2020 Muni Heritage Weekend: August 22-23

Just a sliver of the action at Muni Heritage Weekend 2019. More than a dozen rarely-operated streetcars, cable cars, and buses offered rides to the public.

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 on when this increasingly popular event to be scheduled. To ensure sufficient extra operators to pilot the heritage streetcars and buses, it can’t conflict with special events that require extra Muni service, such as Giants’ baseball games or major festivals. The plaza across from our Museum must be available from the city’s Recreation & Parks Department for staging and static displays, and plaza reservations didn’t open until a couple of weeks ago. And it must not conflict with periods when it is hard to get extra operators to work overtime, such as Labor Day Weekend.

One September weekend, the 19th and 20th, would have met these criteria, but that is Rosh Hashanah, and we and SFMTA agreed on the August 22-23 dates instead. The traction action runs from 11 am – 5 pm both Saturday and Sunday.

Folks coming from out of town can plan their visit with confidence now. We will be providing updates in the coming months on details of the event as we flesh out the activities. But there’ll be plenty to do; count on it. We will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the permanent F-line on Market Street and the 20th anniversary of its extension to Fisherman’s Wharf, so look for some special activities. We’ll also have some special activities for our members, particularly those in the Operator’s Circle ($250 or more in annual support). Stand by!

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Two Great Streetcar Stories

Muni’s historic streetcars, and the people who love them, keep gaining media attention, both in their hometown, and far afield. For your Thanksgiving weekend reading pleasure, we’re sharing two stories from the San Francisco Chronicle, and its associated website, sfgate.com.

Both stories show how the historic streetcars continue to attract new generations of fans, thanks in part to Market Street Railway’s continuing efforts aimed at exactly that goal. It’s a core part of our mission to keep the past present in the future, by making it relevant and delightful to younger San Franciscans and visitors.

Titillated passengers on the F-Bomb Comedy Train. Photo, PJ Crame, courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

First, some laughs. There’s now a comedy car on the F-line, at least once in a while. Here’s the story of the F-Bomb Comedy Train. A group charters a streetcar (in the case of the most recent event on November 25, a “Mint Milano“, and runs the F-line with performances by local comedians along the way. Next event is supposed to take place in January, but no specific date yet. The group says they’ll post info when available on their Facebook Group, where you can sign up for email notifications. So, please don’t ask us; it’s their gig, and we love it! (Note that part of our advocacy efforts in the coming year will be gaining SFMTA concurrence to expand opportunities for groups and people to charter historic streetcars and ride them on other lines besides the F and E.

Alex Key with the replica 1911 streetcar at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Photo: Nick Otto, courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

Second, an in-depth story about one of our valued volunteers at our San Francisco Railway Museum. He’s 16-year old Alex Key, profiled by the Chronicle‘s talented writer Sam Whiting. (Note that Chronicle content is kept behind a paywall; we think the link above should work, but if it doesn’t, a summary: the article recounts Alex’s amazing memory for transit history, current lines and stops (not just on Muni rail lines, but every Muni bus line BART, and other Bay Area transit systems as well), and his pleasure at helping visitors out with directions.)

We are very proud of all our dedicated volunteers, who interpret San Francisco transit history to our museum visitors, and often to E- and F-line riders as well. If you’d like to join our volunteer corps, just send an email to volunteer@streetcar.org.

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Happy Centennial of a Big Global Streetcar Event

Tram procession on Riversdale Road, Camberwell, Melbourne, November 10, 1991. Courtesy Australian Rail Maps Group on Facebook.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB), whose history is wonderfully summarized in the quoted sections below, which were originally posted on Facebook by the group Australian Rail Maps, which also provided the historic photo from 1991 above.

The M&MTB built both of Muni’s W-class trams: W2 496 in 1929, and SW6 916 in 1946. (Muni also has W2 586, built in 1930, complete and in storage.) W-class trams are generally considered among the best ever built anywhere: simple, reliable, and durable. There were eight evolutionary classes of these vehicles, built between 1923 and 1956. In the photo above, W Class 380 and W1 Class 431 bring up the rear of this procession of older trams. Originally M&MTB painted its trams in a chocolate brown, but switched to the iconic green livery in the late 1920s. W-class trams still hold down service on the 35-City Circle line, as famous to Melbourne as cable cars are to San Francisco. These trams are in the process of being upgraded with some modern features while retaining their historic fabric into the W8 class, for decades more service. We have shared some of the details of these upgrades with Muni, for possible incorporation into its Melbourne trams.

