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Historic Streetcars Move Back Home Tonight

After four years camping out unprotected at Muni Metro East, just off Third Street in Dogpatch, Muni’s historic fleet moves back to its regular home at Cameron Beach Yard at Geneva and San Jose Avenues in the Excelsior District tonight.

On June 21, 2014, the streamlined PCC streetcars were moved out of Cameron Beach Yard, the former Geneva Division, which has housed San Francisco streetcars since 1900. This was done in order to replace all the track across the street at the Curtis E. Green Light Rail Facility, which houses more than half of Muni’s LRVs (modern streetcars). To allow the contractor to replace the Green Division track, many of the LRVs normally stored there were moved to Cameron Beach for the duration, which in turn shoved the historic cars to Muni Metro East, where there was more room.

That track replacement job was supposed to take 18 months. Almost four years to the day, the PCCs are finally returning home. Contracting delays have been cited for the cars’ prolonged absence.

We will have a detailed story on the exile of the historic fleet in the upcoming issue of our member magazine, Inside Track. (You can join Market Street Railway if you’re not already a member and receive this great quarterly magazine.)

But this is an alert to photographers and fans that all cars on the E- and F-lines today will pull into Cameron Beach Yard instead of Muni Metro East at the conclusion of their scheduled runs. This includes both PCCs and Milan trams. Other operable cars will be moved one at a time either today or over the weekend, so keep your eyes open for action along the J-line, which will again be the route the streetcars use going to and from their storage and maintenance facility, replacing the T-line route used through Mission Bay to access Muni Metro East.

And good news: as we have advocated for, vintage streetcars entering or leaving F- and E-line service WILL carry passengers on their way to and from Cameron Beach. Muni announced this yesterday.

As the streetcars travel to and from Cameron Beach to the start and end of their route, they will be running in revenue service. This means they will be picking up and dropping off passengers along the J Church route between Balboa Park and Church and 17th Street in the early morning and evening.

If any of you experience a vintage streetcar passing you by on the J-line on its pull-in or pull-out trips, please let us know at [email protected]  We want to make sure these cars provide all the service that’s promised.  Thanks, and welcome home, vintage fleet!

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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 of them was Car 511.

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, the 511 was one of a couple of dozen Sacramento-Clay cable cars resting in a car barn on outer Sacramento Street. These cable cars were spared the flames that engulfed the original Powell Street fleet of identical cars at Washington and Mason Streets. Rebuilding the system in the aftermath, the Sacramento-Clay cable cars became Powell Street cable cars, replaced on a portion of that line by double-end cable cars rebuilt from cable cars salvaged from Market Street service. (Electric streetcars took over Market Street and the flatter, outer portions of the Sacramento-Clay line.)

Car 511 (renumbered to 11 in the 1970s) soldiered on for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st in different liveries (paint schemes), but when it came time last year to freshen up the 11, Cable Car Superintendent Ed Cobean asked Market Street Railway what would be an appropriate livery for this car in its 125th year of service. We suggested its original Sacramento-Clay livery of Tuscan Red with tan and white trim, with the rocker panel on the side emblazoned with the name of its original owner (which happens to be an early company that bears our non-profit’s name). Ed graciously agreed, and the cable car body shop and painters did a beautiful job on the car, which went back into service today, with Val Lupiz gripping.

Jeremy Whiteman captured this fabulous photo at the Hyde and Beach turntable.  He has contributed many great photos to our organization, especially its annual calendar (we expect the 2019 calendar in our museum and online in June).

The 1890s Sacramento-Clay livery on Car 11 brings to ten the number of Powell cable cars that now wear heritage liveries seen on these cable cars over the past 130 years, since the Powell lines first went into service in 1888. Our nonprofit is proud to have taken a leading role in bringing these liveries back to life, adding authentic color to the iconic cable cars. In coming months, we’ll be talking more about advocating for further improvements to the irreplaceable cable car system.

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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 the E-line. The team is celebrating its 60th year in San Francisco. When the Giants arrived in 1958, Car 1 had already been retired from its first operating life for seven years and was sitting on a dark pier, its motors removed, marked for static display in a museum that never came to pass.

But Car 1 got a second life in 1962 when it was restored by Muni craftsworkers to commemorate Muni’s 50th anniversary. (That of course was the year that the Giants WOULDA won the World Series IF ONLY Willie McCovey had hit that line drive a foot higher or to the right of Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Candlestick, but we digress.)

