Art Curtis, 1940-2020

Art Curtis shares a piece of memorabilia with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Mayor Ed Lee at the celebration of Muni’s centennial at our San Francisco Railway Museum, April 28, 2012.

Art Curtis passed away on June 20, 2020 at 11:11am. He fought a coura- geous fight with brain cancer, diagnosed in 2018. Art was given three months to live, but willed himself to reach his 80th birthday, and did on June 8! His niece, Kathleen Morelock, informed Art’s many friends of his passing, and shared a dream Art’s sister Kathie had the night before: “Uncle Art came to the bedroom door…took her hand, and they flew together throughout our beautiful city of San Francisco where we all grew up, visiting all the places he loved.”

Market Street Railway’s Corporate Secretary and member of our Board of Directors for almost 20 years, Art was a legend for his 37-career at Muni, culminating as Chief Inspector up to his retirement in 1998. Here is a wonderful detailed obituary, recounting his many and varied interests and life experiences. We are honored that Art selected Market Street Railway as a charity where well-wishers can send donations. We will recognize every giver here.

We also published a tribute to Art in our quarterly magazine for members, Inside Track, at the printer now and in the mail in about 10 days. In the next two weeks, we will be posting a couple of Art’s great stories that he shared with our members in past issues of Inside Track. So please check back.

Services for Art have been deferred until it is safe to gather. It is a testament to Art’s determination that he could set – and achieve – what doctors thought was an unrealistic goal of reaching his 80th birthday. As Muni historic streetcar trainer Robert Parks noted, “He was too much of a professional to be late for his final pull-in. Two bells, Chief.” 

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A familiar (if brief) clang

Wes Valaris says it warmed his heart. Wes is the cable car superintendent, and in our eyes he’s been doing a fantastic job burnishing the historic aspects of this most historic transit operation. But the test ride he took last Friday (April 17) was unlike anything in his career.

With the cables silent and the cars in the barn for more than a month now, the great maintenance crew has been catching up on a long backlog of restoration and preservation projects for the little cars at the cable car barn in Chinatown (Washington and Mason Streets).

There are hi-tech projects too, believe it or not, including the refitting of required security cameras on cars as they’re repaired. Last Friday, the maintenance team finished replacing the roof of Powell Cable Car 3 (pictured above in normal times at Hyde and Lombard last September). But they couldn’t certify the system until the cable car moved along a line. So they cranked up the Hyde Street cable and made a couple of round trips from the barn to Aquatic Park.

There were only four people on the car to ensure physical distancing, and of course no tourists lined up like they were last September in that photo. No, what greeted the cable car crew along the way were San Franciscans. Walking their dogs. Leaning out of windows. Waving. Smiling. “It seemed to lift people’s spirits,” Wes said. “Just a moment of normalcy.”

More repaired and restored cable cars are going to have to be tested in the coming weeks (just as some of the historic streetcars have been). So, folks along the cable car lines may occasionally hear that familiar clang again. It may be quite a long time until the little cars can come back full time — operator and passenger safety are paramount of course — but these “curtain calls” can remind us that they WILL come back. They’re rarin’ to go!

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Muni Heritage Weekend Sept. 7-8

L-R, Marmon-Herrington trolley coach 776 (1950), Muni streetcar number 1 (1912), and White Motor Company gasoline bus 042 (1938), all of which spent their entire careers at Muni, are expected to carry passengers during Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8.

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 rarely-seen vintage streetcars to offer free rides from our San Francisco Railway Museum to Fisherman’s Wharf and back, including:  Muni 1 (1912); Market Street Railway “Dinky” 578 (1896); Melbourne 916 (1946, pending resolution of a persistent bearing problem); Brussels/”Zurich” 737 (1952); and Blackpool “boat tram” 228 (1934).

            Bus fans will again be able to ride beautifully restored 1956 Mack motor coach 2230, 1938 White motor coach 042, 1970 GM “New Look” 3287, and vintage trolley coaches Marmon-Herrington 776 (1950) and Flyer 5300 (1975). 

            BIG NEWS UPDATE as of August 6. It appears that 1883/1907 Market Street-Sacramento-Clay cable car 19 WILL operate on Heritage Weekend, along with O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car 42 (1907), both on the California line.

The last cable car pained authentically for the disappeared O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, fully restored to its appearance of a century ago, should be on the California line on Heritage Weekend

If you’re a member of Market Street Railway’s Operator’s Circle ($250 or more annual support), plan to come to our San Francisco Railway museum at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 6, for our annual special reception and charter. (You can join or upgrade your membership here, or by sending an email to membership@streetcar.org.)

During the weekend, we’ll have special memorabilia available for sale at our San Francisco Railway Museum and other fun activities.