You can find a complete all-time roster of Melbourne trams here.

Melbourne today continues to operate the largest electric streetcar network in the world, thanks to the enduring commitment started by M&MTB. Happy Centennial to our friends Down Under. And thanks to Adolfo Echeverry for the great photo immediately below of Muni’s 496 (left) and 916 at the Ferry Building.

Founded on November 1 1919, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board was a State Government instrumentality charged with integrating and operating Melbourne’s then fragmented tramways. The city and suburbs possessed an impressive but disjoint collection of tramways that had evolved over decades. The MMTB inherited the cable tram network built between 1885 and 1919 by the Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Company (MTOC), and the Northcote Municipality Cable Tramway line. Comprising numerous lines centred on downtown Melbourne, cable trams ran in all directions into the inner suburbs and was world’s largest ever cable tramway network.
The MMTB also inherited a number of municipal-owned electric tramway networks that served surrounding municipalities. Many lines connected end-on with cable trams into the centre of Melbourne. These networks included those of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust (PMTT), the Hawthorn Tramways Trust (HTT), the Melbourne, Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Trust (MBCTT), the Fitzroy, Northcote and Preston Tramways Trust (FNPTT), and the then under construction Footscray Tramways Trust (FTT). It also took over the operations of the privately owned North Melbourne Electric Tramway & Lighting Company and Melbourne’s last remaining horse tram route from Royal Parade to Melbourne Zoo in Royal Park.
The MMTB set about unifying and standardising the network. Over the decades it replaced cable trams with electric trams. The last cable tram route, along Bourke Street, closed in 1940. It embarked on a massive electric tramcar modernisation and building program that gave the world the famous W class tram and enabled the older pre-MMTB trams to be withdrawn.
Ultimately, it’s because of the MMTB that Melbourne was able to stand strong against the worldwide destruction of tram networks throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and has not only retained but extended its network so that it is now the world’s largest electric tram network. Trams are now the single most iconic and defining feature of the city.
Ultimately the MMTB was dissolved on July 1 1983 when it was replaced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that merged tram, bus and suburban train services in Melbourne. Subsequent changes have led to operation of Melbourne’s trams nowadays being franchised to Keolis Downer and run under the banner of Yarra Trams.

–From Australian Rail Maps Group on Facebook, November 1, 2019
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Grab a seat on this unique cable car and feed the hungry

Ribbon Cutting and Celebratory Ride for Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 | September 5, 2019. Jeremy Menzies photo, courtesy SFMTA

Seats are going fast for a first-time opportunity to tour the cable car system on the biggest cable car ever built: Sacramento-Clay “Big 19”, at 34 feet a full seven feet longer than Powell cars, and at 136 years, the oldest operating cable car in the world. And you can ride it on Mason and Hyde Streets, as well as California Street, in a four-hour exclusive charter on November 9, starting at 11 a.m., with lunch included from the famous Buena Vista Cafe at the foot of Hyde Street.

Test Run of Sacramento Clay Cable Car 19 | August 14, 2019

The cable car just reentered service after a 77-year “vacation” and operated on California Street during Muni Heritage Weekend. But this extended charter includes a ride up and down the famed Hyde Street Hill, plus a run out Mason Street, Columbus Avenue, and Taylor Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, as well as the full length of the California line and the connecting trackage on lower Hyde Street, only rarely operated with riders on board.

Best of all, the ticket ($125) is tax deductible, because your ride benefits the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, our nonprofit friends, who will use the proceeds to provide turkeys (delivered by cable car!) to people in need in Chinatown and other communities. This is going to be a hot ticket, with limited ridership to give everyone breathing room. So sign up before it’s too late at this Food Bank page.  The great gripman Val Lupiz, who is a lead organizer of the event, will be at the controls of Big 19 for the charter. You don’t want to miss this.

