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

whatmighthavebeen-8-frazierMarket 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, when it closed out service on the B-line. It’s a great match for the historic architecture en route, including Lotta’s Fountain and the Palace Hotel in this photo.

Join tour guides Ethan Chickering from City Guides and Paul Lucas from Market Street Railway on one of our priceless “museums in motion” for their informative ride along the F-line where you will learn interesting historical facts about famous Fisherman’s Wharf, traditional North Beach, the scenic Embarcadero, colorful Ferry Plaza, the busy financial district, world famous Powell & Market, classic Civic Center, imposing Mint Hill and the lively Castro.

Sign up today for $40 per person. (Market Street Railway members receive a 25% discount, well beyond the usual 10% member discount on merchandise.) Seating capacity is limited. Your ticket purchase provides the funds required to charter the streetcar from Muni, so all ticket sales must be final. All proceeds go to support Market Street Railway and City Guides in their work to keep San Francisco’s transit history alive.

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Postgame Parade

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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 Muni streetcars, built in 1914 but recently “modernized” with conductor-operated doors on their rear platforms. We can’t tell the number of the car, on the right, but the one closer to us is No. 162. We know why it and its sibling are laying over from the yellow dash sign saying “Football Today – Kezar Stadium.” It’s probably a 49ers game (city high school games were played there too). Muni banked a couple of cars on the N-line terminal spur for postgame pickups. Other cars would switch back near Kezar on Carl Street to take fans home.

As mentioned last week, we’ve captured this distinctive dash sign on a tee shirt which you can buy at our San Francisco Railway Museum.  They’ll be up on our online store next week. (By the way, “shortest route” dates back to the pre-1944 days when Muni competed with our namesake, Market Street Railway Company, whose service to Kezar ran via Haight Street instead of the N-line’s faster Sunset Tunnel route.)

Kezar Tee shirt

It’s amazing that at least two of the three streetcars pictured in this 60 year old photo are preserved (heck, could be all three if that other one is No. 130). Well, maybe not so amazing…our organization and its founders successfully championed the preservation of the rare double-end PCCs Muni owned, such that seven of the ten are in service today! And we brought No. 162 back from a museum and began its restoration. (Today, we’re working with SFMTA to get the damage it suffered in an accident two years ago repaired. It is a slow process, but we won’t rest until it’s back on the street.)

Your support is what makes our work possible. Please consider donating or joining, and visit our museum for great displays, vintage film and photos, and great gifts too!

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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

  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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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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