Unique gifts will wow transit fans

Our online store has a wider selection of unique transit-related gifts than ever. And through December 6, Market Street Railway members get 25% off on everything. If you’re not a current member, it’s the perfect time to join, and support us in our advocacy to return the F-line historic streetcars and cable cars to service as soon as safely possible. And to thank and honor the front-line folks who keep San Francisco moving through this pandemic, all SFMTA employees get 10% off everything, all the time.

Discount details: through December 6, enrolled dues-paying Market Street Railway members get 25% off all merchandise. Just enter the code thanks25 on your shopping cart page before checking out. Please, Market Street Railway members only. We do check. But hey, you can potentially save more than the price of our basic membership ($45/year) if you join before you shop. SFMTA employees (only) can always get a 10% discount by using the code munidiscount10 on their cart page.

Take a look at the wonderful array of gifts for everyone on your list. Big or small, we have it all, from apparel and books to cute little stocking stuffers! Don’t hesitate – we have a limited supply of some items.

To add to your or a friend’s wall, we have a small number of sensational colorful framed art pieces, signed by San Francisco artist Mike Sanchez, celebrating vintage streetcars including the PCCs (above), Muni’s famed Car 1, and the Milan trams. We also offer four different black & white matted prints of old San Francisco’s Market Street.

For the kids, check out our tees, toys, books, puzzles, placemats, patches and more. Just added to our offerings is the (Brio compatible) F-line Pacific Electric PCC streetcar toy, one of the most popular liveries of the F-line cars. If the kids are Giants fans, don’t pass up the Giants engine and boxcar (also Brio compatible), and the 100-piece ballpark puzzle. Of course, our 300-piece fleet poster puzzle is also a must!

For the puzzlers who left their hearts in San Francisco, we have a challenging 1,000-piece street map puzzle, a 1,000-piece SF cityscape puzzle, the 300-piece F-line Fleet puzzle mentioned above, and a fun 100-piece magnetic city map puzzle for your fridge door.

Don’t forget our unique line of Historic Travel Series mugs, totes, coasters and matted prints that evoke the travel posters of yesterday, and celebrate the San Francisco’s F-line “museums in motion” of today (image above).

For the transit fan in your life, check out our beautifully crafted original Cable Car rail plaques, created by the late Don McKinsey just for us. Not many left, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. We also have genuine slices of 1880s cable car rail at a tiny fraction of the price a for-profit company is offering them. We also have a limited supply of the St. Louis Car Co. builder’s plate (visible up front on the classic PCC cars of the F-line), and a small number of the Market Street Railway Company White Front plates, both plates made from original castings, and a small number of replica Jewett Car Company builders plate recreated in 2014 for the restoration of Muni Car 162.

We also have a wide array of lapel pins and magnets showcasing the varied liveries of our fleet. And a limited number of transit- and San Francisco-themed holiday tree ornaments as well.

For the reader, look for Paul Bignardi’s Fleet History of the San Francisco Municipal Railway, Peter Ehrlich’s San Francisco’s F-Line, Angelo Figone’s Northwestern Pacific Railroad, and Doug Meriwether’s trilogy of the daily life at the controls of a Muni trolley coach, starting with Finding Zen in San Francisco Transit. These authors, all Market Street Railway members and current or retired Muni employees, offer the reader firsthand knowledge of their subject.  On Track, A Field Guide to San Francisco’s Historic Streetcars and Cable Cars by MSR president Rick Laubscher, is the go-to book for information on the vehicles in the fleet and an excellent addition to any reference library.

For the San Francisco history buff we offer a multitude of choices from Arcadia’s softbound publications to the hardbound and scholarly San Francisco Lithographer by Robert Chandler, The State Belt by William Kaufman, and Don Jewell’s California Trolleys. A Negotiated Landscape by Jasper Rubin documents the dramatic changes to San Francisco’s waterfront since the 1950s. You can browse all these book selections here. And check out hard-to-find DVDs of traction action and old San Francisco here.

