What Would You Have Saved From the Old Boneyard?

What Would You Have Saved From the Old Boneyard?

“Bone Yard” at Funston and Lincoln Way, 1944, SFMTA Archive.

The new issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, should reach your mailboxes any day now. It contains a story about our efforts to save the best PCC streetcars at Muni’s current “boneyard”, on Marin Street near Islais Creek, as Muni moves to convert the space into a bus testing yard.

(No, we’re not going to post that story here, at least not yet; our members feel getting first knowledge of important developments regarding the historic streetcar fleet is a perk of their membership. But you can get the new Inside Track instantly, by email if you join right now.)

This post is about the original “boneyard,” the streetcar storage area created by our namesake, the old Market Street Railway Company, in the city block bounded by Lincoln Way, Funston Avenue, 14th Avenue, and Irving Street. (Thanks to the SFMTA Archive for the photo, dated March 1944.)

Our namesake stored over 100 streetcars here at a time, with a large infusion entering the boneyard in the late 1930s, after the courts squashed the company’s operation of some streetcars with just a single crew member. Rather than convert those cars back into two-person operation, they just stored them. Even the increased ridership of World War II didn’t pry them out. These included advanced-looking (but underpowered) “rail sedans” purchased second-hand from East St. Louis, conventional arch roof cars from that railway and from Williamsport, PA, and a variety of deck-roof and arch roof cars originally purchased by predecessor United Railroads, plus, over time, most of the streetcars Market Street Railway built with San Francisco labor in its own Elkton Shops near Balboa Park (now the site of Muni’s Curtis E. Green Light Rail Division).

After Market Street Railway was merged with Muni in 1944, the railway stored streetcars here for a time as they were taken out of service in favor of trolley buses. Briefly, these included at least some of the single-truck E-Union line “dinkys”.

We only know of one single streetcar that escaped the boneyard and is still intact today: 1924 home-built car 798, about which we hope to share some very good news soon. For now, let’s play a game for those with some knowledge of the boneyard.

If you could have waved a magic wand and saved up to three streetcars from scrapping, so that they could be running on the E- and F-lines today, which three would they be (meaning which type, not which specific car numbers)?  Answer in the comments section.  Wishing won’t make it so, but what the heck.


Comments: 11

  1. How about two of the Type J single-truckers? Paint one in Muni colors and the other in Pacific Electric livery. Why PE? Because the Red Cars in Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim look more like Type Js than anything that actually ran on PE. Imagine having it running. The folks at Rio Vista Jct. would love to have one, and I’d like to see the PE version running at OERM. If we’re going to fantasize let’s really do a “what have you been smoking lately? ramble.

  2. Like to see:
    1. Muni Dinky E for the modern E line.
    2. MSR Student Car (Don’t know the type). What ever happened to that car?
    3. Muni Magic Carpet (Okay, they were not in the Boneyard).

  3. The student car, named the “San Francisco” is at the Western Railway Museum in Solano County. It is in very poor condition and would need a complete rebuild before it could be operable again, even in a less-demanding museum environment. The same museum has the only surviving “Magic Carpet,” #1003.

  4. Thank you Rick.

    Expanding the theme:
    Lines I like to see returned:
    Restore the 40 line to Caltrain Millbrae Station via Mission Street.
    Extend California Line back to Presidio Avenue.
    Using California Street cable cars from Market Street to Hyde Street.
    (Sharing track with existing Powell-Hyde cars).

    P.S. Future Cable Car paint schemes: Washington-Jackson on the Powell Cars and
    Presidio Avenue on one of the California Cars.

    • Good choice–they all disappeared before electric railway preservation really got started on the West Coast, and from what I’ve read in Charles Smallwood’s “White Front Cars” book, they were excellent cars.

  5. Before reading this article, I had no knowledge whatsoever of the Boneyard, so thanks for providing the historical recollection here, Rick! Now even though those commenting on your article are encouraged to play your cool game, I cannot since my knowledge of the boneyard-era historic streetcars on the more specific scale is minute (I understand if that makes me a bonehead in this scenario). But nevertheless, given the location of the old boneyard, is that where Andronico’s and its neighboring apartment complex have taken their long-term residence?

    • No worries…that post was primarily for our rail fan members; but your comment is very welcome — and correct! In fact, many former streetcar storage sites later became supermarkets and/or apartment buildings, largely because they were large single parcels in a city full of 25-foot lots! The old Market Street Railway barns at 32nd and Clement, 29th and Valencia/Mission, and Fulton and Masonic are among these, along with the old California Street Cable Railroad Co. barn at Hyde and California!

    • Welcome to our group–as a long time member of MSRy, I see part of our mission is sharing knowledge of San Francisco’s transit history. And as my dad used to say, “Count the day lost when you don’t learn something.”

  6. Okay – It’s been 4+ years since this article. Will someone comment on what happend to the stored cars at the Marin Division? From what I see, the “Bus Testing Facility” is jst a bus boneyard now. What happened to the trolleys????

    • As we told our members in our Inside Track Magazine, we worked with Muni before the pandemic to identify and save the dozen or so best PCCs and all the vintage streetcars at Marin, and moved them to a secure location on the Cow Palace grounds, where they’re tarped. We managed to save about six more streetcars than the management of the time (now departed) wanted to.

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