Great Kickoff to Heritage Weekend

Mayor London Breed (Center, in blue) leads the ribbon cutting that returned cable car “Big 19”, originally built in 1883, back to Muni’s active fleet after a hiatus of 77 years. She was joined by SFMTA Board Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden (second from right) and the team from Cable Car Division responsible for this miraculous resurrection.

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 team that brought Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 back to life. They include: Project Manager Arne Hansen, the shop superintendent; Electric Transit Mechanic Dave Kerrigan, who installed a complete braking system, Master Carpenter Antoni Cunha, who repaired and strengthened the running boards; Painters Danny Hicks and Henry Pegueros, who did a masterful job of painting, polishing the brass, and detailing the cable car.

Mayor Breed addressing the gathering at the museum. MSR Board Vice Chair Antone Sabella (just to her right) looks on.

That group, and the other guests, then processed from the museum two blocks to California and Market Streets, where “Big 19” was staged on the tail track of the California Street cable car line, ready to go. After a ribbon cutting, featuring Mayor Breed, SFMTA Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden, and the car’s restoration crew, Gripman Val Lupiz, whose personal enthusiasm for the project made a big difference in moving it forward, er, moved the car forward … up California Street, “halfway to the stars”, as the song lyric goes with the Mayor and a packed car of guests happily taking it in.

MSR Board Chair Carmen Clark stands in the grip man’s position aboard Big 19, with the restoration team in front of the car, along with MSR Board Member James Giraudo (far left), who contributed the accurate 46-star American flags for the car (commemorating the 1908 date it started working the Sacramento-Clay line), along with the two Cable Car Division superintendents who greenlighted the project: Brent Jones, now acting deputy director of transit for SFMTA, to the right of the shiny brass headlight, and Wes Valaris to the left of the headlight (in hat), current acting super at Cable Car.

Climbing Nob Hill with a crush load is just about the ultimate test for Big 19, and under Val’s expert hand, it went flawlessly. The Mayor had to disembark at Grace Cathedral for her next engagement…clearly reluctantly, asking to ride at least one more block…and the rest of the guests proceeded to Van Ness, where “Big 19” reversed smoothly.

Gripman Val Lupiz waits for a signal to change as Mayor Breed (over his shoulder) enjoys the ride. Former MSR Board Chair Bruce Agid looks toward the mayor from the far running board.

But then the Cable Car Gods said, “Not so fast”. One block into the return trip, another cable car hit a bumper bar on the California cable, causing the cable to automatically shut down. When this happens, the cable machinery crew carefully winds the entire cable all the way through its length, inspecting it as it goes through the winding machinery at the carbarn to ensure it wasn’t damaged. If it is, the line can be shut down for hours.

And so, guests on this memorable inaugural run of Big 19 got an unexpected experience: one of Muni’s brand new hybrid buses appeared to take them back to the museum, making them the first to make that round trip on transit vehicles built 136 apart.

One more shot of Val Lupiz, on his new favorite cable car. Those who are part of our Facebook group, (Market Street Railway) know Val as a devoted cable car historian whose dedication and enthusiasm has helped both Big 19 and O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Car 42 spend time on the streets.

Later, the cable was found to be fine, and Big 19 returned to the Cable Car Barn without incident. It will be out and running on Heritage Weekend with a VERY special treat starting at 10 a.m. for those who show up at the Cable Car Barn at Washington and Mason Streets: on its pull-out trip, it will go down the Hyde Street Hill to Aquatic Park, then back up Hyde, around the Washington-Jackson loop, and then over to California Street to go into service. At Heritage Weekend Central Control (the plaza outside the museum), we’ll keep track of where Big 19 is, so visitors can catch one of its several trips from California and Market to Van Ness and back.

That’s just one aspect of what’s going to be a great Heritage Weekend. Don’t miss it.

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Ride, Join, and SHOP at Heritage Weekend

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 center of all the Heritage Weekend action. That’s because Market Street Railway members AND all current SFMTA employees will receive a 20% discount on all of the merchandise in our museum store. That includes our 2020 calendar, our great selection of transit themed tee-shirts, hats, and other apparel, Muni logo gear, genuine cable car rail paperweights and plaques, books, a wide array of kids’ items, and more. Many of these items are not available online or in other stores.

