Boat Keeps Sailing Through Fleet Week

Boat Tram 228 passes Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, entering service on Wednesday, September 11.

SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum has approved the extension of summer Blackpool Boat Tram service through Fleet Week in mid-October. The boat will continue to operate from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on The Embarcadero between our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 every Tuesday and Wednesday through October 9.

This is a welcome development, given the great popularity of the Boat Tram so far this summer. In last weekend’s Muni Heritage celebration, riders queued up for more than an hour to ride the Boat, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there’s generally no waiting to ride.

The Boat Tram has gotten so popular, it now has its own Twitter account: @boattramsf. Well worth following; so much so that the San Francisco Chronicle just wrote a story about it, calling the Boat Tram “San Francisco’s Celebrity Trolley”. (Spoiler: our Board Member Chris Arvin is behind the Twitter account, and the cool logo above as well.

Pro tip: You can find the boat’s exact location when it’s out on our Live Streetcar Map. (You can access the map anytime on your phone or laptop by just typing in streetcar.live as the URL.)

And don’t forget, you can ride the boat along Market Street on its trips in and out of service at the beginning or ending of the day. The boat reaches Market and Church Streets on its way downtown around 10:30 a.m. The trip back up Market at the end of the day varies according to operations during the day, but it’s on our map.

Thanks to Julie Kirschbaum for extending the Boat’s voyage.

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“Best Heritage Weekend Ever”

Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 (originally built in 1883) meets O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42 at California and Hyde Streets during Heritage Weekend. It’s the first time ever that cable cars from two disappeared lines operated together in service. Dave Longa photo.

We heard those words over and over the past two days. It was the best Muni Heritage Weekend ever. The biggest crowds (people queued up for an hour or more on Sunday to get a Boat Tram ride), the most kids (a new generation of public transit fans being created), the widest variety of vehicles (debut of Sacramento-Clay cable car 19 and Melbourne tram 916), BOTH boats out on Saturday, BOTH Melbourne trams out on Sunday, plus five vintage buses, the always popular 1896 “Dinky” streetcar, and even the Brussels/Zurich “EuroPCC” in regular service both days to Castro on the F-line. All that, plus big crowds at our San Francisco Railway Museum, center of all the action.

1929 Melbourne tram 496 meets younger sibling 916 (born in 1946) by the Ferry Building. It’s the first time Muni’s two Melbourne trams operated side-by-side in service. Adolfo Echeverry photo.

The single disappointment of the weekend was a compressor failure on Muni Car 1 that kept it out of action, but it should certainly be fixed for next year.

The wait for the boat tram was long on Sunday, but…

…once on board, smiles for miles!

We’re sharing a few photos here. We’ll have a full wrap-up in the next issue of our quarterly member newsletter, Inside Track.

EuroPCC 737 (1952) passes 1938 White Motor Company coach, Muni’s oldest surviving bus, on Steuart Street. Rick Laubscher photo.

The 1896 Dinky drew crowds all weekend, as it always does…people keep thinking it’s a cable car…until it rockets down The Embarcadero, bouncing along on its single truck! Rick Laubscher photo.

Thanks to everyone who made the weekend a success, led by MSR Board Chair Carmen Clark and Vice Chair Tony Sabella, President Rick Laubscher, and Museum Manager Alison Cant, plus many great volunteers, including our board members Ian Dailey, Chris Arvin, Kat Siegal, Katie Haverkamp, Paul Wells, Paul Lucas, Will Flynn, and Ron Fisher. And at SFMTA/Muni, Katy Guyon, who did a great job organizing the information stations on the plaza, and Jonathan Kibrick, who kept the vintage vehicles moving. Special thanks to MSR members Steve Souza and Jeremy Whiteman for providing pizza and water to the vehicle operators and plaza volunteers all weekend, and of course great thanks to all the operators and maintainers who got the vehicles ready and took them through their paces. The smiles of riders and onlookers lit up the scene everywhere the vehicles went.

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Heritage Weekend Halftime Report

Families and fans lined up to ride 1896 “Dinky” Streetcar 578 outside our museum, as they did for the two boat trams that operated on Saturday, but everyone got a ride.

Great first day for Muni Heritage Weekend. Most diverse group of vintage transit vehicles ever; biggest crowds ever; most visitors to our San Francisco Railway Museum ever.

We’ll post most of the photos after Sunday’s action, but we want to make sure you see a few shots, and more importantly, these links:

1938 White Motor Coach 042, Muni’s oldest surviving bus, a prime subject of Steve Rubenstein’s Chronicle story, linked below.

The Chronicle’s Steve Rubenstein looks at the first day’s action, with a focus on buses.

