Decorated Cable Cars, Now and Then

‘Tis the season to show off holiday spirit in all kinds of ways. The San Francisco Chronicle is both reporting and demonstrating that spirit with our most iconic transit vehicles, the cable cars. You can see the publication’s handiwork on Powell Cable Car 1 (pictured in the photo by Val Lupiz above, complete with Victorian-costumed guests), one of eight cable cars decorated this year in a growing campaign led by Val, Jeremy Whiteman, and Frank Zepeda (MSR members all), and supported by Market Street Railway.

Leading the Powell Car 1 decorating for the Chronicle: columnists Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub, who teamed up earlier this year for the transit marathon they called “total Muni 2018”, meeting Val, Jeremy, and Frank in the process and getting drawn in to the web of cable car love!  As a result, Powell Car 1 features inventive decorations inside and out, including replicas of historic Chronicle front pages dating all the way back to 1865, 23 years before the Powell cable even existed! Heather wrote a great article about the decorating experience.

Not to be outdone, Peter Hartlaub, who regularly mines the Chronicle’s photo and story archives for gems of San Francisco history, came up with a “WHOA!” story, recounting a little-known Grinch moment in cable car history. Christmas season, 1951, Muni had just assumed control of the bankrupt California Street Cable Railroad Company and its California and O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde lines. Muni celebrated by inviting including Macy’s, to decorate cars on those lines. The Grinch glitch? The city’s ownership was challenged in court, keeping the decorated cars in the barn, never to be seen by the public, and delaying their city-run operation into 1952. Well worth a read!)

We can tell from the photo above, by the Chronicle’s Art Frisch, that the decorated cable car is from the O’Farrell, Jones, & Hyde lines, though the car number is covered up. Could it be Car 42? That’s the only surviving O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line car in its original 1906 configuration and livery, the one our nonprofit rescued from a cattle ranch near Santa Maria 15 years ago and restored with Muni’s expert help. It now runs in special service on California Street and sometimes Hyde, on part of its original route).

Macy’s sponsoring an O’Farrell car makes sense, since the O’Farrell line passed right in front of Macy’s…but it’s also ironic, since Macy’s was one of the downtown merchants that successfully lobbied to make O’Farrell one way a few years later, dooming the cable car line to make more room for automobiles.  (Here’s the story about the dark end of the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line in 1954.)

We at Market Street Railway are very proud to support the cable car celebrations. Beyond the decorating (which includes Powell Car 12 above, wearing the famed “White Front” 1930s livery of our namesake), we collected contributions to support this year’s holiday luncheon for seniors, co-sponsored by cable car operators and Transport Workers Local 250A (photo below).  

Come on downtown to see and ride the decorated cable cars this year, and don’t forget Car 56 on the California line, shown below in this magical nighttime photo by Traci Cox.  

Finally, along the F-line, look for Milan tram 1818, decorated in festive style by our volunteers, who also put wreaths on all the E- and F-line streetcars. (Yep, another great Traci Cox photo.)

If the holiday spirit moves you, please consider a tax-deductible year-end donation in any amount to our nonprofit. We get no government money; it’s your donations and memberships that make it all possible, along with everything else we do to support San Francisco’s cable cars and historic streetcars. Thanks and Happy Holidays, in the spirit of our namesake, Muni’s lively competitor before 1944!.

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Double Dose of Down Under This Weekend

UPDATE, Saturday July 21, 11:00 a.m. — Muni tests cars for a good reason before they enter service. The 916 developed a hot wheel bearing this morning and has safely returned to Cameron Beach Yard, where it will be fixed by the maintenance team.

The operating crew said the car ran like a dream from a propulsion and braking standpoint, and they’re excited about taking it out again soon, though it will almost certainly not be out Sunday, July 22.

We’ll let you know when the 916 will be out again. Meanwhile, enjoy Melbourne 496 this weekend.

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It’s shaping up as a special weekend on The Embarcadero July 21 and 22, as Melbourne trams built 18 years apart wish San Franciscans and visitors a double “G’Day”.

As our Members and friends know, Market Street Railway has been strongly advocating that Muni operate Melbourne W2 class tram 496 (built 1928) regularly on the E-line (it’s on the left in the photo above and in action on King Street, below).

Overcoming reluctance from some quarters inside Muni, the 496 has now been successfully operating on the E-line every day for some time, delighting passengers. It is scheduled to be on its regular runs this weekend, and you can ride it along the waterfront, AND on its end-of-day trip home to its “sleeping quarters”, Cameron Beach Yard (where the photo above was taken July 10) you can ride it out Market Street on the F-line and then down Church Street on the J-line to Balboa Park, for just the regular Muni fare, because all historic streetcars are in service until the reach the car barn.

This “pull-in” run for Car 496 should pass our San Francisco Railway Museum (Steuart Street stop) outbound on the F-line around 5:35 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, if it’s on schedule. You can check its whereabouts anytime via NextMuni, through this link.

But wait, there’s more.

