10-Year Profile Picture Challenge

Posting old and current profile photos side by side has been the rage on Facebook of late, so we thought we’d post our own…just one of dozens of comparisons we could make that show just how wonderful Muni’s restoration of historic streetcars is.

This car, 1009, admittedly needed more “plastic surgery” than most others. The photo from 10 years ago shows it ripped (not the good muscle kind, either) and slathered in blue protective paint after sitting out of service for almost 30 years. But because it is a rare double-end PCC that can operate on lines such as the E-Embarcadero, where single-end cars can’t use the current southern terminal, Muni made the investment in restoration. Brookville Equipment Corporation of Pennsylvania did the work, as they have with all of Muni’s PCCs restored so far, and paid close attention to detail.

In keeping with the practice of the historic fleet, it was painted in the eye-popping red and cream of Dallas Terminal & Railway, which operated double-end PCCs in this livery after World War II.

Not many “facelifts” come out this well…and not many can say how much younger their photos look today than 10 years ago.

This is a big reason Market Street Railway exists. Our advocacy helped keep this streetcar from being scrapped decades ago, and helped get it selected for restoration 10 years ago. Your support makes us able to do things like this. Click here to help us. Thanks.

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“Trackless Trolleys”?

The Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub, who does some productive digging around in the paper’s archives, has come up with a very good story on the conversion of many San Francisco streetcar lines to trolley coaches in the late 1940s. Above, one of several great photos from the story. Taken on the first day of electric bus service on Market Street, July 5, 1949, it shows a Twin Coach on the 5-McAllister followed by a mix of Marmon-Herringtons and Twins, outbound at Grant Avenue. Streetcars are still very much on the scene, including then-new double-end PCC 1009, still operating on the E-line today!

The conversion turned two dozen streetcar lines into bus routes. The majority of those conversions were to trolley coaches. Interestingly, Chronicle articles of the day referred to the new electric buses as “trackless trolleys”, a term mostly used in the East. Use of that term didn’t last long here; riders were soon referring to them as “trolley buses” while Muni officially called them “trolley coaches”.

A couple of clarifications on the article: Hartlaub seems to imply that the plans of PUC General Manager James Turner called for complete elimination of tracks on Market Street, when in fact only the outer tracks were taken up. He also noted that the only environmental benefit Muni seemed to tout for the new trolley buses was that the interiors wouldn’t smell bad. Not surprising that Muni would focus on this, though, since riders of converted streetcar lines had for a year been riding on interim gasoline motor coaches from White Motor Company, which had terrible ventilation that filled their interiors with gasoline fumes.

Overall, it’s a very good read. Worth your time.

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E-line Problem Discourages Riders

A technical problem with a switch near the southern E-line terminal has forced certain streetcars to skip the final stop at Caltrain, discouraging some riders from using the service.

As it was explained to us by Muni management, two of the seven double-end PCC streetcars assigned to the E-line have problems reversing at the Sixth and King Streets terminal because of a fault in a switch. The other five PCCs are able to bypass the problem by cutting power and coasting through the switch, but Cars 1009 (above, photo by Paul Lucas) and 1015 (below) do not coast freely enough to reliably clear the switch. It is a very odd problem, like nothing we’ve heard before. Muni management claims they are working to diagnose the problem with the switch and fix it.

In the meantime, Muni maintenance has pulled out all the stops to keep those two cars off the E-line as much as they can, but it’s not always possible. Yesterday (February 1), both 1009 and 1015 were on the line, with blank destination signs when heading southbound, and cards in the windshield stating their final destination was the ballpark stop at Second and King Streets. The cars then turn left at Fourth Street onto the T-line and reverse at the crossover on Channel Street, across the Fourth Street Bridge (below).

What this means is that riders waiting for a Wharf-bound E-line car at the Caltrain stop face a double headway when these cars are in service, since they can’t make the Caltrain stop. Given the problems Muni has had keeping regular headways on the E-line anyway, this can mean a wait of up to an hour between Wharf-bound E-line trains for riders. Muni has put up signs at the Caltrain E-line stop alerting riders to this problem and suggesting they walk (or take an N-Judah) two blocks east to the Second and King stop instead.

Market Street Railway has strongly recommended that Muni address this problem by assigning double-end vintage cars to the E-line to provide steady, reliable service to all stops. Melbourne 496, New Orleans 952 (shown below in 2008), and Muni cars No. 1 and 130, all on the active roster, have all used the Sixth and King terminal during earlier E-line demonstration service without incident.

Muni, however, has responded to our recommendation by saying that because of its continuing shortage of qualified streetcar operators — a problem that has gone on for well over a year now — it is unable to supply the second crew member (a conductor) required on those particular streetcars. (Substituting buses for streetcars on the E-line is not an option because the right-of-way south of the Ferry Building is paved in a way that is rougher than the F-line right-of-way north of the Ferry Building, making bus operation unfeasible.)

While we appreciate that Muni didn’t cancel these E-line runs altogether, this erratic service pattern on the E-line discourages the growth of ridership, especially among residents along the line looking for a reliable service. We will keep you up to date on this problem.

