Sadly, Covid-19 caused cancellation of the 2020 Muni Heritage Weekend, but we can still look back. The first actual Heritage Weekend was in 2013, an outgrowth of the 2012 Muni Centennial Weekend. And Market Street Railway made sure it kicked off with a bang, delivering a second Blackpool Boat Tram to Muni all the way from England, thanks to the generous support of the Thoresen Foundation and shipping help from FedEx.
We took some video of both the inspection and operation of Boat Tram 233 at the Beamish Museum in northern England, where it was on loan from its then-owner, and of its very first operation in San Francisco, a trip from Cameron Beach Yard to our San Francisco Railway Museum on November 1, 2013, for Muni Heritage Weekend.
While you can’t ride a real boat tram here today, you can share virtual rides on two continents! Click the image below and enjoy!
The very popular annual Muni Heritage Weekend is being postponed at least into spring of 2021. No exact date has yet been sent for the rescheduled event.
The postponement has seemed inevitable for weeks, given the course of Covid-19 through San Francisco, and the enduring shelter-in-place orders. SFMTA and Market Street Railway, which co-sponsor the event, agreed this week that it was not feasible to hold it on August 22-23, its scheduled 2020 dates. As a result, we’ve jointly set a goal of holding the event next spring on a weekend to be determined.
These levels of service restoration would be implemented in concert with improved public health and business conditions, which will drive service demand. Rail service is scheduled to resume in Level 4, coincident with “Schools Open” among other milestones. That won’t happen before August. The final level, 6, occurs with “end of crisis; large events and tourism returns; increased demand for travel to downtown”. Again, no date on this.
Social distancing guidelines on Muni transit vehicles are very likely to still be in place this August, as are prohibitions of gatherings of 50 or more people. Even if the virus were to fade faster than currently anticipated, it would take longer than the three months between now and August 22-23 for Muni to properly organize and staff for the event.
While the postponement of Heritage Weekend is disappointing to all, it is in tune with the cancellation of myriad events that attract crowds. In a way, it may present an opportunity at the same time.
It has been harder to find workable dates for Heritage Weekend the past few years, as special events in the fall have proliferated, putting more demands on Muni to provide operators and work around street closures for races, Giants games, and the like. We (Market Street Railway) have been contemplating whether spring would be a better time. This looks like a chance to find out.
Meanwhile, streetcars continue to pop up periodically on the streets, either on operator training or testing missions. Pat Garvey posted the photo above to our Market Street Railway Facebook group the other day, with PCC “Green Hornet” 1058 out for exercise on Market Street, passing two masked bicyclists.
Market Street Railway will continue to press for the earliest feasible return to the streets for San Francisco’s historic streetcars and cable cars, consistent with operator and passenger safety. And we will be working with SFMTA to make the next Muni Heritage Weekend the best ever.
SFMTA has confirmed to us that Muni Heritage Weekend in 2020 will take place August 22-23. This is earlier than the past few years and should give opportunities for more families from out of town to attend. We expect a repeat of past years’ successful events, featuring streetcars, cable cars, and buses from 70-137 years old carrying happy riders along the streets of San Francisco, with our San Francisco Railway Museum at the center of the action.
There are constraints on when this increasingly popular event to be scheduled. To ensure sufficient extra operators to pilot the heritage streetcars and buses, it can’t conflict with special events that require extra Muni service, such as Giants’ baseball games or major festivals. The plaza across from our Museum must be available from the city’s Recreation & Parks Department for staging and static displays, and plaza reservations didn’t open until a couple of weeks ago. And it must not conflict with periods when it is hard to get extra operators to work overtime, such as Labor Day Weekend.
One September weekend, the 19th and 20th, would have met these criteria, but that is Rosh Hashanah, and we and SFMTA agreed on the August 22-23 dates instead. The traction action runs from 11 am – 5 pm both Saturday and Sunday.
Folks coming from out of town can plan their visit with confidence now. We will be providing updates in the coming months on details of the event as we flesh out the activities. But there’ll be plenty to do; count on it. We will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the permanent F-line on Market Street and the 20th anniversary of its extension to Fisherman’s Wharf, so look for some special activities. We’ll also have some special activities for our members, particularly those in the Operator’s Circle ($250 or more in annual support). Stand by!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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… — Read More
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… — Read More
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
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
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
The premier vintage transit event of the year, Muni Heritage Weekend, happens September 7-8 this year. Rides will be offered each day from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. For the first time, this popular event, co-sponsored by SFMTA and Market Street Railway, will kick off San Francisco Transit Week, an event co-sponsored by SFMTA and the San Francisco Transit Riders organization (SFTR). Details are still being finalized, but for Heritage Weekend at least, you can expect, at a minimum, several… — Read More