Boat Keeps Sailing Through Fleet Week

Boat Tram 228 passes Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, entering service on Wednesday, September 11.

SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum has approved the extension of summer Blackpool Boat Tram service through Fleet Week in mid-October. The boat will continue to operate from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on The Embarcadero between our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 every Tuesday and Wednesday through October 9.

This is a welcome development, given the great popularity of the Boat Tram so far this summer. In last weekend’s Muni Heritage celebration, riders queued up for more than an hour to ride the Boat, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there’s generally no waiting to ride.

The Boat Tram has gotten so popular, it now has its own Twitter account: @boattramsf. Well worth following; so much so that the San Francisco Chronicle just wrote a story about it, calling the Boat Tram “San Francisco’s Celebrity Trolley”. (Spoiler: our Board Member Chris Arvin is behind the Twitter account, and the cool logo above as well.

Pro tip: You can find the boat’s exact location when it’s out on our Live Streetcar Map. (You can access the map anytime on your phone or laptop by just typing in streetcar.live as the URL.)

And don’t forget, you can ride the boat along Market Street on its trips in and out of service at the beginning or ending of the day. The boat reaches Market and Church Streets on its way downtown around 10:30 a.m. The trip back up Market at the end of the day varies according to operations during the day, but it’s on our map.

Thanks to Julie Kirschbaum for extending the Boat’s voyage.

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“Best Heritage Weekend Ever”

Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 (originally built in 1883) meets O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42 at California and Hyde Streets during Heritage Weekend. It’s the first time ever that cable cars from two disappeared lines operated together in service. Dave Longa photo.

We heard those words over and over the past two days. It was the best Muni Heritage Weekend ever. The biggest crowds (people queued up for an hour or more on Sunday to get a Boat Tram ride), the most kids (a new generation of public transit fans being created), the widest variety of vehicles (debut of Sacramento-Clay cable car 19 and Melbourne tram 916), BOTH boats out on Saturday, BOTH Melbourne trams out on Sunday, plus five vintage buses, the always popular 1896 “Dinky” streetcar, and even the Brussels/Zurich “EuroPCC” in regular service both days to Castro on the F-line. All that, plus big crowds at our San Francisco Railway Museum, center of all the action.

1929 Melbourne tram 496 meets younger sibling 916 (born in 1946) by the Ferry Building. It’s the first time Muni’s two Melbourne trams operated side-by-side in service. Adolfo Echeverry photo.

The single disappointment of the weekend was a compressor failure on Muni Car 1 that kept it out of action, but it should certainly be fixed for next year.

The wait for the boat tram was long on Sunday, but…

…once on board, smiles for miles!

We’re sharing a few photos here. We’ll have a full wrap-up in the next issue of our quarterly member newsletter, Inside Track.

EuroPCC 737 (1952) passes 1938 White Motor Company coach, Muni’s oldest surviving bus, on Steuart Street. Rick Laubscher photo.

The 1896 Dinky drew crowds all weekend, as it always does…people keep thinking it’s a cable car…until it rockets down The Embarcadero, bouncing along on its single truck! Rick Laubscher photo.

Thanks to everyone who made the weekend a success, led by MSR Board Chair Carmen Clark and Vice Chair Tony Sabella, President Rick Laubscher, and Museum Manager Alison Cant, plus many great volunteers, including our board members Ian Dailey, Chris Arvin, Kat Siegal, Katie Haverkamp, Paul Wells, Paul Lucas, Will Flynn, and Ron Fisher. And at SFMTA/Muni, Katy Guyon, who did a great job organizing the information stations on the plaza, and Jonathan Kibrick, who kept the vintage vehicles moving. Special thanks to MSR members Steve Souza and Jeremy Whiteman for providing pizza and water to the vehicle operators and plaza volunteers all weekend, and of course great thanks to all the operators and maintainers who got the vehicles ready and took them through their paces. The smiles of riders and onlookers lit up the scene everywhere the vehicles went.

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Heritage Weekend Halftime Report

Families and fans lined up to ride 1896 “Dinky” Streetcar 578 outside our museum, as they did for the two boat trams that operated on Saturday, but everyone got a ride.

Great first day for Muni Heritage Weekend. Most diverse group of vintage transit vehicles ever; biggest crowds ever; most visitors to our San Francisco Railway Museum ever.

We’ll post most of the photos after Sunday’s action, but we want to make sure you see a few shots, and more importantly, these links:

1938 White Motor Coach 042, Muni’s oldest surviving bus, a prime subject of Steve Rubenstein’s Chronicle story, linked below.

The Chronicle’s Steve Rubenstein looks at the first day’s action, with a focus on buses.

