A quick reminder: historianand author Woody LaBounty will be speaking at the San Francisco Railway Museum this Saturday, tomorrow, at 2:00 PM. His new book Carville-by-the-Sea: San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb “vividly recalls one of the quirkiest communities in San Francisco’s rich history” made of retired streetcars and cable cars recycled into homes, shops, bars, and everything else that makes up a neighborhood.
San Francisco Railway Museum
77 Steuart Street (map)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Our first post about Carl Nolte’s Chronicle column on the “not-so-good old days” on Market Street mentioned that back when there were four streetcar tracks on Market, there was less than two feet of clearance between Muni and Market Street Railway Co. streetcars — including the stops where passengers had to stand while behemoth streetcars bore down on them.
This 1935 video, one of the You Tube sources Nolte mentions in his column, shows just how terrifying that tight squeeze was. (It comes up one minute into the video.)
The film itself was a campaign tool in support of two ballot measures — one to build a Muni subway under Market Street, the other to replace streetcars with buses. Both failed, although of course a Market Street subway was eventually built, almost half a century later. (By the way, the segments claiming buses were better than streetcars were filmed in … Oakland.)
Our non-profit has access to a trove of historic motion picture film from all over San Francisco, taken from 1906 through the 1970s. We’ve created some specially narrated segments from that film, available to see at our San Francisco Railway Museum, and we’re working on more. Later this year, we’ll be offering all of those video segments on a DVD available at the museum and here on our website, with all proceeds benefiting Market Street Railway’s programs. We’ll let you know when it goes on sale.
In his San Francisco Chronicle column this week, Native Son Carl Nolte reminds us that, when looking back into history, not to forget there were bad old days as well. He writes about Market Street, “At rush hour, there were so many streetcars on Market – and so much automobile traffic – that the street was nearly impassable.”
Streetcars gridlocked on Market Street in 1922. In the foreground, Lotta’s Fountain is visible on the corner of Market & Kearny. San Francisco Municipal Railway photo.
Long before the Muni Metro subway opened, 18 streetcar lines once shared 4 tracks on the surface of Market Street. Muni’s streetcar lines ran on the outside tracks while our namesake Market Street Railway Company ran on the inside. Nolte notes a major problem:
“The four-track setup was also dangerous – there was only 23 1/2 inches of clearance between the moving streetcars. This meant that people interested in taking a car on the inside track had to inhale when a car on the outside track passed by. Accidents were common.”
Not to worry though, while the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcars are all authentic antiques, the line runs according to modern safety standards. When looking back on history, remember things weren’t perfect and there were both the ups and downs just like today.
Though no changes will be coming to the Cable Cars or F-Market & Wharves line, Muni service will change significantly tomorrow.
Be sure you know what’s happening to lines you ride and know your options, so you won’t get caught out in the cold.
2009 Service Change Information
Service Changes Guide (PDF, 3.2MB download)
While not the same as actually riding a cable car, Muni Diaries lead us to this video postcard tour of San Francisco’s 3 remaining cable car lines produced by KPIX 5.
In case you didn’t tune into today’s Board of Supervisor’s Budget & Finance Committee meeting on SFGTV, which isn’t as boring as it might sound, committee reviewed the pending contract to restore 16 additional historic PCC streetcars. After some questions, including the safety of the historic streetcars to which MTA’s Judson True stressed that none of the recent accidents appeared to be caused by mechanical problems, the committee unanimously recommended approval of this contract to the full Board of Supervisors… — Read More
Before BART and AC Transit, the East Bay was served by the Key System, an extensive streetcar network which linked to San Francisco over the lower deck of the Bay Bridge and arriving at the Transbay Terminal. This 1945 promotional film shows the once great Key System at its peak. Thanks to Pedestrianist for leading us to a post at 38th Notes.