[NOTE: See update above; this has changed.] Come down to The Embarcadero Saturday or Sunday and you’ll also see (but won’t yet be able to ride) 496’s baby brother, SW6 Class 916, built in 1946 (on the right in the top photo, and below). It has just completed protracted, on-and-off renovations and adaptation to San Francisco standards after being gifted to San Francisco in 2009, with Market Street Railway’s assistance. The gift came from the Victoria State Government in Australia, which owns the Melbourne trams. Both days, the 916 will leave Cameron Beach Yard around 6 a.m., run up and down The Embarcadero and perhaps down the T-line as far as Muni Metro East (at 25th Street), until around 5 p.m., when it will head home to Cameron Beach. The crew will checking systems and reliability before carrying its first paying passengers in San Francisco, which should happen in just a matter of weeks now.

 

We’ll let you know when the 916 is ready to launch into regular service, but for now, check out the waterfront this weekend for an extra taste of Melbourne!

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“Zurich” Car to Return To Service Soon?

Look what was testing in Cameron Beach Yard on Sunday (July 8).

Car 737, Muni’s lone European-style PCC streetcar has been out of service for some time. Built in 1952 for Brussels, Belgium, acquired by Muni in 2004, and painted (at then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s request) to honor San Francisco’s sister city of Zurich, Switzerland (which ran similar-looking cars) it has needed parts and maintenance attention. But when word came that the Mayor of Zurich was coming to San Francisco later this year, it suddenly got that attention. We watched it glide through the yard smoothly. This video shows it moving slowly along the ladder tracks, but when it did an acceleration test on 14 Track, it zipped right along.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll even see it in service on the F-line one of these days.

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Boat from “Beach to Beach” May 6

UPDATE, April 6 — This event SOLD OUT in record time. We’ll announce future excursions through a blog post here or in our monthly email newsletter. To subscribe to either or both, click here.
We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary year of the Twin Peaks Tunnel with a special excursion along the streetcar lines it created. Though we’d love to go through the venerable tunnel itself, the overhead wires were converted years ago to allow only modern light rail vehicles. But we still found a way to make the trip unique: we’ll use Muni’s “convertible” — open-top 1934 Blackpool, England Car 228, known to all as the “boat tram”.

The boat will sail from Cameron Beach Yard at Geneva & San Jose Avenues, across from the Balboa Park BART station (and the J, K, and M line terminals) at 1:30 p.m. sharp on Sunday, May 6, for a two-hour jaunt along the M-Ocean View (opened in 1925), the L-Taraval (opened in 1919) to the Zoo terminal near Ocean Beach. There’ll be a photo opportunity at the Zoo. Then back on the L to West Portal, and along the first tunnel line, the K-Ingleside (opened in 1918) back to Cameron Beach.

So you can say you’re going from Beach to Beach and back to Beach when you take this special ride.

See more details here. Don’t miss this very special excursion.

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Private Cruise on the Boat Tram, Just for You, June 4

UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT. If you’d like to be the first to know when our next trolley tour will happen, ask to be added to our excursion notification list by emailing us at info@streetcar.org. Sunday, June 4, one of the famous 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” will cruise again on the tracks of the F-line, with a guided tour of everything historic along the route from our friends at City Guides and our own Paul Lucas. It’s a private charter, and… — Read More

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E-line Kickoff; Boat Tram Debuts

San Francisco’s newest transit line started operation this morning, August 1, 2015, after an enthusiastic kickoff event on The Embarcadero yesterday. This photo, by Scott Badovick, captures the instant when dignitaries led by Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisors Julie Christensen, Scott Wiener, and Jane Kim, SFTMA Board Chair Tom Nolan and Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, and SFCTA Executive Director Tilly Chang, simultaneously snipped a red ribbon to mark the occasion. In the background, PCC No. 1006,… — Read More

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New Boat at E-line Ceremony July 31

Muni’s new “boat tram,” Blackpool, England open-top Car No. 233, will officially debut on July 31 at the opening press event for the new E-Embarcadero line. The new boat tram, Muni’s second example of this popular 1934 design, was acquired for Muni by Market Street Railway in 2013, thanks to a very generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, and ocean shipping subsidized by FedEx Trade Networks.  The boat, pictured above when on display during 2013’s Muni Heritage Weekend, has been… — Read More

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Ride the Boat July 19 All the Way Out the J

In the days of strong competition between our namesake, Market Street Railway, and Muni, Muni sometimes had an employee at the Ferry Building loop promoting its K and L lines by saying “ALL the way out Market” (which many San Franciscans of the day pronounced “MAH-ket”).  Of Market Street Railway’s lines, only the 8 went all the way to Castro Street..and the trolley buses that succeeded the streetcars on that route gave way to the F-line streetcars in 1995. But that’s… — 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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Let It Snow (or At least Rain!)

We’ve gotten so used to seeing the orange trams from Milan on Market Street and the waterfront that it can be a tad jarring to see them in their native habitat, especially a scene like this. In an average year, Milan sees snow on seven days or fewer. Of course, that’s seven days more than the annual snowfall in San Francisco, where long-time residents still marvel at the once-in-a-couple-of-decades dustings we get on Twin Peaks! (The photo at the top, taken… — Read More

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