And the Chron’s venerable “Native Son”, columnist Carl Nolte, pens a paean to Sacramento-Clay Cable Car “Big 19” as it made its public debut on Saturday.

“Big 19”, originally built in 1883 and the oldest operable cable car in the world, waits its turn at the California and Market terminal with 1907 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line CABLE CAR 42 right behind.

If you’re reading this Sunday morning in San Francisco, drop what you’re doing and head down to 77 Steuart Street, across from the Ferry Building, where the action continues from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

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Great Kickoff to Heritage Weekend

Mayor London Breed (Center, in blue) leads the ribbon cutting that returned cable car “Big 19”, originally built in 1883, back to Muni’s active fleet after a hiatus of 77 years. She was joined by SFMTA Board Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden (second from right) and the team from Cable Car Division responsible for this miraculous resurrection.

Muni Heritage Weekend got off to a great start last night (Thursday), with a VIP reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Upwards of 70 invited business, neighborhood, and civic leaders heard Mayor London Breed extol San Francisco’s history and the role transit played in making the city what it is today. Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher paid tribute to transit pioneers through the decades, whom he described as “fighters for equality, for inclusion, for opportunity”, and lauded the team that brought Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 back to life. They include: Project Manager Arne Hansen, the shop superintendent; Electric Transit Mechanic Dave Kerrigan, who installed a complete braking system, Master Carpenter Antoni Cunha, who repaired and strengthened the running boards; Painters Danny Hicks and Henry Pegueros, who did a masterful job of painting, polishing the brass, and detailing the cable car.

Mayor Breed addressing the gathering at the museum. MSR Board Vice Chair Antone Sabella (just to her right) looks on.

That group, and the other guests, then processed from the museum two blocks to California and Market Streets, where “Big 19” was staged on the tail track of the California Street cable car line, ready to go. After a ribbon cutting, featuring Mayor Breed, SFMTA Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden, and the car’s restoration crew, Gripman Val Lupiz, whose personal enthusiasm for the project made a big difference in moving it forward, er, moved the car forward … up California Street, “halfway to the stars”, as the song lyric goes with the Mayor and a packed car of guests happily taking it in.

MSR Board Chair Carmen Clark stands in the grip man’s position aboard Big 19, with the restoration team in front of the car, along with MSR Board Member James Giraudo (far left), who contributed the accurate 46-star American flags for the car (commemorating the 1908 date it started working the Sacramento-Clay line), along with the two Cable Car Division superintendents who greenlighted the project: Brent Jones, now acting deputy director of transit for SFMTA, to the right of the shiny brass headlight, and Wes Valaris to the left of the headlight (in hat), current acting super at Cable Car.

Climbing Nob Hill with a crush load is just about the ultimate test for Big 19, and under Val’s expert hand, it went flawlessly. The Mayor had to disembark at Grace Cathedral for her next engagement…clearly reluctantly, asking to ride at least one more block…and the rest of the guests proceeded to Van Ness, where “Big 19” reversed smoothly.

Gripman Val Lupiz waits for a signal to change as Mayor Breed (over his shoulder) enjoys the ride. Former MSR Board Chair Bruce Agid looks toward the mayor from the far running board.

But then the Cable Car Gods said, “Not so fast”. One block into the return trip, another cable car hit a bumper bar on the California cable, causing the cable to automatically shut down. When this happens, the cable machinery crew carefully winds the entire cable all the way through its length, inspecting it as it goes through the winding machinery at the carbarn to ensure it wasn’t damaged. If it is, the line can be shut down for hours.

And so, guests on this memorable inaugural run of Big 19 got an unexpected experience: one of Muni’s brand new hybrid buses appeared to take them back to the museum, making them the first to make that round trip on transit vehicles built 136 apart.

One more shot of Val Lupiz, on his new favorite cable car. Those who are part of our Facebook group, (Market Street Railway) know Val as a devoted cable car historian whose dedication and enthusiasm has helped both Big 19 and O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Car 42 spend time on the streets.

Later, the cable was found to be fine, and Big 19 returned to the Cable Car Barn without incident. It will be out and running on Heritage Weekend with a VERY special treat starting at 10 a.m. for those who show up at the Cable Car Barn at Washington and Mason Streets: on its pull-out trip, it will go down the Hyde Street Hill to Aquatic Park, then back up Hyde, around the Washington-Jackson loop, and then over to California Street to go into service. At Heritage Weekend Central Control (the plaza outside the museum), we’ll keep track of where Big 19 is, so visitors can catch one of its several trips from California and Market to Van Ness and back.

That’s just one aspect of what’s going to be a great Heritage Weekend. Don’t miss it.

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