Readers of our quarterly member newsletter, Inside Track, just got the inside scoop on the restoration of Powell Street cable car No. 1. The photo above, posted by Zach Ho to our Facebook group, shows Powell 1, in its 1888 livery, at the Bay and Taylor terminal of the Powell-Mason line.
That photo inspired noted San Francisco historian Emiliano Echeverria to post the photo below, from the Louis L, Stein, Jr. collection. It’s the same cable car — er, at least a part of it — at the same angle, at Golden Gate Park (Fulton Street and Sixth Avenue) in 1894.
This cable car, No. 506, was part of two groups of cars built for the Sacramento Street line. These cars survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the original Powell Street fleet did not, so the Sacramento Street cable cars were transferred over to Powell, where the survivors still run today.
As Inside Track readers know, Powell No. 1 was specially put together for the 1973 centennial of the world’s first cable car line (on Clay Street, built by Andrew Hallidie). Muni carpenters removed the roof from car No. 506, the frame of which was in very rough shape, and built a new cable car under that old roof. They salvaged the seats from No. 506 as well.
Painted in the original Powell Street Railway Company maroon and sky blue livery by cable car barn foreman (and rail historian) Charlie Smallwood, the look proved so popular that when the cable car lines were rebuilt from 1982-84, all but one of the Powell cars were repainted into a simplified version of this livery.
Taking inspiration from Powell No. 1 and the one remaining green and cream car (No. 3), Market Street Railway has supported Muni over the last two decades in bringing back other historic liveries once worn by Powell Street cable cars. There are now eight Powell cars wearing historic liveries, from 1888 to 1982. (One of them, on Car No. 15, represents the Mason Street version of the 1890s livery you see above on No. 506.)
We’ve illustrated all of them, plus the regular Powell livery and two California Street liveries, on a colorful poster available in our online store or our San Francisco Railway Museum. (We have a streetcar fleet poster, too!)
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