooden terminal shed, in 1944. Many San Franciscans remember the smells of hotdogs and grease from the snack counters inside the terminal.
Muni was already planning to convert the 2-Clement to buses when a fire destroyed the terminal in 1949, truncating streetcar service. The pools themselves were closed shortly after, with an ice rink installed in a desperate attempt to make the ramshackle structure pay its way. Finally, in 1966, Sutro’s was incinerated in a spectacular fire. The ruins of the foundation are now a popular hiking spot, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, reachable by — the successor to Muni’s B-Geary line, the 38-Geary bus, which took over the outer end of the old 2-Clement.
As part of our San Francisco Railway Museum’s current exhibit on streetcar advertising through the years, we created a coffee mug bearing this historic Sutro’s ad.
You can purchase the mug at the museum or in our online store. And you can see more Sutro’s ads and learn more about how streetcars served recreational destinations in the city at the museum as well.
Happy memories on this anniversary day to all who remember Sutro’s! And if you’d like to learn more about Sutro Baths and see a treasure trove of photos, visit our friends at Outside Lands.
In 1891, the California Street Cable Car Rail Road Co. opened San Francisco’s last all-new cable car line, on O’Farrell, Jones, Pine, and Hyde Streets, linking the Tenderloin with Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and the waterfront at what’s now called Aquatic Park (then a warehouse and industrial area).
Market Street Railway will be suggesting specific celebration ideas to Muni, which has operated cable cars on Hyde Street since 1952. (Photo above is from 1954, just before Muni shut down the line and connected it to the Powell tracks to create the Powell-Hyde line in 1957).
Our next issue of our quarterly members-only newsletter, Inside Track, will feature an original article and rare photos chronicling the 125-year history of the cable car lines that run of the most scenic transit routes in the world along Hyde Street.
If you’re a lover of San Francisco transit history, and you haven’t yet joined Market Street Railway, this is a great time. We have loyal members who have been supporting us for 30 years, and they’ve made a huge difference in our ability to acquire and help restore more than a dozen historic streetcars, and even a cable car from that O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, which you’ll be able to ride September 24-25 on the next Muni Heritage Weekend. As the photo below shows, it’s a beauty, right down to the hand lettering just as it was in 1906.
We really need your support. Please click here to join us and get our exclusive newsletter. As a special bonus, we’ll send along the last four issues of Inside Track with our compliments! Thanks.
This weekend, March 5-6, the historic Old Mint at Fifth and Mission comes alive again with city history. Dozens of city history groups will assemble to celebrate San Francisco’s history. Market Street Railway will again be among them, as we have been in the past. (That’s us above at an earlier version of the event. The Old Mint is a great venue for this.)