Painting Torpedoes (Part 4: San Francisco)

This is the fourth in a series of posts concerning which historic paint schemes, or “liveries,” should be applied to the double-ended “torpedo” PCC streetcars about to be restored by Muni. (They’ve asked Market Street Railway for input, as their non-profit preservation partner, but the final decision is theirs.)

1006 B-Geary 33rd and Anza (c1953)

PCC No. 1006 in its original “Wings” livery in the early 1950s. Will Whittaker photo.

We’ve already looked at the possibility of liveries from other cities’ operations that once ran double-ended PCCs, such as Dallas, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and Pacific Electric of Southern California. Now it’s time to stay home and look at options in San Francisco.

Muni has already decided to paint at least one of the double-end PCCs being restored in a Muni livery. Car No. 1006 will wear its original 1948 green and cream paint scheme featuring “wings” (called fingers by some) of paint reaching back from the doors towards the center of the car. So will single-end PCC No. 1040, chosen for restoration in the same batch because it is the last of some 5,000 PCC streetcars built in North America between 1936 and 1952.
So there will be at least two additional PCCs in the Muni “Wings” livery that lasted (on some PCCs) right through to their “first” retirement in 1982. This could allow the future repainting of current F-line streetcar No. 1050, an ex-Philadelphia PCC, into a different livery, but that’s a subject for a separate post, so we’re going to talk only about the double-ended PCCs here.

simplified paint scheme

1009 displays Muni’s “simplified” paint scheme after being converted to single-end operation. Shown on the J-line at 20th Street in 1964. Walter Rice photo.

Muni’s “torpedoes,” as the ten big double-end cars numbered from 1006 to 1015 were called, were all converted to operate from one end only by the mid- to late-1950s. Since at that point they were always going in the same direction, it was no longer important to have a symmetrical livery (one that would look the same no matter which end of the car was going forward). So some, but not all, of the torpedoes received what Muni called its “simplified” green and cream paint scheme, so called because it took less time for painters to apply than did the “Wings.”

simplified paint scheme

1014 (at right) shows how Muni’s simplified paint scheme looked on the rear of the torpedoes after they were changed to single-end operation. Walter Rice photo.

This simplified scheme is represented in the current F-line fleet by ex-Philadelphia single-end streetcar No. 1051, and could also be applied to one of the double-end cars being restored, although on a torpedo the car would appear to be going “backward” when operated from its number 2 end.

In the late 1970s, near the end of Muni’s first PCC era, a handful of streetcars got a cosmetic refurbishment, which included the new “Landor” paint scheme created pro bono for Muni by famed San Francisco industrial designer Walter Landor. (This included the first use of Muni’s current wiggly logo, aka “the Worm.”) None of the torpedoes got this design in revenue service; however, No. 1008, one of the cars up for restoration, got a home-brew Muni version of it when it was converted into what its lettering described as a “repair car.” It is possible that a Landor livery could be applied to one of the cars.

PCCs in poppy gold at Transbay Terminal

Landor livery was applied to a handful of Muni’s PCC fleet, although not to any of the torpedoes. Jack Garcia photo, Peter Ehrlich collection through nycsubway.org.

Then there are the “fantasy liveries” that some railfans love to discuss. Muni itself actually brought one to life when the first group of torpedoes rejoined the active fleet in the mid-1990s.

At the insistence of a Muni manager (now retired), double-end car No.1007 originally operated in the same livery applied to Muni’s current Breda LRVs. It was very unpopular in part because it was deemed not historic, and was subsequently changed to honor Philadelphia’s Red Arrow line, which ran very similar double-end PCCs.

Yet it could be said that the current Muni gray and red livery is really just a modernized version of Muni’s very first streetcar livery, represented by 1912 Car No. 1. If Muni had acquired its first streamliner streetcars a year earlier than they did, they probably would have been painted like car No. 1. (As it was, the five streamliners Muni received in 1939 were the first to be painted blue and gold in honor of that year’s Treasure Island World’s Fair. F-line double-ender No. 1010 wears this livery today.) A possibility one of the torpedoes could be that original gray Muni livery, with red roofs and “Municipal Railway” in gold lettering above the windows.
And then there’s the ultimate San Francisco “what-if,” one we’ve heard suggested to us over and over by long-time San Franciscans.

Double-end White Front PCC model

Market Street Railway’s patented “White Front” livery with zip stripe on the sides on a model. Walter Rice photo.

