Cameron Beach, 1949-2011

Cam Beach.jpg

San Francisco has lost a true civic leader and passionate transit advocate with the passing last night of Cameron Beach at his West Portal home.
Cam, 62, had just returned from a business trip to southern California when he collapsed. Paramedics, who arrived within a few minutes, were unable to revive him.
Cam was a member of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) board of directors, who was seeking reappointment to the board at the time of his death. He worked tirelessly on the SFMTA board on behalf of the average Muni rider, trying to win improvements in service. His knowledge and experience in the transit industry, including a long stretch as Chief Operating Officer of Sacramento Regional Transit, made him a respected expert among his board peers, and a force to be reckoned with by staffers who didn’t know their facts.
We at Market Street Railway were very fortunate to have Cam serve on our board for five years. He was the organization’s vice president up until his appointment to the SFMTA board in 2007. It was at a board meeting early in 2003 when a new board member, Carmen Clark, caught his eye. I took the two out to dinner (at John’s Grill, to be historically correct) after that board meeting and we chatted merrily through dinner. The next day, both called me asking to learn more about the other. Cam and Carmen were married not long after and enjoyed wonderful years together — sadly, way too few of them.
We send our deepest condolences to Carmen, Cam’s children and other family members, along with all of his many friends in the city and the national transit community. Cam served as chair of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, which operates the Western Railroad Museum in Solano County. He was board chair of California Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety organization, as well as member of numerous committees of the American Public Transit Association (APTA). To say he will be missed is like saying your own heart would be missed. He was a wonderful friend and a great contributor to making San Francisco a more livable city. We will never forget him.
We will pass along information about services and other memorials as soon as we have them.


Comments: 17

  1. What a shock! I have known Cameron for many years–probably met him for the first time at Orange Empire. I remember visiting him at the Sacramento RT Metro maintenance facility in 1987. He had just moved into the managers office, and he told me “My goal was to be the manager of a rail transit operation by the time I was 35” and he made it by a good margin. Last time I saw him was last September at the Western Railway Museum, where he was giving an excellent guided tour of the new carbarn. He was one of those fortunate souls who made a living at what he loved. He will be sorely missed in both the public transit and railway preservation fields.

  2. Man. I am really sad to hear of his passing. I only got to meet him once and we had such a great conversation about transit and “old” San Francisco. Such a great loss to the community.

  3. This is terrible news. Cam was a great guy and the love of Carmen’s life (as she was his). Thank you for letting us know.
    Dee Dee Workman

  4. As the manager of MSR’s public space, I benefited from how generous Cam was with his time and talents. His warm smile, social savvy and genuine interest in what others were working on made him my favorite person to have at our museum’s events.
    Beyond that, it was Cam who stepped forward when he learned that I had experienced anti-gay harassment on MUNI and that MTA management had been unresponsive to the initial reports I had filed about the matter. Because of Cam, all MUNI station agents are now required to participate in trainings designed to prepare them to serve our diverse community.
    His kindness will be long remembered.

  5. thank you for this wonderful piece about my dad. he loved everything transportation, san francisco, carmen, and my brothers and my mom with all of his heart. words cannot express our loss. we very much but look forward to keeping his memory alive with all of your delightful memories of him. thank you.

  6. I first met Cameron Beach while he was CEO of Sacramento Regional Transit. Cam was sponsoring a transit history video program free of charge for all public transit fans and historians. Later our friendship grew and became even closer when he retired from his position at RT. Always available even with his busy schedule, he never lost a beat even in retirement. I had also hoped to charter the Baby White #062 bus for my 50th Birthday and knew if anyone could help me pull this off, it would be Cam. Sadly it never came about. Not though without Cam’s efforts and ironically, he seemed more disappointed then I was that we could not pull it off due to mechanical difficulty. May Cameron RIP and prayers to his family and many friends! I know I have lost a true friend and mentor.

  7. This is truly awful. Didn’t know him well, but one day I was a beneficiary of his behind the scenes tour of the Western Railway Museum a while back. He also participated on a private aviation list that I belong to. RIP.

  8. I have only recently gotten to know Cam over the past few years as i have started getting more involved in MSRY and also started doing some technical consulting work FOR him. His passion for all things MUNI and museum preservation was amazing! I remember the first time walking into his office having to keep my jaw from dropping seeing his historical collection he had and how willing he was to talk to me about it. He was a great guy to talk to.
    My deepest condolances go out to Carmen and his family. I may be one of the “new guys” around here, but judging from all i have been reading about him, and all the people he touched, he will be greatly missed.

