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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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 are required on the E-line because single-end streetcars (which are five times more plentiful than double-enders in Muni’s fleet) can’t turn around at the E-line terminal at Sixth and King Streets. Making the issue more critical: for technically complex reasons we won’t get into here, two of those seven double-ended PCCs can’t currently use the Sixth and King terminal and thus have to turn around short of it, skipping the Caltrain stop in both directions and screwing up E-line service along the whole line. So good management means minimizing the number of days those two double-ended PCCs (1009 and 1015) are assigned to the E-line for now. If they had assigned one of those two cars to the F-line, no problem. But assigning a “good” E-line car, 1007, to the F, meant that 1009 was running on the E-line, and skipping the Caltrain stop every time, screwing up the line.

Using a different terminal for the 1009 and 1015 on the E-line guarantees the operation will be thrown off for the entire line, and Muni management knows it.  Market Street Railway has made numerous recommendations to Muni management to try to make the E-line run more reliably, such as using vintage cars like Muni Car 1 or Melbourne 496, which can run the full E-line route without problems, to avoid ever putting those “bad” PCCs into the E-line mix. None of our suggestions has yet been put into effect.

As is common on the E-line now, we saw two E-line cars running nose-to-tail today when they should’ve been 15 minutes apart. That means there is a 30-minute gap between E-line cars elsewhere on the line at that moment…sometimes worse if other factors come into play.

And decisions like the one made today, to put one of the good E-line cars on the F-line instead, only makes things worse.

 

UPDATE, July 11: Market Street Railway and SFMTA leaders held their monthly meeting today and spent most of their time on the issue. The streetcar pictured above has been reassigned to the E-line and from now on, Muni Operations will do everything they can to limit double-end PCCs on the F-line to those two cars (1009, 1015) that have trouble using the normal E-line southern terminal at Caltrain.

The current issue was not the fault of Muni Rail Maintenance, which put the two double-enders out on the F-line (mistakenly assigning one wrong car) because of an overall temporary streetcar shortage. This included delays in getting some of the new streetcars just returned from Brookville Equipment Company into revenue service because of a shortage of operators to “burn them in” quickly — accumulate the required 1,000 miles without passengers to test the system. One newly returned car is also out with warranty work while another, about to go into rehab at Brookville, was pulled from service when a crack in the bolster under the car was discovered (bolster strengthening is a key target of the rehabilitation process). This temporary single-end car shortage should pass within a couple of weeks.

We had a productive discussion at this meeting on other steps that might be taken in the short-term to try to improve service performance on the E-line, though no actions were clearly committed to by SFMTA. We appreciate the discussion and look forward to seeing concrete positive results soon.

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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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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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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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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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