Baltimore Blues

Of all the comments we’ve received about Muni’s restored PCC streetcars over the past 30 years, nothing comes close to carping about colors. “You’re half a shade off there, you know.” “I can’t believe you didn’t get that green right.” And on and on and on.

Which is why you can call this a pre-emptive post. All you Baltimore Transit experts who look at the photos in this post with your fingers twitching to launch a tirade, step back from the keyboard and read the rest of the post first.

In a lifetime of photography, I (MSR President Rick Laubscher) have never seen such an odd color shift from the actual as I got today in photographing newly restored PCC 1063, honoring Baltimore Transit, which arrived at Muni Metro East first thing this morning.

When i first laid eyes on the 1063, just inside the shop, the color seemed to be accurate — a blue-green some call teal, some cyan. But when I photographed it, the result is way more blue than it really is, as seems evident in my photos above and below. (Also, the orange belt rail looks redder than it actually is.)

I had seen earlier shots of the car, taken at Brookville Equipment Company before it left for San Francisco, that concerned me because the body of the car, which is supposed to be a very unusual teal tone, looked flat-out blue. Which would be wrong. But another photo from Brookville looked just right, and we were told the car actually matched the sample panel we created after consultation with the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, which restored authentic Baltimore Transit car 7407. Both shots that looked too blue, in SF and Brookville, were taken indoors, so maybe it’s the temperature of the artificial lighting affecting the camera sensors. All I can say is that when I looked at it with my own eyes, it looks correct. Weird.

The right color was even more important because when it was first restored for Muni, in the early 1990s, Muni only allowed eight colors to be used in the palette for all the PCCs. Consequently, a number of the restored cars were indeed a “half-shade off”, including the 1063. (The actual Baltimore paint scheme is just below in the snow, with 1063 in its 1990s paint just below that.)

Anyway, on the recommendation of several people we respect, including then-head of Muni historic rail maintenance Karl Johnson, we opted for the original Baltimore PCC scheme, dating back to 1936. In working with the museum in Baltimore, we were told that photographs of their 7407 might appear to show silver lettering and logos, but the originals were actually gold, so we made them that way.

Without exact, modern paint codes, which we could not obtain for the 1063’s teal, you have to do the best you can. The different temperatures of old film don’t make it easier. The color photos of the Baltimore yellow/orange online, for example, run the gamut from almost as yellow as 1063 used to look to as orange as Muni’s Milan trams. And it’s important to remember that traction companies often mixed their own paint, and some cars came out of the repair shop in a slightly different shade than it went in. In the days of old lead-based paints, oxidation played a major role as well, which is why some old-timers swear a particular paint scheme is “off” when they’re remembering the oxidized shade, not the shiny color it wore when factory fresh.

Whatever. Car 1063 is here; it looks as good inside and out as the six cars already delivered in this restoration contract (1051, 1055, 1056, 1059, 1060, 1062). Don’t know when it will hit the streets for testing and its 1000-mile testing before being accepted for service, since 1055 is ahead of it. When it’s out, we expect to see a whole lot of photos in different lighting conditions. And when people see it in person, on the street, not through an internet post, it’s going to look right.

By the way, the 1063 came out on the return trip that took Pacific Electric 1061 to Brookville for rehab. No additional cars left today.

Share

The Lineup

Passing by Muni Metro East as today’s afternoon faded into evening, what should appear but a lineup representing 105 years of San Francisco transit history. Right to left, 1912 Car 1, the first publicly owned streetcar in America, getting ready to go out on a charter. Next to it, 1948 PCC 1015, signed for training duty. And then one of the new 2017 Siemens LRVs, number 2006, still being tested.

Not something you can see in any other US transit agency. But Muni makes it happen!

Share

121 Years in One Day

Muni Supervisor Robert Parks, who trains operators on every type of streetcar and light rail vehicle in the city, may have set a record today.

In the morning (above), he trained operators on Muni’s newest model of LRV, Siemens car 2001, delivered earlier this year. (The first Siemens cars are due to start carrying paying passengers next month.) Above. 2001at the N-Judah Ocean Beach terminal.

Then, he got a call — could he do a shop move, transferring 1896 single-truck “dinky” 578 across Cameron Beach Yard.

The same operator running one of the very the newest streetcars in America and the oldest passenger streetcar still on the roster of a US transit agency in the same day — vehicles built 121 years apart. That’s gotta be a record!

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that Robert moved the dinky “across town,” which he called us to correct. We regret the error but are still in awe of his “double-header”.

Share

10/15/17 — Twice!

Here are two photos at the same location. One taken 100 years ago today, the other taken…today.

On October 15, 1917, United Railroads photographer John Henry Mentz shot the black-and-white photo at the top, looking north from 18th Street on what was then called Kentucky Street. Soon, Kentucky would have its name changed to match the street it connected with several blocks north at China Basin — Third Street. (To the south of Islais Creek, Railroad Avenue would get Third Street’s name as well.)

The tracks going straight belong to the 16 and 29 lines of United Railroads. A block north, at Mariposa, you can see them bend right onto a viaduct that took them over the busy Southern Pacific railroad tracks that ran east-west along 16th Street. The viaduct would last more than a half century longer before being demolished, later used by automobiles and trucks.

The tracks turning to the left belong to the 22-Fillmore streetcar line, which turned onto Kentucky and terminated in the carbarn on Third near 23rd Street. A municipal election is near, hence the campaign posters, including the one to “Re-elect George Lull City Attorney” over the saloon door to the left. A lone Model-T sits at the curb by the saloon, and a horse-drawn wagon lingers at the corner of Mariposa.

Fast forward to today. The 22-Fillmore STILL turns this corner, beginning its terminal loop (though it has been a trolley bus line for almost 70 years). The streetcar tracks on Third that disappeared in 1941 are back, carrying Muni’s T-Third line for the past ten years. There’s a track switch in the intersection again as well, but this time, it’s for the short-turn streetcar loop that was started during T-line construction and is only now being completed. The saloon is gone, replaced by a popular Dogpatch restaurant, Moshi Moshi. Can’t be sure, but it’s probably the same building, much altered. That building, though, will soon give way to new housing in this rapidly changing neighborhood, as will the venerable Carpenter’s Union hall on the right side of the photo. And the new Warriors arena, Chase Center, is now rising where the north end of that streetcar viaduct used to be.

What a difference a century makes…and doesn’t make. (Long live the 22 and streetcar tracks on Third!)

Thanks to our friends at SFMTA Archive for the historic photo.

Share

Boat Tram An Added Attraction at Fleet Week

Blackpool “boat tram” 228 joined in the celebration of Fleet Week this past weekend, thanks to a decision by Muni to operate the popular 1934 open-top tram. Here are a few photos from a very happy weekend. At the top, MSR board member and #1 boat fan Katie Haverkamp caught some sailors in uniform enjoying the ride. (Muni has a tradition of letting military members in uniform ride free!) Below, MSR member Steve Souza caught the boat cruising with a… — Read More

Share

Boat Cruising This Weekend!

In a welcomed decision, Muni has launched one of the 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” to help carry crowds along The Embarcadero enjoying Fleet Week 2017! Open-topped boat Tram 228 will be shuttling between The Ferry Building and our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8 from 11 am to 6 pm. Come out and enjoy a ride. Thanks to Muni for operating it on one of the most warm and beautiful weekends of… — Read More

Share