San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcar No. 1 on Stockton Street at Market, the terminal of the original F-Stockton line, Christmas Day 1944. Roy D. Graves photo, Market Street Railway Archives.
It’s December 25, 1944. We’re at Stockton at Market Street, the terminal of Muni’s original F-line. And welcoming riders on this Christmas Day 67 years ago is none other than Car No. 1, recently repainted from its original gray and maroon “battleship” livery into Muni’s brighter blue and gold. It is ready for another trip on the F, past Union Square, through the Stockton Tunnel and Chinatown to reach North Beach, then on Columbus Avenue, North Point, Van Ness and Chestnut to the Marina District. (If you think this sounds like today’s 30-Stockton, you’re right. The original F is its direct ancestor.)
There was a glimmer of brightness on the war horizon this day, too. More than three years after Pearl Harbor, Allied forces had turned the tide against both Germany and Japan. While there would be months of fierce fighting ahead, the end of the war was now in sight.
On the Home Front, transit systems across America were overwhelmed with riders driven from their automobiles by gasoline and tire rationing. The strain was showing on Muni. Only three months before, it had taken over operation of its private competitor, Market Street Railway Company, only to find its equipment and facilities near collapse. Yet the system soldiered on, making do however possible. In a way, the soon-to-be-popular song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” described the need to defer needed repairs: “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” (By the way, that song made its debut on the lips of Judy Garland in Vicente Minnelli’s movie “Meet Me in St. Louis,” which also gave us the song, “Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolley.”)
Our exclusive member newsletter, Inside Track, is about to publish the second in a multi-part history of Muni, “Muni At War,” with lots of rarely- or never-before seen photos, including this one, which we acquired from a collector on eBay. If you’re not a member of Market Street Railway, this is a great time to join because new members will also received the last issue of Inside Track, with photos and text describing the origins and first 30 years of Muni’s history.
As for Car No. 1 itself, it’s fully restored to its original appearance and ready to play the starring role in Muni’s centennial year. We’ll be operating a charter of the streetcar in the next few months for members only, riding the rails west of Twin Peaks in a rare treat. (Another great reason to join MSR.) Watch here for details.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now (or celebration of your choice)!