10/15/17 — Twice!

Here are two photos at the same location. One taken 100 years ago today, the other taken…today.

On October 15, 1917, United Railroads photographer John Henry Mentz shot the black-and-white photo at the top, looking north from 18th Street on what was then called Kentucky Street. Soon, Kentucky would have its name changed to match the street it connected with several blocks north at China Basin — Third Street. (To the south of Islais Creek, Railroad Avenue would get Third Street’s name as well.)

The tracks going straight belong to the 16 and 29 lines of United Railroads. A block north, at Mariposa, you can see them bend right onto a viaduct that took them over the busy Southern Pacific railroad tracks that ran east-west along 16th Street. The viaduct would last more than a half century longer before being demolished, later used by automobiles and trucks.

The tracks turning to the left belong to the 22-Fillmore streetcar line, which turned onto Kentucky and terminated in the carbarn on Third near 23rd Street. A municipal election is near, hence the campaign posters, including the one to “Re-elect George Lull City Attorney” over the saloon door to the left. A lone Model-T sits at the curb by the saloon, and a horse-drawn wagon lingers at the corner of Mariposa.

Fast forward to today. The 22-Fillmore STILL turns this corner, beginning its terminal loop (though it has been a trolley bus line for almost 70 years). The streetcar tracks on Third that disappeared in 1941 are back, carrying Muni’s T-Third line for the past ten years. There’s a track switch in the intersection again as well, but this time, it’s for the short-turn streetcar loop that was started during T-line construction and is only now being completed. The saloon is gone, replaced by a popular Dogpatch restaurant, Moshi Moshi. Can’t be sure, but it’s probably the same building, much altered. That building, though, will soon give way to new housing in this rapidly changing neighborhood, as will the venerable Carpenter’s Union hall on the right side of the photo. And the new Warriors arena, Chase Center, is now rising where the north end of that streetcar viaduct used to be.

What a difference a century makes…and doesn’t make. (Long live the 22 and streetcar tracks on Third!)

Thanks to our friends at SFMTA Archive for the historic photo.

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End of the B-Geary, 60 Years Ago

B-Geary last revenue run 122956 Jack Tillmany


On December 29, 1956, the last passenger-carrying streetcar ran on the tracks of Muni’s first street, Geary.  Muni became America’s first big city publicly owned transit system 44 years and one day earlier, on December 28, 1912, when it opened the A and B streetcar lines on Geary Street. Soon, four Muni lines were running along Geary from the Ferry Building via Market: the A, which went from the Ferries to Tenth Avenue, then south to Golden Gate Park; the B, which reached Ocean Beach and later Playland via 33rd Avenue, Balboa, 45th Avenue, and Cabrillo); the C, which turned north at Second Avenue then followed California Street west to 33rd Avenue; and the D, which turned north at Van Ness, then East on Union, jogging into the Presidio via Steiner and Greenwich.

last-b-geary-run-122956-wayne-pickering-motorman-copyThe Geary lines were Muni’s busiest by far. The B-line alone required more than 50 streetcars at peak hours. But that fact alone couldn’t save them. We reported on the factors that led to the demise of the B-Geary in 2002 in our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, and later posted here. (You can join Market Street Railway here to get this great quarterly newsletter, either electronically or in hard copy.)

These two photos come to us from Jack Tillmany through our friends at the Western Neighborhoods Project, showing the final passenger run of the B-Geary on December 29, 1956. Car 77, shown here, was not preserved but two other cars of the same class, both Geary veterans, 130 and 162, have been. So has the last PCC ever built in North America, Muni 1040, which carried a load of railfans out Geary the following day, December 30.

The bus line that replaced the B-Geary, the 38, has been Muni’s busiest bus line ever since, and Muni has been working for years to upgrade it to bus rapid transit, still a number of years in the future. Meantime, many San Franciscans continue to regret that streetcars ever left Geary, even 60 years after the fact.