Our museum store selection includes items specially for us by our board member Chris Arvin, a great designer recently featured here with his own great “merch”.

Get an early start on holiday shopping with many items you can’t find anywhere else. (The everyday discount for our members and for SFMTA employees is 10%. This special offer is for in-person purchases at the museum only, not in our online store. We’ll be offering our members who can’t come to Heritage Weekend a 20% discount period at our online store inn a few weeks.)

Not a current Market Street Railway member? We can fix that easily. For just $20, we’re offering a special six-month membership to introduce more people to our non-profit transit preservation organization. Sign up at our booth in the plaza across the tracks from the museum on Heritage Weekend and you’ll instantly be eligible for the 20% members discount in the museum. You’ll also receive the latest two issues of our quarterly member magazine, Inside Track, along with the next two in your six month membership.

But, as they say in infomercials, wait, there’s more. If you take the plunge on Heritage Weekend for a full year’s basic membership (at $45), we’ll add token of thanks, literally: a genuine Muni token, a little smaller than a dime, minted in the 1930s, and still valid for a single ride on a Muni bus or streetcar/LRV (a ride that now costs $3 in cash, by the way). We have a limited number of these, offered in person at Heritage Weekend only. And, if you choose our Conductor membership at $100 annually, you’ll get the token plus a 2020 calendar, a $14 value when you add in sales tax.

SFMTA employees don’t need to join Market Street Railway to receive the 20% discount on Heritage Weekend. The double discount (usually 10%) is our nonprofit’s way of saying thanks to the folks who keep San Francisco moving. But we hope that more SFMTA employees will join Market Street Railway for the other benefits of membership.

And because many SFMTA employees are at work during Heritage Weekend, we’re extending their 20% discount the following week, Transit Week, so it’s good for SFMTA employees through Friday, September 13.

But whether you take advantage of these special offers or not, come on down to Muni Heritage Weekend. It’s going to be the best one yet! If you absolutely can’t make it this year, you can still join Market Street Railway online, supporting our efforts that make events like Muni Heritage Weekend possible. All members, old and new, we’ll alert you in a few weeks to our 20% off online store sale, just for you.

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Sept. 7-8 Muni Heritage Weekend Details Here!

1896 “dinky” electric streetcar 578 is always a highlight of Heritage Weekend.

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 Market Streets.)

Vintage vehicles will start operating at 11 a.m. both days, with the exception of the streetcar shuttles on The Embarcadero, which will start running around 12 noon because of the Giant Race, a waterfront footrace that was rescheduled to this date after we locked in Heritage Weekend dates. But there’ll still be plenty of time to get in your rides.

On the plaza opposite our museum, Muni’s motorized cable car 62 will be available for kids of all ages to ring their hearts out on. We’ll have a variety of kids’ games, a new selfie opportunity in front of a huge vintage colorized historic photo from 1947, book signings by Paul Bignardi of his brand new Muni Fleet History (available for the first time) and Emiliano Echeverria with his DVD book of our namesake, the Market Street Railway of 1893, our annual book and memorabilia sale, and much more. At the request of our out-of-town members, MSR President Rick Laubscher will repeat his interactive presentation of the narrated 1906 Trip Down Market Street film at the museum on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Market Street Railway Members will get 20% off all merchandise in the museum this weekend only (up from the normal 10%), as will employees of SFMTA, as our thanks for our productive partnership. AND, to introduce new people to Market Street Railway, we’ll be offering trial six-month memberships for just $20, which will include the last two issues of our Member magazine, Inside Track. So, this is the perfect opportunity to bring friends and relatives down for a great weekend of rare rides and shopping bargains.

