Positively (Twenty-)Fourth Street

Okay, the headline reference is anachronistic, because this shot goes WAY back beyond Dylan. So evocative, though, we couldn’t resist the reference.

Few are still around who remember streetcars on 24th Street, now the cultural center of the City’s Latino community and known to many as Calle 24. But here we are in 1938 (based on the streetcar and the automobile license plate) looking east on 24th at York Street, staring at a 35-Howard line streetcar. It has just descended the very steep hill on 24th from its terminal at Rhode Island Street on Potrero Hill, crossed the Muni’s H-line tracks on Potrero Avenue, and is bound for South Van Ness, where it will turn right and continue on that street and Howard to reach the south terminal at the Ferry Building.

On the corner to the right, we see the St. Francis ice cream and candy store — still there! — and beyond it, the Roosevelt theater marquee. The Roosevelt wasn’t a tribute to a president, it was opened by a Dutchman named Roosevelt in 1922, who also owned other businesses on the block, including the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, which reopened early this year after a hiatus.

And by the way, this is not just any old streetcar. This is one of five “Rail Sedans” that Muni’s then-competitor (and our namesake) Market Street Railway bought secondhand from the East St. Louis & Suburban Railway in 1936. These cars, built in 1927 by St. Louis Car Company, were far more modern looking than anything else Market Street Railway ever owned. They were purchased when the company began converting lightly-ridden lines to be served by single-operator cars that saved labor costs. According to the definitive history of the Market Street Railway, The White Front Cars of San Francisco by Charles Smallwood, the five rail sedans spent their entire San Francisco career exclusively on the 35-line. The company felt if they spread these cars around to other routes, riders on those routes might demand more of them, and there were no more available.

The mandatory “Eclipse Fender” on the front of these cars in San Francisco detracted from the even more modern look they enjoyed in their original home, equipped with chromed spring bumpers (see photo from Smallwood’s book below).

These Rail Sedans only lasted three years in service in San Francisco, sent to the sidelines when the courts declared the single-operator arrangement illegal. Within two years, Market Street Railway had given up its franchise for the 35-Howard. Muni converted the portions on Howard and South Van Ness to its first trolley coach line (the R, later the 41) in 1941. The 24th Street portion later became Muni’s 35-line bus, and is now the 48-line bus. Sadly, all the rail sedans were scrapped in 1941. They’d sure look great in service on the F and E lines today!

This great photo comes to us from the Facebook Group San Francisco Remembered, where it was just made the group photo. Thanks for letting us share.

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121 Years in One Day

Muni Supervisor Robert Parks, who trains operators on every type of streetcar and light rail vehicle in the city, may have set a record today.

In the morning (above), he trained operators on Muni’s newest model of LRV, Siemens car 2001, delivered earlier this year. (The first Siemens cars are due to start carrying paying passengers next month.) Above. 2001at the N-Judah Ocean Beach terminal.

Then, he got a call — could he do a shop move, transferring 1896 single-truck “dinky” 578 across Cameron Beach Yard.

The same operator running one of the very the newest streetcars in America and the oldest passenger streetcar still on the roster of a US transit agency in the same day — vehicles built 121 years apart. That’s gotta be a record!

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that Robert moved the dinky “across town,” which he called us to correct. We regret the error but are still in awe of his “double-header”.

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Vintage Buses on the 7-Haight Friday, September 8

As part of its celebration of 100 years of buses at Muni, vintage motor coaches will make a rare passenger-carrying appearance on the 7-Haight line between the Ferry and Golden Gate Park, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday September 8.

Here’s the schedule:

  • At 10 a.m., 1970 General Motors coach 3287 (above) will leave the Ferry Terminal on Steuart Street to Stanyan Street via Market and Haight, and return.
  • It will be followed by 1975 AM General coach 4154 departing the Ferry Terminal at 12:20 p.m.
  • 1990 Orion 30′ coach 9010 will conclude the day with a run leaving the Ferry at 2:40 p.m.

Rides are free.

