Sept. 7-8 Muni Heritage Weekend Details Here!

1896 “dinky” electric streetcar 578 is always a highlight of Heritage Weekend.

September 7 and 8 are shaping up to be the best Muni Heritage Weekend ever! This year’s seventh annual event should feature two vintage rail vehicle debuts, plus a full roster of returning favorite streetcars, cable cars, and buses. All the action is centered at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building at the F-line Steuart Street stop. (The one exception: the special cable cars, which will board one block away at California and Market Streets.)

Vintage vehicles will start operating at 11 a.m. both days, with the exception of the streetcar shuttles on The Embarcadero, which will start running around 12 noon because of the Giant Race, a waterfront footrace that was rescheduled to this date after we locked in Heritage Weekend dates. But there’ll still be plenty of time to get in your rides.

On the plaza opposite our museum, Muni’s motorized cable car 62 will be available for kids of all ages to ring their hearts out on. We’ll have a variety of kids’ games, a new selfie opportunity in front of a huge vintage colorized historic photo from 1947, book signings by Paul Bignardi of his brand new Muni Fleet History (available for the first time) and Emiliano Echeverria with his DVD book of our namesake, the Market Street Railway of 1893, our annual book and memorabilia sale, and much more. At the request of our out-of-town members, MSR President Rick Laubscher will repeat his interactive presentation of the narrated 1906 Trip Down Market Street film at the museum on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Market Street Railway Members will get 20% off all merchandise in the museum this weekend only (up from the normal 10%), as will employees of SFMTA, as our thanks for our productive partnership. AND, to introduce new people to Market Street Railway, we’ll be offering trial six-month memberships for just $20, which will include the last two issues of our Member magazine, Inside Track. So, this is the perfect opportunity to bring friends and relatives down for a great weekend of rare rides and shopping bargains.

Okay, now to the meat of the matter for many fans. We now have a semi-final vehicle lineup for Muni Heritage Weekend. Here it is:

CABLE CARS 

1907 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car 42, where you’ll board on Heritage Weekend, at California and Market Streets, just a block from our museum.
  • Special cable cars operate at regular fares as part of regular California Street cable car service, between Market Street (one block from San Francisco Railway Museum) and Van Ness Avenue, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: Debut of Sacramento-Clay “Big 19”, which will carry paying passengers in regular service for the first time in 77 years. Originally built 1883 as open car for Market Street service; rebuilt 1908 for Sacramento-Clay service; retired 1942; wears livery of the 1927-37 period. NOTE: Big 19 may operate on California Street part of Saturday as well; more information when available.
  • Saturday & Sunday: O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line car 42. Built 1907, retired 1954, brought back to San Francisco by Market Street Railway; wears livery of 1917 period.
Sacramento-Clay “Big 19” at the Market and California terminal during testing.

STREETCARS (Operating both Saturday and Sunday unless otherwise noted; Streetcar operations begin 11 a.m. Saturday, 12 Noon Sunday)

Posing with a Boat Tram is an Instagram favorite on Heritage Weekend.

TROLLEY COACHES: (Begin operations at 11 a.m. both days)

Two generations of 20th Century Muni Trolley Coaches: 776 (left) and 5300

Board on Steuart Street at Don Chee Way (next to the San Francisco Railway Museum).  All rides are free. Stops only at terminals. One of the trolley coaches will leave Steuart Street approximately every 45 minutes.

1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach 776, painted in Muni’s famous green and cream “Wings” livery.

1975 Flyer Trolley Coach, painted in Muni’s “Landor” livery of orange, gold, and white.

SATURDAY TROLLEY COACH ROUTE: to Washington Square in North Beach via the 41-Union line through Embarcadero Center and Columbus Avenue.

SUNDAY TROLLEY COACH ROUTE: via Sutter and Mason Streets to connect with Tenderloin Sunday Streets activity, returning via Market from Mason.

MOTOR COACHES: (Begin operations at 11 a.m. both days)

San Franciscans of a certain age rode 1956 Mack motor coaches as kids; on Heritage Weekend, kids of all ages can ride this beautifully restored Mack–free!
  • Board on Steuart Street at Don Chee Way (next to the San Francisco Railway Museum).  All rides are free. No pickups en route. One of the motor coaches should leave Steuart Street approximately every 30 minutes.
  • 1938 White Company motor coach 042, which served as a Coit Tower bus for four decades; now repainted into its original Muni livery of orange and black.
  • 1956 Mack motor coach 2230, fully restored to immaculate condition, wearing its original “Wings” livery.
  • 1970 GMC “Fishbowl/New Look” motor coach 3287, wearing its original Muni maroon and cream “Cal Cable” livery.
  • SATURDAY MOTOR COACH ROUTE: via 82x route on Sansome and Battery Streets to reach Levi’s Plaza and the Cruise Ship Terminal (Pier 27).
  • SUNDAY MOTOR COACH ROUTE: same as trolley coaches (Market, Sutter, Mason, return via Market) to connect with Tenderloin Sunday Streets activity.

