Happy 125th to San Francisco Electric Streetcars

Double-ended San Mateo Streetcar 25 at Geneva Car House Yard | Circa March 1903. SFMTA Photo Archives.

On April 28, 1892, the first electric streetcar ran in San Francisco on a line that started just a few feet from our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart Street. The first practical electric streetcar system in the world was created by Frank J. Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888, so San Francisco was — then as now — an early adopter. (But then and now, it was also a NIMBY town because civic opposition to overhead wires kept streetcars off Market Street itself until the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed the obsolete Market Street cable car system.)

The communications group at our partner, SFMTA, issued this great blog post today, which really says it all about that first electric streetcar line, and has two great vintage photos, so we won’t repeat their excellent content here. We borrowed the photo above so we could run a shot of the city’s oldest preserved streetcar, No. 578, built less than four years after that first run and very similar in appearance (though a tad shorter). This “California-type” body design, borrowed from the double-ended California Street cable cars of the day, was the early standard for San Francisco streetcar design, though it had already been surpassed by larger streetcars by the time of the 1906 earthquake.

Preserved San Francisco Streetcar 578, built in 1896, operating during Muni Heritage Weekend 2016.

It should be noted that 25 years ago, San Francisco put on a parade of streetcars to commemorate the centennial of San Francisco service. The tracks on Market Street had been upgraded for the forthcoming permanent F-line, but they weren’t being used yet, and it had been five years since the last Trolley Festival had graced Market Street. So Muni and Market Street Railway teamed up to bring life to those unused tracks with a parade featuring a variety of the old streetcars, with costumed San Francisco historic characters riding along on the boat tram.

 

Here’s a link to a great video of that parade. The video also includes lots of Trolley Festival activity from the 1980s. Worth watching as a way to celebrate this 125th anniversary.

And to close this post, a shot of 1912 Moscow tram 106 in the parade, the last time it has operated in San Francisco. The parade used BOTH tracks on Market to run vintage cars side-by-side. (We need a lot of help to get that Moscow tram restored…larger, already ADA accessible streetcars are rightfully ahead of it in the restoration queue.)

So there’s been a lot to celebrate in the 125 years of electric streetcars in San Francisco. Market Street Railway is working on some exciting projects to get the next 125 years of to a historic start! Please join us!

 

 

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“Boston” is Back!

 

PCC 1059, honoring Boston Elevated Railway, is back in San Francisco, photographed by MSR Member Traci Cox at Muni Metro East in the wee hours of Monday, April 24. Like many of the 17 first-generation F-line streetcars (numbered from 1050-1063, plus 1007, 1010, and 1015), the colors on the tribute livery adorning 1059 were a little off. At that time, Muni only allowed a relative handful of colors in the palette for the PCC tribute paint schemes, but now, there are many more colors available, so we have been working with Muni to improve the historical accuracy of the colors.

The previous color limitation led to the 1059 being originally painted in a red-orange color, at odds with the actual Boston hue. We’ve got it pretty close now as indicated by the photo below (apologies, we can’t find the photographer credit…please let us know if you know who we should credit).


No, Muni didn’t install left-hand doors on 1059 as the Boston PCCs had (this anomaly was and is required by Boston’s 1897 subway. But we did take a look at what Boston logo would be most appropriate: the Boston Elevated Railway lettering that the Beantown PCCs were delivered in, or the later “MTA” logo or map logo. We stuck with the Boston Elevated
Railway lettering both because that was original and because where possible we lke to have authentic exterior lettering or logos that provide clues to the origin of the tribute livery. That logo will be installed before the car goes into revenue service.

Here are two more views of 1059’s arrival at Metro East, courtesy of Traci Cox.

(The night lighting does skew the orange color somewhat.)

