Though not this exact bus. In a time when many of its well-established lines, including the F-Market historic streetcars (which carried more than 20,000 riders a day) are still suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Muni is adding an entirely new route. No, wait. What they’re doing is reviving the well-known bus line known as the 15-Third, and setting it up kind of like a T-Express, to provide faster service downtown from the Hunters Point neighborhood and points along Third Street from the Bayview District through Dogpatch, Mission Bay, and the South of Market areas to Market Street.
When Muni took over in 1944, the 15-Third bus line became the workhorse of the east side of town, ultimately running from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way to the county line, then west to Geneva and Mission and later on to City College. But when a new sales tax for transit projects passed in 1988, residents in the Bayview lobbied hard for a light rail line to replace the 15-bus, saying other parts of town had rail service and they deserved it too. Muni agreed, and half a billion dollars later, the T-line opened in 2007 to replace the 15. (Another nearly two billion is being spent to extend the T-line under Fourth and Stockton Streets to Union Square and Chinatown, but that project, the Central Subway, won’t open until at least the end of next year, four years late.)
The 15-line, now officially called the 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express, starts service January 23, the same day the T-line goes back to streetcars from the buses that have substituted for almost a year during the pandemic. On the SFMTA website story, there was one comment echoing long-running complaints that the T-line operates much slower than promised and that the old 15-bus was better. Guess we’ll find out starting January 23. And yes, they’ll be using new buses.
The last of 16 streamlined PCC streetcars completely rebuilt for Muni by Brookville Equipment Company was delivered to its owner today.
Car 1007 was built for Muni by St. Louis Car Company in 1948 and ran daily until it was retired in 1982. Our nonprofit successfully lobbied for it and the other surviving cars in the original class of ten cars to be preserved by Muni when it scrapped or sold many of its other 100+ PCCs. Our advocacy was spurred by the fact that these PCCs, known informally as “torpedoes”, have a higher passenger capacity than their slightly smaller siblings, and that they are double-ended, making them more flexible in operation, allowing for example the opening of the E-Embarcadero line, whose southern terminal at the Caltrain Depot can only be used by double-ended cars.
Car 1007 was one of three “torpedoes” (along with 1010 and 1015) restored as part of the original 1995 F-line fleet. It was originally painted in a livery meant to echo the then-new silver and red Breda LRVs. This livery, insisted upon by a Muni manager, was very unpopular and was soon painted over with a tribute livery to Philadelphia’s suburban “Red Arrow Lines”. That job represented a simplified version of the original “as-delivered” Red Arrow livery. For this renovation, Market Street Railway reached out to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, which owns beautifully restored Red Arrow Car 14. MSR Member Jack Demnyan, active in the Pennsylvania museum, served as a great liaison. Muni’s project manager Joseph Flores and PCC maintenance supervisor Kevin Sheridan were meticulous in working with Brookville’s team to get the details as close as possible to the original Red Arrow cars.
Car 1007 was on its way to San Francisco last month when it sustained slight cosmetic damage at a truck stop in Nebraska. It went back to Brookville for body work, and made it out this time without incident.
The delivery of Car 1007 completes the set of seven restored “torpedoes”. (The other four, Cars 1006, 1008, 1009, and 1011, were fully restored in 2010-11.) All seven torpedos have glass-enclosed cabs for the operators. These were installed to secure whichever of the two cabs in a car wasn’t in use, but with minor modifications can be effective protective barriers against the virus for operators. Market Street Railway is actively advocating with SFMTA leadership to put these cars in service soon, a subject we’ll discuss in a separate post.
Car 1007 will now have various electronic equipment installed, including fareboxes, radios, and security cameras by the Muni shops, which will then run the car for 1,000 miles without passengers to test all systems before formally accepting it from Brookville. The first of the three double-enders in this order, Car 1015, has finished its burn-in, while Car 1010 is just starting that process. Brookville still has one PCC, single-end Car 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, at its plant, undergoing warranty repairs.
We hope that by the time Muni finishes the burn-in of Car 1007, it will able to go right into service in resumed vintage streetcar operations.
One note to railfans who have followed the saga of two original Red Arrow cars acquired by Muni with the anticipation of adapting them to Muni’s system and restoring them: the need to move the trucks on those cars to allow them to clear certain Muni curves and to provide adequate room for operators with today’s requirements proved to be too expensive to undertake at this time. Accordingly, Car 1007 received the Red Arrow tribute livery to keep this famed operation visible in San Francisco. Should either or both of those cars be restored in the future, we would request them to be painted in the Red Arrow livery, with 1007 moving on to a different livery.
Our online store is the place to get transit-related San Francisco gifts you can’t find anywhere else. And with our physical museum across from the Ferry Building closed by the pandemic, the online store is the ONLY place to find these unique items.
