“The bell is charming; the horn works”

 

The headline above is a great quote from a great story in Curbed SF about a dad and his two kids riding every Muni line terminal to terminal this summer. This installment includes the F-line where they rode the newest PCC to return to service following rebuilding, Car 1050 (pictured above in yet another calendar-worthy photo from Traci Cox). The author, Mc Allen, describes rolling along The Embarcadero on the “retro delight” PCC, “exceptionally maintained as rolling museums”.

Along the way, since it’s a mostly tourist-laced area, the operator chimed the train’s bell several times to alert pedestrians wading into intersections. She also honked the rarely used yet very loud train horn, including a 40 second series of blasts at a clueless Uber driver trying to enter a “streetcars only” trackway along Pier 39.

After we made it to the end of the line, I asked the operator how she decides between the bell and the horn. She replied with the quote of the day: The bell is charming; the horn works.”

Fans know that in San Francisco and most other PCC cities, the streetcars only had a bell (actually called a gong) for warning pedestrians. Under modern safety regulations, the streetcars now also have a VERY loud horn.

The whole story is a nice shout-out to Muni and a must-read for any transit fan.

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Brooklyn is Back!

The streetcars just keep on coming (and in one case, going back). PCC 1053, painted to honor Brooklyn NY, arrived back in San Francisco April 1 (no foolin’) after being thoroughly rebuilt at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, part of that company’s contract with Muni to renovate the 16 PCCs in Muni’s original F-line fleet.

It was streetcars (or as they were often called in New York, trolleys) that famously inspired the nickname of Brooklyn’s professional baseball team, which was originally dubbed the “Trolley Dodgers” (later shortened). That baseball team later moved to some other town, somewhere.

Anyway, the streetcars in the current $30 million-plus Brookville contract include 13 single-end streetcars (numbered from 1050 to 1063) that had been acquired from Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit agency second-hand, plus three double-enders (1007, 1010, and 1015) that were bought new by Muni in 1948 and retired from their first service life in 1982. This group of PCCs was initially renovated by Morrison-Knudsen in upstate New York in time to open the F-line in 1995.

The 1053 arrived with its wonderful seal of the City of New York on the sides, but also with duplicate numbers on both ends of the car, high and low. It turns out that at some point in the past 20 years, Muni shops doing work on the 1053 added the extra sets of numbers and Brookville simply replicated that.  Not a big deal; it will be corrected before the car goes into service.

Like previous cars in this contract, the 1053 will now undergo testing for 1,000 miles before being accepted by Muni. This contract includes a one-year warranty on the streetcars.

That warranty is being put to use on Car 1060, which went back into service last July but was found to have significant roof leaks when this winter’s storms hit. Brookville will carry out the warranty work at their factory in Pennsylvania. Here’s the 1060 being loaded for the return trip, courtesy Allen Chan on our Facebook group.

The 1060 will join two single-end PCC painted in tribute to transit systems of the city-that-shall-not-be-named that the Dodgers moved to 60 years ago (1052 – LA Railway, and 1061 – Pacific Electric), which are the next to return, in that order, to San Francisco), plus double-end 1015, which is being used as the prototype for restoring the two double-enders still at Muni (1007 and 1010), as well as the two ex-Red Arrow cars (18 and 21, to be renumbered 1012 and 1013) that Muni acquired from the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut last year. Negotiations to add the Red Arrow cars to the contract have not yet been concluded, and work on them cannot begin until that’s done.

Two more single-end PCCs, 1057, wearing the Cincinnati tribute livery, and 1058, honoring Chicago Transit Authority, are still at Muni waiting for their turn at Brookville.

As always, we’ll keep you up to date on the comings and goings.

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“Trackless Trolleys”?

The Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub, who does some productive digging around in the paper’s archives, has come up with a very good story on the conversion of many San Francisco streetcar lines to trolley coaches in the late 1940s. Above, one of several great photos from the story. Taken on the first day of electric bus service on Market Street, July 5, 1949, it shows a Twin Coach on the 5-McAllister followed by a mix of Marmon-Herringtons and Twins, outbound at Grant Avenue. Streetcars are still very much on the scene, including then-new double-end PCC 1009, still operating on the E-line today!

The conversion turned two dozen streetcar lines into bus routes. The majority of those conversions were to trolley coaches. Interestingly, Chronicle articles of the day referred to the new electric buses as “trackless trolleys”, a term mostly used in the East. Use of that term didn’t last long here; riders were soon referring to them as “trolley buses” while Muni officially called them “trolley coaches”.

A couple of clarifications on the article: Hartlaub seems to imply that the plans of PUC General Manager James Turner called for complete elimination of tracks on Market Street, when in fact only the outer tracks were taken up. He also noted that the only environmental benefit Muni seemed to tout for the new trolley buses was that the interiors wouldn’t smell bad. Not surprising that Muni would focus on this, though, since riders of converted streetcar lines had for a year been riding on interim gasoline motor coaches from White Motor Company, which had terrible ventilation that filled their interiors with gasoline fumes.

Overall, it’s a very good read. Worth your time.

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“Newest” PCC Streetcar Collides with Truck

Around 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the newest PCC streetcar to reenter regular service following a complete rebuilding collided with a large box truck while returning to the carbarn after completing its day’s work on the F-line. The impact knocked the streetcar, No. 1063 (painted to honor Baltimore Transit), off the track and turned the truck on its side. No injuries had been reported by the time this post was made. The streetcar had no passengers aboard at the time of the collision.

Car 1063 was southbound on Third Street, headed for Muni Metro East, its storage and maintenance base, when it collided with the truck at Mission Bay Boulevard South. The 1063 suffered extensive damage to its door side front corner. The driver’s side corner and the rest of the car appeared undamaged, though it is possible there could be frame damage underneath. Damage to the truck was also extensive.

