Heritage Weekend Halftime Report

Families and fans lined up to ride 1896 “Dinky” Streetcar 578 outside our museum, as they did for the two boat trams that operated on Saturday, but everyone got a ride.

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:

1938 White Motor Coach 042, Muni’s oldest surviving bus, a prime subject of Steve Rubenstein’s Chronicle story, linked below.

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 Sacramento-Clay Cable Car “Big 19” as it made its public debut on Saturday.

“Big 19”, originally built in 1883 and the oldest operable cable car in the world, waits its turn at the California and Market terminal with 1907 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line CABLE CAR 42 right behind.

If you’re reading this Sunday morning in San Francisco, drop what you’re doing and head down to 77 Steuart Street, across from the Ferry Building, where the action continues from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

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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 center of all the Heritage Weekend action. That’s because Market Street Railway members AND all current SFMTA employees will receive a 20% discount on all of the merchandise in our museum store. That includes our 2020 calendar, our great selection of transit themed tee-shirts, hats, and other apparel, Muni logo gear, genuine cable car rail paperweights and plaques, books, a wide array of kids’ items, and more. Many of these items are not available online or in other stores.

Our museum store selection includes items specially for us by our board member Chris Arvin, a great designer recently featured here with his own great “merch”.

Get an early start on holiday shopping with many items you can’t find anywhere else. (The everyday discount for our members and for SFMTA employees is 10%. This special offer is for in-person purchases at the museum only, not in our online store. We’ll be offering our members who can’t come to Heritage Weekend a 20% discount period at our online store inn a few weeks.)

Not a current Market Street Railway member? We can fix that easily. For just $20, we’re offering a special six-month membership to introduce more people to our non-profit transit preservation organization. Sign up at our booth in the plaza across the tracks from the museum on Heritage Weekend and you’ll instantly be eligible for the 20% members discount in the museum. You’ll also receive the latest two issues of our quarterly member magazine, Inside Track, along with the next two in your six month membership.

But, as they say in infomercials, wait, there’s more. If you take the plunge on Heritage Weekend for a full year’s basic membership (at $45), we’ll add token of thanks, literally: a genuine Muni token, a little smaller than a dime, minted in the 1930s, and still valid for a single ride on a Muni bus or streetcar/LRV (a ride that now costs $3 in cash, by the way). We have a limited number of these, offered in person at Heritage Weekend only. And, if you choose our Conductor membership at $100 annually, you’ll get the token plus a 2020 calendar, a $14 value when you add in sales tax.

SFMTA employees don’t need to join Market Street Railway to receive the 20% discount on Heritage Weekend. The double discount (usually 10%) is our nonprofit’s way of saying thanks to the folks who keep San Francisco moving. But we hope that more SFMTA employees will join Market Street Railway for the other benefits of membership.

And because many SFMTA employees are at work during Heritage Weekend, we’re extending their 20% discount the following week, Transit Week, so it’s good for SFMTA employees through Friday, September 13.

But whether you take advantage of these special offers or not, come on down to Muni Heritage Weekend. It’s going to be the best one yet! If you absolutely can’t make it this year, you can still join Market Street Railway online, supporting our efforts that make events like Muni Heritage Weekend possible. All members, old and new, we’ll alert you in a few weeks to our 20% off online store sale, just for you.

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Sept. 7-8 Muni Heritage Weekend Details Here!

1896 “dinky” electric streetcar 578 is always a highlight of Heritage Weekend.

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 Market Streets.)

Vintage vehicles will start operating at 11 a.m. both days, with the exception of the streetcar shuttles on The Embarcadero, which will start running around 12 noon because of the Giant Race, a waterfront footrace that was rescheduled to this date after we locked in Heritage Weekend dates. But there’ll still be plenty of time to get in your rides.

On the plaza opposite our museum, Muni’s motorized cable car 62 will be available for kids of all ages to ring their hearts out on. We’ll have a variety of kids’ games, a new selfie opportunity in front of a huge vintage colorized historic photo from 1947, book signings by Paul Bignardi of his brand new Muni Fleet History (available for the first time) and Emiliano Echeverria with his DVD book of our namesake, the Market Street Railway of 1893, our annual book and memorabilia sale, and much more. At the request of our out-of-town members, MSR President Rick Laubscher will repeat his interactive presentation of the narrated 1906 Trip Down Market Street film at the museum on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Market Street Railway Members will get 20% off all merchandise in the museum this weekend only (up from the normal 10%), as will employees of SFMTA, as our thanks for our productive partnership. AND, to introduce new people to Market Street Railway, we’ll be offering trial six-month memberships for just $20, which will include the last two issues of our Member magazine, Inside Track. So, this is the perfect opportunity to bring friends and relatives down for a great weekend of rare rides and shopping bargains.