In our apparel section, you will find a wide selection of unique caps, beanies, hoodies and tees with Boston, Chicago and Australia getting special attention in our new line celebrating the cars on the F-line. Many of these items come is a variety of sizes, colors and styles to meet your needs. Our special line of “Information gladly given but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation“ products includes a selection of tees, magnets, mugs, stickers and, of course, face masks. There are many unique Muni logo items available as well.

Don’t forget to pick up our “Museums in Motion” 2021 calendar where you can enjoy our marvelous array of historic streetcars every day of the year, professionally photographed by our own member photographers.

Again, if you’re not a member of Market Street Railway, you can join now to take advantage of the 25% shopping discount through December 6. Members receive our award-winning full color Inside Track magazine four times a year, with inside info on what’s going on with the historic streetcars and cable cars, plus fascinating and entertaining articles on San Francisco’s transit history. And members always receive at least 10% off their purchases both online and at our museum gift shop when we re-open.

Please remember that all proceeds from sales from our online store go toward bringing back the historic streetcars on Market Street. The F-line is not operating due to Covid-19 and its future is actually in some doubt. We are leading the advocacy for the return of the streetcars and cable cars. Your purchases help us do that, as do donations to Market Street Railway. Please consider giving us your year-end tax-deductible support. Thanks.

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Uncovering Cal Cable’s past

Uncovered Cal Cable track looking east on California at Van Ness, October 2020. Joseph Macasocol photo.

Constructing a new form of transportation for San Francisco, workers uncovered an old one the other day. Contractors building the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project scraped away asphalt to find the vertical curve of the original California Street cable car line bending westward and upward towards Franklin Street. Below, that same block, with a cable car descending the hill on this same track, before the Cal line was savagely cut in half on December 30, 1956 (a dark time indeed, coming within hours of the last run by B-Geary streetcars).

Looking east from Franklin Street on California Street toward the current California line terminal at Van Ness Avenue, 1954. Walt Vielbaum photo, MSR Archive.

The California Street cable line originally used a grip that closed on the cable (like pliers) from the side, unlike the top grip now used on all lines. That required the cable slot to be off-center about three inches, as shown in Dennis Roybal’s photo below. The surviving part of the Cal line, from Van Ness to Market, had to have its slot moved during 1957, so that all operations could be consolidated at the Washington-Mason cable car barn and powerhouse. (The old Cal line’s private owner had a powerhouse and car barn at Hyde and California, where Trader Joe’s is now. Read our story, “When politics & dirty tricks savaged our cable cars”, with lots of photos.)

In the photos, also note the Belgian block (like cobblestones, but rectangular) that was fitted by skilled workers between the rails of the old installation. This was the standard paving material for San Francisco streets at the turn of the 20th century, and was also used to line the outside of Muni’s original streetcar track installations. Market Street Railway successfully advocated for the last remnant of this original track installation, on the L-Taraval spur between 46th and 48th Avenues, to be preserved.

When streetcar and cable car lines were replaced by buses, sometimes the tracks were physically ripped out and sometimes they were just paved over. It depended on what the cost might be and how much time it would take. Some streetcar lines, like the 31-Balboa and the C-Geary-California in the Richmond District still have the tracks under the asphalt. The 40-San Mateo interurban line paved over (or planted grassy medians above) all its trackage through Colma after that line was discontinued in 1949. Some of it remained visible at intersections until just a few years ago.

Cable car tracks were more work to remove, because besides the rails that the cars’ wheels rode on, there was a beefy underground “yoke” that protected the cable itself, with a slot on top for the cable car’s grip to reach the cable.

