Photo of the Week: August 20, 2008


Potjie photo.

Our Photo of the Week is a great shot of F-line PCC No. 1055 on The Embarcadero, shot from inside car No. 130 on its way to Fisherman’s Wharf. We think this image really captures what a unique and beautiful experience it is to ride along San Francisco’s grand waterfront boulevard on the F-line, and we hope you enjoy it.

Submitted by Potjie to the Market Street Railway public Flickr group. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Museums In Motion 2009 Calendar


The cover of our 2009 calendar shows 1914 Muni ‘Iron Monster’ No. 162 — on the streets of San Francisco for the first time in 50 years — next to its twin sister, No. 130. Cover photo by David Dugan.

Market Street Railway’s 2009 Museums In Motion calendar is available for purchase. This 11×16 inch full color calendar features thirteen beautiful photos of Muni’s historic streetcars and cable cars in action on the streets of San Francisco, along with 24 historical black & white images from the city’s rich transit past.

We’re very pleased that eight of the photographs in this year’s calendar were shot by Market Street Railway members, including Peter Ehrlich, Steve Ferrario, Todd Lappin, and Richard Panse. This year, we also tried something new by holding a calendar contest over at our public Flickr group, and we got more than 60 great submissions.


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Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip

There is no more recognizable icon for the distinctive flavor of San Francisco living than the cable car. And who better to memorialize that venerable tramway than the author of the unforgettable classic, The Purple Cow. Gelett Burgess may have been sorry he wrote The Purple Cow, but it’s likely he never regretted writing the 1901 classic, The Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip, which captures the essence of operating the cable car’s grip device by which the conductor attaches the car to a cable running continously beneath the street. (Introduction courtesy of Santa Clara University’s California Legacy Project.)

UPDATED 11/25/08: Added fifth stanza, previously missing from post.

Oh, the rain is slanting sharply, and the Norther’s blowing cold,
When the cable strands are loosened, she is nasty hard to hold;
There’s little time for sitting down and little time for gab,
For the bumper guards the crossing, and you’d best be keeping tab!
Two-and-twenty “let-go’s” every double trip
It takes a bit of doing, on the Hyde Street Grip!

Throw her off at Powell Street, let her go at Post,
Watch her well at Geary and at Sutter, when you coast,
Easy at the Power House, have a care at Clay,
Sacramento, Washington, Jackson, all the way!
Drop the rope at Union, never make a slip
The lever keeps you busy, on the Hyde Street Grip!

Foot-brake, wheel-brake, slot-brake and gong,
You’ve got to keep ’em working, or you’ll soon be going wrong!
Rush her on the crossing, catch her on the rise,
Easy round the corners, when the dust is in your eyes!
And the bell will always stop you, if you hit her up a clip
You are apt to earn your wages, on the Hyde Street Grip!

North Beach to Tenderloin, over Russian Hill,
The grades are something giddy, and the curves are fit to kill!
All the way to Market Street, climbing up the slope,
Down upon the other side, hanging to the rope;
But the sight of San Francisco, as you take the lurching dip!
There is plenty of excitement, on the Hyde Street Grip!

If you had to drive a penny bus from Chelsea to the Strand
You’d see Westminster Abbey, and you’d say that it was grand!
If you had to pass the Luxembourg and the Place de la Concorde
Atop a Paris omnibus, no doubt you’d thank the Lord!
But the Frenchy’d give his chapeau and the Cockney’d give his whip
For a sight of San Francisco from the Hyde Street Grip!

Oh, the lights are in the Mission, and the ships are in the Bay:
And Tamalpais is looming from the Gate, across the way;
The Presidio trees are waving, and the hills are growing brown,
And the driving fog is harried from the Ocean to the town!
How the pulleys slap the rattle! How the cables hum and whip!
Oh, they sing a gallant chorus, on the Hyde Street Grip!

When the Orpheum is closing, and the crowd is on the way,
The conductor’s punch is ringing, and the dummy’s light and gay;
But the wait upon the table by the Beach is dark and still
Just the swashing of the surges on the shore below the mill;
And the flash of Angel Island breaks across the channel rip,
As the lash of midnight falls upon the Hyde Street Grip!

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Driving Equality


African-American employment and leadership has become a proud Muni tradition. San Francisco Municipal Railway photos.

As part of our mission, Market Street Railway creates displays on-board the historic streetcars to educate San Franciscans and visitors on interesting aspects of the city’s transit history. We call it the Museums in Motion project. This is an online version of one of those displays.

H. Welton Flynn

H. Welton Flynn, longest serving city commissioner in San Francisco history.

San Francisco didn’t always have a reputation for openness and inclusion. The city’s past has been marred by discrimination in many forms. For example, before World War II, all but a small number of city employees were white.

African-Americans were especially unwelcome in the closed circle of city employment. But the shortage of civilian workers during the war opened doors that had been locked tight. And the city department that provided the most opportunity to African-Americans was Muni.

Along with its private competitor, the Market Street Railway Co., Muni hired scores of African-Americans, many recently arrived from the South, as streetcar conductors and motormen.


Fannie Mae Barnes, the first-ever cable car gripwoman, 1998. Photo: Lionel Da Silva, SFMTA.

Some, including an aspiring writer named Maya Angelou, soon moved on to other occupations, but many made a career at Muni, though they didn’t seem to get their fair share of promotions.

A man named H. Welton Flynn helped change that.

Appointed as the city’s first African-American on any commission in 1970, Flynn–an accountant by profession–expected equity for African-Americans at Muni…and worked tirelessly for it.

