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 the team promoting this new technology, aimed at making horsecars obsolete.

The operator of the little car peered out over the edge of the steep hill and decided, “No.” As the story goes, Hallidie himself stepped up, gripped the wire rope, went down the hill safely, and the cable car was born.

Some historians argue over the details of that opening run, but we’re not going to get into that here. We’ll just say that the first line, on Clay Street, became part of a longer line in the late 1880s that ran one way on Clay and the other on Sacramento Street. At that point, it began being served by new single-end cable cars without the trailers you see in this engraving from Wikimedia Commons.

On April 18, 1906, earthquake and fire wiped out identical cable cars that served Powell Street, so the cars from the Sacramento-Clay line were moved to Powell, where many still run to this day. Larger double-end cable cars took over on the Sacramento-Clay line and lasted until 1942 when the line was shut. One of the last group of Sacramento-Clay cable cars (Car 19, built in 1907) has been restored, thanks in part to advocacy from Market Street Railway, and is stored upstairs in the cable car barn at Washington and Mason Streets. Downstairs, in the Cable Car Museum, the last surviving original car from the Clay Street Hill Railroad, Grip Car 8, is on display.

 

While you haven’t been able to ride a cable car on Clay Street for 76 years, you can still ride cable cars that ran on Clay Street back in the 1890s. Current Powell cable car 11 (above), built in 1893 by Carter Brothers and recently refurbished by Muni’s shops, ran on the Sacramento-Clay line until 1906, and was recently repainted into its original Sacramento-Clay livery from the 1890s at Market Street Railway’s suggestion.

The other surviving Powell cable cars that once ran on Clay Street include numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 17, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27. (Thanks to Joe Thompson’s Cable-Car-Guy website for the authoritative roster.) If you climb aboard any of these cars on the Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason lines today, you’re experiencing a connection back to the first street on which cable cars ever ran.

Happy 145th Anniversary of the first successful cable car system!

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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 picking up on the abbreviation of the operator (LARy), some folks call it “Larry” instead.

By whatever name, our network of relentless spies has been tracking the streetcar’s progress back to Muni. That photo collage on Facebook by Cary TIntle at the top captures the 1052 leaving Brookville (a charming small town, by the way) on July 19. Below, a shot crossing the wide open spaces of Iowa on July 21.

 

And finally, from MSR Member James Giraudo, who lives in Nevada, a shot of the car yesterday at a truck stop in Fallon.

We love the dedicated fans who provide all these great photos of streetcars on the move.

The truck that dropped off 1052 is picking up “Green Hornet” Car 1058 today, the last of the 13 single-end cars in this contract to go to Brookville. Of the original F-line fleet, only double-end Car 1007 remains in San Francisco, and it will head east when the next car at Brookville comes back. We’ll have more information about the double-end PCCs in this contract in a future post.

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Double Dose of Down Under This Weekend

UPDATE, Saturday July 21, 11:00 a.m. — Muni tests cars for a good reason before they enter service. The 916 developed a hot wheel bearing this morning and has safely returned to Cameron Beach Yard, where it will be fixed by the maintenance team.

The operating crew said the car ran like a dream from a propulsion and braking standpoint, and they’re excited about taking it out again soon, though it will almost certainly not be out Sunday, July 22.

We’ll let you know when the 916 will be out again. Meanwhile, enjoy Melbourne 496 this weekend.

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It’s shaping up as a special weekend on The Embarcadero July 21 and 22, as Melbourne trams built 18 years apart wish San Franciscans and visitors a double “G’Day”.

As our Members and friends know, Market Street Railway has been strongly advocating that Muni operate Melbourne W2 class tram 496 (built 1928) regularly on the E-line (it’s on the left in the photo above and in action on King Street, below).

Overcoming reluctance from some quarters inside Muni, the 496 has now been successfully operating on the E-line every day for some time, delighting passengers. It is scheduled to be on its regular runs this weekend, and you can ride it along the waterfront, AND on its end-of-day trip home to its “sleeping quarters”, Cameron Beach Yard (where the photo above was taken July 10) you can ride it out Market Street on the F-line and then down Church Street on the J-line to Balboa Park, for just the regular Muni fare, because all historic streetcars are in service until the reach the car barn.

This “pull-in” run for Car 496 should pass our San Francisco Railway Museum (Steuart Street stop) outbound on the F-line around 5:35 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, if it’s on schedule. You can check its whereabouts anytime via NextMuni, through this link.

But wait, there’s more.

[NOTE: See update above; this has changed.] Come down to The Embarcadero Saturday or Sunday and you’ll also see (but won’t yet be able to ride) 496’s baby brother, SW6 Class 916, built in 1946 (on the right in the top photo, and below). It has just completed protracted, on-and-off renovations and adaptation to San Francisco standards after being gifted to San Francisco in 2009, with Market Street Railway’s assistance. The gift came from the Victoria State Government in Australia, which owns the Melbourne trams. Both days, the 916 will leave Cameron Beach Yard around 6 a.m., run up and down The Embarcadero and perhaps down the T-line as far as Muni Metro East (at 25th Street), until around 5 p.m., when it will head home to Cameron Beach. The crew will checking systems and reliability before carrying its first paying passengers in San Francisco, which should happen in just a matter of weeks now.

 

We’ll let you know when the 916 is ready to launch into regular service, but for now, check out the waterfront this weekend for an extra taste of Melbourne!

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“Zurich” Car to Return To Service Soon?