This is hardly the first example of uncovered street railway trackage in San Francisco, although it has become less frequent as old sewers and other underground infrastructure have been replaced over the decades. A member of our Facebook group posted this memory:

When the PG&E dug up the tracks at Scott & California a few years back I was sent out to look it over. The PG&E foreman said “Watch this.” He reached down into the excavated section, grabbed the carrier pulley and spun it. It whipped around for over 30 seconds before stopping. “How long has that been buried?” he asked. I answered “Over 50 years, but the track gang was probably lubing it right up to the last day, hoping for a reprieve.”

Norbert Feyling, retired cable car shop supervisor

When they tore down the old Petrini’s market at Fulton and Masonic Streets to build apartments some years ago, construction crews heard a big “clunk” as they excavated. What they’d uncovered was a tangle of cable from the old McAllister cable car barn and powerhouse ,which had become a streetcar barn, and then a bus barn over the course of 75 years before becoming a shopping center in the 1950s. In all those changes, no one had actually excavated the site. They learned why.

If you’d like your own slice of history, genuine cable car rail dating back to the 1880s, pay a visit to our online store. There, you’ll find both simple slices, great for paperweights or shelf display, and wooden plaques with either three or four different types of antique cable car rail mounted. Great holiday gifts. (A few of you Facebook users may have seen ads by a for-profit company offering cable car rail at the ridiculous price of $149. Our nonprofit offers it for less than ten bucks, and beautiful wooden plaques with three rails for half of their single slice. Plus, you’re supporting our work on behalf of cable car history when you do it!)

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Ding Dong Daddy: The real story

By Grant Ute, Friends of SF Railway Archive

Muni’s D-line had this scenic terminal in the Presidio, with a route that ran from the Ferry Building along Market, Geary, Van Ness, and Union Streets. It gained fame as the supposed route of a serial bigamist-streetcar conductor in the 1940s. Except that he actually worked the 22-Fillmore. Fred Matthews photo, Market Street Railway Archive

The scene

January, 1945—newsboys at the Ferry Loop screaming headlines about the Battle of the Bulge and MacArthur closing in on Manila, their voices competing with screeching streetcar wheels and boat whistles. Open the paper— San Franciscans on casualty lists every day. Turn to the ads—the hot movie is Meet Me in St. Louis, with Judy Garland singing “Clang clang clang went the trolley.” An instant hit. But many newspaper readers were engulfed in a different part of the paper—the local news, which was dominated by the kind of titillating story that’s now standard fodder for cable television.

The story had many elements familiar today—sex, allegations of crime, local celebrities: San Francisco District Attorney Edmund G. ‘Pat’ Brown (later governor and father of another governor), noted criminal defense attorney Jake Erlich, financier Louis Lurie, hotelier Ben Swig, and others. And at the center of it all, a Muni streetcar conductor.

Francis Van Wie liked women. He met lots of them on the job: holding down the rear platform of aging streetcars heaving themselves around the city under the crush of wartime loads. With so many men overseas in the service, there wasn’t a lot of competition. So he courted them and married them. Quite a few of them. At the same time.

In a contemplative mood, Francis Van Wie sits behind bars after his arrest on bigamy charges in 1945. San Francisco Public Library.

An unlikely lothario, Examiner reporter Norma Barzman described Van Wie as “on the wrong side of 50, round as a beer barrel, pale and meek looking with a shiny bald head and eyeglasses.” At 5 ́2 ̋ and 180 pounds, beer barrel was a pretty good description, and he became so famous locally, he complained, that whenever he walked into a San Francisco tavern, the bartender would buy his drink and someone would put a nickel into the jukebox and play the Trolley Song. Actually, for a time his fame spread nationwide, thanks to a story first scooped by Examiner reporter Ernest Lenn, but immortalized by Chronicle reporter Stanton Delaplane. It was the story of The Ding Dong Daddy of the D-car Line. Sort of.