Our namesake, Market Street Railway, made drawings of a PCC-type double-end streetcar in the late 1930s, resplendent in the company’s patented “White Front” livery (totally white ends for visibility in the fog) with a bright yellow roof and green sides with a racy “zip stripe” slashing across the sides.

Many of its old fashioned streetcars were repainted in this livery around this time in an attempt to make them look, well, less boxy. Market Street Railway never ordered any PCCs, but the idea retained its fascination for decades, so much so that a model company offered a detailed version of this “what-if” livery.

So, there are a number of choices for painting additional torpedoes (beyond No. 1006) in liveries that offer a tribute to bygone San Francisco days and dreams. More “Wings” liveries, duplicating No. 1006 (and No. 1040 as well as — for now at least — No. 1050), the “simplified” green and cream Muni logo some torpedoes wore in the 1960s and 1970s, the Landor livery worn by some Muni PCCs (but not torpedoes) in the late 1970s, or fantasy liveries such as an original Muni gray and red car or a Market Street Railway “White Front” PCC.
Lots of choices to consider in your comments, which you can post below.

Part 1: Dallas, Texas
Part 2: Boston, Massachusetts
Part 3: Pacific Electric
Part 4: San Francisco
Part 5: Something Completely Different

Comments: 28

  1. I think that one car should be in the Market Street Railway “What If” scheme, since it would honor both the predecessor company and the preservation organization.
    The others, in my opinion, should all be in some MUNI scheme, as these cars are distinctively San Francisco.

  2. I love love love the “Landor livery” but, even more, I love seeing cars painted in colors they wore historically.
    There’s a lot of mention in these posts of double-end liveries that could be applied to these new cars, but existing single-end cars already have those schemes. Now that there are more double-end cars, can we apply the paint schemes to them and replace the single-enders with, say, the Landor livery?

  3. Both double-end no. 1006 and single-end no. 1040 will be painted in the wings scheme, which frees up no. 1050 (currently painted in wings) for something different.
    Painting no. 1050 in the Landor livery is definitely a possibility and worth discussing when plans start coming together for restoration of the current PCC fleet.

  4. Now’s the time for the “let’s paint the whole set in the Muni ‘wings'” color scheme partisans to speak up. Much as I like to honor PE, Dallas, and Boston, I would vote for doing all four in the same 1950’s livery. My first encounter with Muni as a railfan was in 1967, so I have memories, photos and movies of the days when “green machines” ruled Market Street. With four green PCCs and 162, I can see a great photo op when the “E” line opens.

  5. As many of you may know, I have long advocated for representation of the Market Street Railway “ZIP Stripe” livery, as MSRy had proposed back in 1939, but which never came to fruition. With MSRy 798 likely to be a regular “White Front”-liveried streetcar, doing a “Torpedo” to honor Market Street Railway Company’s dream would be an ultimate tribute. I have such a representation on my Flickr web site. Go to:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/milantram/3743314466/in/set-72157613384439807/

  6. Go with the wings for the first car, and do the “zip stripe” for another, one should be Dallas as its not represented and the other is a toss up (Boston orange (Personally I’d go with the Boston green) or PE – if one of those is chosen, then single ended cars should be repainted for cities not represented)

  7. We’ve been talking about this over at the MSR Flickr Group.
    I think these double-enders should be taken to be the big chance to get some of these much-discussed liveries on the street within the next 5 years– who knows when the single-end fleet will be rehabbed.
    So I’m voting for Landor, which is my memory of streetcars in SF before the market street subway. To me, this is an important part of the city’s history.
    And for kicks, I vote for the fantasy MSR livery.
    These should go on this batch of double-enders!

  8. I don’t think we need any more MUNI paint schemes. We already have three. There are plenty of others such as Dallas {original home}, Boston, Fl Paso, San Diego, etc.

  9. I don’t think any of the double-ended PCCs should get the Landor livery since they never had it, but I am another supporter of giving it to 1050 once the restoration of 1040 and 1006 is complete. If that did happen, how long would it be before 1050 could potentially be repainted?
    For the three double-ended cars that don’t have a livery picked out yet, I think one should get the simplified green and cream livery (Maybe it could modified slightly so it would look right from either end), one could get the proposed Market Street Railway livery and the third could get one from another city.

