Photo of the (Past) Moment: Steamed Up at Castro

We’ve got an engaging exhibit at our San Francisco Railway Museum, a series of “then and now” photos of locations along Market Street celebrating 150 years of rail transit along our main drag.  One period most folks don’t know about is the time that upper Market was all steamed up.
Steam train at Castro 1880s.jpg

This shot (from the collection of the late Walter Rice) was snapped on Market near Castro, sometime between 1880 and 1888. We’re looking at what’s called a “dummy and trailer” combination. The “dummy,” to the right, is actually a mini steam engine. This being San Francisco, you’re already asking, “Where were the NIMBYs?” But a quick look up the hill reveals precious few neighbors to complain, at least at this end of the line.

The car to the left, emblazoned “Market Street Railway Co.” (one of several companies of that name over the decades, including our non-profit today) was probably a former horse car. When this “Market Street Extension” line went in, horse cars ran from the Ferry out Market as far west as Valencia. But even though  the city cut through a piece of what’s now called Mint Hill at Dolores and Duboce to extend Market westward, the grades on this part were still too steep for horse power.

But not for steam, nor for cable cars, which took over this route in 1888, running from the Ferry Terminal all the way out Market to Castro, then south on Castro over the Hill to 26th Street in Noe Valley. (The Castro Street part of the cable car line lasted until 1941; the Market Street part was replaced with streetcars right after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.)

“All the Way Out Market” is the name of the “then and now” exhibit at the museum, which is free, and open every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (except Mondays, when we’re closed). We’re at the F-line Steuart Street stop at the south end of Ferry Plaza, behind Hotel Vitale at 77 Steuart Street. Pay us a visit and check out other exhibits, historic films on view, and our unique collection of San Francisco gifts as well!