The setting

When the US entered World War II in December 1941, Muni still competed with the privately owned Market Street Railway Co. (MSRy), our namesake. Both companies faced severe personnel shortages as regular employees left for military service. Out of necessity, long–time employment prejudices fell, and many African–Americans and women stepped through the ‘gate of opportunity’ to relatively well–paying jobs by climbing the two high steps onto a streetcar platform, most famously poet and author Maya Angelou. (After the war, though, returning male veterans squeezed out almost all the women, the majority of whom had been hired on a ‘limited tenure’ basis.)

The northern terminal of the 22-line, on Fillmore at Broadway, May 24, 1946. By this time, the “Ding Dong Daddy” was halfway through his prison term at San Quentin, and Muni had repainted some of the rickety streetcars on the lines it took over from Market Street Railway. Phillip Scherer photo, Market Street Railway Archive.

The moniker

A common practice of newspaper editors in those competitive days was to find a catch phrase to stoke public interest in the story. (A classic example of this was the unsolved dismemberment murder of a young Los Angeles woman that grew in public attention after a newspaper dubbed her the Black Dahlia). In the early going of the Van Wie story, one paper nicknamed Van Wie the Car Barn Casanova; another called him the Trolley Toreador. However, all other sobriquets soon gave way to the inspired invention of Chronicle reporter (later long–time columnist) Stanton Delapane: Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-car Line.

Delaplane later admitted he filched the name from a popular song of the previous decade— Ding Dong Daddy of Dumas, recorded by Louis Amstrong— given the fact that San Francisco streetcar conductors rang bells to signal the motorman, or ‘motorette’. Add an alliterative route letter and…bingo! Higher newsstand sales. There was one unfortunate fact in the way… Van Wie almost certainly never worked the D-line. Presumably, Delaplane and his editors followed the newspaper adage of the time: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

Muni and MSRy employment records of the period were destroyed, but recollections of contemporaries make it clear that during his spree, Van Wie was assigned to Turk and Fillmore, a MSRy division, while the D-line, always a Muni line, ran from Geary Division about twenty blocks away. (Muni officially acquired its private competitor, lock, stock, and employees— apparently including Van Wie— on September 29, 1944.)

Van Wie reported for duty to the Turk-Fillmore Division. Once onboard his run, he ‘went to work’. Market Street Railway Archive.

Ruth Losaga, a retired MSRy ‘motorette’ and conductor, recalled in an interview with this author that during her tenure at the Turk and Fillmore Division, she had Van Wie as her conductor on Fillmore Street. She said, he was “The last person in that carhouse I would have expected to have been a bigamist,” and said that he did not cause her any concerns. Market Street Railway Historian Philip Hoffman recalls riding on Van Wie’s car on the 22-line and says that, after the trials, one of the papers staged a photo op with him on the rear platform of Muni D-line car No. 172.

In that period, Turk and Fillmore housed only two main streetcar lines, the 22-Fillmore and the 31-Balboa. Additional circumstantial evidence all points to the 22-line as Van Wie’s line. Consider that Wife Number Eight reportedly lived at 8 Sanchez Street (one block west of the 22- line’s turn from Duboce onto Fillmore—shown in the top photo). Another wife lived at 426 Oak Street, two and one–half blocks from the Fillmore line.

Additionally, in January 26, 1945, the press reported that a younger woman, describing Van Wie as ‘that silly old fool’, disclosed that he leered at her through his bifocals daily that summer of 1944 when she climbed aboard his trolley and that he even asked for a date. This 28 year–old potential victim listed her address as at 650 Oak Street (again, between Fillmore and Webster, just steps from the 22-line).

22-Fillmore Car 855, still in Market Street Railway Co. ‘zip stripe’ livery shortly after the 1944 merger with Muni, rattles around the turn from Duboce to Fillmore. Some of Francis Van Wie’s wives lived very close to the 22-line, his ‘home turf’. Roy Covert photo, Philip V. Hoffman collection, Market Street Railway Archive.