It’s all a prelude to the big Muni Heritage Weekend.  Read about that here.

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Muni Bus Centennial Celebrated at Heritage Weekend

Muni Superintendent Fred Boeken poses with Muni’s first five motor coaches (White Motor Co.) outside Geary Division, 1918. Photo from SFMTA Archives.

Muni operated its first bus on September 1, 1917. Their ace archivist and photographer, Jeremy Menzies, put together a great post with lots of photos that’s definitely worth a look.

We got a bit of a head start on the Muni bus centennial with an exhibit we opened in March at our San Francisco Railway Museum, telling the story of how buses came to replace streetcars as the city’s dominant transit vehicle. It’s still up, and it’s one more reason to come down to the museum for Muni Heritage Weekend, September 9-10 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

But don’t just come down to look at the display. Come down to ride and view actual vintage buses, because they’re taking center stage this year in honor of their centennial at Muni. Both trolley coaches and motor coaches will be offering the public rides that Saturday and Sunday.

Muni’s oldest surviving bus, built in 1938 by White Motor Company and numbered 042, restored to its original orange and black paint scheme, will run from the museum to Levi’s Plaza and back, as will 1969 GMC “Fishbowl” 3287, painted in the new livery of that day, which was modeled on the maroon worn by the California Street Cable Cars.

Newer buses running along with them on the Levi’s Plaza route will be 1975 AM General 4154 and 1990 Orion 9010.

But perhaps the most attention will go to Muni’s newest restored motor coach, 1956 Mack 2230. It will be on display in the plaza next to the museum. We won’t spoil the surprise with a photo of the restoration here (besides which, the Woods Division shops are still working on it) but here’s what it looked like during its first life. The Mack will sit side by side with a brand new Muni hybrid-electric motor coach, allowing visitors to compare 60 years of bus technology.

Two vintage trolley coaches will carry riders from the Museum to Washington Square in North Beach, including 67-year old Marmon-Herrington 776, which will be joined by 1975 Flyer 5300.

While the buses take a bow, there’s still a full slate of rail action. The J-Church line is celebrating its own centennial, so Muni’s very first streetcar, 1912 Car 1, will run from the Museum out Market and down the J-line to 30th Street on several trips each day, joined by a PCC streetcar of the type that ran the J for 30 years.

Additionally, the oldest surviving San Francisco streetcar, 578, built for the original Market Street Railway in 1896, will carry passengers from the museum to the Wharf and back, joined by one of the popular 1934 open-top “boat trams” from Blackpool, England. And 1929 Melbourne, Australia tram 496 will operate on the E-Embarcadero line.


Finally, the last surviving O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car to wear that line’s livery, Car 42 in its original 1906 livery, will be operating on the California Street cable car line, just two blocks from the museum, both days.

We’ll have a special sale of hard-to-find rail books and memorabilia both days, plus book signings on transit issues, including BART (by Mike Healy), the F-line (Peter Ehrlich), the Market Street Railway of 1893 (Emilio Echeverria) and the overall heritage operation (Rick Laubscher). We’ll post the schedule for these a few days before the weekend.

This is a Heritage Weekend you don’t want to miss!

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No Cable Cars, F-line Streetcars Saturday, Aug. 26

UPDATE, Saturday, August 26, 9:30 a.m. — Even though the “white nationalist” gathering at Crissy Field was cancelled and the city subsequently barred them from moving it to Alamo Square, buses are still running on the F, instead of streetcars. Streetcars are running on the E-line this morning. Because of the planned protests and counter-protests around San Francisco this coming Saturday, August 26, Muni has decided to replace all three cable car lines and the F-Market & Wharves streetcar line… — Read More

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Visible Pride for Harvey Milk

Since his passion and determination grabbed the attention of San Franciscans in the 1970s, Harvey Milk has been a household name here. His terrible assassination in 1978 brought global attention to his human rights advocacy, specifically for LGBTQ people. The movie “Milk” in 2008 brought his story to millions more around the globe. In 2009, Market Street Railway urged the SFMTA to dedicate a PCC streetcar used in the movie, No. 1051, to Harvey. It wears the simple green and… — 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 [email protected] 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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Help Preserve Mona Caron’s Market Street Railway Mural