And the Chron’s venerable “Native Son”, columnist Carl Nolte, pens a paean to Sacramento-Clay Cable Car “Big 19” as it made its public debut on Saturday.

“Big 19”, originally built in 1883 and the oldest operable cable car in the world, waits its turn at the California and Market terminal with 1907 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line CABLE CAR 42 right behind.

If you’re reading this Sunday morning in San Francisco, drop what you’re doing and head down to 77 Steuart Street, across from the Ferry Building, where the action continues from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

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Great Kickoff to Heritage Weekend

Mayor London Breed (Center, in blue) leads the ribbon cutting that returned cable car “Big 19”, originally built in 1883, back to Muni’s active fleet after a hiatus of 77 years. She was joined by SFMTA Board Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden (second from right) and the team from Cable Car Division responsible for this miraculous resurrection.

Muni Heritage Weekend got off to a great start last night (Thursday), with a VIP reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Upwards of 70 invited business, neighborhood, and civic leaders heard Mayor London Breed extol San Francisco’s history and the role transit played in making the city what it is today. Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher paid tribute to transit pioneers through the decades, whom he described as “fighters for equality, for inclusion, for opportunity”, and lauded the team that brought Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 back to life. They include: Project Manager Arne Hansen, the shop superintendent; Electric Transit Mechanic Dave Kerrigan, who installed a complete braking system, Master Carpenter Antoni Cunha, who repaired and strengthened the running boards; Painters Danny Hicks and Henry Pegueros, who did a masterful job of painting, polishing the brass, and detailing the cable car.

Mayor Breed addressing the gathering at the museum. MSR Board Vice Chair Antone Sabella (just to her right) looks on.

That group, and the other guests, then processed from the museum two blocks to California and Market Streets, where “Big 19” was staged on the tail track of the California Street cable car line, ready to go. After a ribbon cutting, featuring Mayor Breed, SFMTA Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden, and the car’s restoration crew, Gripman Val Lupiz, whose personal enthusiasm for the project made a big difference in moving it forward, er, moved the car forward … up California Street, “halfway to the stars”, as the song lyric goes with the Mayor and a packed car of guests happily taking it in.

MSR Board Chair Carmen Clark stands in the grip man’s position aboard Big 19, with the restoration team in front of the car, along with MSR Board Member James Giraudo (far left), who contributed the accurate 46-star American flags for the car (commemorating the 1908 date it started working the Sacramento-Clay line), along with the two Cable Car Division superintendents who greenlighted the project: Brent Jones, now acting deputy director of transit for SFMTA, to the right of the shiny brass headlight, and Wes Valaris to the left of the headlight (in hat), current acting super at Cable Car.

Climbing Nob Hill with a crush load is just about the ultimate test for Big 19, and under Val’s expert hand, it went flawlessly. The Mayor had to disembark at Grace Cathedral for her next engagement…clearly reluctantly, asking to ride at least one more block…and the rest of the guests proceeded to Van Ness, where “Big 19” reversed smoothly.

Gripman Val Lupiz waits for a signal to change as Mayor Breed (over his shoulder) enjoys the ride. Former MSR Board Chair Bruce Agid looks toward the mayor from the far running board.

But then the Cable Car Gods said, “Not so fast”. One block into the return trip, another cable car hit a bumper bar on the California cable, causing the cable to automatically shut down. When this happens, the cable machinery crew carefully winds the entire cable all the way through its length, inspecting it as it goes through the winding machinery at the carbarn to ensure it wasn’t damaged. If it is, the line can be shut down for hours.

And so, guests on this memorable inaugural run of Big 19 got an unexpected experience: one of Muni’s brand new hybrid buses appeared to take them back to the museum, making them the first to make that round trip on transit vehicles built 136 apart.

One more shot of Val Lupiz, on his new favorite cable car. Those who are part of our Facebook group, (Market Street Railway) know Val as a devoted cable car historian whose dedication and enthusiasm has helped both Big 19 and O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Car 42 spend time on the streets.

Later, the cable was found to be fine, and Big 19 returned to the Cable Car Barn without incident. It will be out and running on Heritage Weekend with a VERY special treat starting at 10 a.m. for those who show up at the Cable Car Barn at Washington and Mason Streets: on its pull-out trip, it will go down the Hyde Street Hill to Aquatic Park, then back up Hyde, around the Washington-Jackson loop, and then over to California Street to go into service. At Heritage Weekend Central Control (the plaza outside the museum), we’ll keep track of where Big 19 is, so visitors can catch one of its several trips from California and Market to Van Ness and back.

That’s just one aspect of what’s going to be a great Heritage Weekend. Don’t miss it.

