Welcome Back, Cable Car 22!

The double-deuce hits the street Wednesday, November 29 after being out of service eight years!

UPDATE 11/29: Turns out the November 29 runs were for advanced testing…stand by for an announcement on passenger service.

Its failing frame and rotting wood were certainly entitled to take a few years off, for Car 22 (once 522) is one of the relatively few surviving original Ferries & Cliff House Railways Cars from 1887. It started on the vanished Sacramento-Clay line, but moved over to the Powell lines in 1906, after the original Powell fleet was destroyed, along with the Washington-Mason car barn, in the earthquake and fire.

One by one, most of the original 1887 cars eventually wore out, even after being rebuilt once before (in 22’s case, in 1956). Some were replaced by essentially completely new cable cars built by the Woods Carpentry Shop, with virtually nothing remaining of the original.
However, 22, along with Powell Cable Cars 17, 24, and 27, still retain significant parts of their original 1887 construction, when they were built by Mahony Brothers of San Francisco.  So this car is one of the oldest in the fleet.  (Most of the other “original” Powell cars date to 1893, and most of the Cal cars oriignally date to 1906-07.)

According to recently retired Cable Car maintenance supervisor Norbert Feyling, “All credit belongs to carpenter Mark Sobichevsky, who took on a massive rebuild that other people ran away from.” Norbert continues, “Big credit also goes to Bryant Cao, Keith and the other new carpenter hires for which this was a training ground, painters Danny Hicks and Richard Lee, Harry Stewart, John Malia and their machinists, engineer John Becker, and all the shop mechanics who completely replaced the trucks and running gear so she’ll drive as sweet as she looks. All done in house, by Muni personnel.”

We celebrate the return of Powell Cable Car 22 to the active fleet. Thanks to Russell Stanton of the Cable Car Division for posting this photo of 22 to our Facebook group.

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Thanksgiving 2017

This Thanksgiving we’re grateful for all the workers at SFMTA (Muni) who operate the historic streetcars and cable cars and keep them on the streets and looking good.

We’re grateful to the SFMTA Board of Directors and Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin for their strong support of historic transit in San Francisco, and to those on their staff who share their commitment.

We’re especially grateful to our members and donors who make our advocacy possible.

And we’re grateful to be part of a dynamic evolving city that protects its past and integrates much of it into the present and the future.

One current example: this photo was taken at lunchtime the other day from the main dining room of the newly (and wonderfully) renovated Fisherman’s Grotto No. 9 on Taylor Street’s Restaurant Row at the Wharf. What was a tired (albeit historic) restaurant is fresh and new, but still displaying old-time Wharf tradition (along with a fabulous Crab Louis, by the way).

And the views! Golden Gate Bridge to the west and, oh yes, streetcars to the south, with the fishing fleet as a foreground object. The shot above was snapped with an iPhone, but we expect the ace volunteer photographers among our members to get some much better shots soon. Importantly to us, this shot symbolizes how vintage streetcars have become so integrated into the fabric of our city. Even as a detail in a photo, they just fit in — as they have done for 125 years in San Francisco.

And since food’s on our mind today, we’re grateful for many other traditional San Francisco restaurants that still deliver the goods: Sam’s Grill on Bush near Kearny, John’s Grill on Ellis (which Dashiell Hammett took the 20-line streetcar to reach), and Scoma’s at the Wharf. And don’t forget bars like the Buena Vista Cafe at the end of the Hyde cable.

Happy Thanksgiving, San Francisco!

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Perfect November Saturday on the Waterfront

On a picture-perfect November Saturday morning, we were at Aquatic Park shooting some photos for a forthcoming feature in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track, about an exciting updated vision for extending streetcar service to western Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park, Municipal Pier, and Fort Mason. (Not a Member?  Join now and get the scoop on this.)

Anyway, riding back on the F-line, we hopped off at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market for some shopping. Saw an E-line car coming up from Caltrain with a seated load — great to see ridership building there — and then some great sights on the F that we thought it would be fun to share here.

First, the newest PCC to return to service, Car 1062, honoring Pittsburgh Railways, getting instructions from the inspector at the Jones and Beach terminal, with a Milan tram on the F-line behind it, then double-end PCC 1007 on the E-line.

