Double Dose of Down Under This Weekend

UPDATE, Saturday July 21, 11:00 a.m. — Muni tests cars for a good reason before they enter service. The 916 developed a hot wheel bearing this morning and has safely returned to Cameron Beach Yard, where it will be fixed by the maintenance team.

The operating crew said the car ran like a dream from a propulsion and braking standpoint, and they’re excited about taking it out again soon, though it will almost certainly not be out Sunday, July 22.

We’ll let you know when the 916 will be out again. Meanwhile, enjoy Melbourne 496 this weekend.

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It’s shaping up as a special weekend on The Embarcadero July 21 and 22, as Melbourne trams built 18 years apart wish San Franciscans and visitors a double “G’Day”.

As our Members and friends know, Market Street Railway has been strongly advocating that Muni operate Melbourne W2 class tram 496 (built 1928) regularly on the E-line (it’s on the left in the photo above and in action on King Street, below).

Overcoming reluctance from some quarters inside Muni, the 496 has now been successfully operating on the E-line every day for some time, delighting passengers. It is scheduled to be on its regular runs this weekend, and you can ride it along the waterfront, AND on its end-of-day trip home to its “sleeping quarters”, Cameron Beach Yard (where the photo above was taken July 10) you can ride it out Market Street on the F-line and then down Church Street on the J-line to Balboa Park, for just the regular Muni fare, because all historic streetcars are in service until the reach the car barn.

This “pull-in” run for Car 496 should pass our San Francisco Railway Museum (Steuart Street stop) outbound on the F-line around 5:35 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, if it’s on schedule. You can check its whereabouts anytime via NextMuni, through this link.

But wait, there’s more.

[NOTE: See update above; this has changed.] Come down to The Embarcadero Saturday or Sunday and you’ll also see (but won’t yet be able to ride) 496’s baby brother, SW6 Class 916, built in 1946 (on the right in the top photo, and below). It has just completed protracted, on-and-off renovations and adaptation to San Francisco standards after being gifted to San Francisco in 2009, with Market Street Railway’s assistance. The gift came from the Victoria State Government in Australia, which owns the Melbourne trams. Both days, the 916 will leave Cameron Beach Yard around 6 a.m., run up and down The Embarcadero and perhaps down the T-line as far as Muni Metro East (at 25th Street), until around 5 p.m., when it will head home to Cameron Beach. The crew will checking systems and reliability before carrying its first paying passengers in San Francisco, which should happen in just a matter of weeks now.

 

We’ll let you know when the 916 is ready to launch into regular service, but for now, check out the waterfront this weekend for an extra taste of Melbourne!

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Welcome Home, 162!

One of Muni’s original streetcars, Car 162, built in 1914 by the Jewett Car Company of Ohio, returned to San Francisco today following extensive accident repairs by the firm of Carlos Guzman, Inc. in Signal Hill, near Long Beach.

The streetcar was badly damaged on January 4, 2014, when it collided with a semi-truck that ran a red light in front of the streetcar on The Embarcadero at Bay Street. Muni elected to send the car to a contractor for repairs instead of repairing it in-house.

Car 162 was unloaded at Muni Metro East in the morning of Monday, April 23, 2018. Close inspections will be performed to ensure all the mechanical and electrical components are functioning as they should be. Then, the car will be tested for 1,000 miles before reentering service. Simultaneously, Muni is “burning in” PCCs returning from their rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania for the same 1,000 miles (Car 1050 is currently in that process, with Car 1053 awaiting its turn) and similarly testing newly arrived Siemens LRV-4s, of which 20+ are now on the property, with maybe half of those accepted. So it may take time to get the 162 on the street.

These photos were taken as the car was being unloaded; access to the interior was not available at that point, but it was clear that the cosmetic quality of the restoration is superb, with all seats stripped and freshly painted and varnished, and the headliner (ceiling) stripped and painted in the end sections, varnished in the center section.