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Boat to Cruise on Fleet Week Weekend

UPDATE, FRIDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 11 — The Boat is out today as well, a bonus day! The copy below has been adjusted to reflect this. Thanks to initiative by staff at SFMTA, led by Randy Catanach, chief of rail maintenance, one of Muni’s two 1934 Blackpool, England, open-top Boat Trams will cruise the waterfront from our San Francisco Railway Museum to Pier 39 on Fleet Week Weekend — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 11-13, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.… — Read More

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Boat Keeps Sailing Through Fleet Week

SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum has approved the extension of summer Blackpool Boat Tram service through Fleet Week in mid-October. The boat will continue to operate from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on The Embarcadero between our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 every Tuesday and Wednesday through October 9. This is a welcome development, given the great popularity of the Boat Tram so far this summer. In last weekend’s Muni Heritage celebration, riders queued up for more… — Read More

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Heritage Weekend Halftime Report

Great first day for Muni Heritage Weekend. Most diverse group of vintage transit vehicles ever; biggest crowds ever; most visitors to our San Francisco Railway Museum ever. We’ll post most of the photos after Sunday’s action, but we want to make sure you see a few shots, and more importantly, these links: The Chronicle’s Steve Rubenstein looks at the first day’s action, with a focus on buses. And the Chron’s venerable “Native Son”, columnist Carl Nolte, pens a paean to… — Read More

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Ride, Join, and SHOP at Heritage Weekend

Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7 and 8, is the best two days of the year when it comes to riding a wide range of vintage transit vehicles — streetcars, cable cars, trolley buses, and motor buses — ranging in age from 44 to 136 years! You literally cannot do that anywhere else in the world, at any time. And it’s also the best two days of the year to get your shopping done at our San Francisco Railway Museum, the… — Read More

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Sept. 7-8 Muni Heritage Weekend Details Here!

September 7 and 8 are shaping up to be the best Muni Heritage Weekend ever! This year’s seventh annual event should feature two vintage rail vehicle debuts, plus a full roster of returning favorite streetcars, cable cars, and buses. All the action is centered at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building at the F-line Steuart Street stop. (The one exception: the special cable cars, which will board one block away at California and… — Read More

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Big 19 in Broad Daylight

For the first time in 77 years today, the biggest cable car in San Francisco (or anywhere for that matter) climbed “halfway to the stars” and back down again under cable power, in regular service conditions. The cable car known as “Big 19” for its size (seven feet longer than Powell Street Cable Car 19, and four feet longer than the California Street cable cars, previously the longest in the fleet) has been on the streets twice before in recent… — Read More

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Great Start to Summer Boat Service

The first day of summer boat tram service, May 28, went very well. Some highlights: The Boat ran great, the banners Market Street Railway prepared looked great; thanks to Randy Catanach’s rail maintenance crew. The operating crew (Angel Carvajal and Juiel Rice) were great with riders, very welcoming. Market Street Railway had docents on board all day answering questions. Loads were good all day; full both directions on final few trips. Lots of waves and positive feedback from onlookers all… — Read More

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Muni Heritage Weekend Sept. 7-8

The premier vintage transit event of the year, Muni Heritage Weekend, happens September 7-8 this year. Rides will be offered each day from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. For the first time, this popular event, co-sponsored by SFMTA and Market Street Railway, will kick off San Francisco Transit Week, an event co-sponsored by SFMTA and the San Francisco Transit Riders organization (SFTR). Details are still being finalized, but for Heritage Weekend at least, you can expect, at a minimum, several… — Read More

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Happy Centennial to One “L” of a Streetcar Line

On April 12, 1919, the first L-Taraval streetcar hit the rails, overcoming obstacles to begin a century of service that continues today. The Twin Peaks Tunnel had opened fourteen months before, bringing fast streetcar service from downtown to the nearly empty southwestern quadrant of the city. Initially, there was just one line, the K, but property owners in the areas above and west of the tunnel, who had paid for its construction, expected – and demanded – more. So, Muni… — Read More

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Welcome to our new site!

Led by our great volunteers Chris Arvin and Kat Siegal, we’ve revamped streetcar.org to have a fresh look and much more utility, especially for mobile users. The freshest part of the new site is the live streetcar map created by Kat and Chris. You can read all about it in this story from the Examiner. Easier to use than our former map, it tells mobile users not only how far away the next streetcar is from their stop, but also… — Read More

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London Buses in SF: 1952

The librarian for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Van Niekerken, comes up with some dandy articles by digging through the newspaper’s voluminous archives. Somehow, we missed this great story and photos, showing three double-deck London Transport buses coming to, and driving through, San Francisco on a cross-country British tourism promotion in 1952. The photo above shows one of the RTL-type buses (predecessor to London Transport’s famed Routemasters) on Market Street at Eighth, sharing the street with three “Iron Monster” Muni… — Read More

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