Observations made at the scene seem to indicate that the truck was struck in the middle of its box behind the cab, with the force of the impact flipping the truck on its side and derailing the streetcar. The angle of impact suggests that the truck was turning left from southbound Third Street onto eastbound Mission Bay Boulevard South at the time of the collision. This was confirmed to news media by a Muni spokesperson.

The intersection is signalized for both streetcars and motor vehicle traffic, with separate left turn signals that are interlocked with the streetcar signals so that only one or the other is given a signal to proceed at a given time. No information has been released regarding the setting of the signals at the time of the collision; however, we were told at the scene that there should be security camera footage from the streetcar and perhaps from surrounding buildings that could determine who was at fault.

Car 1063 had reentered regular service within the last month after being completely rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, part of a contract covering 16 Muni PCCs. Like all streetcars going through the rebuilding program, Car 1063 had to successfully complete a 1,000-mile “burn in” period, during which all systems including propulsion and brakes had to be thoroughly tested and the car had to pass braking tests required by the California Public Utilities Commission before it was certified to carry passengers.

There have been several collisions involving T-line light rail vehicles on Third Street (which is used by F- and E-line streetcars on their way to and from the car barn). These have involved cars or trucks turning left in front of streetcars running in private rights-of-way, such as on The Embarcadero, King Street, and Third Street. In a collision almost exactly four years ago, a truck pulled in front of vintage streetcar 162 on January 4, 2014 at Bay Street and The Embarcadero, causing significant damage to the streetcar (which is currently being repaired in Southern California). The trucker was found at fault and Muni received a substantial insurance payment.

The Third Street tracks were blocked for several hours while the truck was righted, the streetcar re-railed, and the intersection cleared. Buses replaced LRVs on the T-line while Third Street was blocked.

The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the collision. A damage assessment on the streetcar will be made by Muni, but even a cursory visual inspection indicates Car 1063 will be out of service many months.

We will keep you up to date on developments on this story.

 

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Our Spies are Everywhere!

  Even Truckee, where John Griffin snapped these two shots of the latest PCC to be rehabilitated by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. The photos were forwarded to us by Market Street Railway member James Giraudo. Car 1055 should be at Muni Metro Center by the time you read this. It is the sixth of 16 PCC cars covered by the current rehabilitation contract with Brookville. The contract covers the original F-line streetcar fleet from 1995, including 13 single end streetcars… — Read More

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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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Boston’s Back in Business

Muni’s paint shop folks put the finishing touch on newly-returned PCC 1059, applying the “Boston Elevated Railway” decal prepared by our ace graphic designer, David Dugan. The 1059 should be entering “burn-in” activities in the next few days. This is the acceptance period for each of the 16 cars in the current rehabilitation contract with Brookville Equipment Company following their complete renovation. This involves running the car without passengers for 1,000 miles to test all systems and ensure the car… — 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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Welcome Back, Harvey Milk’s Streetcar!

The streetcar honoring Harvey Milk, civil rights icon and transit advocate, was rededicated in a ceremony at the Castro Street F-line terminal on Wednesday, March 15. Car 1051, looking factory fresh, was on display at the spare track next to Jane Warner Plaza while a parade of speakers, led by district Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, paid tribute to Harvey Milk — and to Muni’s parent, SFMTA, and Market Street Railway for their respective roles in keeping the F-line up to date.… — 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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Kansas City PCC 1056 Back at Muni

  Five years after leaving F-line service with a major structural crack, PCC 1056, painted to honor Kansas City, arrived back at Muni Metro East this afternoon, totally rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company and looking mighty good. Because of the damage to the bolster under the car, the 1056 was the first car to be sent to Brookville under the current contract to completely rebuild the 16 PCCs that opened the F-line in 1995. After unloading from the low-ride trailer… — Read More

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Reincarnation in PCC Cities

Muni’s PCC streetcars are painted in tribute to most of the 30+ North American cities that once operated them. Streetcars had disappeared long ago from all but seven of those PCC cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Newark, Pittsburgh, Shaker Heights, Ohio, and San Francisco itself. Now, though, there is a real renaissance of streetcar operation among former PCC cities. Enterprising preservationists in Dallas started the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority in 1983 and El Paso is now restoring PCCs for a downtown line.… — Read More

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Take a Trolley Tour on the Last PCC May 22

Market Street Railway and San Francisco City Guides are again collaborating on a memorable vintage streetcar ride along Muni’s historic F-line. The spring tour is Sunday, May 22, 1:30-3:30pm on-board the last PCC built in North America for Muni in 1952, offering views of the sights and sounds along the F-line on Market Street and The Embarcadero. No. 1040 has been faithfully restored to its 1950s appearance, looking just like this shot of a charter at the end of 1956 at Geary and Market,… — Read More

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Postgame Parade

The Super Bowl ended this football season, but we’ll go into overtime for a minute to share a special football-related photo. We’re at the end of the N-Judah line at Ocean Beach. Based on the clues in the photo, it’s between 1955 and 1957. PCC “torpedo” No. 1015 is about to take the loop and head inbound. It’s been converted from double-end to single-end operation, hence the blocked-off doors you see. On the stub track sit two “B type” original… — Read More

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Happy 87th Birthday, N-Judah!

The N-Judah streetcar line turns 87 on October 21. SFMTA’s great blog has already posted some great photos of its 1928 opening, including one (the top one on their blog page) we don’t remember seeing before, so we’re going to share a couple of more recent shots instead. These were taken during a dead-of-the-night test run in 2010, after the LRVs had gone to bed for the night. The purpose was to check clearances along the surface portion of the N-line to… — Read More

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