When We Actually Built Our Own Transportation

An article on BART’s new cars stirred up a hornet’s nest of comments lamenting that we don’t build anything here any more — specifically transit vehicles. We’re not going to wade into that discussion (but feel free to clink the link and comment there). Coincidentally, though, that news story appeared the same day a reader in Idaho, Noel Anthony Cimino, submitted this photograph to us for publication. Here’s what he wrote:

> “This is a photo of my dad, Joseph L. Cimino, working on constructing a Market Street Railway Streetcar in the late 1920s. He’s standing to the right in the photo. It looks like he’s attaching the buzzer button that was used to announce to the carman that you wished to get off at the next stop. This photo was taken at the Elkton shops located at Ocean and San Jose Avenues.”
As some of our readers know, Muni’s old private competitor, for whom our non-profit is named, built 250 streetcars at the old Elkton Shops, using its own workforce. (For its part, Muni bought dozens of streetcars from companies who built them in San Francisco — Holman (1912-13) and Bethlehem Steel (1923).
We can’t tell which of Market Street Railway’s streetcars Mr. Cimino and his fellow craftsmen were working on. If it was the late 1920s, it wasn’t No. 798, which was built in 1924. No. 798 is the sole survivor of this “streetcar factory,” which employed many San Franciscans in good jobs for years (just as Elkton’s successor, Muni’s Curtis E. Green Light Rail Facility, does at that same location today). Both our non-profit and Muni have spent a lot of time bringing No. 798 back from the dead after it was rescued from destruction in the 1980s.

There’s still considerable electrical and mechanical work to be done on No. 798, but when it’s finished, this large, high-capacity double-ended streetcar will be one of the workhorses of the fleet — perfect for hauling crowds to and from Giants’ games, as well as carrying passengers in daily service on the E- and F-lines for decades to come. We portray No. 798’s future in our exclusive historic travel series image (available as a poster, matted print, notecard, or magnet online or at our San Francisco Railway Museum).
At the museum, you can also see a miniature streetcar of this class hand-built by the same Elkton Shops crafts workers who built the real things. Mr. Cimino may have even had a hand in that model. Surrounding the model, you can view a photo display telling the story of the old Elkton Shops and other operations of our namesake, Muni’s erstwhile privately owned competitor.

798_ built in our own shops decal_cropped.jpg

All cars built at Elkton Shops proudly wore this decal, preserved here on sole survivor No. 798: "This Car a San Francisco Product, Built in Our Own Shops. Market St. Ry. Co."

We’re all about preserving historic transit in San Francisco. We help Muni do that, but we’re not part of Muni, nor do we receive any government funding for our efforts. We count on memberships and donations. If you join our organization now, you’ll receive the new issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, with its exclusive series on the history of America’s first public transit system — Muni — in this, its centennial year. And we’ll send you the last issue as well, with the first installment of that series. We appreciate your help in keeping vintage streetcars and cable cars as a vibrant part of the San Francisco scene.

3 Comments on When We Actually Built Our Own Transportation

From Russia, With Ink

106 tattoo Muni Diaries.jpeg

Photo courtesy Muni Diaries; click to enlarge. And no, we don’t know the complete wording of the tattoo.

Well. Tough to know where to start on this one. We know lots of streetcar fans, including many who REALLY love a particular vehicle. Our friends at Muni Diaries shared a photo of a tattoo last year of Muni PCC No. 1010. But at least that streetcar serves the F-line daily, meaning hundreds of thousands of people have seen and/or ridden it, and have some basis for being smitten.
But today’s Muni Diaries feature, showing 1912 Moscow-Orel Russia tram No. 106, takes this to a new level, since the streetcar hasn’t appeared on the street at all since the San Francisco streetcar centennial parade of 1992, and only barely saw service in the final Trolley Festival in 1987. (It’s a long-term restoration project of ours…so long-term that we don’t have a web page for it yet…but we can tell you that it was a gift to Mayor Dianne Feinstein from the then-Soviet Union, and needs a ton of work, including disabled accessibility modifications and a full body and mechanical renovation before it could operate.)
Yet someone, identified only as Alex in the story, loves No. 106 enough to embellish his forearm with it. It’s possible he saw it at our restoration facility at Market and Duboce where it was kept for years. Recently, though, it and our highest-priority project, Market Street Railway Car No. 798 were moved under cover, so it’s not in public sight any more. That facility has experienced numerous break-ins in the past year, apparently by scavengers and/or homeless people who have slept on the property and vandalized those two streetcars, so we felt it prudent to get them out of harm’s way until the day funds can be raised to complete its restoration. Maybe we should sell tattoos…

No Comments on From Russia, With Ink

Safe From the Weather At Last

Two vintage streetcars, one of them Market Street Railway’s highest restoration priority, are now safe from the elements after being moved this week to the new Cameron Beach Yard streetcar canopy.


1924 Market Street Railway Co. car No. 798, last of its kind, is backed into sheltered storage at Muni’s Cameron Beach Yard, November 1, 2011. Click on photo to enlarge.

Market Street Railway Company streetcar No. 798, hand-built in 1924 by San Francisco crafts workers just across the street in what were then the Elkton Shops of our namesake (then Muni’s privately owned competitor) rode the back of a tractor-trailer for the four-mile journey from our David L. Pharr Restoration Facility at Market and Duboce. The streetcar had been there for several years undergoing cosmetic restoration by our volunteers, led by Bill Wong and Don McKinsey (a story we’ll recount in the Winter edition of our member newsletter, Inside Track). That work is now done, with the next phase, including wiring, plumbing, and truck work, likely to be done by a contractor, so it was very important to get the streetcar under cover. It currently sits on non-powered “shop trucks” and while it might have been possible to tow it over the J-line, it was deemed prudent to keep it off the revenue tracks.
No. 798 is the sole survivor of 250 streetcars home built by Market Street Railway Co., providing hundreds of good blue-collar jobs to San Franciscans in the 1920s. Not only truly historic, it is also very large, with wide doors, giving it the high capacity needed for work on the F-line and future E-line.


1912 Moscow tram No. 106 being unloaded under cover at Cameron Beach Yard. Click on photo to enlarge.

This week’s move included a second vintage streetcar, 1912 vintage tram No. 106, which ran first in Moscow, then in the Soviet city of Orel. We know streetcars were used during the defense of Moscow in World War II to ferry supplies to the front and bring wounded back; it is possible that No. 106 played that role. It certainly had a long career ibefore being donated to San Francisco in 1987 by the Soviet Union for use on Market Street. However, between the donation and the completion of the permanent F-line, U.S. disability laws changed and door openings must be modified and other changes made before the car could possibly go into service. And in the intervening 25 years, the lack of covered storage (the Beach canopy was only completed 11 months ago) led to damage to wooden trams such as No. 106. MSR volunteer Peter McGowan spent many hours lovingly stripping old varnish from the car and restoring its roof and other portions of the body, but there remains a great deal of work to be done before the car could go into service. Because of its condition and smaller size, restoration of this tram is a lower priority, but at least it’s safe from further deterioration now.
Our ability to work towards completion of these two historic streetcars depends on support from our members and friends, since we receive no government funding for our restoration efforts. If you’re a member or a supporter of Market Street Railway, thank you! If not, please consider joining or donating. Thanks.

7 Comments on Safe From the Weather At Last