Nothing has improved San Francisco more in the past 30 years than the transformation of its waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero. The city’s mayor at the time, Art Agnos, bucked some strong special interests to achieve the removal of the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway in front of the Ferry Building, replacing it with a surface roadway, pedestrian promenade, and — of course — streetcar tracks.
Mayor Agnos was aided in all this by his deputy mayor for transportation, the late Doug Wright (who was serving as Market Street Railway’s board chair at the time of his death in 2014). Art Agnos will share inside stories of how he and Doug got all those things done — including making sure the tracks were laid for the future E-line — at the next edition of Inside Track Live at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street (across from the Ferry Building) on Thursday, March 21, from 6 to 7 p.m.
Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, who was active in advocating for the waterfront improvements, will converse with Mayor Agnos and moderate questions from the audience.
This special event is free for Market Street Railway members. We request that nonmembers donate $5 at the door to support our mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. Attendance is limited to 50 people. Please join us!
This newly renovated Muni PCC streetcar is bringing sunshine on cloudy days as it makes its way back to San Francisco. Car 1057, painted in the eye-popping yellow of Cincinnati Street Railway Company, should arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday, February 20, based on its reported location in Tehachapi on Highway 58 in southern California on the morning of February 19. These photos were posted by Dustin Mosher to our Facebook group.
The combination of the bright yellow and the three green stripes around the car earned it the nickname “The Bumblebee” when it first arrived in San Francisco to help open the permanent F-line in 1995. It was one of 14 streetcars purchased second-hand from Philadelphia’s SEPTA agency and renovated by Morrison-Knudsen in Hornell, New York, painted in the historic liveries of other cities that once ran this iconic American streetcar. After more than 20 years of rigorous daily service, that original F-line fleet was sent back East again, this time to Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania, for a complete refurbishment.
We should note that the usual route for streetcars going to and from Brookville in this contract is straight out Interstate 80, which passes right by Brookville. But I-80 was closed over Donner Summit over the weekend due to a big snowstorm, which you can see from the photos also touched Tehachapi. We’re sure Muni will want to give 1057 a good bath when it arrives.
The return of Car 1057 leaves four streetcars at Brookville to complete the current contract. Car 1058, in the famed Chicago Transit Authority’s “Green Hornet” livery, is due back in a couple of months, followed by three original 1948 double-end Muni streetcars. Car 1015, painted to honor Illinois Terminal, could be back in June, with the other two, Cars 1010 and 1007, scheduled to arrive by October.
Brookville also has two additional unrestored double-end streetcars on its property currently, purchased by Muni from a Connecticut museum. These cars, originally from Philadelphia’s “Red Arrow” suburban line, have PCC bodies but different types of trucks, and would require extensive work to change the location of the trucks and make other modifications in order work on Muni’s system. The restoration estimate provided by Brookville is considerably higher than Muni believes the cars are worth and Muni is consulting experts to see if a more reasonable cost is achievable. We’ll have more details in our exclusive member magazine, Inside Track, due out next month.
What a perfect Valentine’s Day gift to San Francisco. The return of a PCC whose livery has stolen a lot of hearts with its appropriate-for-the-day red coloring. Car 1061 is painted in tribute to Pacific Electric, the legendary Southern California system that once stretched from San Bernardino to Santa Monica, and from the San Fernando Valley to Newport Beach. P-E only had a handful of streamlined PCCs in its enormous fleet, and they were unique: double-ended, with front and center doors on each side, like no other PCCs built. They had no standee windows. They ran almost exclusively on the Glendale-Burbank line. When P-E was closing its operations, they were sold to Argentina. None survives today.
Despite the body differences between the P-E prototype and its San Francisco cousin, the spectacular red, orange, and silver livery, similar to that worn by the famed “Daylight” steam trains operated by P-E parent Southern Pacific between LA and San Francisco, was an obvious choice to be included in the initial group of 14 single-end PCCs restored by Muni for the F-line in the early 1990s. One hitch, though: only a limited palette of colors was approved, so the orange came out more as a red-orange, offering limited contrast to the red body of the car.
When the car went to Brookville Equipment Company for its rebuilding, Market Street Railway worked with Muni to get the orange corrected, and you see the result, in the great first-day-of-service photo above by Traci Cox. For comparison, here’s a shot of a P-E prototype back in the day. Note that the P-E livery was assigned to Car 1061 in the initial restoration contract of the early 1990s before Muni exercised an option to add three of its own-double-end PCCs to that contract. There have been endless rail fan debates about whether a single-end car is appropriate for the P-E livery, but with front and center doors, like the prototype, the livery was easier to replicate than it would have been on one of Muni’s double-end cars, with doors at each end, and no center door.
Word is that the next car to return from Brookville, Car 1057, painted in tribute to Cincinnati, could pull into town next week, followed in a couple of months by the final single-end PCC, Car 1058, painted in the Chicago Green Hornet Livery. That would leave only those three original Muni double-end cars we mentioned above still at Brookville, undergoing their complete rebuilding just like the 1061 and the other PCCs in the 16-car contract. Car 1015, painted to honor Illinois Terminal, could be back in June, with the other two, Cars 1010 and 1007, scheduled to arrive by October. We’ll keep you updated on those schedules.
For now, enjoy the glory of the Daylight colors, sparkling even in this rainy weather.
In recent decades, memorable African-American leaders have made history in San Francisco transit. There’s Curtis E. Green, Sr., the first black general manager of a major US transit agency. H. Welton Flynn, first black San Francisco City Commissioner, and leader of Muni’s governing boards for many years. Larry Martin, a powerful and persuasive head of Muni’s operators’ union.
