Help us bring the original “Love Boat” back to San Francisco

They say you never forget your first. Absolutely true for the open-top streetcar from England that turned heads on Market Street 40 years ago during the first Historic Trolley Festival that paved the way for the permanent F-line. People took one look, then a double take, and noted the smiles of the riders. It was quickly dubbed the “Love Boat”.

Help us bring the original
On Opening Day of the 1984 Trolley Festival “Cap’n” Walt Thomsen helms Boat Tram 226 as it navigates Market Street. You can help bring it back to San Francisco after a 40-year absence. MSR Archive

That delightful 1934 vehicle, Blackpool Boat Tram 226, was one of only eight in existence and was leased from the Western Railway Museum in Solano County. After two summers in Festival service here, our nonprofit tried to buy it for Muni, but the museum’s leadership of that day, which was no longer interested in leasing its streetcars to Muni, declined selling it. (Due to poor compatibility with the museum’s railroad-type switches, it has operated little there.)

So, we looked to Blackpool itself, which still had five Boats. We acquired identical Boat 228 for Muni and it continued the great popularity of these canoe-like contraptions in the City by the Bay, so much so that ten years ago, it was clear a second Boat was a top priority, as it would allow Muni to have a Boat cruising the F-line more often. We went back to the museum to ask about the original Love Boat; same answer. Blackpool itself wouldn’t let any of its remaining three boats go, but an English nonprofit sold us its Boat, funded by a generous grant from the Thoresen Foundation.

Help us bring the original
Dressed for the voyage, Boat lovers enjoy “Red Sails” Boat 228 at Muni Heritage Weekend. Rick Laubscher photo

Muni is now close to completing work on that second Boat, 233, delayed by the pandemic. Meantime, Boat 228, now repainted in an alternate Blackpool livery of red and cream, was the unquestioned star of September’s Muni Heritage Weekend, with local riders and visitors waiting an hour and longer just for a short ride. About then, we learned that the Western Railway Museum, tightening its collection focus on California vintage equipment, offered to sell us that original “Love Boat” that last ran on Muni tracks 40 years ago.

Help us bring the original
Boat Tram 233 getting finishing touches at Green Division’s Heavy Overhaul Shop after having its trucks rebuilt and other improvements made, November 2023.

Once again, Michael Thoresen and the Thoresen Foundation have stepped up and granted most of the funding we need for the purchase, transport, and associated expenses. Can you help us finish the job of bringing back the original “Love Boat”?

Help us bring the original
Muni’s Kevin Sheridan led an inspection team evaluating Boat Tram 226 at the Western Railway Museum in Solano Country on July 5. Verdict: under the decades of dust, it’s complete and very restorable. Rick Laubscher photo

Muni has agreed to make its restoration a priority. When that’s done, it will complete the fleet and allow Muni great flexibility to meet demand for “boat rides”, moving people between attractions that are important to our City’s economy. A third boat would also open the door to a resumption of the excursions on lines such as the J and L that were so popular during the Trolley Festivals. “Boat to the Beach” sounds pretty good to us, and Muni leadership has indicated interest in exploring this possibility down the road.

The new issue of our member magazine, Inside Track, has a complete feature on the quest for this original “Love Boat”. You can read it here.

You can support our effort to “complete the fleet” with a donation to our special fund here or by sending a check to us at 870 Market Street, Suite 803, San Francisco CA 94103. We have a matching grant from a generous donor that will double the first $2500 of contributions we receive from this post.

If you prefer to give us general year-end help for our cable car initiatives, museum improvements, and other activities, you can send a check to the same address or donate online here.

Thanks to all our members and donors, and of course continuing gratitude to Muni for its matchless commitment to historic transit.


Comments: 1

  1. Blackpool still had 7 boat cars when 228 was acquired by Muni back in the day. 1 was subsequently swapped for a standard car in the USA late in the 90’s and as the traditional tramway in Blacpool was being retired in 2011 a car was acquired by the National Tramway Museum in Crich and 1 to the LTT which found its way to San Francisco leaving 3 in Blackpool today.

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