Telling a Great Story of 108 Years Ago

On or about April 14, 1906, 108 years ago this week, pioneering professional filmmakers the Miles Brothers bolted a hand-cranked camera onto the front of a cable car and rode down Market Street from Eighth Street to the Ferry Building. The film they shot has gained new interest in the past few years, since film historian David Kiehn demonstrated that it was made just a few days before the great earthquake and fire destroyed almost everything you see. (Previously, the film was thought to have been made in the summer of 1905.)

This “Trip Down Market Street” has been seen millions of times in the century-plus since it was made, but there’s only one fully narrated version we know of — ours! Click below for a preview.

In the full 11 minute video, Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, author of ON TRACK and a noted San Francisco historian, tells you what you’re seeing on every block along the way in this memorable film, including social, economic, and political history to go with the transit history. It’s all woven together seamlessly, bringing this wonderful film, “A Trip Down Market Street,” to life.

You can see the full 11 minute video free at our San Francisco Railway Museum, open daily except Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For just $12.95, you can also buy your own copy at the Museum, or right here at our online store (scroll down the store page until you reach the video). Remember, Market Street Railway Members get 10% off.

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Sunday Street(car)s!

San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) mounted the latest Sunday Streets celebration March 10, 2013, along The Embarcadero. We thought what better way to see it than from Muni’s 1934 boat tram from Blackpool, England. Come along for the ride in this video we put together!

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San Francisco, in Color, in the 1940s

The GLBT Historical Society has a video on YouTube showing nine minutes of San Francisco scenes filmed by “gay filmmaker Harold T. O’Neal.” It opens with great night shots of Chinatown, then skips around the city before settling on a two-minute sequence on Market Street starting around five minutes in. That’s followed by a minute of cable car footage, including rare film of the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, which disappeared in 1954. All well worth a look.

They say the film was made in 1940, and some of the shots seem to date from about that year. However, the navy ships shown, as well as some of the transit scenes, are clearly later than that. Specifically, scenes of old Market Street Railway streetcars on Market painted over to hide their patented “White Fronts”, and Powell Street cable cars in Muni livery, make those scenes no earlier than 1945. So the film is probably a compilation of shots taken at various times. Thanks to the GLBT Historical Society for preserving it, and to one of our readers, Chiu, for pointing it out to us.

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Thankful for Our Muni Partnership

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we’d like to shout out thanks to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Muni’s parent, for their continuing support of historic transit. There are few agencies in the country that meaningfully support their own legacies, and none that do so in four distinct vehicle modes. (Of course, no one else HAS four vehicle modes like Muni: streetcar/light rail, motor coach, trolley coach, and cable car).

Case in point: O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42, which carried delighted passengers on the California Street cable car line November 4 and 11 as part of this year’s Muni centennial celebrations. Muni’s cable car shop, which performed a mechanical restoration of the car in 2004-5 following a cosmetic restoration by our members, prepared and tested the unique car, while the operations side put it on the street without a hitch.
The special service drew the attention of Diane Harrigan of the website Postcards from San Francisco, who interviewed MSR President Rick Laubscher and created this great video of the day.

On the streetcar side, Operations made a special effort to get the city’s oldest streetcar, No. 578, out for special service on November 11, undertaking the special training of operatiors required. Again, riders were delighted. Robert Lewis sent us the narrated video below, showing a trip to Pier 39 and back. It also shows all the change along the waterfront enabled in part by the attractive, frequent F-line service.

By the way, on that trip we rode alongside perhaps the most knowledgeable living historian of the early years of San Francisco transit, Emiliano Echeverria. He told us with certainty that No. 578 was built in 1896, rather than 1895 as some reports have had it. In those days, he explained, each of the early streetcar lines had its own dedicated fleet, which was color-coded to make the cars easier to spot by intending riders. (The cable cars of this era operated by an early manifestation of our namesake, Market Street Railway Company, were operated and painted the same way.) Emiliano explained that the high number (the top number of this class was 580) indicates it was one of the extra cars bought when the Ellis and O'Farrell line was extended across Market Street to reach the Southern Pacific Peninsula train depot via Fourth Street. (That same route was taken over by Muni’s original F-Stockton line after World War II.) That dates 578 to 1896. (We’ve updated our own records.)

Among buses, the shops also returned 1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach to service and also ran 36-year old Flyer No. 5300 in its as-delivered Landor livery.

There’s more to come in the bus department in the coming month, which we’ll tell you about soon. For now, we hope you share our thanks to Muni’s team in bringing history to life.