In 1974, under Flynn’s leadership, Muni appointed the first African-American general manager of a major US transit system. Curtis E. Green, one of those World War II Muni hires (at 90 cents per hour), rose through the ranks after starting as a bus driver. Many African-Americans were to follow Green’s footsteps into top jobs at hundreds of US transit systems, including Muni itself.

Curtis E. Green

Curtis E. Green, Muni’s first African-American general manager.

Welton Flynn served on commissions governing Muni for almost 30 years, longer than any city commissioner in San Francisco history, and was elected a commission president or chairman a record eight separate times.

Besides his tireless advocacy for affirmative action in hiring and contracting, Flynn also pioneered paratransit service in 1979 and spearheaded many improvements in Muni operations and services during his long career.

Following his retirement from public service in 2004, Flynn was honored by numerous organizations for his service, including election to the American Public Transportation Association Hall of Fame in 2006.


By the late 1940s, African-American employees provided a strong foundation for Muni service. San Francisco Municipal Railway photos.

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What Have We Learned?

Twenty-five years after the reappearance of vintage streetcars in San Francisco, what have we learned? And how can we apply what we’ve learned to improving future operations? Those are the questions Market Street Railway’s leadership raised with its members, and with leaders at Muni over the past year. Market Street Railway photo. Quick background: vintage streetcar service in San Francisco, though originally proposed by Muni itself in 1979, only gained real impetus with the successful demonstration project known as the… — Read More

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E-line: Maybe Not ‘Eventually’

Eight years ago, at the opening celebration for the F-line extension to Fisherman’s Wharf, several Market Street Railway directors were discussing Muni’s delays in committing to start up the E-Embarcadero line. (The trackage for that line, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Caltrain, was just being completed along with the F-line extension.) The discussion was interrupted by a familiar voice saying, “You’ll get your E-line.” It was then-Mayor Willie Brown. He might still be right, but not yet. What wags have started… — Read More

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Car No. 1 Out for Renovation Bids

Telstar Logistics photo. Muni’s governing body, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has issued requests for proposals from outside contractors to restore car No. 1, the flagship of the historic fleet which inaugurated Muni’s first line on Geary Street in 1912. This car was initially retired from service in 1951, restored to its original appearance for Muni’s 50th anniversary in 1962, and repaired as necessary since. When the car’s wiring failed in 2006, it was decided to conduct a… — Read More

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Sixteen PCCs Out for Renovation Bids

Muni’s governing body, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has issued requests for proposals from outside contractors on a crucial project for historic transit in the city. The SFTMA is seeking proposals from outside vendors to double the current number of operational PCC streetcars, the mainstay of F-line (and future E-line) service. Sixteen rebuilt or renovated PCCs would reach the streets under this plan, matching the sixteen currently operating. Frank Zepeda photo. The biggest single operational benefit will come… — Read More

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Finally, a Roof Over their Heads?

After more than ten years of advocacy, protection for the most vulnerable streetcars in Muni’s historic fleet seems to be at hand. Steve Ferrario photo. The Board of Directors of Muni’s parent agency, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has approved an agreement with Shimmick Construction Co. of Hayward to erect simple but effective canopies over four tracks at Geneva Division, where the F-line cars are housed. The design will be similar to the traditional car sheds that stood… — Read More

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Boat Made Shipshape

Left to right: Craig Walker, Nick Figone, Alison Cant, and Bill Smalley put the finishing touches on their deep clean of the Blackpool Boat Tram in the shadow of the US Mint. Rick Laubscher photo. Market Street Railway volunteers ‘deep-cleaned’ the 1934 Blackpool, England ‘Boat Tram‘ at our Pharr Division facility on May 18. In true nautical tradition, they polished the brasswork and chrome, replaced the worn flags, and completely cleaned hard to reach places inside the tram as well… — Read More

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Back In Business!

On a blustery April Saturday, Muni ‘Iron Monster’ streetcar No. 162 carried a full load of passengers for the first time in 50 years. The beautifully restored 1914 streetcar began its second life on the streets of San Francisco April 19, 2008. Streetcar No. 162 heads inbound on Ulloa Street on the L-line, having just turned from 15th Avenue. West Portal is two blocks away. Fifty years ago, it would have headed into the Twin Peaks Tunnel to reach Market… — Read More

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‘Take Me Out’…At Our Museum

To every American today, ‘car’ means automobile. Once, though, ‘car’ meant streetcar to most urban Americans. For almost a century in San Francisco, the ‘family car’ ran on rails, not just for commuting or shopping, but for any trip that stretched farther than a few blocks from home. Riding the rails around town wasn’t just a way to get there; it was an enjoyable escape. Market Street Railway, in collaboration with Muni and the San Francisco Public Library, celebrates the… — Read More

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SFGate Video of Cable Car No. 25

On May 29, 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle published a wonderful video of cable car No. 25’s return to service in its striking new 1906 United Railroads livery, proposed and designed by Market Street Railway. Let us know what you think of No. 25’s new livery in the comments below. Link: 118-year-old cable car No. 25 returns to service.

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Muni Workers Pose with No. 162

Rick Laubscher photo. Muni craftworkers pose in front of their handiwork, restored car No. 162, at Geneva Division on May 7, 2008. They were honored at a lunch sponsored by Muni and Market Street Railway, and attended by Muni Executive Director Nat Ford and MTA Board member Cam Beach, along with other Muni officials, MSR President Rick Laubscher, and Directors Steve Ferrario and George Pleasant. The restoration process was lengthy, given other demands faced by the crew, most of whom… — Read More

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