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E-Line Startup Looks Set for July 25

E-line car No. 1008 in 2013 Demonstration Service at its Caltrain Depot terminal.

E-line car No. 1008 in 2013 Demonstration Service at its Caltrain Depot terminal.

As readers of our member newsletter, Inside Track, learned last month, Muni’s second historic streetcar line, the long-awaited E-Embarcadero, now looks set to start up for initial weekend-only service on July 25.  Officials of SFMTA, Muni’s parent, were comfortable sharing that date with local blog Hoodline.

UPDATE: E-line startup moved to August 1.

The E-line, providing single-seat service the length of The Embarcadero, from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Giants ballpark and the Caltrain Depot, has been a goal of Market Street Railway and other advocates for more than 20 years.  It will share F-line boarding platforms between the Wharf and Ferry Building, and use separate low-level platforms and ADA ramps (built ten years ago) at the four N- and T-line stops from Folsom to Caltrain. All stops will be fully accessible.

The weekend-only service will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with E-line cars running every 20 minutes. It will acquaint operators with the route and optimize the sharing of the trackage with the other lines that use it, while providing time to train the additional operators needed for full-time service.  Full seven-day service is expected to begin in early 2016.

The E-line has operated in special demonstration service on numerous weekends over the past decade, most intensively during the America’s Cup races in 2013. Because there is no loop track at the south end to turn single-end streetcars around, the E will be restricted to double-end vintage streetcars only.  Muni has seven double-end PCC streamliners (Nos. 1006-1011 and 1015) as well as several older vintage cars that are expected to see service, including 1912 Muni Car No. 1, 1914 Muni Car No. 130, 1928 Melbourne tram No. 496, and 1923 New Orleans “Desire” streetcar No. 952.  (The popular Blackpool boat trams function as single-end streetcars after modifications to make them ADA-compliant, and so will not be seen on the E-line, though we are hopeful of having them operate some trips on the F-line this summer.)

Market Street Railway has pledged to assist SFMTA with signage and docents at key stops to acquaint riders with the new weekend E-line service. We welcome volunteers, so if you’re interested in helping us get the word out about this exciting new service, just email us at volunteer@streetcar.org to let us know and give us your contact information.

Market Street Railway’s non-stop advocacy played a big role in making the E-line a reality. We depend on memberships and donations to carry out our mission of Preserving Historic Transit in San Francisco.  Please consider supporting us.  Thanks.

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The Straggler May Finally Head Our Way

It seems forever ago that Muni awarded a contract to Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania to renovate 16 streamliner PCC streetcars for Muni. Five of these were complete reconstructions, including four precious double-end cars (precious because only a handful of the 5,000 PCCs built in North America were double ended, and because only double-end cars will be able to serve the new E-Embarcadero line, at least at first). The double-end cars were the last to get worked on and three… — Read More

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Private Bus Rear-ends PCC on Market

One of those fancy private buses that are now very common in San Francisco rear-ended PCC No. 1009 on Market Street Thursday evening (September 5), putting the streetcar into the body shop for repairs. The website SFist ran an article that wrongly stated that the historic streetcars are accident prone (offering only a link to articles mostly about bus and LRV accidents). But it does contain several good photos, so if you want to look at different angles, click here.… — Read More

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Still Time to Join the Dallas PCC Charter Aug. 4

Perhaps the most remarkable renovation performed on any of the F-line streetcars is the one given to No. 1009. Here’s the before photo: Interior of PCC No. 1009, vandalized and burned by homeless, leaving San Francisco for restoration, 2010. Though the car had been badly vandalized while in storage, its capacity (one of the largest streetcars in the fleet) and its ability to operate from either end made it worth restoring. Now it’s back, painted in tribute to Dallas Terminal… — Read More

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“Gliding Beauty” Rejoins Muni’s Streetcar Fleet

PCC No. 1009, honoring Dallas, near the San Francisco Railway Museum on the F-line, January 17, 2013. Brian Leadingham photo. Dallas didn’t operate PCC streetcars very long — just 11 years. When they did, just after World War II, they called them “Gliding Beauties” for their streamlined grace. Today, Muni pays tribute to the streetcars of “Big D” with the first day of passenger service for PCC No. 1009, painted in the original Dallas livery. Dallas is one of the… — Read More

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Inside Muni’s Streetcar Restoration Vendor

Muni’s current vendor for streetcar restoration, Brookville Equipment Corporation of Pennsylvania, has produced a promotional video about its services. It’s got several shots of newly restored PCC No. 1006 (or is it 1008? – they’re identical and not numbered in the shots) on the shop floor (starting at 0:47 on the video), along with a peek at their mate No. 1009, partially painted in its Dallas & Terminal Railway livery (at 1:38). Much of the footage covers the mining equipment… — Read More

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Keep an Eye Out on I-80 for a Streetcar

It looks like the first of the four restored double-end PCC streetcars needed to start up E-line service is finally on its way to San Francisco, albeit 16 months later than the restoration contract specified. Sources tell us that PCC 1008, pictured below at the Brookville Equipment facility in Pennsylvania, is due to arrive at Muni on Friday, putting it somewhere along Interstate 80 at the moment. We’re also told that the second of the four PCCs, No. 1006, painted… — Read More

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