Look what was testing in Cameron Beach Yard on Sunday (July 8).

Car 737, Muni’s lone European-style PCC streetcar has been out of service for some time. Built in 1952 for Brussels, Belgium, acquired by Muni in 2004, and painted (at then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s request) to honor San Francisco’s sister city of Zurich, Switzerland (which ran similar-looking cars) it has needed parts and maintenance attention. But when word came that the Mayor of Zurich was coming to San Francisco later this year, it suddenly got that attention. We watched it glide through the yard smoothly. This video shows it moving slowly along the ladder tracks, but when it did an acceleration test on 14 Track, it zipped right along.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll even see it in service on the F-line one of these days.

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Welcome Home, 162!

One of Muni’s original streetcars, Car 162, built in 1914 by the Jewett Car Company of Ohio, returned to San Francisco today following extensive accident repairs by the firm of Carlos Guzman, Inc. in Signal Hill, near Long Beach. The streetcar was badly damaged on January 4, 2014, when it collided with a semi-truck that ran a red light in front of the streetcar on The Embarcadero at Bay Street. Muni elected to send the car to a contractor for… — Read More

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Sayonara Cincinnati

PCC streetcar 1057, painted in tribute to Cincinnati, is on its way back to Brookville, Pennsylvania for a complete renovation, part of the contract to restore the 16 original F-line PCCs. Thanks to Allen Chan for the photo of it being loaded at Muni Metro East. In the foreground, Car 1010, a double-end PCC awaiting its own turn at Brookville. Next finished streetcar expected back should be 1052.  

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Sacramento Street on Powell!

Few people realize that most of the cable cars that run on the two Powell Street lines originally ran on Sacramento and Clay Streets. Before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the Sacramento-Clay line ran all the way from the Ferry Building to Golden Gate Park (at Sixth Avenue and Fulton). It shared ownership with the Powell lines. A number of new cable cars were locally built in 1893-94 by Carter Brothers to serve the Midwinter Fair in the Park. One… — Read More

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Brooklyn is Back!

The streetcars just keep on coming (and in one case, going back). PCC 1053, painted to honor Brooklyn NY, arrived back in San Francisco April 1 (no foolin’) after being thoroughly rebuilt at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, part of that company’s contract with Muni to renovate the 16 PCCs in Muni’s original F-line fleet. It was streetcars (or as they were often called in New York, trolleys) that famously inspired the nickname of Brooklyn’s professional baseball team, which was… — Read More

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Opening Day, with Car 1!

In a welcome surprise, Muni Operations assigned its flagship streetcar, vintage 1912 Car 1, to regular E-line service today, the first time that has happened since the E-line opened for seven-day service two years ago. It caught our usual coterie of fan-photographers off-guard, but we managed to catch a shot of it, above, pulling in to Muni Metro East at the end of the day. The special appearance was probably because of the Giants’ home opener at AT&T Park on… — Read More

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Another Rebuilt PCC Enters Service

The seventh PCC streetcar from the original 1995 F-line fleet reentered passenger service on this drizzly January 10, 2018, after successfully completing 1,000 miles of testing, It was then formally accepted by Muni from the restoration vendor, Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania. Car 1055, like the other 12 single-end PCCs in the contract, came to Muni from Philadelphia, where it operated for almost a half-century. While the other PCCs in that group are painted in tribute to some of the… — Read More

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Welcome Back, Cable Car 22!

The double-deuce hits the street Wednesday, November 29 after being out of service eight years! UPDATE 11/29: Turns out the November 29 runs were for advanced testing…stand by for an announcement on passenger service. Its failing frame and rotting wood were certainly entitled to take a few years off, for Car 22 (once 522) is one of the relatively few surviving original Ferries & Cliff House Railways Cars from 1887. It started on the vanished Sacramento-Clay line, but moved over to… — Read More

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Perfect November Saturday on the Waterfront

On a picture-perfect November Saturday morning, we were at Aquatic Park shooting some photos for a forthcoming feature in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track, about an exciting updated vision for extending streetcar service to western Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park, Municipal Pier, and Fort Mason. (Not a Member?  Join now and get the scoop on this.) Anyway, riding back on the F-line, we hopped off at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market for some shopping. Saw an E-line… — Read More

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Just Visiting

We stopped by Cameron Beach Yard this afternoon and what should be peeking out but the first of Muni’s new light rail vehicles, built by Siemens. Car 2001 was nestled in between 1914 Muni Car 130 (not visible, at right) and (visible to the left) 1952 Brussels, Belgium PCC 737. There are Bredas under the canopy as well, which Market Street Railway fought for ten years to have built to protect the most vulnerable historic streetcars, which were then based… — Read More

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Baltimore Blues

Of all the comments we’ve received about Muni’s restored PCC streetcars over the past 30 years, nothing comes close to carping about colors. “You’re half a shade off there, you know.” “I can’t believe you didn’t get that green right.” And on and on and on. Which is why you can call this a pre-emptive post. All you Baltimore Transit experts who look at the photos in this post with your fingers twitching to launch a tirade, step back from… — Read More

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The Lineup

Passing by Muni Metro East as today’s afternoon faded into evening, what should appear but a lineup representing 105 years of San Francisco transit history. Right to left, 1912 Car 1, the first publicly owned streetcar in America, getting ready to go out on a charter. Next to it, 1948 PCC 1015, signed for training duty. And then one of the new 2017 Siemens LRVs, number 2006, still being tested. Not something you can see in any other US transit… — Read More

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