“Parting Thoughts:” The Final Act at the Transbay Terminal

12:15 a.m., Saturday, August 7th, AC Transit 4088 running on the Route O bound for Alameda left the Transbay Transit Terminal for the final time. This concluded 71 years of continuous operation of the terminal. 4088 rolled off the ramp where the likes of Key System Bridge Units, IER “Blimps”, and Sacramento Northern Interurbans once plied. One Frank Zepeda said, “Savor the Moment,” as our small group of transit fans walked out the door onto the Mission Street loop and said good bye.
Some might say that the terminal’s replacement is long overdue, that the old building is past its prime and has become an eyesore to the surrounding area. But with its demolition goes its soul, and with the passing of its soul goes a historic piece of the Bridge Railway. If one were to look past the pigeons, the homeless, and the grime, it was possible to catch a short glimpse of what life was like before the automobile became the primary mode of transportation. For transbay commuters this was at onetime the grand entrance to San Francisco.
So as the curtain falls, let’s take a look at the final day of operation at First and Mission. A tired face in front of the former Gray Line ticket office tells the story all by itself.

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As the afternoon rush gets underway, commuters begin to make their way through the concourse towards the ramp.


Muni’s GM “New Look” 3287 was brought out for the occasion.


But as the evening went on, the real reason everyone was there started to shine through the cracks. This was the time to take one last look, take one last picture. The final lineup started to take shape as closing time drew closer. Fellow photographer Michael Johannessen captured the last F, and some of the last patrons at midnight.


By now the show was drawing to an end, and only a few more minutes would pass until the last set of taillights disappeared in the darkness and the stillness set in. The lights were on but nobody was home, even the pigeons vacated the scene. Progress tends to have a way of erasing history, so as one chapter ends another begins. But truth be told, the memories will last and I’m sure the stories will continue to be told. Because anyone who ever walked through those halls can tell you,  Transbay was quite the experience.

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Milan, San Francisco

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Peter Witts trams 1818 & 1895, both from far-off Milan, Italy exchange greetings at the interesection of 17th & Noe streets in San Francisco, California of all places. If the casual passerby were to stop just long enough, close their eyes and just listen. Listen long enough to the air that “hisses” from the pneumatic brake system. The smooth rolling sound of a steel wheel on steel rail. The “toot” of the air whistle and the groan of the brakes.
Keeping their eyes closed and continuing to listen, it is almost possible to mistake this street corner for the Piazza Cordusio. One of Milan’s two major town squares, and a major hub for its streetcars. The same causal passerby now opens his or her eyes, and what lies before them?
17th & Noe in San Francisco. A place where streetcars – or trams if you will – from exotic ports-of-call roam the streets. A place where if you close your eyes from just long enough, it’s possible to travel away without ever leaving home.

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The Past is the Present in San Francisco

PCC Streetcar nos. 1050 & 1051 at Beach & Jones

The moment is a quiet Sunday night at Fisherman’s Wharf. The photo is of PCCs 1051 and 1050, both resplendent in Muni’s “Green & Cream” paint scheme. 1050 sports the “Wings” while 1051 is painted in the later “Simplified” version.
They are seen in a classic rail fan 3/4 view, nothing to get overly excited about. But the message that this photo carries is worth its weight in gold. Anyone who was born or came to San Francisco after 1982 missed the era of seven day a week PCC operation. Prior to the start of that decade Muni’s street railway fleet consisted entirely of PCCs. In 1982 these sleek and smooth streamliners where replaced by modern Light Rail Vehicles. Life and its course of events can be an interesting thing, and the way that life over time comes full circle never fails to amaze me.
Thanks to the preservation efforts of Market Street Railway and San Francisco Muni these vehicles again got a chance to roam the streets of the city. For those who missed out it is still possible to see, as in the photo above. What Muni might have looked like some 30 or so years ago. This is living history, and to the benefit of San Francisco’s residents and visitors the past is the present!

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Photo of the Moment


The moment is late morning. The streetcar is DC Transit painted 1076, and the photo is as study of light and texture. What comes to mind when I look at this photo is the feeling of “homeyness” that can be experienced while on board a PCC. The comfort of a padded seat. The feeling of openness as the light shines through the standee windows. The soft light provided by the  incandescent lights overhead. The feeling of smooth Stainless Steel in one’s hand as they reach for the stanchion. The thought that follows is the difference between a PCC’s interior and the almost “sterile” environment inside one of Muni Metro’s Breda LRVs. Two different eras of transit vehicles that share space in the same city…So very close, yet so very different.

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