The family-friendly Muni Heritage Weekend lets you ride vintage streetcars and buses and special cable cars that rarely operate. The world’s oldest cable car (1883), one of the oldest electric streetcars (1896), the very first streetcar Muni owned (1912), and the wildly popular English open-top “Boat Tram” (1934) will all be carrying passengers between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24.
The 1934 English “Boat Tram” is Muni’s most popular streetcar. But due to a variety of circumstances, including what Muni leader Julie Kirschbaum says is an ongoing shortage of trained operators, it didn’t carry any passengers this year until September 12-13 (Sunday-Monday). Instead, vintage Milan and Melbourne trams have been alternating on Sundays and Mondays carrying people along the northern Embarcadero between Pier 39 and the Ferry Building (with an additional stop at our San Francisco Railway Museum).
In 2013, Market Street Railway brought 1934 Blackpool, England “boat tram” to San Francisco, underwritten by a generous donation from the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping help from FedEx. We did it because the boat tram we brought over for Muni in 1984, thanks to Bechtel, had proven to be the most popular single vintage streetcar in Muni’s fleet.
With only one, though, it was impractical to schedule regular operation of the popular car. And even after the second boat tram (#233) arrived, most folks thought Muni still only had the one (#228). When the time came to do some work on 228, we suggested to Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum that they do what Blackpool itself had done more than a dozen years before: paint the trim on one boat a bright red, to contrast with the traditional green and make it obvious that there are two of them. She thought it was a great idea.
After a spectacular restoration, a 1940s streetcar paying tribute to Philadelphia’s “Red Arrow” lines is again carrying passengers on the streets of San Francisco.
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