Thanks to a rare photo posted by cable car gripman and historian Val Lupiz, Market Street Railway has selected its next heritage cable car livery. We’re calling it the “blank slate” livery.
Ten of the Powell Street cable cars are painted in heritage liveries — the paint schemes Powell cable cars actually wore at different points in their 130 year history. But no heritage liveries have yet been applied to California Street cable cars as yet because, except for one brief experiment by Muni when it took over the line in 1952 and applied its standard green and cream livery to one car, the Cal cars have always worn their iconic maroon livery with sky blue trim.
Except when they wore no livery at all.
As we can clearly see in the photo, taken at California and Hyde Streets in 1908, the California Street Cable Railway Co. rushed to resume service as quickly as possible following the 1906 earthquake and fire. As new cable cars came in from Hammond & Sons, they elected to stick some right out on the street without painting them. You can see the familiar ribbon with the line’s destinations on the end of the car on the right, while the car on the left just wears its “birthday suit”: glorious tongue-and-groove wood.
“This was a fabulous discovery,” said Rick Laubscher, President of Market Street Railway. “The cable car painters work hard all the time creating all the other liveries for the cable cars, and they do a great job. So we’re recommending that when the next newly rebuilt California Street cable car emerges from the carpentry shop that all the painters take a well-earned vacation for a couple of months and put it out there just as it is: in its raw, naked state, emblematically reminding us of the harried months and years after the big Shake and Bake, when speed mattered more than beauty.”
“I support this idea, even though it will make life harder for my fellow gripmen and gripwomen,” Lupiz added. “Now, when clueless tourists on the Cal line ask, “Where does this car go?”, we just point to the end of the car. So we might actually have to answer the question now. But it’s worth it.”
We haven’t yet put this fabulous idea to Muni. Maybe tomorrow morning, Monday April 2, we’ll think better of it. 🙂
UPDATE, APRIL 2 — Just to be clear (because we guess it wasn’t clear enough in the initial post), this was an April Fool’s post.