Visible Pride for Harvey Milk

Since his passion and determination grabbed the attention of San Franciscans in the 1970s, Harvey Milk has been a household name here. His terrible assassination in 1978 brought global attention to his human rights advocacy, specifically for LGBTQ people. The movie “Milk” in 2008 brought his story to millions more around the globe.

In 2009, Market Street Railway urged the SFMTA to dedicate a PCC streetcar used in the movie, No. 1051, to Harvey. It wears the simple green and creme paint job commonly used on the Muni streetcars of that day — the streetcars Harvey boarded at the old East Portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel on Castro Street and rode to City Hall to do his job — or sometimes, to protest.

For Harvey Milk was also a dedicated transit advocate, one of the strongest on the Board of Supervisors of his day. He didn’t really have a choice, in one sense, because he didn’t own, or want, an automobile. Living on the limited income from his small camera store on Castro Street and the part-time salary of Supervisors (which was $9600 a year in 1978), he took Muni’s streetcars and buses everywhere. He was the first Supervisor to buy and use a Fast Pass, and believed that attractive, affordable mobility was the key to livability in cities.

Market Street Railway created interior displays for the streetcar when it was first dedicated, celebrating the different facets of Harvey Milk. When the car was rededicated March 15 of this year following a total rebuilding, we restored those internal displays. We were delighted at the ceremony when SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley asked us if we could help create external signage to let people who see the car on the F-line know that it’s Harvey’s car, without making too big an impact on the historic livery the car wears. (By the way, the unique and diverse liveries are a major reason SFMTA prohibits advertising on the outside of the historic streetcars, a position we have steadfastly supported for decades).

Car 1051 now wears this decal over its front door, paying visible tribute to Harvey to boarding riders and passersby. It reads, “Dedicated to Harvey Milk, 1930-1978: SF Supervisor, Human Rights Champion, Transit Advocate.”

We were able to do this thanks to a generous grant from Ambassador James Hormel and his husband Michael Nguyen, which will also enable us to expand and maintain the displays on Car 1051 and tell the story of Harvey Milk, Transit Advocate, in other media and forms as well.  We thank Jim and Michael for their support. We welcome your donations to Market Street Railway to help us bring more positive attention to Harvey Milk and other transit advocates in our city’s history as well. Just click here to help us. Thanks!

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Vintage Pride: 1983

By the time historic streetcars returned to San Francisco’s streets for the first Historic Trolley Festival in the Summer of 1983, the annual LGBT Pride Parade was already a summertime fixture on Market Street. Even then, the parade was such a major event that streetcar service was suspended for its duration. But that first year of the Trolley Festival, two of the Trolley Festival cars showed their own pride by joining in. Here we look through the 1934 Blackpool, England boat tram used in the first Festival to see vintage 1912 Muni Car 1 strutting its stuff.

The streetcars were busy that weekend, though. In special service, Car 1 made a couple of trips in from Ocean Beach on the N-line to pick up parade attendees and bring them through the Sunset Tunnel, then down Church and up 17th Street to Castro.

Our non-profit, Market Street Railway, has worked closely with the Castro Merchants and neighborhood groups over the decades to advocate for top-notch F-line streetcar service to the Castro. Our volunteers even clean the streetcars at their 17th and Castro terminal to make the ride more pleasant for passengers. We don’t get any money from the government at all; we depend on memberships and donations from people who think the streetcars are an object of pride for San Francisco.

By the way, that particular boat tram in the 1983 photo, No. 226, was leased from the Western Railroad Museum in Solano County. It was so popular that Market Street Railway leaders went out and acquired one, No. 228, and gave it to Muni. We got a second boat, No. 233, just a few years ago. With two of the popular boat trams at Muni, there’s always one available for groups to charter for a fun, private ride on the waterfront or Market Street. (As for boat tram 226, it has not operated at its museum home for decades, resting with various ailments.)

Happy Pride Week, everyone!

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MSR Co-Founder Paul Rosenberg Passes Away

Co-founder of Market Street Railway and respected San Francisco historian Paul Rosenberg has passed away after an extended illness. He was 72.

Paul graduated from Lowell High School and the University of California Berkeley. He was an early member of one of the great San Francisco groups, the Irish-Israeli-Italian Society as well as other groups, and served on Market Street Railway’s board for many years. One of a small group of historians and transit supporters who founded our non-profit in 1977, he was a pillar of our organization in its formative years.

Paul’s career was as a San Francisco civil servant, but his avocation — where he left his heart — was San Francisco history. No one knew more about the nooks and crannies of the city’s history, and he delivered his knowledge in the form of wonderful stories.

On our Facebook group in recent years, Paul could always be counted on to help date an obscure transit photo, not only by the vehicles and the buildings, but also by political advertisements that appeared in the picture. He was a kind and open man, who shared freely and modestly; a real San Franciscan.

We shall miss him greatly and owe him a great deal. Our hearts go out to his wife Sherrie, pictured above with Paul, and their son Coleman.

 

UPDATE: We received this message from Paul’s wife, Sherrie Katz Rosenberg:

“On Sunday morning, June 18, 2017, my beloved husband of 32 years, Paul Rosenberg, passed away, after a short battle with liver disease and a long battle with lung cancer. His death seemed to be painless. He is survived by our son, Coleman Rosenberg, and me. His funeral will be at our family’s temple, Beth Israel Judea, on Sunday, June 25th at Noon followed by food and conversation. BIJ is at 625 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco, CA 94132. We will also be siting Shiva – taking visitors and having a brief service – on Monday and Tuesday from 6 to 9 pm, with the service at 7. This is also at the temple.

“I am overwhelmed with the love and support that has poured in over the last days from his friends and family.