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Postgame Parade

162-1015 N beach copy

The Super Bowl ended this football season, but we’ll go into overtime for a minute to share a special football-related photo. We’re at the end of the N-Judah line at Ocean Beach. Based on the clues in the photo, it’s between 1955 and 1957. PCC “torpedo” No. 1015 is about to take the loop and head inbound. It’s been converted from double-end to single-end operation, hence the blocked-off doors you see.

On the stub track sit two “B type” original Muni streetcars, built in 1914 but recently “modernized” with conductor-operated doors on their rear platforms. We can’t tell the number of the car, on the right, but the one closer to us is No. 162. We know why it and its sibling are laying over from the yellow dash sign saying “Football Today – Kezar Stadium.” It’s probably a 49ers game (city high school games were played there too). Muni banked a couple of cars on the N-line terminal spur for postgame pickups. Other cars would switch back near Kezar on Carl Street to take fans home.

As mentioned last week, we’ve captured this distinctive dash sign on a tee shirt which you can buy at our San Francisco Railway Museum.  They’ll be up on our online store next week. (By the way, “shortest route” dates back to the pre-1944 days when Muni competed with our namesake, Market Street Railway Company, whose service to Kezar ran via Haight Street instead of the N-line’s faster Sunset Tunnel route.)

Kezar Tee shirt

It’s amazing that at least two of the three streetcars pictured in this 60 year old photo are preserved (heck, could be all three if that other one is No. 130). Well, maybe not so amazing…our organization and its founders successfully championed the preservation of the rare double-end PCCs Muni owned, such that seven of the ten are in service today! And we brought No. 162 back from a museum and began its restoration. (Today, we’re working with SFMTA to get the damage it suffered in an accident two years ago repaired. It is a slow process, but we won’t rest until it’s back on the street.)

Your support is what makes our work possible. Please consider donating or joining, and visit our museum for great displays, vintage film and photos, and great gifts too!

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Photo of the (Past) Moment: 7-line Detour

Streetcar Track Construction at Lincoln Way and 36th Avenue Looking West | December 1, 1931

Streetcar Track Construction at Lincoln Way and 36th Avenue Looking West | December 1, 1931

SFMTA has been posting some wonderful photos from their Archives on their blog.  We especially liked this one, which we’d never come across before. The text identifies it as Lincoln Way and 36th Avenue in 1931, with no further explanation.

Which made us curious. Especially about that obvious track detour for the 7-Haight and Ocean streetcar line, which comes back onto Lincoln Way a block farther west.

We found this blurb on a Tumblr posting four years ago by the Department of Public Works, accompanying a different photo of Sunset Boulevard (which is situated between 36th and 37th Avenues) in 1931.

An extensive program of Street and Boulevard work utilizing unemployed workers was established by the City of San Francisco and employed by the  Bureau of Engineering.  These workers assisted in many street and roadway improvement projects including the development of Sunset Boulevard, which traversed the undeveloped sand dunes near Ocean Beach.  The construction of Sunset Boulevard stimulated public activity in the region adjacent to the work, spurring a building spree in the area.

Other sources confirm that Sunset Boulevard was built in 1931, but we hadn’t known it was a Depression-era job creation project. Our search didn’t determine whether Market Street Railway, which operated the 7-line, was asked to pay for the detour itself, or whether the city underwrote it. Afterward, the tracks ran across the new bridge constructed to carry Lincoln Way over Sunset, until the 7-line closed in 1948.

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Geary Car House, with Friends

Muni’s first streetcar storage and maintenance facility was the Geary Car House, at Geary Blvd. and Presidio Avenue. It opened with Muni’s first lines (the A and B) in 1912 and stopped being a streetcar facility after the Geary lines converted to buses at the end of 1956.  Muni built its Presidio Division bus facility behind this carbarn at the end of the 1940s. Its offices sat above the streetcar storage tracks until the early 21st century. We saw this shot… — Read More

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Let It Snow (or At least Rain!)

