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.
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.”
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.