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.

Castro Merchants Board Chair Daniel Bergerac, and head of the Castro Community Benefit District, Andrea Ailello, also spoke. Both emphasized the importance of the F-liine to Castro residents and businesses.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin pointed out that Harvey Milk was the first elected official in San Francisco to use a Fast Pass, Muni’s then-new payment method. SFMTA Board Chair Cheryl Brinkman praised the F-line for making transit both effective and attractive. All speakers had good things to say about Market Street Railway’s advocacy for the streetcars and for the Castro.  (*blush*)

After the ceremony, Car 1051 returned to Muni Metro East for final preparations by the shops before it enters revenue (passenger) service on Saturday. The video above shows it leaving the terminal after the ceremony.

Car 1051 is the first of 16 cars from the original F-line fleet to be fully refurbished under a contract with Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. The second car to enter service will be 1056, honoring Kansas City, which should be carrying passengers within a couple of weeks. Two more cars from the order will arrive in San Francisco within a couple of weeks as well.

We’ll have a report for our members on the details of the restoration and what Muni found during testing in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, out in early April. (If you haven’t joined us yet, this is a great time.)

 

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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 coasting through the switch, but Cars 1009 (above, photo by Paul Lucas) and 1015 (below) do not coast freely enough to reliably clear the switch. It is a very odd problem, like nothing we’ve heard before. Muni management claims they are working to diagnose the problem with the switch and fix it.

In the meantime, Muni maintenance has pulled out all the stops to keep those two cars off the E-line as much as they can, but it’s not always possible. Yesterday (February 1), both 1009 and 1015 were on the line, with blank destination signs when heading southbound, and cards in the windshield stating their final destination was the ballpark stop at Second and King Streets. The cars then turn left at Fourth Street onto the T-line and reverse at the crossover on Channel Street, across the Fourth Street Bridge (below).

What this means is that riders waiting for a Wharf-bound E-line car at the Caltrain stop face a double headway when these cars are in service, since they can’t make the Caltrain stop. Given the problems Muni has had keeping regular headways on the E-line anyway, this can mean a wait of up to an hour between Wharf-bound E-line trains for riders. Muni has put up signs at the Caltrain E-line stop alerting riders to this problem and suggesting they walk (or take an N-Judah) two blocks east to the Second and King stop instead.

Market Street Railway has strongly recommended that Muni address this problem by assigning double-end vintage cars to the E-line to provide steady, reliable service to all stops. Melbourne 496, New Orleans 952 (shown below in 2008), and Muni cars No. 1 and 130, all on the active roster, have all used the Sixth and King terminal during earlier E-line demonstration service without incident.

Muni, however, has responded to our recommendation by saying that because of its continuing shortage of qualified streetcar operators — a problem that has gone on for well over a year now — it is unable to supply the second crew member (a conductor) required on those particular streetcars. (Substituting buses for streetcars on the E-line is not an option because the right-of-way south of the Ferry Building is paved in a way that is rougher than the F-line right-of-way north of the Ferry Building, making bus operation unfeasible.)

While we appreciate that Muni didn’t cancel these E-line runs altogether, this erratic service pattern on the E-line discourages the growth of ridership, especially among residents along the line looking for a reliable service. We will keep you up to date on this problem.

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Kansas City PCC 1056 Back at Muni

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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 owned by expert streetcar mover Silk Road Transport, Muni maintenance worker Kevin Sheridan, a third generation San Francisco streetcar worker, took the controls and smoothly ran the car around the yard to a service bay inside the maintenance facility, under its own power. (Kevin’s dad Mike, retired from Muni, is one of Market Street Railway’s key volunteers, working on archival photos.)

The car will have numbers and decals applied, receive a farebox and radio, and then enter 1000 miles of testing before carrying passengers.

No sooner had the 1056 cleared the unloading track than Muni workers loaded up PCC 1055 (below) now on its way to Brookville, where it joins 1051, 1060, 1059. and 1062, in various stages of restoration. The 1051 is the next one expected back.

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We’ll have the inside story of the car’s rebirth and a full update on the Brookville contract in the next issue of our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in early September.  Join Market Street Railway today so you don’t miss it.

 

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Reincarnation in PCC Cities

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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. And there’s a spate of former PCC cities turning to modern streetcars to revitalize neighborhoods. MSR President Rick Laubscher was just in Cincinnati, where their new line is testing in advance of a planned September opening. (Note they kept a shade of yellow, as used on their PCCs, and they started numbering them from where their PCCs stopped.)

Cincinnati_-_last_month_of_streetcar_service_(1951)This renaissance of streetcars in PCC cities is a great story, and we’ll have it, with great details, exclusively for our Members in the next Inside Track, our quarterly member letter, due out in September. Join Market Street Railway now, and you’ll get our just-released newsletter with a colorful story on the vintage Powell Street cable car liveries, which we helped Muni bring back onto the line…and a story on a transformative time for transit in San Francisco 75 years ago, in 1941. If you’re intrigued by historic transit, you really need to join Market Street Railway.

1057 Pier 39

Did we mention that Muni’s Cincinnati tribute PCC, the 1057, known locally as “the bumblebee” for its stripes and yellow body,  is one of the most photographed cars in the fleet?  Join now!

 

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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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K is for Kenosha

  Big celebration in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday, September 12, “Streetcar Day,” as they welcomed their newest PCC streetcar for their two-mile loop line from the commuter rail station to the new housing developments along Lake Michigan. Local angle? Just look at the paint job! Like San Francisco, Kenosha paints its PCC streetcars in different liveries that pay tribute to some of the 30 North American cities that operated this, the most successful streetcar design in history. For their latest… — Read More

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Driver Takes Stupid Pills

We get that driving an automobile in San Francisco is not easy, but c’mon! From our friends at SFist comes this photo taken last Thursday by Kendall Willets. Willets reports that the driver of the SUV tried an illegal left turn from the right lane from westbound Market onto southbound Tenth Street.  No injuries, no damage to the streetcar, which has been back on the road. As San Franciscans know, left turns off Market throughout downtown (except onto Drumm Street) have been banned… — 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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