Capital Addition to the Active F-Line Fleet

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A “new” streamliner PCC streetcar is about to start carrying passengers on the F-line and it’s an eye-popper. Streetcar No. 1076, built in 1946 and painted to honor Washington’s DC Transit in unlikely shades of aqua and coral, is now running around Muni’s streetcar system tracks in the final stages of testing before entering service.

This is one of the eleven streetcars acquired by Muni in 2002. This group of cars got cosmetic restorations, but the wiring wasn’t replaced and problems were subsequently discovered when the first cars in the group entered service. As a result, only five of the eleven have carried passengers to date, and all are now scheduled to have their wiring replaced, a few at a time, so they’ll be able to provide reliable long-term service.

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In the interim, though, Muni is still short of F-line streetcars for daily service (we spotted a substitute bus on the line today, for example). So, we at Market Street Railway asked Muni a couple of months back whether they had actually tested all eleven to see if they might have another “runner” in the bunch. (A “runner” is a streetcar that performs well consistently. Among this 1070 class of 11 cars, for example, Birmingham car No. 1077 runs like a Swiss watch, while other cars, like No. 1079, seem to break down repeatedly — in that case, a wiring issue that will be fixed in this forthcoming renovation.)

Turns out several of the 1070-class cars had not been fully tested. Muni took a look at No. 1076, did some work on the doors, and now has it running through what they call the “burn-in” procedure: 500 miles of simulated service without passengers to make sure systems are reliable. As of today, the car is over 300 miles into the burn-in, reportedly running well. It’s not just being tested on the F-line. You may see it on the J, K, L, or M lines as well, since the surface portions of those lines are compatible with vintage streetcar operation.

If the burn-in is completed successfully, No. 1076 could be carrying F-line passengers within a couple of weeks. When those passegers board the car, they’ll see something odd next to the front door: a decal reading “an affiliate of Trans Caribbean Airlines.”

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The back story: in 1959, an entrepreneur named O. Ray Chalk bought the foundering Washington streetcar system, then called Capital Transit, and tucked it into his business empire under an airline he started with its hub in Puerto Rico. He painted up his transit vehicles in a tropical theme, and even installed Trans Carribean Airline counters in DC Transit ticket offices — rather like offering Virgin America tickets at Muni Metro stations.

Despite Chalk’s theatrics, DC Transit foundered financially and was taken over by the government, like virtually ever other transit system. Now, though, that garish livery lives on a continent away in San Francisco. We hope No. 1076 will prove to be a “runner” and operate regularly until it takes its turn having its wiring replaced.

UPDATE: DC Transit No. 1076 completed its testing and began carrying passengers on the F-line October 28.

Comments: 9

  1. This is great to hear and I hope 1076 will be a “Runner” and soon to be in F line service. This is a good looking car with that nice paint job. Hope MUNI may be able to get more of this series cars out and running. Hate to see buses on the F line. Interesting back story about the airline decal.

  2. So Muni is wasting our tax dollars working on a trolley that’s will only be in service a few months before taking it out of service again for other repairs.
    They certainly have other trams and trolleys that need work and are not in line for a that are not in line for wiring replacement anyway. What about that new one from Melbourne? Or any of the Milans that are out of service? Or Chicago? That one’s been missing for a while now.

  3. Hello,
    As far as seeing F-line cars around town, I have definitely seen my fair share running along Taraval mid-day. I wonder if they come through the tunnel or via Glen Park. Now that you explain this “burn in” procedure it makes sense that these come down the J to Glen Park, loop around via K or M tracks, then ride the L down to the Ocean from West Portal. That would be one heck of a ride for rail fans: like a grand tour of the Southwest quadrant of San Francisco’s surface rail!
    Maybe such a special excursion near the end of a burn in for a new car could help raise funds?
    -danny

  4. I often wondered why several of the cars seem to have never really been out there. I think that a basic evaluation of the cars should be done, see if Toronto, Twin Cites, etc might actually be of some tangible use at the moment.

  5. 1076 will definitely bring some much-needed blue color to the F-Line PCC fleet. Hopefully they’ll get the 1074 maroon ‘Red Rocket’ into active service soon also. That car looks really spiffy too.
    So which of the Newark PCCs are currently in active service? I know MSR has an online status list, but I saw the 1075 Cleveland car taking on passengers during a SF visit this summer even though it’s listed as out of service, and I wonder if that’s the case with any other of the Newark PCCs.

  6. @ Matt, if it runs well, it would be more like 18 months before No. 1076 goes out for rewiring, since they’re taking them a couple at a time.
    Also, your premise is wrong, in that those other cars are in fact being worked on, but by different craft groups. The Milans and Chicago PCC are finishing up body repairs before the mechanics who did 1076 can get to them. The new Melbourne tram, as mentioned, needs changes to the door operation that must be designed first.
    Staffing shortages are a continuing issue at Muni’s rail maintenance facilities. No. 1076 adds another car to the active fleet with the least amount of work.
    @ Danny, Market Street Railway has run charters along the route you mentioned before and will again if there is sufficient interest to cover the cost. Currently, Muni rules don’t allow passengers (regular or charter) on “burn-in” runs, so that’s not an option at this time.
    @ Jeremy W, the Cleveland PCC, No. 1075, has in fact been back in service lately, along with No. 1078, in the San Diego livery, and No. 1077, Birmingham, as mentioned. We are gradually changing over the technology of our website, and right now the car status list is a little stale. It will be up to date soon, although we don’t keep count of cars out of service for a few days with fender benders or minor mechanical problems.

  7. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see this familiar site on a recent visit to San Francisco! I grew up in DC and fondly remember the street cars from way back when. Add “barely” to fondly and you’ve got a more accurate memory since I was just a toddler when they were retired in the early 1960s. I do remember my father’s disappointment and if I recall correctly we went for a ride on the last day they were in operation.
    My sister who still lives in the DC area was out for a visit recently and we met at Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. That we both got to see No. 1076 pass by definitely added a special aspect to her visit! I can’t wait to go ride it!

  8. DC Native,
    Thank you for sharing your story. We love hearing stories of visitors excited to discover their hometown trolleys being represented in San Francisco.

  9. We who rode the PCC’s in both colors liked the tropical colors and who’s know’s why Taking a PCC from Silver Spring, MD at the DC line and traveling into town was a great We even had AC in some of them I have a O scale one on my train layout and it always brings back the good old days prio to 1962 Busses were pushed and the street cars were gone They are now back with new trackage and no cars and no way to power them for several years and the Wash DC Goverment tries to make a decision for the two lines and how to get power to the cars and be within the law

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