For this year’s Black History Month, we’ll reach back further in time, to highlight three women and one man who broke barriers in transit.
Charlotte Brown and Mary Ellen Pleasant: In April 1863, Charlotte Brown boarded a horse-drawn streetcar run by the Omnibus Railroad Company. The operator told her she wasn’t allowed to ride because she was Black. She told him she had always ridden the streetcars and was very late to her appointment. When a white woman on board complained about her presence, the operator physically removed Charlotte from the car.
She brought Omnibus Railroad Co. to court – twice – and won. It was a huge victory, happening just after black people were allowed to testify against whites in court. Another Civil Rights pioneer, the noted African-American entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant, had the same experience in 1866, before the earlier suits were finally adjudicated. Pleasant successfully challenged streetcar segregation all the way to the California Supreme Court and won. These women changed California history, some 90 years before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and changed national history.
Audley Cole: Audley was the first black operator ever hired by Muni, in 1941. He passed the civil service examination by leaving his race off the form. After he was hired, white operators refused to give him the training necessary to start work. Fourteen operators decided to be suspended rather than train him, and the operators’ union threatened a $100 fine against any operator who trained him. The one white man who tried to train him was beaten so severely he was hospitalized.
After three months, with support from the ILWU and the general manager of Muni, he finally received training directly from the head of Muni’s training department. At Muni, he fought for fairer treatment for future black employees. 3 years later, there were nearly 100 black employees at Muni. “Civil service is dedicated to fair play,” said Cole. “It’s a job for which I have qualified and I want it. I’m going to get it.”
Maya Angelou: Now remembered as a famed author and poet, Maya Angelou’s first job – in 1943, when she was 16 – was as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She wanted the job initially, she said, because she “liked the uniforms.” When she tried to apply, no one at the Market Street Railway office would give her the job application.
She didn’t give up – she went back to the office every single day and sat in the waiting room. Eventually, a manager approached her and allowed her to apply. (She said she was 18, the minimum age). She became the first Black female streetcar operator in San Francisco. During that summer, she likely operated the 7-Haight and 5-McAllister lines (today’s 5-Fulton). Market Street Railway is proposing that Streetcar 798, of the type she worked on, be dedicated to her memory when it is restored (hopefully, to start later this year).
We salute all those who have stood up to racism, sexism, and discrimination in San Francisco’s transit industry…for more than 150 years!
On December 28, 1912, Mayor James Rolph, Jr. took one of the first five cent pieces minted in San Francisco, put it into a farebox, pulled on his operator’s cap, and personally piloted it out Geary Street. It was the first run, on the first day, with the first streetcar owned by the public in a large American city. It was the birth of Muni. Today, Muni is celebrating with a post highlighting some of the great photos of their… — Read More
‘Tis the season to show off holiday spirit in all kinds of ways. The San Francisco Chronicle is both reporting and demonstrating that spirit with our most iconic transit vehicles, the cable cars. You can see the publication’s handiwork on Powell Cable Car 1 (pictured in the photo by Val Lupiz above, complete with Victorian-costumed guests), one of eight cable cars decorated this year in a growing campaign led by Val, Jeremy Whiteman, and Frank Zepeda (MSR members all), and supported… — Read More
It’s amazing how Muni’s historic streetcar operation has garnered fans and created fantasies all over the world. The wonderful “fictional image” by artist Garry Luck above is an example. It came to our attention today as part of a post and comments in a Facebook group called Blackpool’s Transport Past. It’s a modification of an artist’s conception of a decapitated version of Blackpool, England “Coronation” Tram 663. (The name refers to their construction date, 1953, the year of the… — Read More
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… — Read More
Join Market Street Railway as we dive into SFMTA’s fabulous photographic archives in the fourth installment of Inside Track–Live! Jeremy Menzies and Katy Guyon will guide us in an insider’s-view of SFMTA’s archival preservation department. When Muni took over our namesake, Market Street Railway, they got their photographic collection as well as the streetcars and car barns. Many of these photos came from their predecessor, United Railroads, taken by their staff photographer, John Henry Mentz, onto glass plates, with exceptional… — Read More
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
The Chronicle‘s great columnist, Carl Nolte, spun a warm story today about October in the City — our most beautiful month. We’re illustrating it, fittingly, with this shot taken this afternoon of two orange Milan trams passing at Fifth and Market, with the venerable Chronicle tower in the background. Here’s some of what Carl feels is great about the City: Up close, the city is still something special, even on battered Market Street. Back from an errand last week, I hopped… — Read More
1914 Muni Car 162, which seemed on the cusp of returning to service after accident repairs that took more than four years, is starting a new round of repairs — this time on the trucks underneath the car. Friday morning (October 19), the irreplaceable Muni original, was trucked from Muni Metro East in Dogpatch across town to the heavy overhaul shops at Green Division, next to Balboa Park BART. It’s shown above squeezing past a tree into the Green Division… — Read More
Rolling through Ames, Iowa today on the back of a trailer, one of our watchful members, Mike Joynt, spotted newly rebuilt PCC 1061, painted to honor Pacific Electric, on its way back to San Francisco following rebuilding by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. Mike wasn’t able to snap a photo, but here’s one of the car body emerging from Brookville’s paint shop a couple of months ago before its regular trucks were installed and the finishing touches applied. (Thanks to… — Read More
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
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