Smoke Stops Cable Cars

UPDATE: The cable cars will remain out of service at least through Sunday, November 18.

The deteriorating air quality around San Francisco Bay due to the smoke from the Camp Fire to the north has claimed another victim: the city’s cable cars.

Muni pulled all the cable cars into the barn this afternoon (November 15) and replaced them with buses until air quality improves. Forecasters say that could be another week. In a sign of how serious Bay Area residents have been affected, store after store has sold out of air purifiers and N95 face masks, recommended for those who must venture outdoors. The Cable Car Museum at Washington and Mason Street closed on Thursday for the same reason.

On one level, it may seem counter-intuitive to some to replace zero emission vehicles (the cable cars are powered by central electric motors using the city’s own hydroelectricity) with diesel buses, especially when an air inversion is trapping the smoke and locally generated emissions close to the ground. But cable car crews and passengers alike are essentially outdoors, where at least the buses can turn on their air conditioning and get some air filtration that way.

We join everyone in the Bay Area in our condolences to all those who have lost their homes — and lives — in this worst wildfire in California history, and in our concerns for all those in other parts of the state, such as Sacramento, where the air quality right now is even worse than it is here.

(The photo above comes from MSR Member Traci Cox, capturing the smoky background behind California Cable Car 56 looking west up Nob Hill from Drumm Street yesterday. It’s worse today.

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“Full of Wonders”

The Chronicle‘s great columnist, Carl Nolte, spun a warm story today about October in the City — our most beautiful month. We’re illustrating it, fittingly, with this shot taken this afternoon of two orange Milan trams passing at Fifth and Market, with the venerable Chronicle tower in the background. Here’s some of what Carl feels is great about the City:

Up close, the city is still something special, even on battered Market Street. Back from an errand last week, I hopped on one of those old Milan streetcars, painted pumpkin orange, running the F line. As we rumbled up Market, I watched a small kid watching the operator run the old-fashioned controls, toot the horn and ring the bell. The kid reminded me of me, back when I was little and a streetcar ride was full of wonders.

I think our members and friends agree with Carl that a streetcar ride is still full of wonders!  By the way, shortly after we snapped the photo of the two orange Milans, two green ones (or as our friend Peter Ehrlich calls them, “Mint Milanos”) passed at the same intersection, making four Milan trams on the line today, a high number for a weekend. Thanks to Muni’s shops for getting the Milan car count back up. As Carl noted, these cars have a real following.

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John Haley Leaves Muni

UPDATED, OCTOBER 27

John Haley, Director of Transit for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (de facto equivalent to general manager of Muni), left the agency October 26, according to this story by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez in the San Francisco Examiner.

Haley had been in the position for eight years, a long tenure by transit industry standards. His departure was announced by SFMTA as a retirement, though the article states that he was under pressure to leave following a series of allegations detailed in the Examiner story.

These allegations include a lawsuit from a female employee of groping and sexual harassment, which was reported by the Examiner last month. In the wake of that article, other SFMTA employees came forward to claim ill treatment by Haley and by several other male employees of SFMTA. Mayor London Breed responded quickly, appointing a veteran human resources director to investigate such accusations.

Today’s Examiner article reports:

More than 60 women from across every division of the 6,000 employee agency banded together to deliver anonymously written testimony to SFMTA leadership on October 22, urging them to quickly and thoroughly address harassment allegations.

“We represent women from various divisions and job classifications throughout the agency” reads the introduction letter to the women’s testimonies. “Many of us are scared to speak up. We all want you to engage us. We all want change.”

Such acts of harassment, if true, are inexcusable and should not be tolerated in any environment. In our own interactions with Haley over the past eight years, we did not witness acts of sexual harassment or gender or racial discrimination by him. However, we did become aware, through repeated tips from a broad array of Muni employees, that Haley held strongly negative views of the historic streetcars and cable cars, as well as Market Street Railway as an organization and its leadership specifically.

We were told by numerous inside sources that Haley repeatedly bad-mouthed our organization and the streetcars in front of staff and in internal meetings. We believe this led to a climate of fear and poor morale among many staff members involved in maintaining the historic fleet.

We attribute the progress that has been made during this period, including the inauguration of the E-Embarcadero streetcar line and progress in streetcar restoration and service improvements, to the dedication of numerous SFMTA employees who did not echo Haley’s negativity. We also believe the progress that has been made can be attributed to the strong support for the streetcars and cable cars by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, with whom we have had a consistent and positive relationship, and to his Board of Directors, which have long supported Muni’s historic transit operation.

No interim replacement for Haley had been named at the time of this posting.

We will have more on this situation in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in early December.

 

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Iron Monster Trucked to Fix Trucks

1914 Muni Car 162, which seemed on the cusp of returning to service after accident repairs that took more than four years, is starting a new round of repairs — this time on the trucks underneath the car.

Friday morning (October 19), the irreplaceable Muni original, was trucked from Muni Metro East in Dogpatch across town to the heavy overhaul shops at Green Division, next to Balboa Park BART. It’s shown above squeezing past a tree into the Green Division yard, and below in the shop. (Thanks to Barry Chown on our Facebook group for the lower shot.)

The car had returned home on April 23 following repairs from a 2014 accident. The repair work, which only included the body, were beautifully performed by CG, Inc. of Long Beach, but the car was improperly lifted by its trucks (wheel sets) for the return trip and the bottom connecting bars of the trucks were bent. (The October 19 cross-town moved used a roll-on, roll-off trailer, so it didn’t need to be lifted.

Though the bent members of the trucks were successfully straightened, the very detailed inspection of the trucks that accompanied the repair convinced Muni that it is necessary to completely rebuild the 104-year old trucks. That job is starting now, and will be performed in-house.