We will have a feature article on the restoration of the 162 in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track. To get it, you’ve got to be a Member of Market Street Railway, so please take this opportunity to join us!

We hope that the 162 will be accepted in time to provide substantial days of service this summer on the E-Embarcadero line.

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Opening Day, with Car 1!

In a welcome surprise, Muni Operations assigned its flagship streetcar, vintage 1912 Car 1, to regular E-line service today, the first time that has happened since the E-line opened for seven-day service two years ago.

It caught our usual coterie of fan-photographers off-guard, but we managed to catch a shot of it, above, pulling in to Muni Metro East at the end of the day.

The special appearance was probably because of the Giants’ home opener at AT&T Park on the E-line. The team is celebrating its 60th year in San Francisco. When the Giants arrived in 1958, Car 1 had already been retired from its first operating life for seven years and was sitting on a dark pier, its motors removed, marked for static display in a museum that never came to pass.

But Car 1 got a second life in 1962 when it was restored by Muni craftsworkers to commemorate Muni’s 50th anniversary. (That of course was the year that the Giants WOULDA won the World Series IF ONLY Willie McCovey had hit that line drive a foot higher or to the right of Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Candlestick, but we digress.)

Today, as for the past two seasons, E-line cars like 1011 (above) carried lots of happy fans between Fisherman’s Wharf and the game. It and other Muni streetcars on the E-and F-lines carried special Giants’ 60th Anniversary flags today, supplied by our generous volunteer James Giraudo and installed at 2 a.m. by the dedicated Joe Hickey, who oversees our flag program. Like the rest of us, Joe didn’t know Car 1 was going into service, so it didn’t have the flags on it, but it hit a home run anyway. (So did two Giants, Joe Panik and Evan Longoria, but the home team lost anyway, 6-4 to Seattle.)

By the way, the Giants flags also appropriately appeared on Powell Cable Car 24, which is dedicated to the greatest Giant, Willie Mays. Val Lupiz did a dandy job decorating Car 24 with help from James Giraudo, Jeremy Whiteman, and Frank Zepeda!

Discussion at the ball park today centered around some major league “firsts” set over the weekend, which got us to wondering whether this was the first time in its 105-year life that Car 1 had carried fans to a baseball opening day. The answer? Probably.

In 1914, the San Francisco Seals moved to a brand new ball park, Ewing Field, on Masonic Avenue. Muni built a spur track from Geary Street along Masonic to serve the new ball park, and assigned some runs of the A-line to Ewing on game days. No run assignments survive from those days, but Car 1 was based at Geary Division, just three blocks away, in 1914, so it’s at least a possibility it served Ewing Field for that year’s opening game (which the Seals lost to Oakland, 3-0). The photo below shows a Muni streetcar of Car 1’s type (possibly Car 1 itself) on the A-line at the Ferry Building with a “Ball Park” designation on the dash. The “1915” on the Ferry Building tower signifies the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but the photo was taken during the 1914 baseball season, and the “ball park” reference is to Ewing Field.

Ewing Field was a disaster for baseball, even foggier and windier than Candlestick was in later decades, so the Seals moved back to Recreation Park at 15th and Valencia Streets in 1915 (served by United Railroads/Market Street Railway streetcar lines, but not Muni lines). Muni’s investment in the Masonic Avenue spur turned out to be largely a waste, as it was never again used in revenue service and largely torn out by the late 1930s.

The Seals stayed at Recreation Park until 1931 when they moved to a new Seals Stadium at 16th and Bryant. Market Street Railway streetcars on the 22 and 25 lines served Seals Stadium directly, while Muni’s H-Potrero line was a block east. Car 1 operated on the H-line in the late 1910s and early 1920s out of Potrero Division, but it was back at Geary Division and usually assigned to the F-Stockton, D-Van Ness, or C-Geary-California, so it probably never made a Seals Stadium opening day. (The Giants played their first two seasons at Seals Stadium while Candlestick Park was being built. Millions of fans over Candlestick’s 40 year history as the home of the Giants took Muni diesel buses to the games.)