  10. My first thought was to paint ALL original MUNI cars in MUNI or MSR liveries. But, that would mean re-painting 1007 and 1015 which would cost more money. Muni will paint 1006 in it’s “Wings” livery. So, that leaves three cars to be painted. One could be in the “Simplified” livery and one in the same MUNI original livery as car #1, gray with a red roof. That, in my opinion, would look great. One could be painted in the MSR “White Front” livery, white on both ends, green on the sides and a gray top, without the “Zip Stripe.” If one car has to be re-painted in the “Landor” livery, please do not put it on a double-ended car. If #1050 would be re-painted, put it in the “Landor” livery.

  11. I’m all for the wings livery, and with 1040 painted in the same, I’m also very enthusiastic about getting 1050 (and 1051 as far as I’m concerned) out of their SF liveries and into something else, like, say, Pittsburgh.
    I’m not for a wings-simplified livery for a car restored as a double ender as that wouldn’t be accurate, and would look silly going the other way; I also don’t like the idea of a Landor livery on a double ender if they never wore them, work car livery notwithstanding. I would wait until we start pulling PCCs out of Muni’s ghost fleet and put a simplified wings livery on one of those. To that end, I would think that we could do the Landor livery on one of those also.
    To that point, I think we should have more than just one car represent each Muni livery, as while each tribute car does represent a city, the Muni livery should constitute a mini-fleet such that we can see various vehicles of differing eras and designs, wearing different Muni liveries, all at the same time, with a tribute car seen in passing. The idea being that Market street was once home to fleets of Muni and MSR cars, and it’s not quite the same to have but a single car in a single livery as tribute to a local era; we need a mini fleet to do that. And we have enough cars in the ghost fleet to create something to that effect, while also continuing the tribute idea.
    I saw a torpedo in Philly’s “Gulf Oil” colors, quite distinct from the two Philly liveries we have, and from the Red Arrow suburban line, and I’d like to see one of the double enders in that.
    As for the “fantasy” liveries: I’m all against any PCC in Muni’s original gray/red. The PCCs in their day were the cutting edge of a high tech future that got sideswiped by the automobile. They were all about a clean break with the past as represented by our Iron Monsters. Muni MIGHT have painted them gray and red, but they didn’t, and that livery should not be included in the PCC fleet. By the same token, since the MSR was swallowed up, but could have gotten a PCC, I’m all for including the MSR idea for a PCC in the fleet, whether on a double ender or something later.
    And as for those who can’t stand the idea of having a PCC in Muni’s current silver/red livery, as 1007 once was (which, as Rick pointed out is based on Muni’s original paint scheme) I heartily disagree. I hated it too, when I first saw it, and loved it when the car came out in its current Red Arrow livery, but that was not evolved thinking. The PCCs are not merely survivors (those cars are in museums) they are near-immortal, as impossible as that may be. They keep on going, so it’s absurd not to have one in Muni’s current livery, it’s an insult to Muni for one thing–this is one handsome livery on the modern cars and buses, and it was very well executed on 1007, and I think we should go back to it, because just as the old Flyer-Artic’s are getting silver paint jobs, so too would the PCCs if they’d been in regular service–and that’s just the point, they ARE in regular service, they’re one of the hardest working lines in the system, and that should be recognized by a modern livery. They’re here, and they’re part of Muni, and Muni should be honored with one of the cars in its current logo–who else has anything like the “F” line? Besides, it’s not like those dreadful old liveries of the 1970’s/80s, such as that in which the Newark test car showed up in; Muni’s current livery is one of the best looking transit pain schemes I’ve seen anywhere.

  12. I’ll admit that when it comes to the original San Francisco PCCs, I’m a purist. They should all be in their original cream & green with wings paint schemes (with the proper length wings, with the proper wing-tips, not like what was done to #1040 for the Trolley Festival). Leave the rainbow colors to the boomer (second-hand, third-hand, etc.) cars. There are more than enough paint schemes represented to get the point across about honoring the electric railway heritage of the various cities across the country (and around the world). Do we have to paint every car in a different paint scheme from every city and every time period? Let the original San Francisco cars be what they are, namely San Francisco Municipal Railway. For the 1006 series PCCs, modify the double-end paint scheme to reflect their change from two-man to one-man operation (bring back the old ENTER FRONT logo). As for the “Bands” paint scheme, which was an economy move by Muni, we have #1051. One’s enough, end of story.
    Muni has a hard enough time keeping the fleet operational. Every time a car goes in the shop its getting its paint touched-up or a full repaint. Having to invest in all these different colors and shades of paint, plus all the different patterns and decaling, has got be expensive. Let the San Francisco originals be a core-fleet, with an easier to inventory paint scheme. As for the Market Street Railway paint scheme, how about we get the real MSR car (#798) operational first, which has been going on for 25 years. Let’s preserve what is before we do what might-have-been.