Okay, now to the meat of the matter for many fans. We now have a semi-final vehicle lineup for Muni Heritage Weekend. Here it is:


1907 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car 42, where you’ll board on Heritage Weekend, at California and Market Streets, just a block from our museum.
  • Special cable cars operate at regular fares as part of regular California Street cable car service, between Market Street (one block from San Francisco Railway Museum) and Van Ness Avenue, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • UPDATE: Saturday AND Sunday: Debut of Sacramento-Clay “Big 19”, which will carry paying passengers in regular service for the first time in 77 years. Originally built 1883 as open car for Market Street service; rebuilt 1908 for Sacramento-Clay service; retired 1942; wears livery of the 1927-37 period. 
  • Saturday & Sunday: O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line car 42. Built 1907, retired 1954, brought back to San Francisco by Market Street Railway; wears livery of 1917 period.
Sacramento-Clay “Big 19” at the Market and California terminal during testing.

STREETCARS (Operating both Saturday and Sunday unless otherwise noted; Streetcar operations begin 11 a.m. Saturday, 12 Noon Sunday)

Posing with a Boat Tram is an Instagram favorite on Heritage Weekend.

TROLLEY COACHES: (Begin operations at 11 a.m. both days)

Two generations of 20th Century Muni Trolley Coaches: 776 (left) and 5300

Board on Steuart Street at Don Chee Way (next to the San Francisco Railway Museum).  All rides are free. Stops only at terminals. One of the trolley coaches will leave Steuart Street approximately every 45 minutes.

1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach 776, painted in Muni’s famous green and cream “Wings” livery.

1975 Flyer Trolley Coach, painted in Muni’s “Landor” livery of orange, gold, and white.

SATURDAY TROLLEY COACH ROUTE: to Washington Square in North Beach via the 41-Union line through Embarcadero Center and Columbus Avenue.

SUNDAY TROLLEY COACH ROUTE: via Sutter and Mason Streets to connect with Tenderloin Sunday Streets activity, returning via Market from Mason.

MOTOR COACHES: (Begin operations at 11 a.m. both days)

San Franciscans of a certain age rode 1956 Mack motor coaches as kids; on Heritage Weekend, kids of all ages can ride this beautifully restored Mack–free!
  • Board on Steuart Street at Don Chee Way (next to the San Francisco Railway Museum).  All rides are free. No pickups en route. One of the motor coaches should leave Steuart Street approximately every 30 minutes.
  • 1938 White Company motor coach 042, which served as a Coit Tower bus for four decades; now repainted into its original Muni livery of orange and black.
  • 1956 Mack motor coach 2230, fully restored to immaculate condition, wearing its original “Wings” livery.
  • 1970 GMC “Fishbowl/New Look” motor coach 3287, wearing its original Muni maroon and cream “Cal Cable” livery.
  • SATURDAY MOTOR COACH ROUTE: via 82x route on Sansome and Battery Streets to reach Levi’s Plaza and the Cruise Ship Terminal (Pier 27).
  • SUNDAY MOTOR COACH ROUTE: same as trolley coaches (Market, Sutter, Mason, return via Market) to connect with Tenderloin Sunday Streets activity.

We will have one more update before Heritage Weekend on anticipated schedules, posted on this site; we’ll also have schedules for book signings and talks at the museum. Watch for it.

1946 Melbourne Tram 916 (right) will make its regular service debut on Heritage Weekend Sunday (September 8), joining older sibling 1929 Tram 496 on The Embarcadero.

NOTE: Muni has a chronic operator shortage that has lingered, but shows some signs of easing. Only specially qualified operators can take the controls of the historic streetcars and buses, and they are generally working on their regular days off. The vehicles on the street obviously have to match operator availability on a given day; that’s why a couple of vehicles are only scheduled to be out one day–so that riders can get a greater variety over the weekend.

Also, while at this writing every vehicle mentioned here is operational, a couple are pending final go-aheads to enter service (Cable Car “Big 19” and Melbourne 916). We don’t anticipate problems, but mention this in full disclosure. Finally, of course, operational problems can always develop with any transit vehicle. But we know Muni’s maintenance teams are doing a great job in getting everything ready and want to show off their “babies”. They have a lot to be proud of; we hope you come and enjoy Muni Heritage Weekend.

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Big 19 in Broad Daylight

Sacramento-Clay Cable Car 19 crosses Powell Street on August 6, 2019 with many of the crew that helped bring it back to life. Rick Laubscher photos.

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 weeks for testing, but both times at night, while the rest of the cable cars were sleeping in the barn.

