Close to 10,000 smiling people showed up to give some love to San Francisco’s transit history over the weekend of September 23-24. The tenth Muni Heritage celebration was the biggest yet, drawing families from the City and around the Bay, and transit fans from around the nation and even from overseas.
The family-friendly Muni Heritage Weekend lets you ride vintage streetcars and buses and special cable cars that rarely operate. The world’s oldest cable car (1883), one of the oldest electric streetcars (1896), the very first streetcar Muni owned (1912), and the wildly popular English open-top “Boat Tram” (1934) will all be carrying passengers between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24.
The 1934 English “Boat Tram” is Muni’s most popular streetcar. But due to a variety of circumstances, including what Muni leader Julie Kirschbaum says is an ongoing shortage of trained operators, it didn’t carry any passengers this year until September 12-13 (Sunday-Monday). Instead, vintage Milan and Melbourne trams have been alternating on Sundays and Mondays carrying people along the northern Embarcadero between Pier 39 and the Ferry Building (with an additional stop at our San Francisco Railway Museum).
The wait was worth it. Thirty months of pandemic, service shutdowns, and struggles to get F-line and cable car service going again. After all that, it was time for a celebration. Thousands of San Franciscans and visitors agreed, coming out on June 4 to ride or watch vintage streetcars, unique cable cars, and Muni buses spanning 60 years of service.
Ride Muni’s very first streetcar, built in 1912. Ride an even older streetcar that looks like a cable car, built in 1896. Ride two unique cable cars, from lines that disappeared in 1942 and 1954. Ride Muni’s brand-newest cable car, an incredible piece of the carpenter’s art. Ride a 1928 tram from Melbourne, the 88-year old open-top “boat tram” from England, a 1950s “EuroPCC”. And, for the first time since the pandemic started, a popular tram from Milan will operate. All on Muni’s own tracks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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