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Ride, Join, and SHOP at Heritage Weekend

Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7 and 8, is the best two days of the year when it comes to riding a wide range of vintage transit vehicles — streetcars, cable cars, trolley buses, and motor buses — ranging in age from 44 to 136 years! You literally cannot do that anywhere else in the world, at any time. And it’s also the best two days of the year to get your shopping done at our San Francisco Railway Museum, the… — Read More

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Sept. 7-8 Muni Heritage Weekend Details Here!

September 7 and 8 are shaping up to be the best Muni Heritage Weekend ever! This year’s seventh annual event should feature two vintage rail vehicle debuts, plus a full roster of returning favorite streetcars, cable cars, and buses. All the action is centered at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building at the F-line Steuart Street stop. (The one exception: the special cable cars, which will board one block away at California and… — Read More

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Boat Tram Sails Again

Blackpool (England) Boat Tram 228 is scheduled to resume its special service on the waterfront Tuesday, August 13 at 11 a.m., following a time in “dry dock” for motor repairs. You can ride the boat Tuesdays and Wednesdays the rest of August and into September between our San Francisco Railway Museum (across from the Ferry Building) and Fisherman’s Wharf between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. While the Muni shops were fixing the motor problem, the shops also replaced the clouded… — Read More

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Big 19 in Broad Daylight

For the first time in 77 years today, the biggest cable car in San Francisco (or anywhere for that matter) climbed “halfway to the stars” and back down again under cable power, in regular service conditions. The cable car known as “Big 19” for its size (seven feet longer than Powell Street Cable Car 19, and four feet longer than the California Street cable cars, previously the longest in the fleet) has been on the streets twice before in recent… — Read More

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Back On Track — After 77 Years Off!

Early this morning, a cable car originally constructed in 1883 became Muni’s oldest operating transit vehicle. Early this morning, Sacramento & Clay Sts. cable car 19 made a full trip on the California Street line pulled by the cable. It was the first time this cable car was pulled by a cable on the street in 77 years, since its retirement in 1942. This news, and these wonderful photos, come from Market Street Railway member Traci Cox who documented the… — Read More

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Crazy Day on the Waterfront

Yesterday (July 25) was an action-packed day on the waterfront, and included an opportunity seized, and one missed. Here’s what went down. E-and F-line service north of the Ferry Building was disrupted by a power problem at the Wharf and a couple of streetcar breakdowns (not sure if they were related). This occurred around the time EuroPCC 737 arrived at Don Chee Way to go into service. Inspectors sent several cars south on the E-line to get out of the… — Read More

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Trip to Europe on the Waterfront

With Blackpool, England Boat Tram 228 pulling an temporary “Brexit” from this summer’s special waterfront streetcar service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Muni Chief Julie Kirschbaum is sending in fun substitutes to fill in. The coming two Tuesdays and Wednesdays (July 23-24 and July 30-31), 1952 Euro PCC 737 (which operated in Brussels but is painted to honor San Francisco’s Sister City, Zurich, Switzerland) will be cruising the waterfront. As a bonus, it will also operate on Swiss National Day, Thursday,… — Read More

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Thank You, Ed Reiskin

Note: A version of this article is contained in the current edition of the Market Street Railway magazine Inside Track, reaching mailboxes now. It has been updated here.   By Carmen Clark, MSR Board Chair and Rick Laubscher, MSR President Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation (the top executive) of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is moving on from his post. His last day in the office was this week. We at Market Street Railway will greatly miss his… — Read More

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Boat Tram Still Sidelined

Update: 1928 Melbourne Tram 496 will continue to substitute for 1934 Blackpool (England) Boat Tram 228 on The Embarcadero Tuesday and Wednesday, July 16-17, while Muni maintenance crews analyze the problem with one of the motors or bearings. We will provide updates on the progress of fixing the boat tram as available. Muni Maintenance management tells us they will work to get the other Boat Tram, 233, operational for Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, should the problem with 228 be… — Read More

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Melbourne Tram Subs for Boat This Week

The popular 1934 Blackpool (England) open-topped “Boat Tram” encountered a problem at the end of its service week last Wednesday and is being worked on this week, so 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 will substitute for it on the special waterfront service Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Muni assures us they’ll make every effort to return Boat service as quickly as possible. The Melbourne tram is a sweet ride, and with windows that drop all the way… — Read More

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Showing Transit Pride

Check out this article in the San Francisco Examiner by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez about this Pride Month initiative taken on a personal basis by our board member, Chris Arvin. Chris’ design work is on display on our website in the engaging streetcar icons featured on the live streetcar map designed by fellow board member Kat Siegal. We offer stickers of those icons at our San Francisco Railway Museum and online store. A wide variety of Pride-related items, including tee shirts… — Read More

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