Melbourne Tram Subs for Boat This Week

The popular 1934 Blackpool (England) open-topped “Boat Tram” encountered a problem at the end of its service week last Wednesday and is being worked on this week, so 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 will substitute for it on the special waterfront service Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Muni assures us they’ll make every effort to return Boat service as quickly as possible.

The Melbourne tram is a sweet ride, and with windows that drop all the way down and an open center section, it provides great views and a breezy ride too. Come take a cruise, on the “Wonder from Down Under”.

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Great Start to Summer Boat Service

The first day of summer boat tram service, May 28, went very well. Some highlights:

  • The Boat ran great, the banners Market Street Railway prepared looked great; thanks to Randy Catanach’s rail maintenance crew.
  • The operating crew (Angel Carvajal and Juiel Rice) were great with riders, very welcoming.
  • Market Street Railway had docents on board all day answering questions.
  • Loads were good all day; full both directions on final few trips.
  • Lots of waves and positive feedback from onlookers all along the way, plus endless photos.
  • Quite a few people came into our museum and asked us when the boat would next be there.

Until this boat tram is updated with a low-voltage power supply, there’s no Muni GPS on the tram, so it doesn’t show up on Muni’s NextBus map. (The other boat tram, which Market Street Railway acquired for Muni in 2013, has already been updated with low-voltage, but is out of service this summer getting new wheels).

So, as an experiment, Market Street Railway has purchased a battery-powered consumer GPS unit, which should arrive later this week. We’re going to see if we can get it to shop up on our own live streetcar map.  We’ll let you know if we can get it working.

Meanwhile, come out every Tuesday and Wednesday through Labor Day to ride the boat. The first run from the Ferry Building will head for the Wharf about 11 a.m. Service will wrap up at about 5.

We’ll have a full report about the boat launch, with more great photos, in our member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in June.

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Boat Tram About to Land

In this fantasy composite by Traci Cox, Boat Tram 228 approaches the Ferry Building in a different way, with Muni’s Robert Parks (lower right) overseeing training as usual.

You may have already caught a glimpse of it along the J-line, or Market Street, or The Embarcadero, this week. Here are a couple of shots from Jeremy Whiteman’s Behind the Lens Facebook Group.

Headed downtown on Church Street, in Noe Valley. Jeremy Whiteman Photo.


Looping back at Pier 39. Note the Jolly Roger, traditional to this car, on the trolley rope at rear. Jeremy Whiteman photo.

Blackpool, England Boat Tram 228 is celebrating its 85th birthday this year by taking San Franciscans and visitors for a cruise along our waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero, from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 (gateway to Fisherman’s Wharf) starting the day after Memorial Day. The past few days, they’ve been training crews to operate it.

The boat will sail from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday, the two days of the week that Muni is able to provide operators right now. The last stop coming back will be our San Francisco Railway Museum (the Steuart Street stop on the F-line). The Chronicle’s SF Gate website gave it a nice writeup.

Our nonprofit (Market Street Railway) brought two of these boat trams to San Francisco and gave them to Muni (the other one is getting new wheels this summer). We appreciate Muni Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum launching the boat for the summer season. It will run at least through Labor Day and on Muni Heritage Weekend (September 7-8). We hope to keep it running a month longer, through Fleet Week. The best way to make that happen is to come down on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a ride (at regular Muni fares). Tuesdays are Ferry Building Farmers’ Market days, a bonus attraction. Wednesdays will feature the Off the Grid food trucks in the plaza opposite our museum (starting June 5). Great place to grab delicious food.

Because Tram 228 is still in its original 1934 state, it doesn’t have built-in GPS to show where it is on our live streetcar map. We have ordered a commercial GPS tracker in hopes that we can get it to interface with the map. If we can get it to work, it could be in place in time for the second week of operation. We’ll keep you updated on that.

Meantime, we really want your photos of the boat in action with crowds aboard. Post on Twitter, tagged #whereistheboat, and follow us at @sfmsr on Twitter and sfmsr on Instagram.

With your support, we can get the boats on track more often to delight more San Franciscans and visitors. (Psst: Making even a small donation to Market Street Railway would really help too.)

