This coach has great historic value – for what it didn’t do. It’s the only survivor of ten delivered to Muni in January 1947 for the express purpose of replacing the Powell Street cable cars. And it didn’t. And San Francisco is better because of it.
These ten buses were built by the Faegol-Twin Coach Company in Kent, Ohio. It had been founded in 1927 by two of the four Faegol brothers when they left their namesake company in Oakland, California. (Muni purchased a few of its early buses from Oakland’s Faegol between 1927 and 1931.)
The Faegol brothers brought their patented twin-engine approach to their new company, two synchronized engines that allowed for larger passenger loads. They also pioneered a monocoque body design, where the chassis is integrated with the body.
This model, with its distinctive stainless steel side panels and six-piece windshield arrangement, was strikingly modern for its day. We don’t know if that modern design played a part in choosing this vehicle for the under-the-radar move by Muni, pushed by Mayor Roger Lapham, to get rid of the cable cars. Elected in 1943, Lapham was a businessman who campaigned on “modernizing” San Francisco transportation. He led the final campaign to win voter approval to take over the decrepit Market Street Railway, which brought Muni the two Powell cable lines along with scores of streetcar and bus routes, almost of all of which were being operated with worn-out infrastructure.
Lapham was pushing a major plan to replace most existing streetcar lines with modern buses, but before he could get to that, he got these ten Twin coaches to San Francisco before he had even announced his intent to put them on Powell Street. He may have calculated that the cable cars were an easy target. But he didn’t count on the public outcry orchestrated by a woman named Friedel Klussmann. She led a ballot campaign to preserve the Powell Street cable lines, which succeeded in a November 1947 vote — the same election where voters approved Lapham’s $20 million in bond revenues to purchase new trolley coaches and motor buses to replace streetcars on two dozen routes. (Those bonds paid for 90 Twin trolley coaches with identical bodies to this motor coach, which were mainstays of Muni operations for the next quarter-century.)
But the ten Twin gasoline coaches? Not so much. Turned away from Powell Street, Muni assigned them to various routes around town, usually hilly ones like the 35-Eureka. Problem was, the twin engines just wouldn’t stay in sync. Retired Muni shopman Norbert Feyling (who spent most of his career working on cable cars) says his father, also a Muni shopman, told him of untold hours trying to get the engines to sync up. Finally, they just disconnected one of the engines and ran them as a conventional bus. But as “oddballs” – a small group of unusual buses – they didn’t find favor at Muni, and were disposed of after just six years.
Two of the buses, 0163 and 0165, moved south to Los Angeles to a company that rented them out for use in movies. Then they made their way to Riverside County’s Orange Empire Railway Museum (now Southern California Railway Museum), from which our nonprofit arranged for their return to Muni. The 0165 was used for parts, while the 0163, after patiently waiting its turn, was brought in by Muni’s great bus maintenance crew for restoration starting in 2018.
We offer a magnet of this bus in our online store. Click here.