A Most Fitting Tribute

Tuesday, October 25 at 10 a.m., Mayor Edwin Lee, SFTMA head Ed Reiskin, and many other dignitaries will gather at Geneva and San Jose Avenues in the Excelsior District to rename the Geneva Streetcar Yard, built in 1900, for Cameron Beach.
It is a most fitting tribute.
City Insider on sfgate.com told why today.
So did Muni Diaries, through the voice of Cam’s daughter, Lynn Beach O’Neill.
And so did we, both in our coverage of his untimely death in March here on this site, and in our Member newsletter, Inside Track, in a lengthy article with lots of photos this summer.
Here are excerpts from that article:
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Cameron Beach (1949-2011)

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In 1963, a boy climbed onto a 41-Union line trolley coach in Cow Hollow. He noticed that the driver’s gilley box, in view at his side, had a decal of a Muni PCC streetcar on it. The boy asked the young trolley coach driver if he liked streetcars. “I told him I did,” recalls that driver, Art Curtis, now Market Street Railway’s secretary, and that started a friendship that lasted literally to his last day.”
Cameron Beach never lost a boy’s enthusiasm for the things he loved. As a man, he rose to the highest levels of the public transit industry, a consummate professional respected for his judgment and integrity. Yet, if he saw a streetcar or bus special to him, he’d flash a 13 year-old’s grin and exclaim, “Oh, yeah!” He felt that same passion for his hometown, San Francisco, and even more for his wife, Carmen Clark, and his children, Lynn, Steve, and Tim.
Cam Beach was born January 26, 1949, at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. He grew up in Cow Hollow, went to high school at Sacred Heart and Galileo, from which he graduated. Growing up in the city, he rode Muni everywhere, and became a lifelong fan of the system, incredibly knowledgeable about its history and operations.
So it was no surprise to friends and family when the young man embarked on a transit career. That career spanned 44 years, including 25 years with the Sacramento Regional Transit District, from which he retired as Chief Operating Officer in 2006. He also worked for a class one railroad, private bus charter and leasing firm, and an airline. In his career, Cam started up and managed local, suburban, and intercity bus services as well as light rail and heritage streetcar operations.
At the requiem eucharist service for Cam at Grace Cathedral on March 24, attended by hundreds of friends, he was remembered movingly, and with humor, by his friend since boyhood, The Rev. Dr. Don MacInnes, in his homily. “Who else do we know who moved so artfully from streetcars to buses, and brought peace to advocates and enthusiasts in the name of a greater good: moving people in the best way possible?”
“But what of the man?” Rev. MacInnes continued. “Scores of emails speak of his integrity, sense of fairness, commitment to principled integrity; many remember his ready response when faced with a tough challenge: “I think we can work something out!”
In her eulogy, Cam’s daughter, Lynn Beach O’Neill, brought many to both tears and laughter in recounting their adventures together, such as the time Cam had to deliver a bus to Los Angeles and took her along, as she used the bus as a giant playroom. While Cam and his first wife, Carole, raised their three children largely in Sacramento, Cam frequently took his children on field trips to San Francisco to tour Muni routes, staying in touch with his hometown.
As his retirement at Sacramento Regional Transit approached, Cam joined the board of directors of our organization, where his wise counsel and infectious optimism were invigorating to all his fellow board members. Early in 2003, he was joined on our board by Carmen Clark, a transportation consultant who had headed the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and served as interim executive director of Muni. It was love at first sight. They married at Grace Cathedral and took a California Street cable car to their reception. They lived in West Portal, taking advantage of the Muni Metro service to travel downtown daily and constantly delighted in each other’s company. “If there was ever a match made in heaven,” says Art Curtis, “it was that of Cam and Carmen. An awesome and happy couple!”
Cam’s transit expertise and passion for his hometown came together when Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him to the board of directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation on March 1, 2007. On the SFMTA board, Cam quickly won the respect of his fellow directors for his tremendous depth of knowledge and experience and his unswerving commitment to meeting the needs of the public. In a recent interview, he said, “I have always viewed issues from the user’s point of view. How is the passenger or the motorist or the person looking for a parking place or the bicyclist or the pedestrian going to perceive our action?”
Cam also championed Muni’s historic streetcar service while on the SFMTA board. He recognized that it not only brought more than 23,000 people where they wanted to go every day but it also helped Muni put its best foot forward to the public, something he believed was increasingly important. He was a strong supporter of increasing F-line streetcar service to meet rising demand, for the start up of the E-Embarcadero line, and the extension of service to Aquatic Park and Fort Mason.
Cam balanced his public service on the SFMTA board with his transit consulting business, Beach Consulting, and – to the greatest extent possible – time spent with Carmen and his family.
Cam’s committee and board memberships include serving as Chair of California Operation Lifesaver, past chair of the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Light Rail Committee and vice chair, APTA Committee on Public Safety, and member of the APTA Alternate Fuels Committee, APTA Heritage Streetcar Subcommittee, and APTA Light Rail Transit Forum. He also served several terms on the board and as chairman of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, which operates the Western Railway Museum in Solano County. There, Cam was a continuing champion of restoration and operation of vintage northern California streetcar, interurban, and railroad equipment.
On the evening of March 19, 2011, Cam had just returned home from a business trip to southern California. He went into his bedroom to unpack and was stricken; paramedics arrived almost immediately but could not revive him. Cam Beach was 62.
The chair of the SFMTA board, Tom Nolan, called Cam “a pillar of transit expertise and insight on our board; a close friend and colleague, who had an unparalleled passion for Muni, our customers, and the future of this system.”
Many other tributes have flowed in from those in the transit community who knew Cam. On April 19, the SFMTA board unanimously voted to rename Geneva Division, the home of Muni’s historic streetcars, after Cameron Beach. Market Street Railway was among those urging that this specific facility be named for him. As a boy, he loved to go to Geneva to see its mix of sleek PCCs and the last of the boxy “Iron Monsters,” like preserved No. 162. As a man, he presided over the dedication of the protective car barn, or canopy, that will protect the historic streetcar fleet, a project he strongly supported.
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Now, that protective canopy, along with the entire vintage streetcar facility, will bear Cam Beach’s name. We also note that the nation’s most prestigious transit organization, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), honored Cam recently with its award for Local Distinguished Service, celebrating both his operational career and his governance excellence at SFMTA.
We will post highlights from the dedication ceremonies here.

Comments: 1

  1. Yes, a very fitting tribute and thank you Rick for writing it. Cameron was very helpfull to us here on the San Diego Vintage Trolley Project with photos and information. I meet him just once and I will never forget it. He picked me up, at the Oakland Airport, drove to the Western Railway Museum, gave me a complete tour, let me ride on ex-MUNI PCC #1016 after they did a beautiful restoration on it and drove me back to my hotel in Oakland. I wanted to buy dinner but he was in a hurry to get home. I had promissed to buy him lunch the next time I got to the City but, that never happened. I am happy MUNI is naming the car barn in his honnor.

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