Take a look at the wonderful array of gifts for everyone on your list. Big or small, we have it all, from apparel and books to cute little stocking stuffers! Don’t hesitate – we have a limited supply of some items. We will ship your purchases within 48 hours of receiving your order, but we can’t guarantee delivery by Christmas if you order after December 10.
For the transit fan in your life, check out our beautifully crafted original Cable Car rail plaques, created by the late Don McKinsey just for us. Not many left, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. We also have genuine slices of 1880s cable car rail at a tiny fraction of the price a for-profit company is offering them. We also have a limited supply of the St. Louis Car Co. builder’s plate (visible up front on the classic PCC cars of the F-line), and a small number of the Market Street Railway Company White Front plates, both plates made from original castings, and a small number of replica Jewett Car Company builders plate recreated in 2014 for the restoration of Muni Car 162.
Though the cable cars aren’t running in the pandemic, you can keep them top of mind this holiday season on your tree with handcrafted ornaments, like this one, Santa astride a cable car, just like used to happen in real life in the 1950s. Another way to keep vintage transit in view is with one of these sensational colorful framed art pieces, signed by San Francisco artist Mike Sanchez, celebrating vintage streetcars including the PCCs (below), Muni’s famed Car 1, and the Milan trams. We also offer four different black & white matted prints of old San Francisco’s Market Street.
We also have a wide array of lapel pins and magnets showcasing the varied liveries of our fleet.
For the San Francisco history buff we offer a multitude of choices from Arcadia’s softbound publications to the hardbound and scholarly San Francisco Lithographer by Robert Chandler, The State Belt by William Kaufman, and Don Jewell’s California Trolleys. A Negotiated Landscape by Jasper Rubin documents the dramatic changes to San Francisco’s waterfront since the 1950s. You can browse all these book selections here. And check out hard-to-find DVDs of traction action and old San Francisco here.
In our apparel section, you will find a wide selection of unique caps, beanies, hoodies and tees with Boston, Chicago and Australia getting special attention in our new line celebrating the cars on the F-line. Many of these items come is a variety of sizes, colors and styles to meet your needs. Our special line of “Information gladly given but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation“ products includes a selection of tees, magnets, mugs, stickers and, of course, face masks. There are many unique Muni logo items available as well.
Don’t forget to pick up our “Museums in Motion” 2021 calendar where you can enjoy our marvelous array of historic streetcars every day of the year, professionally photographed by our own member photographers.
Until December 31, Market Street Railway members get 25% off on everything. If you’re not a current member, it’s the perfect time to join, and support us in our advocacy to return the F-line historic streetcars and cable cars to service as soon as safely possible.
Discount details: through December 31, enrolled dues-paying Market Street Railway members get 25% off all merchandise. Just enter the code thanks25 on your shopping cart page before checking out. Please, Market Street Railway members only. We do check. But hey, you can potentially save more than the price of our basic membership ($45/year) if you join before you shop. SFMTA employees (only) can always get a 10% discount by using the code munidiscount10 on their cart page.
Members receive our award-winning full color Inside Track magazine four times a year, with inside info on what’s going on with the historic streetcars and cable cars, plus fascinating and entertaining articles on San Francisco’s transit history. And members always receive at least 10% off their purchases both online and at our museum gift shop when we re-open. To thank and honor the front-line folks who keep San Francisco moving through this pandemic, all SFMTA employees get 10% off everything, all the time.
Again, if you’re not a member of Market Street Railway, you can join now to take advantage of the 25% shopping discount through December 31.
Please remember that all proceeds from sales from our online store go toward bringing back the historic streetcars on Market Street. The F-line is not operating due to Covid-19 and its future is actually in some doubt. We are leading the advocacy for the return of the streetcars and cable cars. Your purchases help us do that, as do donations to Market Street Railway. Please consider giving us your year-end tax-deductible support. Thanks.
Market Street, in color, in 1932, when essentially all film was black and white. And not just static, like the photo above, but in full and glorious rumble. Click the video below and prepare to get lost in the past for the next four minutes.
This trip up Market Street between the Ferry and Grant Avenue was original actual black and white motion picture footage that our friend Rick Prelinger, founder of Prelinger Archives, turned us onto several years ago. Rick says it was obviously shot for use in a movie where it would be projected behind actors in a car on a sound stage, to make it look like they were driving up Market Street (though Rick says he’s never found a commercial film it appeared in). The color has been automatically added by a YouTube user who identifies himself as NASS. He uses digital tools called neural networks that use artificial intelligence to make old film look fresh. Not just colorizing, but sharpening and smoothing the images. Here’s the black and white original, which starts just a tad earlier on the Ferry Loop with a delicious glimpse of a Sacramento-Clay cable car at its terminal (could it be Big 19??). (Both versions include a random 15 seconds of a parade passing Stockton and Market at the end, nerd-notable for the little-used switch from the terminal of Muni’s F-Stockton streetcar line onto the outbound Muni track on Market.)
