For years, our nonprofit support group has called the cable cars and historic streetcars of San Francisco “Museums in Motion”. Indeed they are – authentic transit vehicles ranging in age from 71 to 140 years, still providing reliable transportation to San Franciscans and visitors alike, thanks to the hard work of SFMTA (Muni), which owns and operates them.
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Why yes. Muni DOES have two boat trams
In 2013, Market Street Railway brought 1934 Blackpool, England “boat tram” to San Francisco, underwritten by a generous donation from the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping help from FedEx. We did it because the boat tram we brought over for Muni in 1984, thanks to Bechtel, had proven to be the most popular single vintage streetcar in Muni’s fleet.
With only one, though, it was impractical to schedule regular operation of the popular car. And even after the second boat tram (#233) arrived, most folks thought Muni still only had the one (#228). When the time came to do some work on 228, we suggested to Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum that they do what Blackpool itself had done more than a dozen years before: paint the trim on one boat a bright red, to contrast with the traditional green and make it obvious that there are two of them. She thought it was a great idea.
When cable cars were hi-tech
Innovation born in San Francisco triggered a hi-tech revolution that changed America and much of the world. We’re not talking here about the digital innovations from Silicon Valley. Nor the analog innovation by Philo T. Farnsworth, in a little building on Green Street in 1927, that gave birth to television. We’re talking about mechanical innovation 150 years ago that began a revolution in how people move around cities.
Market & California, now and then (and then, and then…)
The California Street cable car line has terminated at Market Street since 1891. For the past 50 years, its neighbor has been the Hyatt Regency, the innovative hotel designed by John Portman, now iconic in its own right. When the hotel’s current management generously supported the celebration of 150 Years of Cable Cars, they asked us if we had some old photos of the location.
Red Arrow hits target
After a spectacular restoration, a 1940s streetcar paying tribute to Philadelphia’s “Red Arrow” lines is again carrying passengers on the streets of San Francisco.
Cable car plea: fix the ficus
Wind and wet felled hundreds of trees in the Bay Area this winter, but one species in particular is dangerous to the cable cars. On March 21, most cable car lines were shut down by blown-down Ficus macrocarpa ‘Nitida’ trees and limbs.
Color cable car flashback
As part of our celebration of 150 Years of Cable Cars, we’re sharing clips and photos we’ve found online that take you back to earlier decades.
Muni Heritage Weekend: Sept. 23-24
Mark your calendars! We’ll be celebrating Muni Heritage Weekend on September 23 and 24 this year, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m or so each day. We’re back to a two-day event for the first time since 2019.
Melvin Van Peebles, Cable Car Gripman
We’ve written before of the many Black barrier breakers in San Francisco transit. These are stories that must be retold every month, not just Black History Month. People such as Mary Ellen Pleasant, Charlotte Brown, Audley Cole, Larry Martin, Welton Flynn, Curtis Green, and Maya Angelou confronted racism and resistance; all moved the needle in our City toward equity and equality, a fight that continues today.
The cable car tower
Since 1888, a small wooden structure has stood on the southeast corner of Powell and California Streets. It’s an essential sentinel protecting the world’s only cable car crossroads. Here’s its story.
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