Happy 125th to San Francisco Electric Streetcars

Double-ended San Mateo Streetcar 25 at Geneva Car House Yard | Circa March 1903. SFMTA Photo Archives.

On April 28, 1892, the first electric streetcar ran in San Francisco on a line that started just a few feet from our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart Street. The first practical electric streetcar system in the world was created by Frank J. Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888, so San Francisco was — then as now — an early adopter. (But then and now, it was also a NIMBY town because civic opposition to overhead wires kept streetcars off Market Street itself until the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed the obsolete Market Street cable car system.)

The communications group at our partner, SFMTA, issued this great blog post today, which really says it all about that first electric streetcar line, and has two great vintage photos, so we won’t repeat their excellent content here. We borrowed the photo above so we could run a shot of the city’s oldest preserved streetcar, No. 578, built less than four years after that first run and very similar in appearance (though a tad shorter). This “California-type” body design, borrowed from the double-ended California Street cable cars of the day, was the early standard for San Francisco streetcar design, though it had already been surpassed by larger streetcars by the time of the 1906 earthquake.

Preserved San Francisco Streetcar 578, built in 1896, operating during Muni Heritage Weekend 2016.

It should be noted that 25 years ago, San Francisco put on a parade of streetcars to commemorate the centennial of San Francisco service. The tracks on Market Street had been upgraded for the forthcoming permanent F-line, but they weren’t being used yet, and it had been five years since the last Trolley Festival had graced Market Street. So Muni and Market Street Railway teamed up to bring life to those unused tracks with a parade featuring a variety of the old streetcars, with costumed San Francisco historic characters riding along on the boat tram.

 

Here’s a link to a great video of that parade. The video also includes lots of Trolley Festival activity from the 1980s. Worth watching as a way to celebrate this 125th anniversary.

And to close this post, a shot of 1912 Moscow tram 106 in the parade, the last time it has operated in San Francisco. The parade used BOTH tracks on Market to run vintage cars side-by-side. (We need a lot of help to get that Moscow tram restored…larger, already ADA accessible streetcars are rightfully ahead of it in the restoration queue.)

So there’s been a lot to celebrate in the 125 years of electric streetcars in San Francisco. Market Street Railway is working on some exciting projects to get the next 125 years of to a historic start! Please join us!

 

 

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“Boston” is Back!

 

PCC 1059, honoring Boston Elevated Railway, is back in San Francisco, photographed by MSR Member Traci Cox at Muni Metro East in the wee hours of Monday, April 24. Like many of the 17 first-generation F-line streetcars (numbered from 1050-1063, plus 1007, 1010, and 1015), the colors on the tribute livery adorning 1059 were a little off. At that time, Muni only allowed a relative handful of colors in the palette for the PCC tribute paint schemes, but now, there are many more colors available, so we have been working with Muni to improve the historical accuracy of the colors.

The previous color limitation led to the 1059 being originally painted in a red-orange color, at odds with the actual Boston hue. We’ve got it pretty close now as indicated by the photo below (apologies, we can’t find the photographer credit…please let us know if you know who we should credit).


No, Muni didn’t install left-hand doors on 1059 as the Boston PCCs had (this anomaly was and is required by Boston’s 1897 subway. But we did take a look at what Boston logo would be most appropriate: the Boston Elevated Railway lettering that the Beantown PCCs were delivered in, or the later “MTA” logo or map logo. We stuck with the Boston Elevated
Railway lettering both because that was original and because where possible we lke to have authentic exterior lettering or logos that provide clues to the origin of the tribute livery. That logo will be installed before the car goes into revenue service.

Here are two more views of 1059’s arrival at Metro East, courtesy of Traci Cox.

(The night lighting does skew the orange color somewhat.)

[Update] After unloading the 1059, the trailer returned to Brookville with various parts, rather than with another car. [We erroneously reported Pacific Electric 1061 had gone to Brookville. Not yet. Sorry.] Market Street Railway is working with Muni to tweak the colors on that iconic Pacific Electric paint scheme as well, when 1061 does go to Brookville. (It and Brooklyn 1053 are slated to be the next cars to go back east for restoration, though in what order is not clear.) Comments on the first version of this story suggest that the Boston orange might work very well as a more accurate trim color on the 1061. We’re checking that out, and always appreciate comments from knowledgeable fans on colors, as long as they come to us in time to do something about them.

MSR Members: those who receive the hard copy of our newsletter, Inside Track, it should reach US mailboxes in the next couple of days, overseas by the end of next week (we hope…postal services around the world seem to be falling apart).

 

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