Further nerd alert: you can tell the AI-aided colorization isn’t perfect. For one thing, the auto license plates (see still frame below) show as white, but California didn’t issue white plates in this era. A check of this great Wikipedia page, though, along with blowups of still frames, confirms the year as 1932, when the plates were actually yellow. (The yellow parking signs and Wiley “Birdcage” signals also generally read as white here). Also, as seen in the photo at the top of this post, both the Muni and Market Street Railway cars appear to have gray window sash, though in 1932, both companies had red sash (the total White Fronts, sash and all, came a few years later).
Purists, feel free to rant in the comments, but for those of us not yet born in 1932 (meaning less than 88 years old), the colorized version is a lively partner to the original, though in our view better listened to with the sound off. The film was shot as silent, and the fellow who added the SFX clearly doesn’t know what streetcar gongs sound like (hint, not like the whistle of the Blackpool boat trams).
We saw this colorized version a couple of weeks ago, but got beaten to the publishing punch with this article at sfist.com. Well worth checking it out; it will send you down a (colorized) rabbit hole, not only with this film, but more technical details and other colorized films including the famed Miles’ Brothers Trip Down Market Street, shot just days before the 1906 earthquake (below).
One other thing about these altered vintage films. Though the upscaling and colorization are interesting technological achievements, they don’t add any context to what you’re seeing. Read through the comments on YouTube about these kind of films and you’ll find a lot of guessing and misinformation. That’s why we created the only fully-narrated version of the Miles Brothers’ film, explaining where you are and what you see on every block. You can watch ournarrated version here, or purchase a DVD exclusively at our onlinestore for your very own.
Constructing a new form of transportation for San Francisco, workers uncovered an old one the other day. Contractors building the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project scraped away asphalt to find the vertical curve of the original California Street cable car line bending westward and upward towards Franklin Street. Below, that same block, with a cable car descending the hill on this same track, before the Cal line was savagely cut in half on December 30, 1956 (a dark… — Read More
Editors Note: An early version of this article appeared in a past issue of Inside Track, our member magazine with exclusive stories and inside information about Muni’s historic streetcars and cable cars. Click here to become a member and receive it. Geary was Muni’s first “backbone”. It is still easily its busiest corridor, operated now with buses longer than it was with streetcars. By any transit measure, its ridership justifies rail service on Geary, including a subway through at least… — Read More
There’s a familiar sound at the Powell and Market cable car turntable, at least some of the time. Thanks to the initiative of the Union Square Business Improvement District and the support of SFMTA chief Jeffrey Tumlin, a Powell cable car will be on the ‘table every Tuesday , Thursday, and Saturday for at least several weeks, probably through the holiday season. Covid-19 restrictions have put the cables out of service indefinitely, but at least this is a way to… — Read More
With San Francisco’s historic streetcars still shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we can’t take an actual ride to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the permanent F-Market line, but we can get some virtual thrills with these two new merchandise items, designed by Chris Arvin. Above, a poster with Chris’s iconic, er, icons that playfully visualize some of Muni’s historic streetcar fleet. Below, a pin featuring a PCC in original Muni livery. These and an ever growing number of… — Read More
On September 1, 1995, a parade of vintage streetcars rumbled westward on Market Street, led by the wildly popular Boat Tram 228, to officially inaugurate the permanent F-Market streetcar line (extended in 2000 to become the F-Market & Wharves). Right from that opening day, the F-line, inspired by the success of the summer Trolley Festivals of the 1980s, opened, it was overwhelmed with riders, far outstripping Muni’s predictions. Many Upper Market residents preferred the clean, upholstered vintage PCC streetcars, with… — Read More
Sadly, Covid-19 caused cancellation of the 2020 Muni Heritage Weekend, but we can still look back. The first actual Heritage Weekend was in 2013, an outgrowth of the 2012 Muni Centennial Weekend. And Market Street Railway made sure it kicked off with a bang, delivering a second Blackpool Boat Tram to Muni all the way from England, thanks to the generous support of the Thoresen Foundation and shipping help from FedEx. We took some video of both the inspection and… — Read More
The celebrations marking the end of World War II in San Francisco had a very dark side that received little media attention at the time. A Muni inspector was killed and dozens of streetcars damaged by rioters.
In the wee hours of August 2, 1873, Andrew Hallidie gripped the first street cable car in history over a precipice on Clay Street. Hallidie, a Scots immigrant who had extensive expertise in “wire rope” technology to move buckets of ore above ground in the state’s mining district, had applied his knowledge to pull people in little cars up hills that horses couldn’t climb. His franchise for the line had technically expired at midnight on August 1, but there were… — Read More