As soon as we get to the Ferry Building stop, what do we see but another PCC newly returned from its renovation by Brookville Equipment Company, Car 1059, now in its correct orange livery honoring Boston Elevated Railway. (Nice coincidence: Embarcadero Center in the background is owned by Boston Properties, our newest Business Benefactor Member!) The dirt on the roof reflects last week’s storm. Rain deposits carbon from the slide on the trolley pole onto the roofs of cars; it takes the crews a few days to get all the cars clean again.

 

We hear a gong and turn around and what should appear coming up the E-line tracks but the “brandest-newest” PCC to return from Brookville, Car 1063, honoring Baltimore Transit with that city’s original PCC livery of Alexandria Blue, orange, and gray. It has just started its 1,000-mile “burn-in” to check all its systems before entering passenger service.

Three newly refurbished PCCs to brighten an already spectacular day!

 

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Positively (Twenty-)Fourth Street

Okay, the headline reference is anachronistic, because this shot goes WAY back beyond Dylan. So evocative, though, we couldn’t resist the reference.

Few are still around who remember streetcars on 24th Street, now the cultural center of the City’s Latino community and known to many as Calle 24. But here we are in 1938 (based on the streetcar and the automobile license plate) looking east on 24th at York Street, staring at a 35-Howard line streetcar. It has just descended the very steep hill on 24th from its terminal at Rhode Island Street on Potrero Hill, crossed the Muni’s H-line tracks on Potrero Avenue, and is bound for South Van Ness, where it will turn right and continue on that street and Howard to reach the south terminal at the Ferry Building.

On the corner to the right, we see the St. Francis ice cream and candy store — still there! — and beyond it, the Roosevelt theater marquee. The Roosevelt wasn’t a tribute to a president, it was opened by a Dutchman named Roosevelt in 1922, who also owned other businesses on the block, including the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, which reopened early this year after a hiatus.

And by the way, this is not just any old streetcar. This is one of five “Rail Sedans” that Muni’s then-competitor (and our namesake) Market Street Railway bought secondhand from the East St. Louis & Suburban Railway in 1936. These cars, built in 1927 by St. Louis Car Company, were far more modern looking than anything else Market Street Railway ever owned. They were purchased when the company began converting lightly-ridden lines to be served by single-operator cars that saved labor costs. According to the definitive history of the Market Street Railway, The White Front Cars of San Francisco by Charles Smallwood, the five rail sedans spent their entire San Francisco career exclusively on the 35-line. The company felt if they spread these cars around to other routes, riders on those routes might demand more of them, and there were no more available.

The mandatory “Eclipse Fender” on the front of these cars in San Francisco detracted from the even more modern look they enjoyed in their original home, equipped with chromed spring bumpers (see photo from Smallwood’s book below).

These Rail Sedans only lasted three years in service in San Francisco, sent to the sidelines when the courts declared the single-operator arrangement illegal. Within two years, Market Street Railway had given up its franchise for the 35-Howard. Muni converted the portions on Howard and South Van Ness to its first trolley coach line (the R, later the 41) in 1941. The 24th Street portion later became Muni’s 35-line bus, and is now the 48-line bus. Sadly, all the rail sedans were scrapped in 1941. They’d sure look great in service on the F and E lines today!

This great photo comes to us from the Facebook Group San Francisco Remembered, where it was just made the group photo. Thanks for letting us share.

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Just Visiting

We stopped by Cameron Beach Yard this afternoon and what should be peeking out but the first of Muni’s new light rail vehicles, built by Siemens. Car 2001 was nestled in between 1914 Muni Car 130 (not visible, at right) and (visible to the left) 1952 Brussels, Belgium PCC 737. There are Bredas under the canopy as well, which Market Street Railway fought for ten years to have built to protect the most vulnerable historic streetcars, which were then based… — Read More

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Van Ness and McAllister, Nov. 1, 1917

This photo from the SFMTA Archive was taken exactly 100 years before the date of this post, on November 1, 1917. No streetcars in the picture, but we do see important infrastructure: the poles that hold up the wires that bring power to the streetcars. We’re at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street, looking northeast across Van Ness. City Hall, then new, sits on the southeast corner of this intersection. Across Van Ness, we see an apartment… — Read More

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