Great Photos in Chron’s “Our SF”

Twin hill climber and Cal Cable 1947

The Chronicle has been running long stories with lots of photos recently in the Sunday paper and on sfchronicle.com (a pay site) called “Our SF,” focusing on aspects of the city’s 150+ year history. Peter Hartlaub, a strong writer with an eye for good visuals, has been scouring the paper’s photo archives and has unearthed some gems.

July 12 was transportation’s turn, and the 20+ photos published online (vs. only a few in the print edition) include many we’d never seen before.

Such as the one above by Bill Young, a Chronicle staff photographer, showing one of Muni’s newly purchased Twin Coach “hill climber” gasoline buses posed next to a California Street cable car in 1947. The story doesn’t explain this odd juxtaposition, since the “hill climbers” were bought by Muni specifically to replace the city-owned Powell cable lines, not those of the then privately-owned California Street company.

Moscow 106_legs_1986There are small factual glitches here and there in the story and captions, probably the result of misinformation included in the archives when the photos were filed. For example, the classic photo to the left, taken by the Chronicle’s Tom Levy, showing the “Streetcar Named Desire for Peace,” given to San Francisco by the Soviet Union in 1986. (It ran in the final Trolley Festival of 1987, but has not yet been restored, in part because it does not fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act adopted after the Festivals.) The caption says the car came from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), when it in fact ran first in Moscow, and then Orel. (The legs, which made the photo a popular greeting card for a time, belong to a Muni shop worker.)

Despite the inaccuracies, it’s a great read. We especially like Hartlaub’s turn of phrase about how the city has embraced ” the lovely and functional F-line heritage streetcars.” And the online photos are wonderful, including some obscure streetcar and bus images (love the 1955 shot of a new Mack diesel bus on a railroad flatcar signed “7-Haight/via Freeway” — were city officials trying to promote the never-built Panhandle Freeway, perhaps?).

Here’s the whole story. Let us know your observations by leaving comments on our site, below.