Muni Bus Centennial Celebrated at Heritage Weekend

Muni Superintendent Fred Boeken poses with Muni’s first five motor coaches (White Motor Co.) outside Geary Division, 1918. Photo from SFMTA Archives.

Muni operated its first bus on September 1, 1917. Their ace archivist and photographer, Jeremy Menzies, put together a great post with lots of photos that’s definitely worth a look.

We got a bit of a head start on the Muni bus centennial with an exhibit we opened in March at our San Francisco Railway Museum, telling the story of how buses came to replace streetcars as the city’s dominant transit vehicle. It’s still up, and it’s one more reason to come down to the museum for Muni Heritage Weekend, September 9-10 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

But don’t just come down to look at the display. Come down to ride and view actual vintage buses, because they’re taking center stage this year in honor of their centennial at Muni. Both trolley coaches and motor coaches will be offering the public rides that Saturday and Sunday.

Muni’s oldest surviving bus, built in 1938 by White Motor Company and numbered 042, restored to its original orange and black paint scheme, will run from the museum to Levi’s Plaza and back, as will 1969 GMC “Fishbowl” 3287, painted in the new livery of that day, which was modeled on the maroon worn by the California Street Cable Cars.

Newer buses running along with them on the Levi’s Plaza route will be 1975 AM General 4154 and 1990 Orion 9010.

But perhaps the most attention will go to Muni’s newest restored motor coach, 1956 Mack 2230. It will be on display in the plaza next to the museum. We won’t spoil the surprise with a photo of the restoration here (besides which, the Woods Division shops are still working on it) but here’s what it looked like during its first life. The Mack will sit side by side with a brand new Muni hybrid-electric motor coach, allowing visitors to compare 60 years of bus technology.

Two vintage trolley coaches will carry riders from the Museum to Washington Square in North Beach, including 67-year old Marmon-Herrington 776, which will be joined by 1975 Flyer 5300.

While the buses take a bow, there’s still a full slate of rail action. The J-Church line is celebrating its own centennial, so Muni’s very first streetcar, 1912 Car 1, will run from the Museum out Market and down the J-line to 30th Street on several trips each day, joined by a PCC streetcar of the type that ran the J for 30 years.

Additionally, the oldest surviving San Francisco streetcar, 578, built for the original Market Street Railway in 1896, will carry passengers from the museum to the Wharf and back, joined by one of the popular 1934 open-top “boat trams” from Blackpool, England. And 1929 Melbourne, Australia tram 496 will operate on the E-Embarcadero line.


Finally, the last surviving O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car to wear that line’s livery, Car 42 in its original 1906 livery, will be operating on the California Street cable car line, just two blocks from the museum, both days.

We’ll have a special sale of hard-to-find rail books and memorabilia both days, plus book signings on transit issues, including BART (by Mike Healy), the F-line (Peter Ehrlich), the Market Street Railway of 1893 (Emilio Echeverria) and the overall heritage operation (Rick Laubscher). We’ll post the schedule for these a few days before the weekend.

This is a Heritage Weekend you don’t want to miss!

  • davistrain

    I found it amusing that the “Jimmy” bus has a headsign showing a bus route that was replaced by streetcars. Does anyone have a photo of trolley bus 776 with an “8 Market St.” reading on the headsign?

  • uniblab_2.0

    Looks great! Sounds like it will be a fun weekend!!

  • ART CURTIS

    My records show that the first MUNI Superintendent (equivalent of General Manager) was Thomas A. Cashin, a native San Franciscan who previously worked for the Market Street Railway of 1893, and then as Superintendent of Fresno Traction Company. Hired by MUNI in October 1912, he stayed at MUNI until 1917, when Fred Boeken took over and remained as general Manager until 1940.

  • Kieran

    This sounds spectacular. Hopefully the Mack bus #2230 will be operating by next year’s Heritage Weekend.