[Update] After unloading the 1059, the trailer returned to Brookville with various parts, rather than with another car. [We erroneously reported Pacific Electric 1061 had gone to Brookville. Not yet. Sorry.] Market Street Railway is working with Muni to tweak the colors on that iconic Pacific Electric paint scheme as well, when 1061 does go to Brookville. (It and Brooklyn 1053 are slated to be the next cars to go back east for restoration, though in what order is not clear.) Comments on the first version of this story suggest that the Boston orange might work very well as a more accurate trim color on the 1061. We’re checking that out, and always appreciate comments from knowledgeable fans on colors, as long as they come to us in time to do something about them.

MSR Members: those who receive the hard copy of our newsletter, Inside Track, it should reach US mailboxes in the next couple of days, overseas by the end of next week (we hope…postal services around the world seem to be falling apart).

 

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Muni Heritage Weekend Confirmed for Sept. 9-10

 

Mark it down in ink. Muni’s annual Heritage Weekend has now been confirmed for September 9-10, 2017.

This year marks the centennial of Muni as a bus operator, and we will be working with Muni to showcase several of its historic buses, in addition to the usual array of special vintage streetcars and cable cars that will operate that weekend.

Operating hours will be 10 a.m. until about 5 p.m.  The action will be centered again around our San Francisco Railway Museum, across from the Ferry Building, where our exhibit on the transition from streetcars to buses in San Francisco will take center stage. More details will be forthcoming as they develop, but our Market Street Railway members can count on some special events, including a reception and charter for our more generous members and donors on Thursday evening, September 7, and special riding opportunities for all our members outside the regular weekend operation. Again, details to come on this.

Thanks to all our members and friends for their patience in waiting for the dates to be finalized. Other city agencies besides Muni are involved, so thanks to SFMTA’s Communications group for persisting in getting these dates arranged.

Those planning to visit from far away still have time to lock in the lowest air fares! We hope to see you September 9-10!

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Welcome Back, Harvey Milk’s Streetcar!

The streetcar honoring Harvey Milk, civil rights icon and transit advocate, was rededicated in a ceremony at the Castro Street F-line terminal on Wednesday, March 15. Car 1051, looking factory fresh, was on display at the spare track next to Jane Warner Plaza while a parade of speakers, led by district Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, paid tribute to Harvey Milk — and to Muni’s parent, SFMTA, and Market Street Railway for their respective roles in keeping the F-line up to date.

Castro Merchants Board Chair Daniel Bergerac, and head of the Castro Community Benefit District, Andrea Ailello, also spoke. Both emphasized the importance of the F-liine to Castro residents and businesses.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin pointed out that Harvey Milk was the first elected official in San Francisco to use a Fast Pass, Muni’s then-new payment method. SFMTA Board Chair Cheryl Brinkman praised the F-line for making transit both effective and attractive. All speakers had good things to say about Market Street Railway’s advocacy for the streetcars and for the Castro.  (*blush*)

After the ceremony, Car 1051 returned to Muni Metro East for final preparations by the shops before it enters revenue (passenger) service on Saturday. The video above shows it leaving the terminal after the ceremony.

Car 1051 is the first of 16 cars from the original F-line fleet to be fully refurbished under a contract with Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. The second car to enter service will be 1056, honoring Kansas City, which should be carrying passengers within a couple of weeks. Two more cars from the order will arrive in San Francisco within a couple of weeks as well.

We’ll have a report for our members on the details of the restoration and what Muni found during testing in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, out in early April. (If you haven’t joined us yet, this is a great time.)

 

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First Rebuilt PCC, Honoring Harvey Milk, to be Welcomed Back March 15

  The first of 16 PCC streetcars to go back into service following a complete rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15 at the F-line terminal on 17th Street at Castro and Market. Streetcar 1051 will be rededicated to Harvey Milk, to whom it was originally dedicated in 2009. The streetcar contains informational displays, prepared by Market Street Railway, celebrating Harvey Milk not only as a pioneering openly gay elected official… — Read More

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Buses & Streetcars: New Exhibit at SF Railway Museum