      UPDATE:  As of May 5, Mona had raised more than $16,000,138% of her goal.  THANK YOU to all who donated. Fifteen years ago, the artist Mona Caron painted a wonderful mural on a wall on Church Street at Fifteenth Street. Now, according to Hoodline, the mural is deteriorating and Mona is seeking funding to conserve and restore it. If you’d like to help, here’s the link. It’s a wonderful work of art and historic interpretation. Our organization, Market Street… — Read More

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“Boston” is Back!

  PCC 1059, honoring Boston Elevated Railway, is back in San Francisco, photographed by MSR Member Traci Cox at Muni Metro East in the wee hours of Monday, April 24. Like many of the 17 first-generation F-line streetcars (numbered from 1050-1063, plus 1007, 1010, and 1015), the colors on the tribute livery adorning 1059 were a little off. At that time, Muni only allowed a relative handful of colors in the palette for the PCC tribute paint schemes, but now, there… — Read More

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End of the B-Geary, 60 Years Ago

  On December 29, 1956, the last passenger-carrying streetcar ran on the tracks of Muni’s first street, Geary.  Muni became America’s first big city publicly owned transit system 44 years and one day earlier, on December 28, 1912, when it opened the A and B streetcar lines on Geary Street. Soon, four Muni lines were running along Geary from the Ferry Building via Market: the A, which went from the Ferries to Tenth Avenue, then south to Golden Gate Park; the B, which reached… — Read More

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Take a 1950 Trolley Bus to Streetcar Movies Sept. 24

In a new addition to Muni Heritage Weekend, we — Market Street Railway — have chartered vintage 1950 trolley coach 776 to a special encore showing of Streetcar San Francisco Movie Night at the Balboa Theater. The 90-minute programs features archival footage (much of it supplied by us), new and original short films, highlights from the OpenSFHistory collection, and other historically-inspired surprises around the theme of San Francisco public and private transit. It’s narrated with zest by Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher. In… — Read More

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2017 Calendar Now on Sale!

Celebrate the colorful streetcars and cable cars of San Francisco with our 2017 calendar, now on sale in our online store and at our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building at 77 Steuart Street. The new year marks the centennial of the J-Church, San Francisco’s oldest surviving streetcar line, and our calendar brings its history to life with a full page of text and photos about the wonderful, wandering J and its backyard right-of-way. But that’s just the… — Read More

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Celebrate 99 Years of the J-Church July 10

How about a Sunday excursion on a 102-year streetcar along a 99-year old streetcar line?  How about growling up through Dolores Park while all the techies and friends in the park stare with mouths agape, asking “how’d I miss THAT?” It’s the latest Market Street Railway Trolley Tour, Sunday, July 10 from 1:30-3:30, starting and ending at our San Francisco Railway Museum. You’ll roll up Market Street, then out the J-line all the way to Cameron Beach Yard, where the… — Read More

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Second Century for C-1

Ever forget a birthday? We did, until Jeremy Menzies, who runs the great SFMTA Photo Archives, reminded us. Here’s his blog post on the 100th birthday of Muni’s only purpose-built work car, No. C-1. The two links tell the story pretty completely. We just love this streetcar, a true rarity in transit today: a vehicle built exclusively for working on the system (instead of carrying passengers) that is still doing what it was built to do, for its original owner,… — Read More

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F-line Streetcars Back On Market. For One Day. Maybe.

SFMTA just issued this news release, proclaiming that the teardown of Super Bowl City has been completed a day early, so Muni service on lower Market Street is resuming tonight (Thursday, February 11). That should include F-line streetcars, though the announcement doesn’t make that explicit. In any event, if the streetcars do return to Market on Friday the 12th, it’s only for a visit. Because they’ll be taken off the street AGAIN this coming weekend, February 13 and 14, with buses… — Read More

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