We will have one more update before Heritage Weekend on anticipated schedules, posted on this site; we’ll also have schedules for book signings and talks at the museum. Watch for it.

1946 Melbourne Tram 916 (right) will make its regular service debut on Heritage Weekend Sunday (September 8), joining older sibling 1929 Tram 496 on The Embarcadero.

NOTE: Muni has a chronic operator shortage that has lingered, but shows some signs of easing. Only specially qualified operators can take the controls of the historic streetcars and buses, and they are generally working on their regular days off. The vehicles on the street obviously have to match operator availability on a given day; that’s why a couple of vehicles are only scheduled to be out one day–so that riders can get a greater variety over the weekend.

Also, while at this writing every vehicle mentioned here is operational, a couple are pending final go-aheads to enter service (Cable Car “Big 19” and Melbourne 916). We don’t anticipate problems, but mention this in full disclosure. Finally, of course, operational problems can always develop with any transit vehicle. But we know Muni’s maintenance teams are doing a great job in getting everything ready and want to show off their “babies”. They have a lot to be proud of; we hope you come and enjoy Muni Heritage Weekend.

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Boat Tram Sails Again

Blackpool (England) Boat Tram 228 is scheduled to resume its special service on the waterfront Tuesday, August 13 at 11 a.m., following a time in “dry dock” for motor repairs. You can ride the boat Tuesdays and Wednesdays the rest of August and into September between our San Francisco Railway Museum (across from the Ferry Building) and Fisherman’s Wharf between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

While the Muni shops were fixing the motor problem, the shops also replaced the clouded old plexiglass windshields with fresh new ones. Longer-term, they’ll install split glass windshields like the other boat tram has.

Hope you enjoyed the vintage streetcars that pinch-hit for the boat the past few weeks: the Melbourne tram and the EuroPCC. You’ll see them both, and many others, during Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Big 19 in Broad Daylight

Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 crosses Powell Street on August 6, 2019 with many of the crew that helped bring it back to life. Rick Laubscher photos.

For the first time in 77 years today, the biggest cable car in San Francisco (or anywhere for that matter) climbed “halfway to the stars” and back down again under cable power, in regular service conditions.

The cable car known as “Big 19” for its size (seven feet longer than Powell Street Cable Car 19, and four feet longer than the California Street cable cars, previously the longest in the fleet) has been on the streets twice before in recent weeks for testing, but both times at night, while the rest of the cable cars were sleeping in the barn.

Today, it ran from the cable car barn at Washington and Mason Street just as a regular-service California Street cable car would, the cable pulling it up Jackson Street and along Hyde to reach the California line, then up to Van Ness, reversing ends all the way to Market Street, and back again to Hyde, pulling onto the non-revenue (no passengers) stretch of track on Hyde between California and Washington Streets.

There, a few feet from its long-time route along Clay Street, the crew tested the slot blade, the emergency brake that brings cable cars to a quick stop when other brakes have problems. It worked fine, but under cable car rules, a car has to be towed back to the barn whenever a slot blade is dropped, so that’s how it ended today’s test.

More on the earlier testing, including a detailed history of this amazing car, first operated in 1883 — on Market Street! — here.

Crossing Grant Avenue. For 34 years, Big 19 and its 11 siblings served Chinatown faithfully via the next two blocks to the north (behind the car): Sacramento and Clay Streets.

We were invited along for today’s ride. The car handled very well throughout. It’s a little noisier than other cable cars, which shop supervisor Arne Hansen, who spearheaded restoration efforts, ascribed to the new trucks under the car. But the noise was music to the crew onboard, who have made this resurrection a labor of love.

So, no problems encountered anywhere; it fit everywhere. Because of its length, it wasn’t certain it would clear the terminal switch at California and Market while a Cal Car was “in the hole” (The extra space to store a cable car at the end of the line), but it made it with ease.

Acting Senior Operations Manager for Cable Car, Wes Valaris, a former gripman, poses on the running board of Big 19 at the California and Market terminal, with F-line PCC 1051 photobombing the shot from behind.

There’s still some paperwork to be done, but at this writing, it looks like Big 19 will be cleared to make its passenger-carrying debut on Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, an exciting event for sure. Thereafter, it’s expected to join O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car 42 for infrequent but incredible special event service.

We’ll be posting updated information on Heritage Weekend soon, but be sure to leave time for a ride on Big 19.

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