We’ve gotten so used to seeing the orange trams from Milan on Market Street and the waterfront that it can be a tad jarring to see them in their native habitat, especially a scene like this. In an average year, Milan sees snow on seven days or fewer. Of course, that’s seven days more than the annual snowfall in San Francisco, where long-time residents still marvel at the once-in-a-couple-of-decades dustings we get on Twin Peaks! (The photo at the top, taken… — Read More

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Photo of the (Past) Moment: Centenarian at Birth

Muni streetcar No. 130, still in service, at Geary and Grant, c. 1920. Click to enlarge. This year, two Muni streetcars celebrate their centennials. Both were bought from the Jewett Car Company of Ohio in 1914 as part of an order of 125 streetcars to serve lines Muni was then building to serve the following year’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition. These two streetcars, No. 130 (now painted in its later 1940s blue and gold livery) and No. 162 (now under repair)… — Read More

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Photo of the (Past) Moment: Ferry Heyday

Ferry Loop, April 1936. Ralph W. Demoro photo, Al Schwoerer collection. Click to enlarge. Al Schwoerer recently posted this on our Facebook Group. The photo is from his collection, taken in April 1936 by the legendary railfan and photographer Ralph Demoro (father of the even more legendary railfan and journalist Harre Demoro. It’s a classic moment in time, taken from the second floor of the Ferry Building on the very cusp of the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.… — Read More

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Photo of the Moment: Less Darkness, More Daylight

As this great Jeremy Whiteman photo demonstrates, some of the F-line streetcars on the vintage runs (scheduled for daylight hours) have been headed back to Cameron Beach Yard after dark these winter days. But with spring nigh, and Daylight Savings Time imminent (tonight, as this is written), the vintage streetcars like 1928 Melbourne No. 496 will be wrapping up their day’s work in daylight.

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Photo of the Moment: Down Under the Bridge

Copyright 2013, Jeremy Whiteman. Muni’s shops continue to make gradual progress on 1946 Melbourne tram No. 916, a 2009 gift to the City of San Francisco from the Australian State of Victoria. The retired tram needed extensive modifications to meet Muni and California operating standards, and to operate on the opposite side of the road from its native city. (Door controls, for example, had to be reversed.) Market Street Railway has assisted in procuring needed parts. With staffing very tight,… — Read More

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Still Time to Gain Fame as a Calendar Contributor

We’re still taking photo submissions for our 2014 calendar, and especially encourage new contributors. Several great photographers, like Jason Brickman, whose work is shown above, have begun contributing in the past few years. This high-visibility product is a great opportunity for both pros and amateurs to get published, while supporting our mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. All the proceeds from calendar sales go to support Market Street Railway programs. You can learn all about submitting photos to… — Read More

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Photo of the (Past) Moment: What Could Have Been

Few people today remember — or even know — that cable cars and streetcars crossed paths at Jackson and Van Ness until 1950. But here’s proof, in a snap taken by our board member Walt Vielbaum back then. PCC No. 1006 carries a load of raifans on the H-line, crossing paths with Washington-Jackson cable car No. 509 at Van Ness Avenue and Jackson Street, around 1949. Walt Vielbaum photo. Click to enlarge. This was what’s known as a “fantrip:” a… — Read More

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Photo of the Moment: Not a Streetcar, But…

…it’s a window into a wonderful railroad operation in South America, captured by Market Street Railway member and co-chair of our calendar committee Kevin Sheridan. He’s just back from a trip to Chile, where he rode the rails and saw some great scenery, with and without trains. Here’s a link to Kevin’s Chile portfolio. Be sure to pay special attention to the night shots. This San Francisco shooter has a gift!

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Photo of the (Past) Moment: Unforgettable

Market Street Railway member Bob Davis saw our post on the return of Powell Street cable car No. 26 to the fleet, wearing the green and cream livery Muni introduced after World War II. It jogged Bob’s memory, and he sent us this photo he took in 1959, of Powell car No. 515 crossing California Street. Powell Street Cable Car No. 515 at the Fairmont Hotel, 1959. Bob Davis photo. Click to enlarge. Ever since people first crested Nob Hill… — Read More

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