Though it sits on the western edge of North America, San Francisco had always looked eastward – to its bay, rather than the vast Pacific. Its magnificent protected harbor had driven the City’s economy, and its population, since the Gold Rush of 1849. Residential neighborhoods gradually fanned out from the downtown core in the decades that followed. With the jobs clustered around the waterfront, residential growth followed the early transit lines that connected homes to those jobs.
When Muni’s T-Third light rail line opened in 2007, we asked Market Street Railway’s historian, Phil Hoffman, to share his childhood memories of the old Third Street streetcar operation, along with some history of the lines that ran there.
In our last post, we looked back on the last days of streetcar service on the B-Geary line. In this post — an updated version of a story that appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track — we take a broader look back at the demise of streetcars in San Francisco in general, including the original F-line.
A recent post over at the Transbay Blog on the old B-Geary streetcar line inspired us to republish and update the following story from our Fall 2002 member newsletter, Inside Track. In a previous issue, we had looked at the decisions made — and not made — that doomed streetcar service on the original F-line (today’s 30-Stockton bus) and the old H-line (on Van Ness and Potrero Avenues). Their demise at the beginning of the 1950s left San Francisco with just seven streetcar lines, down from a high of around 50. And the clock was ticking for two of them…
The O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line was the last complete cable car route built in San Francisco, opening in 1891. By rule, anytime a new cable car line crossed an existing one, the cable of the new line had to be routed beneath the older line’s cable.That meant that operators gripping the new line had to drop (“let go”) their cable at such crossings. The O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line had 22 cable drops on a round trip. That’s why this 1901 poem by Gellet Burgess says “You are apt to earn your wages, on the Hyde Street Grip.”
If you’re of a certain age, it was like a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland movie. Or, if you’re of a certain younger age, it was like Disney’s High School Musical. You know, “Let’s get the kids together and put on a show”—the innocence of youth not understanding the challenges that could get in the way, but cheerfully conquering those that did.
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