  9. This is very sad news and I am very sad after reading it. I only met Cameron once. He offered me a personal tour of the Western Railway Museum. Not only that but, he picked me up at Oakland Airport, drove up there, gave me the tour and pulled out ex-MUNI PCC #1016 and we were able to ride it all the way to the end of their five mile line. I really enjoyed that. He them drove me back to my motel in Oakland. I wanted to buy him dinner but he had to get back to SF. My condulances to his wife and family.
    I only wish he could have stopped by San Diego to see our Vintage Trolley project.

  10. This is shocking news he was a colorful fellow to work for here at Sacramento Regional Transit his insight into transit operational and policy were profound indeed. My deep sorrow for his kids there isn’t anything else to say I’m at a loss for words.
    Sincerely Mr. Michael j Islas Jr.

  11. When I heard of Cams’ death I was totally shocked. I worked with cam for over 20 years at Sacramento Regional Transit. The few times we were travelling to the same conference I looked forward to the personal tours Cam would provide. I rode all over New Orleans with Cam, and he kept my attention the entire trip which began at 6:00am and ended some time after noon!
    My Blessings to his whole family and my prayers for Carmen.

  12. As a tribute to Cameron Beach, may I suggest MUNI name something as a memorial to him. Since the “E” line may now go through to Fort Mason, may I suggest naming the tunnel as the “Cameron Beach Memorial Tunnel.” Or dedicate a PCC in his honor.

  13. I was lucky enough to know Cameron, sadly only for a few years. He visited us at the Illinois Railway Museum about once a year and took a keen interest in our SF Fageol-Twin trolley coach 614. He would tell us stories about when he rode them in his younger days and gave us guidance in our restoration efforts. I was amazed that he made the drive all the way to Chicago just six weeks ago to bring some needed artifacts for the coach. We had talked about him returning later this year to operate the coach. It is very sad that we will not be able to share in the joy I’m sure that would have brought him. When I think of Cameron I will remember a consummate professional, a transit expert, generous – especially with his time and vast knowledge, a true fan, and a genuinely wonderful person.

  14. I worked with Cam from 1985 until his retirement from Regional Transit. When I was a rail operator he arranged a trip to San Francisco so that I could enjoy a fascinating ride in the cab a Bart train. He arranged a tour of the historic Union Station in Washington DC when i attended the rail rodeo in the nation’s capitol. He was the most accesible and supportive management person to me personally at Regional Transit as a bus operator, rail operator and attendance coordinator. I realize now that he took me under his wing and was instrumental in my career. I owe him my eternal gratitude for his guidance and unwavering support. I hope all Operators have their headsigns correctly positioned to help him find his way on his current ride. All my best to the family. Thank you Cam. Sue Bevins

  15. As a former employee of MSR, I am saddened to hear of Cameron’s passing also. It was nice knowing him for the two years I worked at the San Francisco Railway Museum, and he was always very courteous to everyone regardless of your walk of life. I feel honored to have known him when he joined forces with the SFMTA, as he obviously made a lasting impression on the system at large. My thoughts are with his family, friends, former co-workers, Muni, and MSR.
    Goodbye, Cameron. You shall definitely be missed. 🙁

  16. Hello. I’m sorry that I am late. My name is Pat Beach. I wish that I could share all of my recollections of Cam. This means the most to me.
    I met Cam shortly before transferring to the light rail division. We had a mutual interest in each other for the obvious reason — our shared last name. I was a train cleaner on opening day and was fortunate to promote to electromechanic in eight months.
    Cam enjoyed spending time in the shop with his mechanics. One day as he was watching another mechanic and I drop a truck, my partner said, “Pat, tell Cam your secret.” We both knew what he was talking about. My last name is not Beach. It is my stepfather’s and I have been known as “Pat Beach” since I was eight years old.
    Cam’s interest was engaged and he insisted that I tell him. Now, I knew that many thought (and probably still do) that I had an unfair advantage because of our names. The truth was, I never had.
    I told Cam the truth right there and for a moment he was silent while processing what he had just learned. He never betrayed his emotion, smile ever present, and when he spoke he said, “No kidding?” And that was it.
    Cam had never treated me differently before or after I told him that there was no possibility of our being related.
    Cam was the most enthusiastic leader I have ever known. I felt it infectious. When he left the light rail division, for me and others, it was never the same again. I will always remember that time as the happiest, most productive in my life.
    Thanks Cam. We were blessed to have known you.
    Pat Beach

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