Today, it ran from the cable car barn at Washington and Mason Street just as a regular-service California Street cable car would, the cable pulling it up Jackson Street and along Hyde to reach the California line, then up to Van Ness, reversing ends all the way to Market Street, and back again to Hyde, pulling onto the non-revenue (no passengers) stretch of track on Hyde between California and Washington Streets.

There, a few feet from its long-time route along Clay Street, the crew tested the slot blade, the emergency brake that brings cable cars to a quick stop when other brakes have problems. It worked fine, but under cable car rules, a car has to be towed back to the barn whenever a slot blade is dropped, so that’s how it ended today’s test.

More on the earlier testing, including a detailed history of this amazing car, first operated in 1883 — on Market Street! — here.

Crossing Grant Avenue. For 34 years, Big 19 and its 11 siblings served Chinatown faithfully via the next two blocks to the north (behind the car): Sacramento and Clay Streets.

We were invited along for today’s ride. The car handled very well throughout. It’s a little noisier than other cable cars, which shop supervisor Arne Hansen, who spearheaded restoration efforts, ascribed to the new trucks under the car. But the noise was music to the crew onboard, who have made this resurrection a labor of love.

So, no problems encountered anywhere; it fit everywhere. Because of its length, it wasn’t certain it would clear the terminal switch at California and Market while a Cal Car was “in the hole” (The extra space to store a cable car at the end of the line), but it made it with ease.

Acting Senior Operations Manager for Cable Car, Wes Valaris, a former gripman, poses on the running board of Big 19 at the California and Market terminal, with F-line PCC 1051 photobombing the shot from behind.

There’s still some paperwork to be done, but at this writing, it looks like Big 19 will be cleared to make its passenger-carrying debut on Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8, an exciting event for sure. Thereafter, it’s expected to join O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car 42 for infrequent but incredible special event service.

We’ll be posting updated information on Heritage Weekend soon, but be sure to leave time for a ride on Big 19.

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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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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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Remembering Cam Beach

Cameron Beach would have turned 70 today. San Francisco’s transit system would be better if he were still with us. But that wasn’t to be. On March 19, 2011, he died suddenly of a heart attack. At the time of his death, he was a member of SFMTA’s Board of Directors, having been appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2007, following his retirement as Chief Operating Officer of Sacramento Regional Transit. On his 70th birthday, we want to share his… — Read More

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“Torpedoes” on the F-line

Muni’s biggest PCC streetcars have been nicknamed “torpedoes” by fans since shortly after they arrived in San Francisco in 1948. The 50’5″ behemoths are four feet longer than the far more numerous single-end PCC streamliners, and a full nine feet wide. The origin of the nickname is a bit obscure, but many think it derives from the sleekness of the design. There are seven of these cars in Muni’s vintage streetcar fleet. Three are currently being completely rebuilt at Brookville… — Read More

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10-Year Profile Picture Challenge

Posting old and current profile photos side by side has been the rage on Facebook of late, so we thought we’d post our own…just one of dozens of comparisons we could make that show just how wonderful Muni’s restoration of historic streetcars is. This car, 1009, admittedly needed more “plastic surgery” than most others. The photo from 10 years ago shows it ripped (not the good muscle kind, either) and slathered in blue protective paint after sitting out of service… — Read More

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Decorated Cable Cars, Now and Then

‘Tis the season to show off holiday spirit in all kinds of ways. The San Francisco Chronicle is both reporting and demonstrating that spirit with our most iconic transit vehicles, the cable cars. You can see the publication’s handiwork on Powell Cable Car 1 (pictured in the photo by Val Lupiz above, complete with Victorian-costumed guests), one of eight cable cars decorated this year in a growing campaign led by Val, Jeremy Whiteman, and Frank Zepeda (MSR members all), and supported… — Read More

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Big Boost for Mid-Market F-line Loop

The US Department of Transportation has granted San Francisco $15 million to help pay for the first phase of the city’s vision to remake Market Street. Here’s the news story, and here’s the city’s official website for the project.   Included in that first phase is a critical improvement to the F-line historic streetcar service, shown above: a bi-directional loop track at Civic Center, using the short first block of McAllister Street and the northerly extension of Seventh Street (called… — Read More

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Muni’s “Fireplace”

Flash back a half-century or more, when the West Portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel was done up to resemble a giant brick fireplace, complements of local merchants. We see PCC Car 1010 about to plunge into the “hearth” on its trip downtown, emerging a few minutes later at Market and Castro Streets.  Did you know that San Francisco is getting Car 1010 as a belated holiday present in the new year? It’s being completely renovated at Brookville Equipment Company… — Read More

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