Market Street Railway is extremely disappointed with the way the streetcar was handled on its return trip from the vendor. Muni has committed to expedite the truck rebuilding and to do a thorough job. The project will be an early challenge for Muni’s new acting head of rail maintenance, Randy Catanach, who recently took over from Lee Summerlott, who retired.

We haven’t been given an estimated date for the completion of the work, but we will let you know. We look forward to getting this truly historic streetcar, which started its Muni career on long-gone rail lines like the B-Geary and F-Stockton, back on the street carrying a new generation of passengers on the E-Embarcadero and F-Market.

 

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Pacific Electric PCC 1061 Headed Back to Muni

Rolling through Ames, Iowa today on the back of a trailer, one of our watchful members, Mike Joynt, spotted newly rebuilt PCC 1061, painted to honor Pacific Electric, on its way back to San Francisco following rebuilding by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. Mike wasn’t able to snap a photo, but here’s one of the car body emerging from Brookville’s paint shop a couple of months ago before its regular trucks were installed and the finishing touches applied. (Thanks to… — Read More

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What a Weekend!

As you can see on our recap at the top of the main page, Muni Heritage Weekend was a real humdinger. What was especially great was the large number of families that came out to enjoy the vintage vehicles. SFMTA had some specific events to attract kids including cable car bell ringing practice with 10-time champion Carl Payne, design your own streetcar, and more. But the vehicles themselves are what the families loved. Here are some photos that show it.… — Read More

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Ride Hyde the Way it Used to Be!

From 1891 to 1954, double-end cable cars, almost identical to those on California Street, rambled from Market & O’Farrell streets through Union Square, the Tenderloin, and over Nob and Russian Hills to reach Hyde and Beach Streets near Aquatic Park. The City killed the inner part of that line and combined the outer part with one of the Powell Street cable lines to create the Powell-Hyde line in 1957. Now as a special event for San Francisco history buffs and… — Read More

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Heritage Weekend Has Later Start Time This Year  

Because of unforeseen events, Muni Heritage Weekend events will start later and finish later on September 8-9 this year. But there are still going to be very special happenings for transportation fans of all ages. A climate change protest will close Market Street late morning of Saturday, September 8 and a footrace sponsored by the Giants will close traffic lanes on The Embarcadero Sunday morning. Both these events were scheduled after our dates were locked down and there’s really nothing… — Read More

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Steam Streetcar on Market Street, 1864

Yep, you read that right. Before Market Street had electric streetcars, cable cars, or horse-powered streetcars, it had a STEAM-powered streetcar. In fact, this was the first rail transit on Market Street, started up in 1860. This photo, which we had not seen before, just surfaced on a Facebook group, without a source reference. It shows Market Street during the Civil War (the date given is 1864, and that seems at least very close). We’re looking west, toward Twin Peaks.… — Read More

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Incredible Film: Cable Cars on Pacific Ave., 1929

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. A couple of months ago, we got a call asking whether we recognized the location of a film. We did — Pacific Avenue. We had never seen motion pictures of that line, which closed in 1929. Now, the video has been posted on YouTube, with additional information on the provenance of the film. It was professionally shot, with sound, by a Movietone Newsreel crew, which spent several days filming the line… — Read More

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“Coming to Town” Talk to Help Open Salesforce Transit Center August 11

  Lots of buzz about the new $2.1 Salesforce Transit Center holding its grand opening Saturday, August 11. For example, this story in the Examiner, worth a read for the historic context. Or this one, about the incredible park atop the terminal. Or this one, about the loonnng delay in getting train service (commuter and high-speed to LA) into the terminal  in the afternoon. But in this post, we’re inviting everyone to the new center’s bus deck at 1 pm… — Read More

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Happy 145th Anniversary, Cable Cars!

August 2, 1873 — In the wee small hours of a misty San Francisco night (they didn’t call the month “Fogust” back then, but it was), a new type of transit was about to be inaugurated. An endless wire rope clattered beneath Clay Street. An odd open vehicle sat on the rails at the top of the hill. Standing by was Andrew Smith Hallidie, a Scot who had experience using wire rope in the mining business, and was part of… — Read More

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“The Greatest Streetcar Museum in America”

    That’s the title of a great piece by Justin Franz on the Trains Magazine website today. Click the link and read it. It really says everything that needs to be said about the history and popularity of San Francisco’s vintage streetcar operation.  Thanks, Justin, for the story, and thanks, Muni, for the dedicated people who run and maintain these treasures. Just to be clear, the headline on Justin’s piece refers to the streetcars themselves, what we call the… — Read More

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A Gripping Evening with Val Lupiz

Val Lupiz, expert gripman and San Francisco historian, was hosted on July 18 by MSR Board member Paul Lucas in the second installment of Market Street Railway’s quarterly series Inside Track-Live! A packed house at our San Francisco Railway Museum was treated to hearing how Val started as a rail-obsessed kid, to being the only gripman to operate historic Cable Car 42 in multiple Muni Heritage Festivals. Val’s stories ranged from heartwarming— helping passengers with marriage proposals— to uproarious— how… — Read More

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Bringing LA Back to SF from PA

As our Members and friends know, the original F-line fleet of PCC streetcars, 16 in all, is being completely restored at Brookville Equipment Company in Brookville, Pennsylvania. The latest streetcar to arrive in San Francisco, rolling in as this is being written on July 25, is Car 1052, painted to honor Los Angeles Railway. We call it the “Shirley Temple Car” because that child star dedicated the first car of this design to operate in Los Angeles, in 1937. But… — Read More

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