The clincher

Stanton Delaplane himself reported in the January 25, 1945 Chronicle that the Ding Dong Daddy “cashed in at the Fillmore car barn.” But while Delaplane and his editors had to know Van Wie’s actual assignment, Ding Dong Daddy of the 22-car Line wasn’t alliterative and didn’t scan either. So what the heck, make it the D-line. (To throw in a complete red herring, a 1952 Examiner item claimed that the Ding Dong Daddy of the D-car Line in reality plied the F-Stockton line, but this seems plain wrong, as the original F-line ran out of Geary, along with the D-line and several other Muni lines.)

Another view of the Turk-Fillmore streetcar barn, looking north along Fillmore in its last days of operation in 1948. This site was razed, replaced by a market in the 1950s, which in turn was converted to a police station. Just out of frame to the right, though, the old brick Market Street Railway Co. powerhouse remains, still owned by the city, but derelict, and badly in need of seismic work before it can take on a new life of some sort. Al Thoman photo, Market Street Railway Archive..

The crime

Van Wie was too old to be drafted, but not too old to flirt—and then some! As the newspapers and D.A. Brown unraveled his story in early 1945, the number of women he married kept increasing from four to fourteen—all without a single divorce! Brown indicted him for bigamy, for which Van Wie faced a maximum of ten years in state prison if convicted.

While the papers treated it generally as a lighter counterpoint to the grim wartime news, all was not the jovial merriment the papers tended to emphasize. Most wives reported that within weeks, Van Wie became abusive—stayed out late or was gone for weeks at a time. Wife Number Three summed up what it was like for her. “Frank’s a card in the parlor, a gentleman on the street, and a beast in the home.” Another said that after two months he became insanely jealous, accusing her of stepping out with other men, and then beat her. She promptly ended the relationship.

Southbound 22-Fillmore Car 869 waits for Washington-Mason Cable Car 525 to cross on its trip to Union Square. Al Thoman photo, Market Street Railway Archive.

The M.O.

Wives seemed to be rather unabashed in explaining how they fell for this lothario… most were middle–aged women. Several sat together at his trial and were photographed engaging in good– natured conversation with him— together! Indeed, many met him on the streetcar. Interestingly, the Ding Dong Daddy sought work on the rear platform, rather than the front, where he would have stood beneath a prominent ‘Do Not Talk to Motorman’ sign.

Wife Number Eight, Myrtle, explained how she met him in a January 22, 1945 Examiner story. “I was standing on the rear platform and he was the conductor… When the car lurched… I fell right into his arms and I ‘fell’ for him, too. It was love at first sight.”

Later that week, Van Wie matter–of–factly explained his wiles to Examiner reporter Norma Barzman: “You’re a woman. I could get you to marry me in a month… [Women] want to be told they’re loved more than anything else— and they want their own way.

“It’s simple. If I wanted to get you to marry me, I’d help you cook dinner some night and I’d make you feel how cozy and secure love can be…

“Older women are the ones who like to feel secure. They want to feel they’re building a home and just starting out like a sixteen year–old bride…I know how to make a woman feel as if she’s the only woman in the world—and I’m the only man.”

His proposal line? “Let’s build a life together.”

Van Wie relished his role as streetcar conductor. “If any of my occupations made women like me it was being a streetcar conductor. It was a position of authority and seemed to represent standing in the community… It was a very respectable job—and they thought they could be sure of getting my weekly pay check.”

In this staged press photo, ex–conductor Van Wie (in sedan) shakes the hand of one of his motormen, tellingly aboard a 22-Fillmore car. San Francisco Public Library.

The committee

This is where Lurie, Erlich, Swig and others (including Oakland Oaks baseball club owner Joseph Blumenfeld and Atherton Mayor James B. Howell) enter the story. Between Van Wie’s arrest and his trial, they formed a support committee that persuaded five bail bond brokers to chip in $200 each toward his bond. During the trial, Lurie even put him up in one of his holdings, in Room 707 of the Padre Hotel at 241 Jones Street, where, conveniently, the Daddy could hear the bells of both the Jones Street cable on the street below as well as those of the MSRy’s Balboa High Speeds on neighboring Turk and Eddy Streets.)