“In lieu of flowers, if you would like, feel free to make a donation in his memory to the charity of your choice or to the Lowell High School SF Alumni Association, P.O. Box 320009, San Francisco, CA 94132.”

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Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse Gets Funding

Here’s an artist’s concept of how the restored Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse might look, looking southwest across the intersection of Geneva and San Jose Avenue.

The long-running dream of transforming the 1901 Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse into vibrant community space got a $3 million boost, making it far more likely to become reality.

As reported in Hoodline, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, which bought the building in 2004 from Muni, appropriated the $3 million at its June 15 meeting, bringing total approved funding for the project to $11 million.

The project involves two structures that sit next to each other, both originally built for the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway Company but incorporated into the private United Railroads within a couple of years of being finished. The Office Building at the southwest corner of San Jose Avenue and Geneva Avenue housed workers for the adjacent streetcar storage area (now Muni’s Cameron Beach Yard, to which the historic E and F line streetcars will return later this year). The powerhouse housed large electric generators for the line. Both are built of brick, both suffered damage in the 1906 earthquake, but survived. Muni took them over in the 1944 merger with United Railroads’ successor, Market Street Railway Company, our namesake. Together with the adjoining tracks, they served as Muni’s only streetcar facility from 1957 until the Green Light Rail Division was opened across the street in the late 1970s.

Interior of the Geneva Powerhouse, which new funding will restore as a community performance and meeting space.

The 1989 earthquake damaged the two buildings further. Muni abandoned them at that point and wanted to tear them down. But community pressure to preserve the historic buildings led then-Mayor Willie Brown to direct Muni to sell them to the Recreation and Parks Department. A very active non-profit preservation group, Friends of Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, sprang up, led by Dan Weaver. We have had preliminary discussions about providing historical displays in the restored buildings to interpret their importance to transit.

But the Office Building (confusingly referred to as the Car Barn) still awaits funding for restoration. The current funding will finish design plans for both buildings but only provide construction funding for the large open space of the Powerhouse, which will be turned into a multi-purpose community performance and meeting space.

We salute Dan Weaver and all the supporters of this great project. We hope the remaining funds can be found soon to restore the Office Building too.

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Fort Mason Streetcar Extension Update

Eastern Fort Mason Tunnel entrance at the foot of Van Ness Avenue.The Examiner has a comprehensive update today on the proposed historic streetcar extension to Fort Mason. It tells the story better than we could, so click on that link above and read it for yourself. We’ll just add that we have been working on this for a very long time. It had gotten snagged in an unrelated matter. Not long after the Environmental Impact Statement had been certified in 2013,… — Read More

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Boston’s Back in Business

Muni’s paint shop folks put the finishing touch on newly-returned PCC 1059, applying the “Boston Elevated Railway” decal prepared by our ace graphic designer, David Dugan. The 1059 should be entering “burn-in” activities in the next few days. This is the acceptance period for each of the 16 cars in the current rehabilitation contract with Brookville Equipment Company following their complete renovation. This involves running the car without passengers for 1,000 miles to test all systems and ensure the car… — Read More

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Private Cruise on the Boat Tram, Just for You, June 4

UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT. If you’d like to be the first to know when our next trolley tour will happen, ask to be added to our excursion notification list by emailing us at [email protected] Sunday, June 4, one of the famous 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” will cruise again on the tracks of the F-line, with a guided tour of everything historic along the route from our friends at City Guides and our own Paul Lucas. It’s a private charter, and… — Read More

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Shoppers’ Shuttle

In the early 1950s, as tens of thousands of San Francisco families decamped for the new surrounding suburbs, merchants grew more and more anxious about getting customers into their stores. Muni’s response: a “Shoppers’ Shuttle” — actually two of them, one serving Market Street/Union Square and one the “Miracle Mile of Mission” between about 16th Street and Army Street (now Cesar Chavez Street). When they started up in 1953 and 1954, the shuttles only charged a nickel (as opposed to the then-regular fare of… — Read More

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Help Preserve Mona Caron’s Market Street Railway Mural

      UPDATE:  As of May 5, Mona had raised more than $16,000,138% of her goal.  THANK YOU to all who donated. Fifteen years ago, the artist Mona Caron painted a wonderful mural on a wall on Church Street at Fifteenth Street. Now, according to Hoodline, the mural is deteriorating and Mona is seeking funding to conserve and restore it. If you’d like to help, here’s the link. It’s a wonderful work of art and historic interpretation. Our organization, Market Street… — Read More

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Happy 125th to San Francisco Electric Streetcars

On April 28, 1892, the first electric streetcar ran in San Francisco on a line that started just a few feet from our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart Street. The first practical electric streetcar system in the world was created by Frank J. Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888, so San Francisco was — then as now — an early adopter. (But then and now, it was also a NIMBY town because civic opposition to overhead wires kept streetcars off… — Read More

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“Boston” is Back!

  PCC 1059, honoring Boston Elevated Railway, is back in San Francisco, photographed by MSR Member Traci Cox at Muni Metro East in the wee hours of Monday, April 24. Like many of the 17 first-generation F-line streetcars (numbered from 1050-1063, plus 1007, 1010, and 1015), the colors on the tribute livery adorning 1059 were a little off. At that time, Muni only allowed a relative handful of colors in the palette for the PCC tribute paint schemes, but now, there… — 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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Buses & Streetcars: New Exhibit at SF Railway Museum

This coming October marks 100 years since Muni ran its first buses. We chronicle a century of coexistence — and competition — between buses and streetcars in San Francisco in a new exhibit now open at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Originally obtained to extend the reach of Muni’s streetcar lines, buses got bigger and more capable but still were relatively unimportant until World War II. Then, after the war, they sidetracked streetcars to become the dominant form of transit… — Read More

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