Happy 87th Birthday, N-Judah!

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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 see which historic streetcars would be able to clear. Of course, the N-line was served by its original type of “Iron Monster” streetcars (like Muni No. 130) and then, for a third of a century, by PCCs like the ones that run on the F-line now. But years ago, when Muni installed an accessibility platform downtown-bound right where the tracks turn from Judah onto Ninth Avenue, they didn’t leave enough room for at least a few of the historic cars to clear the curve without scraping the ramp. In response, the Muni leadership of the day simply banned all historic cars from the N-line.

This meant that special event service for neighborhood celebrations or excursions and charters could no longer go out the N to Ocean Beach, as they had regularly since the days of the Trolley Festivals in the 1980s. (Excursions regularly go out the J, K, L, M, and the inner portion of the T, and are very popular. A few Saturdays ago, Muni ran a special vintage service on Ocean Avenue for the merchants there.)

10th&JudahAnyway, Muni already knew that the longest PCCs, the double-ended “torpedoes”, couldn’t clear the ramp at 9th and Judah, and it knew that narrower cars, like the boat trams and the 1050 class of PCCs, did clear.  But what about the 12 full width single-end PCCs, the 1070 class, plus historic car No. 1040, the last PCC built in North America? At 9 feet even, those cars are eight inches wider than the 1050 class, which came second-hand from Philadelphia.

As it turned out, the 2010 test showed they do clear the ramp. Muni hasn’t yet lifted the blanket ban on historic streetcars on the N-line, but we hope they will, and are advocating to allow charters, excursions, and special service for the neighborhood out there.  Maybe after the Sunset Tunnel rerailing project is completed…in time for the N-line’s 88th birthday next year!

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K is for Kenosha

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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 car (which, like most of the fleet, came from Toronto), they’re honoring — San Francisco, adopting the classic mid-century green and cream “Wings” livery, modeled in San Francisco on several Muni cars, including No. 1040, the last PCC built in North America.  In a clever touch, the head sign (route and destination listing above the windshield) says K-Kenosha/Beach.  (It does in fact loop through a beach park on the lakefront.)

In a collaborative gesture, Market Street Railway and Muni sent materials, including the old Muni logo (the initials S.F. circled by the words “Municipal Railway”) and F-line maps for display inside to the Kenosha Streetcar Society, our counterpart in Kenosha.  They’ve done a great job there.

Market Street Railway members: look in your mailbox in about a week, and you’ll see an exclusive story on the plucky Kenosha streetcar operation, with great photos, part of the latest edition of our member newsletter, Inside Track. You can join Market Street Railway now and get that issue, plus the last three, to catch up on exclusive coverage.

Congratulations to Kenosha, our Wisconsin PCC cousins! แผนที่นำทาง

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Driver Takes Stupid Pills

Kendall Willets photo via SFist.

Kendall Willets photo via SFist.

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 for decades for any vehicles except Muni. Even though every intersection is well-signed in this regard, we still regularly see dumb (or scofflaw) drivers hanging lefties in front of oncoming traffic (largely Muni buses and streetcars and bicyclists these days) that aren’t expecting that. Nor are pedestrians who aren’t looking for left-turning drivers.  A recipe for danger.

Market Street Railway is one of many transit, bicycle, and pedestrian advocacy groups supporting SFMTA’s plan to ban automobiles from Market outright between Third and Tenth Streets, for safety reasons.

It’s supposed to start in August.  Wish it were in effect already.

[Okay, transit nerd content: one city famous for streetcars actually has a rule of the road for automobiles that requires them to pull to the curb lane to turn across traffic.  It’s so they won’t block the streetcars, er, trams. It’s Melbourne, Australia, and it’s an unnerving practice to see, but Melburnians understand the rule, and it seems to work. There.  Not here.]

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E-line Opening Now August 1

PCC Streetcar No. 1006, training on the E-line June 30, 2015, joins the light rail tracks that emerge from the Market Street Subway at Folsom Street.

PCC Streetcar No. 1006, training on the E-line June 30, 2015, joins the light rail tracks that emerge from the Market Street Subway at Folsom Street.

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 difficulty of keeping schedules.

“We support the new August 1 opening date,” said Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher. “The rollout will go smoother for operators, inspectors, and riders if they don’t have to deal with the extreme circumstances caused by the Marathon.”

Besides the start date, the meeting focused on creating clear signage for the cars and stops to explain the difference between the E-line and the F-line to unfamiliar riders.  The two lines run together from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building, but while the F-line turns inland and heads out Market Street to Castro, the E-line will continue along The Embarcadero and King Street to AT&T Park and the Caltrain Depot.  It will share tracks with the N- and T-line light rail vehicles south of Folsom Street, and has its own low-level boarding platforms and accessibility ramps at one end of each light rail station.

Market Street Railway is looking for volunteer docents to be stationed at key stops along the E-line during its 10 a.m.-7 p.m. operating hours during the first several weekends, starting August 1-2.  Shifts will run about two hours. You’ll help guide riders to the correct location, hand out brochures explaining the E-line, and answer questions. You can sign up by emailing volunteer@streetcar.org.

Seven-day service on the E-line is still slated for early 2016.

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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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Third PCC Goes Into Rehab

PCC streetcar No. 1060, wearing its 1938 Philadelphia “Cream Cheese” livery (named for its silver and blue color, evocative of that famous food product), left San Francisco June 3 en route to a full rehabilitation at Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. It’s the third of 16 PCCs to leave town for the renovation following 20 years of intense use on the F-line.  This $34.5 million contract covers the original F-line PCC fleet: 13 cars acquired from the SEPTA transit agency in Philadelphia… — Read More

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Sunday Streets on The Embarcadero March 8

The weather is scary-summery, leading us to wring our hands over the worsening drought. But there’s an upside: a beautiful day expected Sunday for the first Sunday Streets event of the season, March 8 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Daylight Savings Time!) on The Embarcadero between Third Street and Pier 39. Details here. This is the now-established event where automobiles are detoured, opening the northbound roadway for bicyclists, tricyclists, unicyclists, skateboarders, and users of virtually any other self-powered vehicle.  Including feet. But… — Read More

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