Painting Torpedoes (Part 5: Something Completely Different)

As we’ve seen in this series to date, there are many liveries (historic paint schemes) that could grace the three double-ended streetcars Muni is restoring for which final paint decisions haven’t yet been made. We’ve looked at possible liveries from cities that once ran double-end streamliner PCC streetcars, known at Muni as “torpedoes:” Dallas, Boston, the LA area, and San Francisco itself.

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Pittsburgh’s “Mod Desire” livery, the word at the center of the cars is “trolley”

Now, we’re asking whether something completely different should be considered. Muni has painted all its streamliner PCCs so far to honor cities that once ran this most successful streetcar design. (They once ran in 30 cities in North America alone.) But there is also something of a tradition in the transit industry of painting a few cars in a fleet to be just plain attention-getters.

In the US, Pittsburgh did this, most famously with this car, which it dubbed “Mod Desire.” Painted in the 1970s, it sports a psychedelic rendition of the word “trolley” around the rear doors. It was part of an attempt to freshen up the PCC fleet with a variety of paint schemes (though none as wild as this one, which even drew attention from the New York Times.)


Another example: Melbourne, Australia, which commissioned artists to use a few of their W-class trams as canvasses in the 1970s. There was special interest in aboriginal and pop motifs in Melbourne, but the concept is a broad one, and could be extended to embrace a streetcar painted in a design created by a schoolkid, perhaps as a contest of some sort.
Alternatively, design professionals could be solicited for their visions of an “art streetcar,” on either a commission or contest basis.

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If Black Rock City had a transit system we imagine it might look something like the Aboriginal design of this Melbourne tram.

Yet another approach would be to designate a streetcar to be painted in honor of Muni’s centennial in 2012 (the torpedoes should be back in San Francisco, fully restored, in 2011. This might include images or artistic impressions of key moments in San Francisco transit history. (Of course, this option might appear dated within a few years, but the car could be repainted into a conventional livery like Muni Wings then.

So those are some of the “completely different” concepts that would go beyond the “tribute liveries” that Muni has applied to its F-line PCC fleet to date. If you had the chance to do something completely different with a streetcar paint scheme, what would it be?

Because we’re talking “completely different,” please don’t use this comment space to rehash opinions about the alternatives discussed in parts 1-4 of this series. If you haven’t already shared your thoughts on those other alternatives, feel free to do so in the comment sections of those posts, rather than here.
We especially welcome comments from those we haven’t heard from yet.

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


Comments: 22

  1. Considering that many valid suggestions were offered in posts 1-4, wasting one of the four Torpedoes with an insipid “art” scheme is an awful idea. The historic fleet should have historic paint schemes, [or a historic “what if” MSR scheme based on a historical proposal.] Muni has over a hundred Breda cars, paint one of those in a trendy “art” scheme if that’s what they want.

  2. Why not a “traffic saftey” paint job like Philadelphia had in the 60s? Or perhaps a livery featuring a SF icon like Willie Mays (or for the Giants, like Pitts. had for the Pirates). Or a livery for – a SF like Fishermans Wharf or Alcatraz?

  3. NO, NO, NO!! Please MUNI do not paint a Torpedoe car in one of these awful paint schemes!! If someone wants to see paint jobs, like this, they can go online to one of the photo sites. See them there, NOT on the SF PCC cars!!

  4. I ride the F-line cars with my daughter who loves them. She especially loves thinking up different ideas for painting them using those coloring sheets they give away to families at your museum. I think it’s great to at least think about getting out of the box. That’s what San Francisco has always been about. Maybe a contest for kids to share their dream designs for the streetcars would be fun and get another generation engaged in these great cars. It doesn’t just have to be about some fantasy paint scheme from 70 years ago, you know. Besides, Muni always has the option of not doing any of the kids’ designs. Some of you people are so serious about this. Isn’t the whole point of the F-line to make transit fun for people? Weren’t you ever kids?

  5. Hugh and Dennis, we have covered the options being seriously considered in previous posts and you have already shared you opinions there.
    In this post we asked what you would do if you could paint a streetcar any way you’d like and just gone negative instead. Without even letting others share there ideas (and thanks you Mike T for sharing the link and ideas) you’ve pre-judged them as being “awful” and “insipid”.
    That is not how you encourage creativity or brainstorm ideas.

  6. Actually, since I rode the Pittsburgh cars several times in the late 60s and 70s, I kind of like the idea of painting one of the ex-Philadelphia (or Pittsburgh) cars in the “Mod Desire”, or as we called it, “Bird of Paradise” scheme. But I don’t think that such a scheme would be appropriate for those lovely torpedoes.

  7. East Bay Street Railway (Later Key System) at one point talked about getting PCCs. Altough single ended cars, this is what they would have looked like
    I find this scheme to be very attractive, and I think it could very easily be adopted to a Double Ended car. It also has some roots to the SF Bay Area. Just Figured I’d throw it out there.
    Kevin Sheridan

  8. I think Muni’s one-off bicentennial paint scheme given to a car that was renumbered to 1776 deserves a mention:
    If any of the F line streetcars actually were going to get a unique livery, I would like to see that one. Even those who only want to see Muni liveries would be able to get behind that one.

