At Market Street Railway, we focus on historic rail vehicles, but there are plenty of other historic vehicles in San Francisco as well, and we celebrate all of them. One group of interest are the DUKW vehicles run by Bay Quackers. Universally referred to as Ducks instead of their military acronym, these are the World War II-era amphibious vehicles you see carrying tourists along The Embarcadero from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Bay, where they plunge into the water for a cruise.
Just like the “tourist trolley” concept started in San Francisco in the 1950s (when the late Arnold Gridley bought up surplus California Street Cable Railway cable cars and plunked their bodies down on truck chassis), then spread to other cities, the Duck experience started in Boston a long time ago with genuine surplus military vehicles and spread from there. In both cases, copycat operations tended to go for replica vehicles. Bay Quackers, though, uses the real thing — and, importantly, it’s a locally-owned business, run by John Scannell. Bay Quackers is up for consideration as an “outstanding tour company” on sfgate.com. If you’re interested in supporting their devotion to authentic vintage vehicles, you can cast your vote for them here.
I’ve seen and photographed the Quackers in the Fisherman’s Wharf area; there’s a Peking Duck and an El Pato (“the duck” in Spanish). They have to be registered with the Coast Guard AND the DMV–both street legal and seaworthy, unlike the Muni “Boat” which is strictly a landlubber (although I am tempted to ask the conductor “Request permission to come aboard, Sir!” and salute the flag on the trolley rope before going for a “cruise”.)
Somehow, I think saluting the Jolly Roger isn’t quite the thing!
And “Walking the Plank” is mostly for those who “wheel” it (the handicapped ramp, that is!)
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