Waiting for Muni, About 1940

 

Here’s an unusual shot, photographer unknown (at least to us). We’re at Market and McAllister, looking west. It appears to be about 1940.  When our main drag had four streetcar tracks side by side, there were very few spots where there was enough room to build actual boarding islands like you see on Market now. Instead, there were just raised dots to mark what were optimistically called “safety zones”.

But here we have a real concrete island with its own concrete bench, a rarity back then. There’s a woman on the island with a suitcase on the bench, peering down the tracks waiting for her car to come. (Streetcars were called “cars” in San Francisco then, automobiles were only starting to pick up that designation. Some San Franciscans called automobiles “machines.”)

The tracks of Market Street Railway Company’s 5-McAllister streetcar line (now Muni’s 5-Fulton bus) turn off here to the right, headed for Playland. Within a few years, streetcars will again turn off Market here, thanks to an initiative spearheaded by our non-profit (named for the old Muni competitor) to create a turnback loop for F-line streetcars near Civic Center, allowing Muni to add additional service between downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf when needed. The loop will wrap around the building right center, then called Hotel Shaw, with a layover on Charles Brenham Place (the extension of Seventh Street north of Market), a street that didn’t exist when this photo was taken.

We see a few Market Street Railway Company “White Front” cars in the distance to the woman’s right, headed to the Ferry (or maybe East Bay Terminal), but nothing outbound, either MSR or Muni. One other thing: in another rarity, the photographer has captured the Wiley “bird cage” signal to the right with its reading blank, in that fraction of a second as it was changing from GO to STOP or vice versa (there was no “caution” phase in between). Note the small pedestrian signal beneath it. Countdown timer?  What’s that?

You can see a working Wiley signal, unique to San Francisco and gone from our streets by 1962, at our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building.  Drop by and see our exhibits and unique gifts, perfect for San Franciscans to give to others to demonstrate their love of our city’s transit history.

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Patriotic Celebration, 1909

Lots of streetcars but even more American flags on and around the Ferry Building on a bright afternoon in October 1909, 1:29 p.m. We don’t know the exact date or who took the photo; if someone knows, fill us in with a comment.

Lots to see in this shot. Double-click on the photo to enlarge it and take a tour. Permanent buildings are in place after the 1906 earthquake, some with electric signs (waffles, anyone?). The Southern Pacific is advertising train service atop that building to the left (it would soon build its impressive headquarters — still there as One Market — immediately to the right of the camera). A teamster’s wagon is front and center with a horse drawn water tank wagon wetting the pavement right behind the last streetcar in the long line of them waiting to get to the Ferry Loop.

Those streetcars frame the range of dates for us. They all appear to be part of the order of 200 cars, numbered 1550-1749, ordered by United Railroads from the St. Louis Car Company and delivered by the end of 1907. They don’t yet have route boxes on their roofs, so it was early in their life. A group of 80 somewhat different looking streetcars (the 100-class) arrived early in 1911 and took over the Sutter Street lines; at least one would likely be in this shot if it was taken then. While the shot shows four tracks on Market Street, these were all United Railroads tracks; the outside tracks only extended as far as Sutter. When Muni’s first lines were extended from Geary and Market to the Ferry in 1913, they shared the outer tracks on this stretch.

While all the flags make one think of the Fourth of July, this hoopla was actually for the Portola Festival, a big celebration from October 19-23, 1909, that ostensibly honored the 140th anniversary of when Don Gaspar de Portola (properly pronounced port-o-LA) became the first European to see San Francisco Bay. The real reason, which no one hid, was to announce that San Francisco had recovered from the earthquake and fire and was again open for business and tourism. We think that object with the shield on it next to the outbound streetcar on the left is a parade float. Our unofficial historian, Emiliano Echeverria, says that United Railroads actually created several streetcar floats for the festival by tearing off the bodies of obsolete cars down to the floor level, later rebuilding them.

The US Pacific Fleet was anchored in the Bay along with warships of other nations. Parades drew huge crowds. It reinforced the city leadership’s desire to stage an even bigger celebration, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, in 1915. But first, they held another Portola Festival, in 1913, and had smaller repeats now and then in the decades that followed.

In any event, all these flags make this photo look like a good one to post for the Fourth of July weekend. Enjoy!

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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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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 info@streetcar.org. 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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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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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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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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Great Displays at SF History Days March 4-5

  San Francisco History Days, the popular annual event, fills up the historic Old Mint at Fifth and Mission Streets this weekend. Hours are 10-5 Saturday, March 4, and 10-4 Sunday, March 5. This year there’s a special treat: SFMTA (Muni’s parent) has created a great slideshow from its Archives to celebrate the centennial of the J-Church, Muni’s oldest surviving line, which has of course been operated by streetcars its entire 100-year life. Here’s a sneak peek.  Market Street Railway… — Read More

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“Service Improvement” on the F-line? You decide.

If you’re riding the F-line this sunny Saturday morning, you’ll find fewer streetcars out there, and longer wait times. But not to worry, it’s a “service improvement.”  Who says so? Muni. Muni’s parent, SFMTA, sent out a blog post entitled “More Muni Forward Service Improvements Roll Out”. The F-line is mentioned. But when you click through to the story, it’s, well, a different story. After listing other “improvements” (including cutting back a major crosstown bus line to eliminate transfers to the… — Read More

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E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service. As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and… — Read More

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Clarifying the 1947 Threat to the Cable Cars

This week is the 70th anniversary of the failed effort by Mayor Roger Lapham (at left in the photo above) to “junk the cable cars.” It’s truly something to celebrate, and it has engendered several news articles, such as this badly flawed one, which confuses the cable cars with streetcars and doesn’t know how to spell “trolley” and this one recounting the fight. Most of these accounts get a fundamental point wrong, and it’s an important one.  Lapham’s misguided effort was… — Read More

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