  9. How about something completely different?
    Sydney (Australia) had considered a order for several hundred PCC’s after WW2 but price and power consumption ruled out the idea at the time leading to the R1 class being developed. Eventually as Sydney’s Tramway wound down in the 50’s any chance was lost, Melbourne had a PCC based tram prototype in the 50’s which never led to a production run, so my suggestion would be to look toward some of the cities around the world that had looked toward PCC’s to replace and to reproduce one or more of those liveries.

  10. Jamison, I take exception to your comments. You asked “If you had the chance to do something completely different with a streetcar paint scheme, what would it be?” and I replied that the historic fleet might not be the best place for such a scheme. There are only a limited number of historic cars and, as discussed, more than enough candidate paint schemes to choose from. And I suggested a Breda car as a better platform for such “creative” paint schemes. I stand by that suggestion; the Bredas look a bit bland and could use some brightening up. Give the kids the coloring books and have at it.

  11. Hello All!
    I just want to see a Landor scheme on some single ended car! It’s my second favorite MUNI livery after the green & cream wings.
    I’d vote 100% to see a single ender in the Pittburgh “Mod Desire” livery of the early 1970’s. Its a perfect scheme to reflect the psychedelic hippie era of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury (or Hashbury as it was sometimes called)!! I think it would be a real hoot and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, especially with an explanation of how it came to be!
    By the way, the CORGI model of this livery looks MUCH better than the pic shown above.

  12. I quite like the bicentennial livery from the picture Peter M has posted. It could be updated for the centennial celebrations in 2012. Whether it should be on a torpedo or a single end car, thats for MUNI to decide. But as the last of the torpedoes is expected back in October 2011, it could wear a centenial livery for a year or 2 then be painted in another livery. Maybe a centennial livery is an option for 1050 if it loses its wings livery.

  13. Definitely NO to such “mod” paint schemes. I think that this would encourage the local graffiti atrists to start their own “handiwork” on our historic fleet and think that it was OK to do so.

  14. i’m not a member (i’m sorry, money’s tight right now) but i hope i’m still allowed to post. i really like the idea of celebrating muni turning the big one-oh-oh, but what do you do once that’s over?
    i’d like to suggest you paint two of them in the 60’s wings, but give one (or both) a special centennial livery using the same kind of full-vehicle wrap more often used for advertising. muni did exactly that to give the 74x-culture bus its own special livery.
    in my opinion the 74x livery was far more attractive than the white or gray liveries muni uses now. i bring that up because instead of just a special anniversary livery, the centennial would be the perfect time for muni to give their branding and paint schemes a professional makeover. the bright yellow with red accents on the 74x-culture bus reminded me both of the old landor color scheme and more importantly it wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t camouflaged (that really was a poor, poor choice) and just looked more professional. even if muni were to rebrand themselves.
    (for those who don’t work in design, more often than not re-branding usually means slightly modifying an existing logo to bring it up to date – the landor worm has a lot of brand equity and the culture bus took the basic red and yellow but ditched the white which often just came off looking dirty)

  15. I would suggest a paint scheme depicting the last design used by your name sake company, the MSRy. The streamlined white front cars of 1938 to 1944 were quite sharp and and of enough historical significance regarding a company which had striven to serve the people of San Francisco positively despite its constant battle with the powers of the day. Charles Smallwood’s book: “White Front Cars” has a proposed drawing of a PCC; indicating MSRy had a plan to purchase PCC’s had their financial situation been more positive. The scheme would have likely been the streamlined version.

  16. I’m originally from Pittsburgh and when I was teenager during the 1970s, I remember the Streetcar dubbed “Mod Desire.” It was one of my favorite Streetcars. My friends and I would play a game on who could first spot the “Mod” Streetcar coming down the tracks. I would love to see a PCC painted in those psychedelic colors, it would become a popular very Streetcar in San Francisco.
    It’s a perfect fit for San Francisco especially in reference to some of the most famous neighborhoods “The Haight-Ashbury” and “The Castro.”
    However, I wouldn’t like to see the “Mod” patient scheme on one of the Torpedoes but I would like to see the “groovy” paint job on a single-ended PCC Streetcar. I know it would get a lot of attention and become a very popular Streetcar with both the locals and visitors.

  17. Mod desire looks like it belongs in san francisco and I can easily picture it with the Muni worm logo instead of the word trolley. It could upstage everything else on the F-Muni though.
    Since you don’t want to upset people, maybe you could do like Jackson said an make it a wrap only for Muni’s centenial and do several of them throughout the year with different designs to spotlight different neighborhoods and City icons. It could be done like the Hearts a few years ago and invite well known artists to design a livery and feature them only one at a time for a couple months each.

  18. Completely different is a Flash in the Pan. They are strartling and attract attention but they dont wear well. They should not be a permament long term livery.

  19. No on the psychedelic. We’ve only got 3 torpedoes to suggest paint schemes, and there are more than enough historical schemes to use on them. If there is enough demand for a psychedelic paint scheme, it could be applied to a single ender.

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