This coming October marks 100 years since Muni ran its first buses. We chronicle a century of coexistence — and competition — between buses and streetcars in San Francisco in a new exhibit now open at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Originally obtained to extend the reach of Muni’s streetcar lines, buses got bigger and more capable but still were relatively unimportant until World War II. Then, after the war, they sidetracked streetcars to become the dominant form of transit… — Read More

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Great Displays at SF History Days March 4-5

  San Francisco History Days, the popular annual event, fills up the historic Old Mint at Fifth and Mission Streets this weekend. Hours are 10-5 Saturday, March 4, and 10-4 Sunday, March 5. This year there’s a special treat: SFMTA (Muni’s parent) has created a great slideshow from its Archives to celebrate the centennial of the J-Church, Muni’s oldest surviving line, which has of course been operated by streetcars its entire 100-year life. Here’s a sneak peek.  Market Street Railway… — Read More

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“Service Improvement” on the F-line? You decide.

If you’re riding the F-line this sunny Saturday morning, you’ll find fewer streetcars out there, and longer wait times. But not to worry, it’s a “service improvement.”  Who says so? Muni. Muni’s parent, SFMTA, sent out a blog post entitled “More Muni Forward Service Improvements Roll Out”. The F-line is mentioned. But when you click through to the story, it’s, well, a different story. After listing other “improvements” (including cutting back a major crosstown bus line to eliminate transfers to the… — Read More

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Stunning Composite Photographs

  This isn’t new, but if you haven’t seen these wonderful composite photographs by San Francisco photographer Sean Clover, you’re in for a treat. These are just a couple of them, comparing the damage caused by the 1906 earthquake and fire with the exact same location today. Above, the gate of the cable car barn on Washington Street just east of Mason, showing how Car 155 was crushed by falling bricks. Within a few hours of the original photograph, it… — Read More

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E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service. As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and… — Read More

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Clarifying the 1947 Threat to the Cable Cars

This week is the 70th anniversary of the failed effort by Mayor Roger Lapham (at left in the photo above) to “junk the cable cars.” It’s truly something to celebrate, and it has engendered several news articles, such as this badly flawed one, which confuses the cable cars with streetcars and doesn’t know how to spell “trolley” and this one recounting the fight. Most of these accounts get a fundamental point wrong, and it’s an important one.  Lapham’s misguided effort was… — Read More

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NextMuni Predictions Seemingly Better for Streetcars Now

After a spell when GPS-based predictions of when the next streetcar would arrive at a particular stop on the E- and F-line had become wildly inaccurate (when they occurred at all), things seem to have improved. The historic streetcar fleet appears to have received new modems able to transmit location information to the NextMuni system. An excellent story by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez appears in the Examiner this morning. Muni’s rail fleet, including the LRVs, now seems to have returned to… — Read More

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Muni Arrival Times Inaccurate Right Now

Don’t try to use the live E- and F-line maps linked to this website right now. This post from SFMTA (Muni) explains why. The maps we use, customized with icons of streetcars in the historic fleet, are really cool when they work, because they show you exactly which cars are on the line and where they are. We know people all over the world check in on these maps every day to follow their favorite vintage streetcars. The data that feeds… — Read More

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End of the B-Geary, 60 Years Ago

  On December 29, 1956, the last passenger-carrying streetcar ran on the tracks of Muni’s first street, Geary.  Muni became America’s first big city publicly owned transit system 44 years and one day earlier, on December 28, 1912, when it opened the A and B streetcar lines on Geary Street. Soon, four Muni lines were running along Geary from the Ferry Building via Market: the A, which went from the Ferries to Tenth Avenue, then south to Golden Gate Park; the B, which reached… — Read More

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Merry Christmas…Transit-wise

There’s a long tradition in San Francisco of celebrating the holiday season with streetcars and cable cars. In the 1930’s, our namesake, Market Street Railway Company (Muni’s privately owned competitor) decorated its all-white private car (named the “San Francisco”, normally used to take school kids on field trips) for Christmas and New Year’s and ran it around town as a goodwill billboard. In the 1950’s, the Emporium department store, on Market opposite Powell (where Bloomingdales is today) would charter a… — Read More

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