Market Street Railway is proud to count the San Francisco Giants as one of our business supporters. Play ball! Go Giants!

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84% Support Historic Streetcars

In the increasingly frothy world of online media, we’ve noticed a definite increase in stories designed to create a controversy where there really isn’t one. With today’s frantic competition for eyeballs, competitors will often build on each other’s story without doing any actual, you know, reporting. (Not that this is just an online media thing; who of a certain age can forget the Chronicle’s “crusade” against bad coffee half a century ago, under the unforgettable headline, “A Great City’s People Forced to Drink Swill.” But we digress.)

Recent case in point on the fake controversy front. The Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez ran a straightforward story on May 30 about SFMTA’s (Muni’s) application for a federal grant to fund the next steps in the proposed historic streetcar extension to Fort Mason. (Joe Fitz, as he’s widely known, routinely breaks good transportation stories through solid old fashioned reporting, only to have his work parroted, often with no credit, by numerous online sites.) This time, the site StreetsblogSF picked up Joe’s story (with full credit) but decided to spice it up with controversy by turning into a story that asked the question, “Is it Time to Modernize the F-line?” The story revived a post the site made back in 2009, asking the same question, that went nowhere. Both stories almost certainly were suggested to the editor by Tom Radulovich, executve director of Livable City, the non-profit associated with the blog. Tom’s a former BART board member and the primary proponent of replacing the F-line vintage streetcars with modern low-floor streetcars. (These would very likely require major track rebuilding wherever used because they would probably not clear crowns on the hills as is, but we’ll leave feasibility out of this discussion.) We’ve talked cordially with Tom on this topic numerous times and, in friendly terms, agreed to disagree.

Anyway, StreetsblogSF ran its story and the comments on the site were strongly in favor of keeping the old streetcars. Immediately though, other local online news sites jumped in to take advantage of the “controversy,” which wasn’t really that at all, just basically one guy’s opinion.

One of these sites, CurbedSF, which primarily covers real estate, jumped in a few days later and regurgitated the story (must have been a slow day in the development/property world). (Neither of these sites bothered calling us for our views before posting their initial story, by the way, though when we called them, CurbedSF did incorporate our comments in an update.)

CurbedSF did add something new to the “controversy”, though, which is the point of this post.They asked their readers to vote on whether they wanted the historic streetcars to stay on Market Street and the Waterfront, or be replaced.

More than 260 readers responded to the question, “Is it time to get rid of the historic streetcars?” 16% said, “Yes,” while 84% — 5 out of every 6 respondents — said, “No.” San Franciscans know there’s almost nothing in this town that gets 84% agreement.

So maybe we can bid farewell, at least for awhile, to this manufactured “controversy”, and focus efforts on making the historic streetcar service run more efficiently, with cashless boarding (pre-paid fares on the busiest parts of the line), even more automobile traffic reduction on Market Street along with consolidated stops from Van Ness to the Ferry, better line management on both lines, but particularly the E-line, and other low-cost measures that Market Street Railway has been advocating for years.

This survey should erase any remaining doubt that the historic streetcars are highly valued by San Franciscans. Now’s the time to actually do something about helping their riders complete their trips faster.

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More Muni Mismanagement of the E-line

PLEASE SEE JULY 11 UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST. Sunday, July 9, has been a gorgeous day in San Francisco, but not a good day (again) for the E-Embarcadero line, which again has been mismanaged, in this case by assigning a streetcar that should have been on the E-line to the F-line instead. In the photo above, you see one of the seven double-end PCCs, the 1007, working the F-line to Castro, not the E. The double-end PCCs… — Read More

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E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service. As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and… — Read More

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E-line NextBus Map Working!