Today, as for the past two seasons, E-line cars like 1011 (above) carried lots of happy fans between Fisherman’s Wharf and the game. It and other Muni streetcars on the E-and F-lines carried special Giants’ 60th Anniversary flags today, supplied by our generous volunteer James Giraudo and installed at 2 a.m. by the dedicated Joe Hickey, who oversees our flag program. Like the rest of us, Joe didn’t know Car 1 was going into service, so it didn’t have the flags on it, but it hit a home run anyway. (So did two Giants, Joe Panik and Evan Longoria, but the home team lost anyway, 6-4 to Seattle.)

By the way, the Giants flags also appropriately appeared on Powell Cable Car 24, which is dedicated to the greatest Giant, Willie Mays. Val Lupiz did a dandy job decorating Car 24 with help from James Giraudo, Jeremy Whiteman, and Frank Zepeda!

Discussion at the ball park today centered around some major league “firsts” set over the weekend, which got us to wondering whether this was the first time in its 105-year life that Car 1 had carried fans to a baseball opening day. The answer? Probably.

In 1914, the San Francisco Seals moved to a brand new ball park, Ewing Field, on Masonic Avenue. Muni built a spur track from Geary Street along Masonic to serve the new ball park, and assigned some runs of the A-line to Ewing on game days. No run assignments survive from those days, but Car 1 was based at Geary Division, just three blocks away, in 1914, so it’s at least a possibility it served Ewing Field for that year’s opening game (which the Seals lost to Oakland, 3-0). The photo below shows a Muni streetcar of Car 1’s type (possibly Car 1 itself) on the A-line at the Ferry Building with a “Ball Park” designation on the dash. The “1915” on the Ferry Building tower signifies the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but the photo was taken during the 1914 baseball season, and the “ball park” reference is to Ewing Field.

Ewing Field was a disaster for baseball, even foggier and windier than Candlestick was in later decades, so the Seals moved back to Recreation Park at 15th and Valencia Streets in 1915 (served by United Railroads/Market Street Railway streetcar lines, but not Muni lines). Muni’s investment in the Masonic Avenue spur turned out to be largely a waste, as it was never again used in revenue service and largely torn out by the late 1930s.

The Seals stayed at Recreation Park until 1931 when they moved to a new Seals Stadium at 16th and Bryant. Market Street Railway streetcars on the 22 and 25 lines served Seals Stadium directly, while Muni’s H-Potrero line was a block east. Car 1 operated on the H-line in the late 1910s and early 1920s out of Potrero Division, but it was back at Geary Division and usually assigned to the F-Stockton, D-Van Ness, or C-Geary-California, so it probably never made a Seals Stadium opening day. (The Giants played their first two seasons at Seals Stadium while Candlestick Park was being built. Millions of fans over Candlestick’s 40 year history as the home of the Giants took Muni diesel buses to the games.)

Market Street Railway is proud to count the San Francisco Giants as one of our business supporters. Play ball! Go Giants!

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Kids Priced Out of Cable Car Experience?

The very good Chronicle columnist, Heather Knight, raises a provocative question today, one that we have raised before.

In her column (which is behind a paywall, so we’re excerpting it below), she notes that many kids today are denied the unique experience of a cable car ride due to cost. Cable cars have fares separate from all other Muni services — and much higher. For example, to get from Downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf on an F-line historic streetcar would cost a family of four (two adults and two children five or older) $8.20 if they paid in cash on the streetcar or $7.50 using Muni Mobile. Riding a cable car between the same two points would cost that family $28.00 — more than three times as much. That’s because cable car fares are a flat $7.00 one way for anyone over 4 years old. And no transfers, either.

Here are some excerpts from Knight’s column:

Pretty much everything related to raising kids in San Francisco is too expensive. From buying a house to renting an apartment to affording groceries and child care, it all adds up. And up and up.

The fares for those charming symbols of San Francisco that climb halfway to the stars, as Tony Bennett so famously crooned, have blasted through the stratosphere. And unlike the rest of Muni’s public transportation system, there aren’t discounts for kids ages 5 to 18. Or transfers to get you back for free within 90 minutes…

Yes, to ride the cable cars from Powell and Market Streets to Fisherman’s Wharf and back just because it’s fun for kids and a quaint part of our city’s history will set that family back $56…

San Francisco isn’t even nickel-and-diming us anymore. Is “dollaring” a word? When it comes to City Hall and its fees, it should be.

“It’s extremely expensive,” acknowledged John Haley, director of transit for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “You can either eat for a day, feed your kids or ride the cable cars.”

Me? I’ll feed my kids.