  13. After seeing all the options, I think of the 3 remaining undecided Torpedos, 1 should be painted in the MUNI simplified green/cream scheme (modified so that both ends look the same of course), the second in the red Dallas scheme, and the last in the orange Boston scheme. Then repaint 1050 in the MUNI Landor scheme and 1059 in the St. Louis scheme to replace 1704, which probably won’t be restored anytime soon.

  14. I second Mike T’s post above. do the as-delivered look for 1006, the fantasy MSR one, and Dallas since that city is not represented. you could have a vote or a contest to select the final scheme.

  15. @ Garrett C. Garnes, re: the Wings design on double-enders. The picture at the top of this post shows the as-delivered “Wings” scheme for the torpedoes. That’s how 1006 (at least) will be repainted, with the short sings and tapered tips. On single-end PCCs, the “Wings” scheme first appeared on the “Baby Ten” fleet (Nos. 1016-1040) when delivered in 1951-52; the wings were much longer and squared at the ends. That is how No. 1040 will be repainted (during the Trolley Festival, the shops mistakenly applied the short torpedo-style wings to 1040; that will be rectified in the rebuild). When the torpedoes were converted to single-end cars in the mid-1950s, they received the same single-end “Wings” scheme as the Baby Tens, but like the later simplified scheme, the car would appear to be going backward when operated from the other end.
    So there were two “Wings” paint designs on Muni PCCs: one with short, tapered wings on each end of the side panels for the double-end cars (including the five 1939 “Magic Carpets,” which were repainted from their blue and gold factory paint), and longer, square wings on the front-end only for single-end cars (including the torpedoes and Magic Carpets when converted to single-enders).
    A little confusing, but the photos clarify it.

  16. As a Texan, I would have liked one (or both!) Dallas paint jobs instead of going all Muni just to make the drivers here happy. There’s already a lot of Muni green and not one Texas trolley yet.

  17. As there are 4 San Francisco liveries that the Torpedos could have worn why not have 1 of each. That would be, the Original Short Wings, the longer square wings and simplified livery if both of these could be modified so both ends look the same. Finally the MSR livery should be represented as a what might have been.

  18. All Muni cars should be painted in Muni colors. Period. I will admit that it would be nice to see the Market St. Ry proposed “White Front” paint scheme used on one of the torpedoes. As for the others, use any Muni paint scheme you want. Also, repaint the torpedoes already in foreign line colors, altho I know that’s not going to happen.

  19. I absolutely love the idea of us using the Market Street Railway White Front on one of these cars,,,,,,It would be attractive and a tribute to MSR at the same time,,,,We all work very hard to make these cars look the best they can ,,, and I think now is the time for this sort of tribute to MSR,,,, Also the idea of one in silver and black might be an idea whose time has come,,,,,

  20. While it’s great to be able to look at pictures of other cities’ paint schemes, I have to admit I would love to see ALL San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcars painted to reflect just that, whether it be green and cream, or blue and gold (which looks great on the double-enders). Those paint schemes fill me with civic pride, and they just look right. One (at the least) MSR paint scheme would be fine as well, and looks great in the picture.

  21. From the beginning I have been advocating that all original Muni PCC cars that are rebuilt be painted in their original as delivered wings paint scheme. There need to be more cars in the historic fleet that represent our City. That said, I am now of the opinion that one of the double-enders could be done in Muni’s simplified green/cream scheme if it is applied correctly on each end. Of course, if the majority of our group wanted a Torpedo in the later “Poppy” scheme, I could live with that, and even a “White Front” scheme. After all, they would still present actual San Francisco colors.

  22. The solution for the Simplified Livery, so the car will not look like it is going backwards, is simple as follows: Paint the Cream triangle, from the bottom of the car, to the bottom of the windows, on each end and each side of the car. Look at the photo of #1006, on this post, with its Wings livery, on both ends and both sides of the car. This should solve the problem.

  23. I’m also in favor of a car in the Landor livery, but not on one of the torpedos. They can repaint another one for that; maybe 1050 as has been suggested, and keep the torpedos historically correct. The white front car is cool looking also – hopefully it can make it onto one of the cars also.

  24. I’m definitely in favor of one of the torpedoes in the white front Market Street Livery. I can think of many reasons for this, many of which have already been mentioned. But there is another reason, which has only been touched on. And that is, t would also be a tribute to the CURRENT Market Street Railway, which has done so much to promote streetcars in San Francisco!

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