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Sail the Boat Starting May 28

As a Summer gift to San Francisco, Muni will be operating the fabulous Blackpool Boat Tram in regular service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting May 28. The special service will last at least through Labor Day, perhaps longer, running from the Ferry Building to Pier 39, adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf along The Embarcadero. (The Pier 39 terminal will allow more trips per day, avoiding the long queue of E- and F-line regular service streetcars taking their layover at Jones Street.)

UPDATE, MAY 20: The boat WILL operate May 28-29, even though the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line will be shut down from May 25-June 2 due to construction. Come out and ride!

The first stop toward the Wharf will be in front of the Ferry Building. The last stop coming back will be the Steuart Street stop in front of our San Francisco Railway Museum. The boat should start service around 11 a.m. and run until at least 5 p.m. We’ll provide details on exact operating hours when we have them. Regular Muni fares will apply ($2.75 adult cash, various discounts explained here).

Blackpool, England built 12 of these magical open-topped streetcars in 1934, to run along the Irish Sea Promenade. They still operate three of them; Market Street Railway brought two to San Francisco 30 years apart as gifts to Muni. This summer’s boat will be Car 228, which came to San Francisco in 1984. Our second boat, Car 233, is having new wheels fitted this summer, so in case 228 needs a break, one of Muni’s two Melbourne trams (also acquired by Market Street Railway) — Car 496 (built 1928) or Car 916 (built 1946) will substitute. With side windows dropped, the Melbourne trams are close to a boat-like experience themselves.

The special service has been arranged by SFMTA’s Acting Director of Transit, Julie Kirschbaum, to whom, many thanks. Show your support for the boats by coming out and riding.

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The E is Back!

After a hiatus caused by project work on two of Muni’s light rail lines, the E-Embarcadero line has returned to service. Nice writeup in the SFMTA blog. Show your support for the E-line! Take a ride anywhere between Caltrain and Fisherman’s Wharf along the waterfront, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. We’re going to be strengthening our advocacy to expand the hours of service and extend the line to Aquatic Park and then to Fort Mason Center.

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Thank a Muni Operator Today

Today is Transit Drivers’ Appreciation Day. It’s a hard job, and it has gotten harder over the past decade with the increase in traffic on our streets. Muni has painted more “red carpet” lanes for their vehicles’ (and taxis’) exclusive use, but many automobile drivers ignore them. If you have a favorite SFMTA operator, one you think provides good service and makes your day a little easier, fill out a commendation form. It just takes a couple of minutes. Or… — Read More

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E-line Outage Extended Through April

The E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line will now not return to service until about April 28. The E-line has been temporarily shut down since late January as Muni constructs a long center platform on Third Street opposite Chase Center, the new Golden State Warriors arena opening this fall.  The E-line streetcars don’t use that track, but Muni Operations said they needed to divert the E-line’s operators to drive some of the substitute T-line buses. Other Muni lines also “contributed” drivers to… — Read More

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John Haley Leaves Muni

UPDATED, OCTOBER 27 John Haley, Director of Transit for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (de facto equivalent to general manager of Muni), left the agency October 26, according to this story by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez in the San Francisco Examiner. Haley had been in the position for eight years, a long tenure by transit industry standards. His departure was announced by SFMTA as a retirement, though the article states that he was under pressure to leave following a series… — Read More

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Ride Hyde the Way it Used to Be!

From 1891 to 1954, double-end cable cars, almost identical to those on California Street, rambled from Market & O’Farrell streets through Union Square, the Tenderloin, and over Nob and Russian Hills to reach Hyde and Beach Streets near Aquatic Park. The City killed the inner part of that line and combined the outer part with one of the Powell Street cable lines to create the Powell-Hyde line in 1957. Now as a special event for San Francisco history buffs and… — Read More

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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.… — Read More

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Buses on F-line, No E-line Sunday, June 24

The Pride Parade has been San Francisco’s summer kickoff celebration for more than decades now, with huge throngs lining Market Street to watch almost 300 parade units go by. Back in the 1980s, historic streetcars were actually part of the parade, shown here in 1983, as a Blackpool boat tram and Muni’s famed Car 1 participated. The boat tram’s authentic destination sign seemed particularly appropriate. This year, though, streetcars will be completely absent from the parade route, not only for the duration… — Read More

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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… — Read More

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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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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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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… — Read More

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