O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car No. 62 passes by the Padre Hotel at 241 Jones Street (at Turk) where Van Wie was put up by financier Louis Lurie after his arrest, to await his trial. Jack Tillmany Collection.

The employer

As embarrassing as the notoriety of this employee must have been to Muni, Utilities Manager E.G. Cahill’s comments reflect wartime employment tolerances and the challenges facing the railway in just providing service. “I can’t find anything in the City Charter against him having more than one wife. I believe the public cares more about getting streetcar service than whether a man has one or five wives.”

The defense

Van Wie’s attorney, James Toner, downplayed the Ding Dong Daddy as being a ‘sheep in wolf ’s clothing’, claiming that he was harmless, that “He meant no harm to his wives; that he was sentimental, and that he did not harm them or run away with money.”

Francis Van Wie (bald, in overcoat) stands at his 1945 San Francisco trial. To his immediate right is famed defense attorney Jake Erlich, and next to Erlich is District Attorney (and later California Governor) Edmund G. ‘Pat’ Brown. San Francisco Public Library.

The prosecution

District Attorney Brown presented a different portrait, citing evidence that Van Wie had abandoned one wife with a baby—who was later adopted. (Van Wie denied this—claiming it couldn’t be his child as he was sterile.) Brown portrayed him as a youthful horse thief and later, a man who absconded with union funds (a very serious charge in pro–Labor San Francisco). Finally, Brown dropped the bombshell that Wife Number Five, Mabel, was really his daughter by his first wife. Van Wie finally claimed that she was indeed the daughter of Wife Number One, but that he was not her biological father.

The stories

San Franciscans have always been mesmerized by a good storyteller, and Francis Van Wie was a consummate liar. One wife recounted how he would turn up wearing an army uniform after being missing for a while. As his excuses unraveled publicly, the FBI bureau chief ’s ears perked up when he heard one wife say that in 1942 he told her that he was actually an FBI agent, dropping the first names of the local bureau chief and referring to the agency’s director as ‘J. Edgar.’ He explained his long absences to her by the excuse that he was involved in secret undercover work examining the attack on Pearl Harbor. Van Wie saw no bounds to his cover, claiming to one wife that his investigator role required him to pose as a married man to other women.

The “Ding Dong Daddy of the D-car Line” enters San Quentin State Prison. San Francisco Public Library.

The judgment

By early February, things were looking bad for the Daddy in court. He entered an unsuccessful insanity plea (which the jury deliberated on for 55 minutes before denying on the second ballot). He was convicted of Bigamy, and sentenced to ten years, entering San Quentin State Prison on April 12, 1945, the day Franklin D. Roosevelt died. He quickly disappeared from the news…for awhile.

The return

Within a year, Van Wie’s trial judge was petitioned for his release on parole. He was described as an ‘elderly man’ and his case was seen as lending a ‘great moral lesson to our youth’. Two years to the day later, Frances Van Wie was paroled, with a special condition that he was not to wed for five years without the approval of his parole officer. As he had lost his job at Muni, on release he worked first as a peach picker, then as a janitor in Oakland at Machek’s Waffle and Cocktail Lounge at 22nd and Telegraph, where he undoubtedly witnessed the last days of Oakland streetcar service.

22-Fillmore car crosses Market before the 1944 Muni-MSRy merger. Philip V. Hoffman Collection, Market Street Railway Archive.

Fantastic though it may sound, Van Wie surfaced again in late 1949 when he approached none other than his trial judge (Kaufman) with a request to be married. After the stunned judge ascertained that he was free to marry since he had cleared all his prior marriages through annulments or divorces, he insisted that Van Wie bring the fiancée into the court. There, he ‘strongly advised her against marrying him’. When she insisted, he relented and married them.

