Happy Centennial, J-Church

 

On August 11, 1917, Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph presided over the opening of Muni’s J-Church line. This line brought Muni service the Noe Valley and Dolores Heights areas, in competition with United Railroads’ privately owned streetcar lines on Guerrero Street and on 24th Street.

Over the past century, most types of Muni cars ran the J-line regularly, especially the B-types (including preserved Cars 130 and 162. PCCs began exclusively serving the J-line in 1958, followed by Boeing LRVs in the early 1980s, then the current Breda LRVs, and in the next few years the new Siemens LRVs. Also fan trips love this line and charters can frequently be seen today.

The J line had its own four track section from Market St to 16th St. until after World War II, after an agreement could not be reached with United Railroads to share the 22-Fillmore line’s tracks on that part of Church. In 1946 the J was detoured over the old MSR 9 line, Valencia, Mission, 29th St to Noe, due to construction on Church Street.

To celebrate the J-line’s centennial, Muni’s first streetcar, Car 1, and the last PCC ever built in North America, Car 1040 (which served the J-line for 30 years) will offer rides at regular fares from our San Francisco Railway Museum to the J’s original terminal at 30th and Church Streets on Muni Heritage Weekend, September 9-10, starting at 10 a.m. and continuing until 4 p.m.

If you’re a Market Street Railway Member, you should have received the latest issue of our newsletter, Inside Track, with an array of great historic photos of the J-line’s first century.  (If you’re not a member, you can join, and we’ll send it to you right away.) Also, Bob Strachan, an MSR volunteer archivist, has shared a great bunch of J-line photos on our Facebook Group. (Search on Market Street Railway, and chose the GROUP, rather than the page.)

Happy 100th Birthday, J-line!

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Magic Carpet Ride


San Francisco’s first streamlined streetcars arrived in 1939. The outsides looked like the modern “PCC” streetcars popping up in many North American cities at the time, but San Francisco’s were different inside, because the City Charter of the day forbade the payment of patent royalties for some reason, and many components of the PCC were patented.

So Muni ordered five cars that looked like this, numbered 1001-1005, with a mix of trucks, motors, and other components. All, though, had a General Electric Cineston hand controller instead of the PCC’s foot pedals. Their ride was so smooth and quiet compared to their boxy cousins that they were dubbed “Magic Carpets”.

World War II and constrained city finances were two reasons Muni didn’t buy more of these modern streetcars in the years that followed, but in 1948, with the patent problems resolved, Muni did buy 10 double-end “real” PCCs, numbered 1006-1015, seven of which have been restored for operation on the E-Embarcadero line.

Here, in 1942, we see Magic Carpet 1002 at the inbound station at Castro and Market Streets, having just emerged from a run through the Twin Peaks Tunnel (no doubt an amazing experience to first-time riders). The 1002 shows the route sign X-11th St. Only, which was used for pull-ins to the car barn just off the H-Potrero line at Hampshire and Mariposa Streets. In this era, the Carpets usually served the L-Taraval, so it’s a good bet that’s where it had been running during its shift.

This great image was taken by Ralph Demoro, father of legendary railfan and journalist Harre Demoro, and is now part of the Market Street Railway Archive, donated as part of the John Harder Collection. Click on it and look at some of the details. The road sign to the right points to Upper Market Street, the automobile route over Twin Peaks, and offers the destinations Junipero Serra Boulevard, San Mateo, and Skyline Boulevard. The building to the left, still there, offers “Danish Confections”. The patented (and unique to San Francisco) Wiley “birdcage” sits by the entry to the tunnel, right, where two riders wait for an outbound K or L car (during this period, the M-line was only a shuttle from West Portal to Ocean View. There was no Stonestown or Parkmerced then). A hard-to-read warning sign between the Examiner newsrack and the street sign on the pole next to the streetcar reads “KEEP TO RIGHT OF TUNNEL.”

By the late 1970s, this stop disappeared when the Twin Peaks Tunnel was connected under Castro and Market to the new Muni Metro Subway.

Only one of the five Magic Carpets survived after they were retired in 1959. Car 1003 is at the Western Railway Museum in Solano County. In today’s historic streetcar fleet, one of the 1948 PCCs, 1010, pays tribute to the Magic Carpets by wearing the Carpets’ original blue and yellow livery.

By the way, Muni’s competitor of that era, our namesake, Market Street Railway, dreamed about buying similar streamlined double-end streetcars but could never afford them. They’re honored in today’s historic fleet as well, with PCC 1011.

UPDATE, August 6 — one of our members, John Bromley, has checked in to enlighten us (we are so glad for the collective knowledge of our members and friends). John notes that this was a fan trip on June 7, 1942, and sent additional photos along. We should have noticed the “XX” on the run number sign, a sure tip-off. We’re posting a couple of these additional photos John supplied, both taken by Ralph Demoro.

The photo above shows the 1002 at what was then the end of the K-Ingleside line, on Brighton Avenue at Grafton Avenue, three blocks south of Ocean Avenue. (The K shared tracks on Ocean with competitor Market Street Railway’s 12-line and needed its own terminal. The Brighton trackage was removed by the mid-1950s.) The photo below is taken at the end of the original F-line at its Marina District terminal on Chestnut Street near Scott Street. The original F-line became the 30-Stockton bus, extended a few blocks in the Marina, in 1951. As far as we know, the Carpets never operated in revenue service on the F-line, as the narrowness of Stockton Street led Muni to stick to their oldest cars, the 1912-1913 A-types (including preserved Car 1).

Thanks to John for the extra information and great photos.

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What Would You Have Saved From the Old Boneyard?

“Bone Yard” at Funston and Lincoln Way, 1944, SFMTA Archive.