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Decorate Streetcars and Cable Cars Nov. 24

Our historic streetcars are back at the Beach Yard (formerly Geneva) and this Saturday is decorating day! Both locations are covered facilities, so we will do our magic, rain or shine. We also have been invited to help decorate the Cable Cars at the Cable Car Barn that same afternoon. To join in the fun, you need to sign up at the link below. Here are the details:

Beach Yard Saturday, November 24 from 10am-12:00pm. We will meet at 10am at Beach where Milan 1818 (shown decorated in a past year, above) will await our handiwork. All tools and supplies will be provided. The Beach Yard is located at San Jose & Geneva Avenues, adjacent to the old red brick Geneva Office Building located just down the hill from the Balboa Park Station. Walk in carefully where the tracks emerge from the building.  Both BART and Muni stop at this station. If you drive, there is limited parking in the neighborhood.

 

Cable Car Division Saturday, November 24 from 1-3pm. Under Gripman Val Lupiz’ direction we will decorate, appropriately, Market Street Railway “White Front” cable car 12 (shown above, last year) using decorations & supplies provided by MSR, Val and his crew. The entrance to the decorating area is on Washington Street uphill from Mason, where the cable cars leave the building. Parking in the neighborhood is near impossible, so we advise taking public transit. The 30 Stockton will get you within a couple of blocks as will the 1 California, and of course you can take a Cable Car right there!

Be aware, if you bring children, they will have to remain inside the streetcar/cable car at all times, as you will be in an active Muni facility. But there will be lots of activity to see from inside the cars.

If you’d like to join us, please use our sign up sheet here.

We hope you are able to help us make our cars look their festive best this year!

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Smoke Stops Cable Cars

UPDATE: The cable cars will remain out of service at least through Sunday, November 18. The deteriorating air quality around San Francisco Bay due to the smoke from the Camp Fire to the north has claimed another victim: the city’s cable cars. Muni pulled all the cable cars into the barn this afternoon (November 15) and replaced them with buses until air quality improves. Forecasters say that could be another week. In a sign of how serious Bay Area residents… — Read More

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Heritage Weekend Has Later Start Time This Year  

Because of unforeseen events, Muni Heritage Weekend events will start later and finish later on September 8-9 this year. But there are still going to be very special happenings for transportation fans of all ages. A climate change protest will close Market Street late morning of Saturday, September 8 and a footrace sponsored by the Giants will close traffic lanes on The Embarcadero Sunday morning. Both these events were scheduled after our dates were locked down and there’s really nothing… — Read More

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“Coming to Town” Talk to Help Open Salesforce Transit Center August 11

  Lots of buzz about the new $2.1 Salesforce Transit Center holding its grand opening Saturday, August 11. For example, this story in the Examiner, worth a read for the historic context. Or this one, about the incredible park atop the terminal. Or this one, about the loonnng delay in getting train service (commuter and high-speed to LA) into the terminal  in the afternoon. But in this post, we’re inviting everyone to the new center’s bus deck at 1 pm… — Read More

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“The Greatest Streetcar Museum in America”

    That’s the title of a great piece by Justin Franz on the Trains Magazine website today. Click the link and read it. It really says everything that needs to be said about the history and popularity of San Francisco’s vintage streetcar operation.  Thanks, Justin, for the story, and thanks, Muni, for the dedicated people who run and maintain these treasures. Just to be clear, the headline on Justin’s piece refers to the streetcars themselves, what we call the… — 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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“Newest” PCC Streetcar Collides with Truck

Around 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the newest PCC streetcar to reenter regular service following a complete rebuilding collided with a large box truck while returning to the carbarn after completing its day’s work on the F-line. The impact knocked the streetcar, No. 1063 (painted to honor Baltimore Transit), off the track and turned the truck on its side. No injuries had been reported by the time this post was made. The streetcar had no passengers aboard at the… — Read More

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Hail and Farewell, Mayor Ed Lee

In transit jargon, the trip to the carbarn after completing the day’s runs is the pull-in. A man who helped revitalize San Francisco’s transit system has unexpectedly — and very sadly — finished his runs, way too soon. Mayor Edwin Lee died suddenly of a heart attack in the early hours of December 12, 2017. He was just 65 years old. Pictured above on a boat tram at the opening of the E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line in 2015 with then-Supervisor… — Read More

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Boat Tram An Added Attraction at Fleet Week

Blackpool “boat tram” 228 joined in the celebration of Fleet Week this past weekend, thanks to a decision by Muni to operate the popular 1934 open-top tram. Here are a few photos from a very happy weekend. At the top, MSR board member and #1 boat fan Katie Haverkamp caught some sailors in uniform enjoying the ride. (Muni has a tradition of letting military members in uniform ride free!) Below, MSR member Steve Souza caught the boat cruising with a… — 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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Come On Down for Heritage Weekend!

Here’s the lineup for Muni Heritage Weekend, September 9-10, 2017 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. All operations either start from or pass by our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, across from the Ferry Building. Important note: What’s on the street each day and day part, along with departure schedules, will be posted on old-fashioned schedule boards outside the museum. STREETCARS Celebrating the centennial of the J-Church line, Muni Car 1 (1912) and PCC… — Read More

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