During the reacquisition and restoration of 1914 Muni streetcar No. 162, we sought out vintage photos of the car, almost all of which we’ve featured in our member newsletter Inside Track already — except these two. Seems that our ‘newest’ vintage streetcar has never been afraid to get into a scrape … literally.
The first picture — taken at Market & Geary in 1936 — shows why San Franciscans called the gray Muni cars ‘battleships’. Well, actually, it was more the color and size of the car, but in this case, also the plating!
Market Street Railway Co. ‘White Front’ car No. 152, headed for the Ferry on the 17-Haight & Parkside line, either didn’t see No. 162 on the D-line, slipping past Lotta’s Fountain to merge onto Market, or vice versa. Whichever motorman was at fault, the result is clear: the White Front lost. From what we can see, it looks like No. 162 got away with just a paint scrape.
The second picture — taken during World War II judging from the blue and gold livery on No. 162 and the presence of the Navy Shore Patrol — demonstrates two truisms about Muni’s battleships: 1) you don’t want one of them to hit you broadside, especially if you’re a truck with a high center of gravity; and 2) the ‘energy-absorbing’ ends of the car do their job well, splintering to absorb impact without ruining the car frame or passenger compartments. Best guess on the location, based on available visual evidence, is Fifth & Market, westbound. (Anybody have a more definite site? Let us know in the comments below.)
This accident may be what caused the sagging platform on one end of the car, which both Market Street Railway volunteers and Muni worked to correct, with some (but not total) success. Not a safety issue though; over the years many Muni and Market Street Railway Co. cars ended up with mildly twisted platforms from this kind of accident.
If anyone has photographs in their files of any of the preserved San Francisco streetcars during their original service lives (before their original ‘retirement’), we would love to have copies for our archives. That includes cars No. 1, 130, 162, 578, and 798. Feel free to send low-res files to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll let you know whether it’s a photo we don’t yet have, and work out proper recognition for your donation. Many thanks!