The new issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, should reach your mailboxes any day now. It contains a story about our efforts to save the best PCC streetcars at Muni’s current “boneyard”, on Marin Street near Islais Creek, as Muni moves to convert the space into a bus testing yard.

(No, we’re not going to post that story here, at least not yet; our members feel getting first knowledge of important developments regarding the historic streetcar fleet is a perk of their membership. But you can get the new Inside Track instantly, by email if you join right now.)

This post is about the original “boneyard,” the streetcar storage area created by our namesake, the old Market Street Railway Company, in the city block bounded by Lincoln Way, Funston Avenue, 14th Avenue, and Irving Street. (Thanks to the SFMTA Archive for the photo, dated March 1944.)

Our namesake stored over 100 streetcars here at a time, with a large infusion entering the boneyard in the late 1930s, after the courts squashed the company’s operation of some streetcars with just a single crew member. Rather than convert those cars back into two-person operation, they just stored them. Even the increased ridership of World War II didn’t pry them out. These included advanced-looking (but underpowered) “rail sedans” purchased second-hand from East St. Louis, conventional arch roof cars from that railway and from Williamsport, PA, and a variety of deck-roof and arch roof cars originally purchased by predecessor United Railroads, plus, over time, most of the streetcars Market Street Railway built with San Francisco labor in its own Elkton Shops near Balboa Park (now the site of Muni’s Curtis E. Green Light Rail Division).

After Market Street Railway was merged with Muni in 1944, the railway stored streetcars here for a time as they were taken out of service in favor of trolley buses. Briefly, these included at least some of the single-truck E-Union line “dinkys”.

We only know of one single streetcar that escaped the boneyard and is still intact today: 1924 home-built car 798, about which we hope to share some very good news soon. For now, let’s play a game for those with some knowledge of the boneyard.

If you could have waved a magic wand and saved up to three streetcars from scrapping, so that they could be running on the E- and F-lines today, which three would they be (meaning which type, not which specific car numbers)?  Answer in the comments section.  Wishing won’t make it so, but what the heck.

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Waiting for Muni, About 1940

 

Here’s an unusual shot, photographer unknown (at least to us). We’re at Market and McAllister, looking west. It appears to be about 1940.  When our main drag had four streetcar tracks side by side, there were very few spots where there was enough room to build actual boarding islands like you see on Market now. Instead, there were just raised dots to mark what were optimistically called “safety zones”.

But here we have a real concrete island with its own concrete bench, a rarity back then. There’s a woman on the island with a suitcase on the bench, peering down the tracks waiting for her car to come. (Streetcars were called “cars” in San Francisco then, automobiles were only starting to pick up that designation. Some San Franciscans called automobiles “machines.”)

The tracks of Market Street Railway Company’s 5-McAllister streetcar line (now Muni’s 5-Fulton bus) turn off here to the right, headed for Playland. Within a few years, streetcars will again turn off Market here, thanks to an initiative spearheaded by our non-profit (named for the old Muni competitor) to create a turnback loop for F-line streetcars near Civic Center, allowing Muni to add additional service between downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf when needed. The loop will wrap around the building right center, then called Hotel Shaw, with a layover on Charles Brenham Place (the extension of Seventh Street north of Market), a street that didn’t exist when this photo was taken.

We see a few Market Street Railway Company “White Front” cars in the distance to the woman’s right, headed to the Ferry (or maybe East Bay Terminal), but nothing outbound, either MSR or Muni. One other thing: in another rarity, the photographer has captured the Wiley “bird cage” signal to the right with its reading blank, in that fraction of a second as it was changing from GO to STOP or vice versa (there was no “caution” phase in between). Note the small pedestrian signal beneath it. Countdown timer?  What’s that?

You can see a working Wiley signal, unique to San Francisco and gone from our streets by 1962, at our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building.  Drop by and see our exhibits and unique gifts, perfect for San Franciscans to give to others to demonstrate their love of our city’s transit history.

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Patriotic Celebration, 1909

Lots of streetcars but even more American flags on and around the Ferry Building on a bright afternoon in October 1909, 1:29 p.m. We don’t know the exact date or who took the photo; if someone knows, fill us in with a comment. Lots to see in this shot. Double-click on the photo to enlarge it and take a tour. Permanent buildings are in place after the 1906 earthquake, some with electric signs (waffles, anyone?). The Southern Pacific is advertising… — Read More

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Vintage Pride: 1983

By the time historic streetcars returned to San Francisco’s streets for the first Historic Trolley Festival in the Summer of 1983, the annual LGBT Pride Parade was already a summertime fixture on Market Street. Even then, the parade was such a major event that streetcar service was suspended for its duration. But that first year of the Trolley Festival, two of the Trolley Festival cars showed their own pride by joining in. Here we look through the 1934 Blackpool, England… — Read More

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Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse Gets Funding

The long-running dream of transforming the 1901 Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse into vibrant community space got a $3 million boost, making it far more likely to become reality. As reported in Hoodline, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, which bought the building in 2004 from Muni, appropriated the $3 million at its June 15 meeting, bringing total approved funding for the project to $11 million. The project involves two structures that sit next to each other, both originally… — Read More

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Shoppers’ Shuttle

In the early 1950s, as tens of thousands of San Francisco families decamped for the new surrounding suburbs, merchants grew more and more anxious about getting customers into their stores. Muni’s response: a “Shoppers’ Shuttle” — actually two of them, one serving Market Street/Union Square and one the “Miracle Mile of Mission” between about 16th Street and Army Street (now Cesar Chavez Street). When they started up in 1953 and 1954, the shuttles only charged a nickel (as opposed to the then-regular fare of… — Read More

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Happy 125th to San Francisco Electric Streetcars

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… — 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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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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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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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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