Van Wie with his fiancée and Judge Kaufman. San Francisco Public Library.

In 1952, Van Wie popped up in the press again, working at the El Rey Burlesque Theatre at 35th and San Pablo Avenues in Oakland. Here he starred in an act entitled My True Love Story wherein he and the accomplished performers all wore conductor’s hats.

The last time we found coverage of the Ding Dong Daddy in the San Francisco press was May 8, 1958, when an article noted that Francis Van Wie, then 73, married his eighteenth wife in Southern California. He soon dropped out of sight and died in the town of Lake Elsinore, Riverside County, in 1973.

The end

After World War II ended, financially strapped Muni did everything it could to free itself from the labor costs of conductors, converting lines to single–operator buses whenever possible (the 22-line changed over in 1948, the D-line in 1950), and trying to pass law changes and acquire newer streetcars that didn’t require two–person crews. In 1958, the last regular run of a two–person streetcar pulled into the car barn…until the first Trolley Festival 25 years later.

Grant Ute is an author of the book San Francisco’s Market Street Railway, available at our online store.

The legacy

Francis Van Wie’s fifteen minutes of fame had an odd afterlife. Ask almost any San Franciscan from that time about the Ding Dong Daddy and they will remember a surprising amount of detail from an event that took place 60 years ago. Google the Daddy and you’ll find some odd references, including one artist who did a Ding Dong Daddy tribute, confusing the Dumas song with the Van Wie case, and making Van Wie a cable car conductor.

Speaking of songs, perhaps the oddest legacy of all is another song by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies from the 1990s. “Ding Dong Daddy of the D-car Line” makes him a train conductor. It is perhaps fitting that this contemporary song should get it wrong, since we now know the original press coverage was also wrong.

Also, while the press reported testimony from multiple wives that Van Wie was physically and mentally abusive, the coverage carried a ‘boys will be boys’ undertone, not surprising from a newsroom culture completely dominated by men.

But, though it all happened a long time ago when societal mores were far different, there is an eerie resonance captured by the modern song. Tune in any of the crime and court–covering cable television stations today, and it won’t be long until you see some oddball story that in one way or another echoes Ding Dong Daddy.

—Rick Laubscher

If this is one of your first visits to our website, welcome. We hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Help us continue to chronicle the history of how transit built today’s San Francisco by making a one-time donation of any size, or becoming a member and getting great stories in print every quarter, long before we’d consider posting them here.

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F-line 25th anniversary merch!

https://www.streetcar.org/product/f-market-anniversary-print/

With San Francisco’s historic streetcars still shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we can’t take an actual ride to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the permanent F-Market line, but we can get some virtual thrills with these two new merchandise items, designed by Chris Arvin. Above, a poster with Chris’s iconic, er, icons that playfully visualize some of Muni’s historic streetcar fleet. Below, a pin featuring a PCC in original Muni livery.

https://www.streetcar.org/product/f-market-anniversary-enamel-pin/

These and an ever growing number of products celebrating historic transit -most of which you can’t find anywhere else – are available in our online store. Don’t forget our exclusive 2021 “Museums in Motion” calendar (next year’s gotta be better, right?) and to get us from here to there, our “Information Gladly Given” masks!

More than ever, our nonprofit depends on support from those who love the cable cars and historic streetcars to enable us to strengthen our advocacy to get them back on the streets of San Francisco as soon as it’s safe. Please consider even a small donation or membership. Thanks.

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When will the cable cars and streetcars return?

The short answer is: we don’t know; it’s up to the virus and what we all do together to shorten its grip on our society. But Muni can be ready for that day, and we’re encouraging them to do so. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the other day that cable car operations would likely not resume “until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available”, which health experts think could likely take a least a year, and possibly much longer, to create,… — Read More

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You need this mask!

“Information Gladly Given, But Safety Requires Avoiding Unnecessary Conversation.”