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Inside Muni’s Streetcar Restoration Vendor

Muni’s current vendor for streetcar restoration, Brookville Equipment Corporation of Pennsylvania, has produced a promotional video about its services. It’s got several shots of newly restored PCC No. 1006 (or is it 1008? – they’re identical and not numbered in the shots) on the shop floor (starting at 0:47 on the video), along with a peek at their mate No. 1009, partially painted in its Dallas & Terminal Railway livery (at 1:38). Much of the footage covers the mining equipment… — Read More

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First Double-End PCC in Testing

Muni PCC No. 1008 is back on the streets of San Francisco, equipped to carry passengers for the first time in a third of a century. The vintage 1948 streetcar, one of the largest PCC models ever built, has started its testing phase after arriving from Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania, which completely rebuilt it. This streetcar was the very first one to run in the Muni Metro subway, using a specially fitted pantograph to test the overhead in the… — Read More

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All-Door Boarding on All Muni Vehicles

Muni has just implemented all-door boarding, the first system in the country to do so. That includes F-line streetcars. People with cash must board at the front door, but those with Clipper cards, Muni Passports, or valid transfers (any proof of payment) can board (legally) at the back doors. Muni has even created a video outlining the basics of the new system, with enough old photos of buses and streetcars to make it worth looking at just for that. As… — Read More

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Mid-Market Madness, Continued

No sooner did we post a story about a man, apparently curled up on a boarding island on mid-Market rolling under an F-Market & Wharves streetcar, did we see this post from SFist pop up, showing a disturbed woman attacking an F-line streetcar (No. 1079) at Fifth and Market, and then herself being attacked viciously by another woman. Here’s one of the two eyewitness cellphone videos that appears on the SFist post. Thank goodness for the presence of mind of… — Read More

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New Video Highlights First Muni PCC Era

We’re carrying a new video at our San Francisco Railway Museum that will be of interest to both San Franciscans and railfans. Cover art from the DVD box for "Municipal Railway Vintage Scrapbook". Click to enlarge. The DVD offers 90 minutes of motion picture footage chronicling Muni in the post World War II period, through the early 1980s. The video includes route maps of the original Muni lines, with footage from most of them. Early footage features the “Iron Monsters”… — Read More

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Accident Highlights Market Street Challenges

A man was trapped under an F-line streetcar (PCC No. 1074) on Friday, as reported by ABC7 News as it happened: SFGate.com reported that after being freed by firefighters, the man’s injuries were fortunately found to be minor. The article continues, “The man, who was about 50 years old, may have been trying to get into the back door when the trolley pulled away from the station, said Paul Rose, a transit spokesman. But Sierra Burns, 25, said she saw… — Read More

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Big Red Cars — Beyond Disney

The anticipation is building for the unveiling of the upgraded Disney’s California Adventure theme park in Anaheim on June 15 (three months late). We talked about the replicas of the legendary Pacific Electric Big Red Cars that will run down the main drag of the park. Now that it looks like the opening is actually happening, here’s the second part of that story we promised. If you’re headed to Southern California, whether visiting Disney or not, consider taking the time… — Read More

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Seattle: Envious of The Embarcadero

For decades, urban planners have discussed the similarities (and differences) between the two U.S. Pacific Coast cities with the best natural harbors: San Francisco and Seattle. Among other similarities, both cities had their waterfronts marred for decades by double-deck freeways. Now, as San Francisco did 20 years ago, Seattle is going to tear down its double-decker, called the Alaskan Way Viaduct. A Seattle television station recently ran a refreshingly in-depth report on the impact the rejuvenation of The Embarcadero has… — Read More

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Disney Makes Big Red Car Little

An upgrade of Disney’s California Adventure, its second (to Disneyland) theme park, has been under way for over a year now. The first incarnation didn’t capture the “pixie dust” or magic people associate with Disney parks. So they tweaked some things and added a huge new attraction in “Cars Land” after the animated film. It opens to the public March 15. But to our eyes, the coolest addition are two Pacific Electric streetcars, installed on Buena Vista Street, itself remodeled… — Read More

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“Big Red Car” Back on Track

In Southern California, they called them “the Big Red Cars,” the streetcars and interurbans of the famed Pacific Electric Railway, that once connected downtown Los Angeles to destinations as far-flung as San Bernardino and Newport Beach. PE, as it was widely known, only had a handful of PCC streamliners, honored by the eye-catching livery on Muni’s car No. 1061. That paint scheme was inspired by the “Daylight” steam train colors of PE’s big brother Southern Pacific (as modeled by preserved… — Read More

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