Okay, now to the meat of the matter for many fans. We now have a semi-final vehicle lineup for Muni Heritage Weekend. Here it is:

CABLE CARS 

1907 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car 42, where you’ll board on Heritage Weekend, at California and Market Streets, just a block from our museum.
  • Special cable cars operate at regular fares as part of regular California Street cable car service, between Market Street (one block from San Francisco Railway Museum) and Van Ness Avenue, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • UPDATE: Saturday AND Sunday: Debut of Sacramento-Clay “Big 19”, which will carry paying passengers in regular service for the first time in 77 years. Originally built 1883 as open car for Market Street service; rebuilt 1908 for Sacramento-Clay service; retired 1942; wears livery of the 1927-37 period. 
  • Saturday & Sunday: O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line car 42. Built 1907, retired 1954, brought back to San Francisco by Market Street Railway; wears livery of 1917 period.
Sacramento-Clay “Big 19” at the Market and California terminal during testing.

STREETCARS (Operating both Saturday and Sunday unless otherwise noted; Streetcar operations begin 11 a.m. Saturday, 12 Noon Sunday)

Posing with a Boat Tram is an Instagram favorite on Heritage Weekend.

TROLLEY COACHES: (Begin operations at 11 a.m. both days)

Two generations of 20th Century Muni Trolley Coaches: 776 (left) and 5300

Board on Steuart Street at Don Chee Way (next to the San Francisco Railway Museum).  All rides are free. Stops only at terminals. One of the trolley coaches will leave Steuart Street approximately every 45 minutes.

1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach 776, painted in Muni’s famous green and cream “Wings” livery.

1975 Flyer Trolley Coach, painted in Muni’s “Landor” livery of orange, gold, and white.

SATURDAY TROLLEY COACH ROUTE: to Washington Square in North Beach via the 41-Union line through Embarcadero Center and Columbus Avenue.

SUNDAY TROLLEY COACH ROUTE: via Sutter and Mason Streets to connect with Tenderloin Sunday Streets activity, returning via Market from Mason.

MOTOR COACHES: (Begin operations at 11 a.m. both days)

San Franciscans of a certain age rode 1956 Mack motor coaches as kids; on Heritage Weekend, kids of all ages can ride this beautifully restored Mack–free!
  • Board on Steuart Street at Don Chee Way (next to the San Francisco Railway Museum).  All rides are free. No pickups en route. One of the motor coaches should leave Steuart Street approximately every 30 minutes.
  • 1938 White Company motor coach 042, which served as a Coit Tower bus for four decades; now repainted into its original Muni livery of orange and black.
  • 1956 Mack motor coach 2230, fully restored to immaculate condition, wearing its original “Wings” livery.
  • 1970 GMC “Fishbowl/New Look” motor coach 3287, wearing its original Muni maroon and cream “Cal Cable” livery.
  • SATURDAY MOTOR COACH ROUTE: via 82x route on Sansome and Battery Streets to reach Levi’s Plaza and the Cruise Ship Terminal (Pier 27).
  • SUNDAY MOTOR COACH ROUTE: same as trolley coaches (Market, Sutter, Mason, return via Market) to connect with Tenderloin Sunday Streets activity.

We will have one more update before Heritage Weekend on anticipated schedules, posted on this site; we’ll also have schedules for book signings and talks at the museum. Watch for it.

1946 Melbourne Tram 916 (right) will make its regular service debut on Heritage Weekend Sunday (September 8), joining older sibling 1929 Tram 496 on The Embarcadero.

NOTE: Muni has a chronic operator shortage that has lingered, but shows some signs of easing. Only specially qualified operators can take the controls of the historic streetcars and buses, and they are generally working on their regular days off. The vehicles on the street obviously have to match operator availability on a given day; that’s why a couple of vehicles are only scheduled to be out one day–so that riders can get a greater variety over the weekend.

Also, while at this writing every vehicle mentioned here is operational, a couple are pending final go-aheads to enter service (Cable Car “Big 19” and Melbourne 916). We don’t anticipate problems, but mention this in full disclosure. Finally, of course, operational problems can always develop with any transit vehicle. But we know Muni’s maintenance teams are doing a great job in getting everything ready and want to show off their “babies”. They have a lot to be proud of; we hope you come and enjoy Muni Heritage Weekend.