Haley didn’t try to justify the fares, though he said the agency’s board is looking at a variety of fare adjustments. Revenue on the cable cars has actually dropped since the fare went up. I’m no economist, but gee, maybe the price should be lowered?…

Haley noted that operating the historic cable cars is very expensive and that while city residents with Clipper cards do ride the California line in big numbers, the Powell lines are used almost entirely by tourists ‘with fistfuls of money waiting to get on.’

Hmmm. Not the most visitor friendly comment we’ve heard lately, and sadly, it seems to show a management attitude that sees the cable cars as something other than an integral part of the Muni network. Haley also seemed to shrug off the long lines at the cable car turntables caused by layovers well in excess of what Muni’s labor contract stipulates.  “Schedule adherence is an issue for us,” Haley told Knight.

Back to Knight’s column:

As loyal readers of this column know, my 4-year-old is obsessed with all things Muni. Well, nearly all things Muni. The buses, the subway trains, the F-car? You bet. The cable cars? He’s ridden those maybe once or twice ever. While he’s free until his next birthday, it would still cost $42 for his older brother, my husband and me to ride with him round-trip…Muni should start giving free cable car rides to kids under 12 so long as they’re with a paying adult with proof of city residency.

The idea came from an email I received in response to the column on riding every Muni bus line in one day. David Kiely is a father of three boys and a South of Market resident.

‘It’s come up, more than once, that our kids have never ridden a cable car,’ Kiely wrote, noting his family is priced out and that kids shouldn’t be charged the full rate. ‘It’s a little thing that would mean a lot.’

Stacey Randecker Bartlett, a Potrero Hill mom of two kids, thinks all public transit in the city should be free for all kids. But a $14 round-trip ride on a cable car even for kids as young as 5?

“That’s insane,” she said.

She said San Francisco needs to decide whether the cable cars are purely a tourist attraction, in which case they should be removed from control of Muni and marketed as an amusement ride. Or if they’re actually public transportation, in which local families shouldn’t be charged the equivalent of a nice meal for riding.

“You just told that family, ‘Get in a car, get in an Uber, get in a Lyft, get in a taxi,’” she said. “For that rate, you could drive a family and park in the most pricey Union Square garage.”

To be fair, the free Muni program for low-income youth does allow them to ride cable cars for free, too. But it seems ridiculous that all other city kids have to pay $14 for a round-trip.

If Muni deems free cable car rides for all city kids unworkable, why not give discounts to San Francisco residents, like so many other tourist attractions do? Coit Tower’s elevator ride to the top costs $8 for non-resident adults and $6 for city residents. Kids ages 5 to 11 are charged just $2.

I finally took the boys there for the first time on Sunday (on the 39-Coit, of course), and the views were gorgeous. You can’t see dirty needles or smell urine from that high up. My 4-year-old peered out the windows on his tiptoes and said, “Let’s look for Muni buses!” The Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Botanical Gardens all offer reduced or free admission for residents, too.

Justin Bass would support the change. The Lower Pacific Heights resident also has a 4-year-old Muni-obsessed son. His boy, Quincy, had a Muni-themed birthday party, spends his free time either riding buses or tracking them on the Next Bus app, and knows the names of his favorite drivers. There’s Keith from the 24-Divisadero, Ramsey from the 44-O’Shaughnessy and Shalisha from the 1-California.

But he doesn’t know the names of any cable car gripmen because he hardly ever rides cable cars. Let’s change that, shall we?

Yes. Let’s change that. Market Street Railway is letting Ms. Knight know we support her idea. Muni uncoupled cable car fares from bus and streetcar fares 35 years ago now, and has seemingly not missed an opportunity to squeeze more revenue from the cables. We’ve advocated for many years for lower cable car fares, especially for kids, because it has seemed to us that high fares discourage many families from getting that unique experience. But also, from the local angle, it’s critical that kids growing up in the Bay Area today be acquainted with all modes of public transit, the better to become regular users and advocates when they grow up. And currently, cable car fares that are more than five times higher than the kids’ fare on any other Muni vehicle discourages those kids from embracing this central part of our city’s transit heritage.

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Tunnel Vision

Note: This is a edited version of a story by MSR President Rick Laubscher from the most recent issue of our Member magazine, Inside Track. We generally don’t share exclusive member content on our blog, but are making an exception in this case for the tunnel’s centennial. You can join Market Street Railway and get this magazine with great stories four times a year.  (By the way, if you’re reading this on our main page, we recommend you click on the title… — Read More

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Boat Cruising This Weekend!