NextBus, Muni’s vendor for live displays showing where every vehicle is on every route, has launched the full-time E-Embarcadero map. You can now see what’s on both the E- and F-lines by clicking here, then selecting the map you want: F-line only, E-line only, or a combination (as shown in the screenshot above). We thank NextBus (which labels its maps here “NextMuni”) for including the icons (which we supplied them) of the actual streetcars that are on the line, a… — Read More

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E-line Gets Going

The E-line had a successful first day of operation August 1. Five double-end PCC streetcars cruised the waterfront from Fisherman’s Wharf to Caltrain from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the standard weekend schedule that will be in place until full-time, seven-day-a-week service starts early next year. The stations south of Market Street were very well marked with clearly worded signs and banners in multiple languages, created by SFMTA’s Communications Division. The signs, on both the low-level E-line side platforms and… — Read More

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E-line Kickoff; Boat Tram Debuts

San Francisco’s newest transit line started operation this morning, August 1, 2015, after an enthusiastic kickoff event on The Embarcadero yesterday. This photo, by Scott Badovick, captures the instant when dignitaries led by Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisors Julie Christensen, Scott Wiener, and Jane Kim, SFTMA Board Chair Tom Nolan and Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, and SFCTA Executive Director Tilly Chang, simultaneously snipped a red ribbon to mark the occasion. In the background, PCC No. 1006,… — Read More

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New Boat at E-line Ceremony July 31

Muni’s new “boat tram,” Blackpool, England open-top Car No. 233, will officially debut on July 31 at the opening press event for the new E-Embarcadero line. The new boat tram, Muni’s second example of this popular 1934 design, was acquired for Muni by Market Street Railway in 2013, thanks to a very generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, and ocean shipping subsidized by FedEx Trade Networks.  The boat, pictured above when on display during 2013’s Muni Heritage Weekend, has been… — Read More

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Great E-line Startup Piece in The Examiner

  The Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez gave us a ring in the morning, asking for the history behind the E-line. Among other things, he was curious why the line is named E when it’s starting service 20 years after the F.  We explained that the E-Embarcadero was originally given that letter in 1979, when Muni Planning first included it in its Long Range Transit Plan (very long range, as it turned out). It was envisioned to run from Fort Mason to… — Read More

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E-line Opening Now August 1

The opening of weekend service on the E-Embarcadero line has been rescheduled for Saturday, August 1, one week later than originally planned. At a meeting between SFMTA and Market Street Railway representatives on Thursday, July 1, it was agreed that the San Francisco Marathon, which will clog the entire Embarcadero on Sunday, July 26, made it prudent to defer the E-line opening. SFMTA had decided to substitute buses for streetcars on the F-line on Marathon day already, due to the… — Read More

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Training for E-line Under Way

Think of it as a dress rehearsal: double-ended historic streetcars cruising the length of The Embarcadero, running along both the F-line tracks (from the Wharf to the Ferry Building) and the N- and T-line tracks (from Folsom Street past AT&T Park and on to the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King Streets. With only an operator and Muni training staff on board. These streetcars are getting ready for the formal launch of the long-awaited E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line, which begins… — Read More

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E-Line Startup Looks Set for July 25

As readers of our member newsletter, Inside Track, learned last month, Muni’s second historic streetcar line, the long-awaited E-Embarcadero, now looks set to start up for initial weekend-only service on July 25.  Officials of SFMTA, Muni’s parent, were comfortable sharing that date with local blog Hoodline. UPDATE: E-line startup moved to August 1. The E-line, providing single-seat service the length of The Embarcadero, from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Giants ballpark and the Caltrain Depot, has been a goal of Market Street Railway… — Read More

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“The Streetcar Named Common Sense”

That’s how Joel P. Engardio, columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, described Market Street Railway’s proposal to extend the E-Embarcadero line, south through Mission Bay and Dogpatch, sharing existing tracks of the T-Third light rail line. In his April 27 column, Engardio cited strong support for the extended line in the neighborhoods it would serve. “We are exploding with development and we need more transit options,” Engardio quoted Janet Carpinelli, president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, as saying. “Putting in… — Read More

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