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Boat Tram Sails Again

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 old plexiglass windshields with fresh new ones. Longer-term, they’ll install split glass windshields like the other boat tram has.

Hope you enjoyed the vintage streetcars that pinch-hit for the boat the past few weeks: the Melbourne tram and the EuroPCC. You’ll see them both, and many others, during Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Big 19 in Broad Daylight

For the first time in 77 years today, the biggest cable car in San Francisco (or anywhere for that matter) climbed “halfway to the stars” and back down again under cable power, in regular service conditions. The cable car known as “Big 19” for its size (seven feet longer than Powell Street Cable Car 19, and four feet longer than the California Street cable cars, previously the longest in the fleet) has been on the streets twice before in recent… — Read More

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Back On Track — After 77 Years Off!

Early this morning, a cable car originally constructed in 1883 became Muni’s oldest operating transit vehicle. Early this morning, Sacramento & Clay Sts. cable car 19 made a full trip on the California Street line pulled by the cable. It was the first time this cable car was pulled by a cable on the street in 77 years, since its retirement in 1942. This news, and these wonderful photos, come from Market Street Railway member Traci Cox who documented the… — Read More

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Crazy Day on the Waterfront

Yesterday (July 25) was an action-packed day on the waterfront, and included an opportunity seized, and one missed. Here’s what went down. E-and F-line service north of the Ferry Building was disrupted by a power problem at the Wharf and a couple of streetcar breakdowns (not sure if they were related). This occurred around the time EuroPCC 737 arrived at Don Chee Way to go into service. Inspectors sent several cars south on the E-line to get out of the… — Read More

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Trip to Europe on the Waterfront

With Blackpool, England Boat Tram 228 pulling an temporary “Brexit” from this summer’s special waterfront streetcar service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Muni Chief Julie Kirschbaum is sending in fun substitutes to fill in. The coming two Tuesdays and Wednesdays (July 23-24 and July 30-31), 1952 Euro PCC 737 (which operated in Brussels but is painted to honor San Francisco’s Sister City, Zurich, Switzerland) will be cruising the waterfront. As a bonus, it will also operate on Swiss National Day, Thursday,… — Read More

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Thank You, Ed Reiskin

Note: A version of this article is contained in the current edition of the Market Street Railway magazine Inside Track, reaching mailboxes now. It has been updated here.   By Carmen Clark, MSR Board Chair and Rick Laubscher, MSR President Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation (the top executive) of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is moving on from his post. His last day in the office was this week. We at Market Street Railway will greatly miss his… — Read More

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Boat Tram Still Sidelined

Update: 1928 Melbourne Tram 496 will continue to substitute for 1934 Blackpool (England) Boat Tram 228 on The Embarcadero Tuesday and Wednesday, July 16-17, while Muni maintenance crews analyze the problem with one of the motors or bearings. We will provide updates on the progress of fixing the boat tram as available. Muni Maintenance management tells us they will work to get the other Boat Tram, 233, operational for Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, should the problem with 228 be… — Read More

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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… — Read More

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Showing Transit Pride

Check out this article in the San Francisco Examiner by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez about this Pride Month initiative taken on a personal basis by our board member, Chris Arvin. Chris’ design work is on display on our website in the engaging streetcar icons featured on the live streetcar map designed by fellow board member Kat Siegal. We offer stickers of those icons at our San Francisco Railway Museum and online store. A wide variety of Pride-related items, including tee shirts… — Read More

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Flashback to 1906 on June 26

In the latest installment of Market Street Railway’s series of history talks, called Inside Track Live, you’ll be able to see the famous 1906 Miles Brothers film, “A Trip Down Market Street”, as you’ve never seen it before. On Wednesday, June 26 at 6 p.m., at our San Francisco Railway Museum, MSR President Rick Laubscher will present the highest-quality transfer of this precious film ever made, showing a 12-minute ride from Eighth Street to the Ferry along Market Street, shot… — Read More

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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… — Read More

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Boat Tram About to Land

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. 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… — Read More

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