In a welcomed decision, Muni has launched one of the 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” to help carry crowds along The Embarcadero enjoying Fleet Week 2017! Open-topped boat Tram 228 will be shuttling between The Ferry Building and our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8 from 11 am to 6 pm. Come out and enjoy a ride. Thanks to Muni for operating it on one of the most warm and beautiful weekends of… — Read More

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Best Muni Heritage Weekend Ever!

It had more vintage vehicles, more riders, and more fun than ever. We’re talking about the sixth annual Muni Heritage Weekend September 9-10, 2017. It also had some of the best photos we’ve seen over the years. The great one above, showing Martin (3) and Catherine (2) Andreev looking out the back window of 1950 trolley coach 776, is from Amy Osborne, part of a great photo essay she put together on sfgate.com. Great news pieces from Sal Casteneda on… — Read More

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Muni Bus Centennial Celebrated at Heritage Weekend

Muni operated its first bus on September 1, 1917. Their ace archivist and photographer, Jeremy Menzies, put together a great post with lots of photos that’s definitely worth a look. We got a bit of a head start on the Muni bus centennial with an exhibit we opened in March at our San Francisco Railway Museum, telling the story of how buses came to replace streetcars as the city’s dominant transit vehicle. It’s still up, and it’s one more reason… — Read More

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84% Support Historic Streetcars

In the increasingly frothy world of online media, we’ve noticed a definite increase in stories designed to create a controversy where there really isn’t one. With today’s frantic competition for eyeballs, competitors will often build on each other’s story without doing any actual, you know, reporting. (Not that this is just an online media thing; who of a certain age can forget the Chronicle’s “crusade” against bad coffee half a century ago, under the unforgettable headline, “A Great City’s People… — Read More

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No F-line Streetcars on the 4th of July

We received this notification from Muni: The F Market will be motorized all day and around 3PM, it will have a reroute short of Pier 39 at Bay Street given the street closures. The E line will operate with streetcars until about 2PM, when they will pull-in and be replaced by motorcoaches. So Muni Operations has decided that E-line streetcars can run until 2 pm, but that F-line streetcars somehow cannot run at all on the 4th, even from Castro… — Read More

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Pittsburgh in Nevada, Inbound

This photo just in from DF Baker in our Market Street Railway Facebook group shows the latest restored PCC from Brookville Equipment Company headed back to San Francisco. It’s Car 1062, freshly repainted to honor Pittsburgh Railways Company. (The PRC logo will be applied after it gets to San Francisco. The photo was taken at a truck stop Mill City, Nevada, between Winnemucca and Reno. The car could arrive in San Francisco Sunday. Once it’s unloaded, Car 1053 will be… — Read More

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Muni Heritage Weekend Confirmed for Sept. 9-10

  Mark it down in ink. Muni’s annual Heritage Weekend has now been confirmed for September 9-10, 2017. This year marks the centennial of Muni as a bus operator, and we will be working with Muni to showcase several of its historic buses, in addition to the usual array of special vintage streetcars and cable cars that will operate that weekend. Operating hours will be 10 a.m. until about 5 p.m.  The action will be centered again around our San… — Read More

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Welcome Back, Harvey Milk’s Streetcar!

The streetcar honoring Harvey Milk, civil rights icon and transit advocate, was rededicated in a ceremony at the Castro Street F-line terminal on Wednesday, March 15. Car 1051, looking factory fresh, was on display at the spare track next to Jane Warner Plaza while a parade of speakers, led by district Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, paid tribute to Harvey Milk — and to Muni’s parent, SFMTA, and Market Street Railway for their respective roles in keeping the F-line up to date.… — Read More

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First Rebuilt PCC, Honoring Harvey Milk, to be Welcomed Back March 15

  The first of 16 PCC streetcars to go back into service following a complete rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15 at the F-line terminal on 17th Street at Castro and Market. Streetcar 1051 will be rededicated to Harvey Milk, to whom it was originally dedicated in 2009. The streetcar contains informational displays, prepared by Market Street Railway, celebrating Harvey Milk not only as a pioneering openly gay elected official… — Read More

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“Service Improvement” on the F-line? You decide.

If you’re riding the F-line this sunny Saturday morning, you’ll find fewer streetcars out there, and longer wait times. But not to worry, it’s a “service improvement.”  Who says so? Muni. Muni’s parent, SFMTA, sent out a blog post entitled “More Muni Forward Service Improvements Roll Out”. The F-line is mentioned. But when you click through to the story, it’s, well, a different story. After listing other “improvements” (including cutting back a major crosstown bus line to eliminate transfers to the… — Read More

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