Countless San Francisco commuters have probably taken a few moments to ponder this simple statement, which has been posted near the operator’s station of every Muni bus and streetcar since the early 1960s.

The message is simultaneously friendly and forbidding, inviting yet indifferent, personable yet coldly professional. Now it’s available as an adult face mask, when its message is oh so relevant.

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Muni Heritage Weekend postponed

The very popular annual Muni Heritage Weekend is being postponed at least into spring of 2021. No exact date has yet been sent for the rescheduled event. The postponement has seemed inevitable for weeks, given the course of Covid-19 through San Francisco, and the enduring shelter-in-place orders. SFMTA and Market Street Railway, which co-sponsor the event, agreed this week that it was not feasible to hold it on August 22-23, its scheduled 2020 dates. As a result, we’ve jointly set… — Read More

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Giving Tuesday: can you help?

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day promoted around the world to focus people’s attention on the needs of many kinds addressed by nonprofits. We at Market Street Railway know full well, especially right now, that there are urgent needs everywhere. We hope you’ll be able to spare a little something for charities in San Francisco, or wherever you’re reading this, that are helping with the Covid-19 pandemic or other human needs. We do want to let you know that Covid-19… — Read More

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Museum closed until F-line streetcars return

UPDATE: The City and County of San Francisco is now allowing indoor museums to reopen with limited capacity, but with no F-line streetcars running, there are few people in the area. We will most likely reopen when F-line historic streetcar service resumes No date has yet been set for that; we will announce plans on this website when decisions are made. Though our physical museum is closed, we continue to take orders for merchandise on our online store, and will… — Read More

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It was 20 years ago today…

…that the F-Market streetcar line became the F-Market & Wharves streetcar line, with the opening of the extension from First and Market Streets to Jones and Beach, connecting Downtown to the Ferry Building, The Embarcadero, and Fisherman’s Wharf. On March 4, 2000, the extension created what we call the “Steel Triangle” of rail: the two Powell cable lines and the F-line. Transit historian Peter Ehrlich, a longtime Market Street Railway member and retired F-line operator, has literally written the book… — Read More

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Boat Tram Marks Market Street’s New Era

Can a tram be entrancing? Sure seemed that way yesterday at the ceremony at the foot of Market Street celebrating the elimination of private automobiles on San Francisco’s main thoroughfare. After an opening serenade by eight-time cable car bell ringing champ Byron Cobb and a round of speeches that included Mayor London Breed, SFMTA Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeff Tumlin, and several mobility advocates (from Walk SF, the Bicycle Coalition and MSR’s Rick Laubscher), the celebrants… — Read More

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107 Years Ago Today

On December 28, 1912, ten shiny gray streetcars with brick-red roofs lined up on Geary Street, from Kearny Street to Grant Avenue. The first, Numbered 1 in gold leaf outlined in black, opened its black scissor gate. Up stepped the Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, James Rolph, Jr. From his pocket, he took a Liberty Head nickel, with a large “V” on the back (people knew back then that was the roman numeral for “five”). He… — Read More

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Double your year-end donation!

Your year-end tax-deductible donation will be DOUBLED thanks to a matching challenge from our board members. Please read on! Hard to believe that 2020 marks 25 years since the permanent F-line opened on Market Street, and 20 years since it was extended to Fisherman’s Wharf, where one of the famed Blackpool “Boat Trams” is pictured (both of the Boat Trams, we should mention, Market Street Railway acquired for Muni and paid to ship here). Muni is, of course, America’s first publicly-owned… — Read More

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2020 Muni Heritage Weekend: August 22-23

SFMTA has confirmed to us that Muni Heritage Weekend in 2020 will take place August 22-23. This is earlier than the past few years and should give opportunities for more families from out of town to attend. We expect a repeat of past years’ successful events, featuring streetcars, cable cars, and buses from 70-137 years old carrying happy riders along the streets of San Francisco, with our San Francisco Railway Museum at the center of the action. There are constraints… — Read More

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