Fabulous Fleet Week

The Navy’s Blue Angels were just a tad faster than the Boat Tram. Chris Arvin photo.

This year’s San Francisco Fleet Week (October 7-14) saw more vintage streetcars participating than ever. It all came together quickly, once SFMTA (Muni) was able to sign up operators for overtime work.

Muni’s 1934 Blackpool Boat Trams delighted riders with open-air rides in perfect weather past Navy Ships tied up along the Embarcadero. Some lucky riders, like our Board member Chris Arvin, got to see the Navy’s famed Blue Angels flight team streak by as they rumbled along the pavement on the Boat.

Melbourne Tram 496 patrolling the E-Embarcadero line serving all the Fleet Week ships. Steve Souza photo.

Melbourne Tram 496, celebrating its 90th birthday, ran the E-Embarcadero line for several days, passing its country’s new destroyer HMAS Brisbane, berthed at Pier 17. And while there were no ships from the Swiss Navy in port this year for Fleet Week, “EuroPCC” 737, painted to honor San Francisco’s sister city Zurich, ran the full F-line a couple of days.

“EuroPCC” 737 poses at the Ferry Building along with vintage streetcar trainer extraordinaire Robert Parks.

We will be working closely with Fleet Week leaders and SFMTA to try to make next year’s event even better, from a streetcar participation perspective. Thanks for this year’s help to Randy Catanach, SFMTA chief of rail maintenance; Craig Raphael of special transit operations, and Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum.

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Boat to Cruise on Fleet Week Weekend

UPDATE, FRIDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 11 — The Boat is out today as well, a bonus day! The copy below has been adjusted to reflect this.

Thanks to initiative by staff at SFMTA, led by Randy Catanach, chief of rail maintenance, one of Muni’s two 1934 Blackpool, England, open-top Boat Trams will cruise the waterfront from our San Francisco Railway Museum to Pier 39 on Fleet Week Weekend — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 11-13, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Additionally, 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 will be in regular E-line service from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf on Friday, October 11.

The Boat to be used is Number 233, which Market Street Railway acquired for Muni in 2013. Most of this summer, the two-day-a-week Boat runs on the waterfront have been provided by twin Boat 228 (which, surprise, Market Street Railway acquired for Muni in 1984). That Boat got a little owie this past Tuesday, leading to a Boatless Wednesday, which was scheduled to be the last day of Boat service. But after we (Market Street Railway) were initially told by Muni operations staff that they were unable to put a boat out to delight the biggest crowds of San Francisco’s annual maritime celebration, Fleet Week — on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when ships are open to the public and the Navy’s Blue Angels fly — special efforts were made. Thanks to those efforts, the Boat will sail, sure to draw big crowds on what will almost certainly be the last public Boat service of 2019.

For 2020, SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum has told us she plans to repeat this summer’s successful two-day-a-week boat service on The Embarcadero, and she has asked Randy’s maintenance team to take the off-season to do some needed work on 233 and repair 228 (minor issue) so both boats are ready for a busy 2020 summer. Thanks to Julie, Randy, and everyone at SFMTA who supports what are probably Muni’s most popular vehicles among San Franciscans.

You should be able to follow the Boat’s Fleet Week adventures (“Hi, Sailor!”) on its very own Twitter account as told to our Board Member, Chris Arvin. Chris has designed a Boat Tram pin to go with the wonderful streetcar icon stickers he created, which we sell at our museum and online store. We’ll let you know when the pin is available at our physical and online and on Chris’ personal site.

Now if we can just get a Friday picture of the Melbourne Tram filled with Aussie sailors from HMAS Brisbane, docked at Pier 15-17, near The Exploratorium. (That ship is open for tours Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Come say G’Day.)

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Trip to Europe on the Waterfront

With Blackpool, England Boat Tram 228 pulling an temporary “Brexit” from this summer’s special waterfront streetcar service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Muni Chief Julie Kirschbaum is sending in fun substitutes to fill in.

The coming two Tuesdays and Wednesdays (July 23-24 and July 30-31), 1952 Euro PCC 737 (which operated in Brussels but is painted to honor San Francisco’s Sister City, Zurich, Switzerland) will be cruising the waterfront. As a bonus, it will also operate on Swiss National Day, Thursday, August 1. (The past few weeks, 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 has filled in.)

It’s a fun ride, smooth as silk, and entertaining inside. Muni’s Euro PCC combines a Brussels interior (complete with signage in Flemish and French) with promotional ads about Zurich above the windows, and Zurich’s famous blue livery on the exterior. The car was turned into this hybrid when the Zurich-San Francisco Sister City Committee asked then-Mayor Gavin Newsom for a “Zurich” streetcar to join the fleet, and the idea of a genuine Zurich vintage tram had to be abandoned because their very narrow bodies and meter-gauge trucks could not be adapted for use in San Francisco (not that there were any offered to San Francisco in any event).

But hey, in San Francisco, we celebrate diversity, so come ride the “Zurles” tram (or is it Brussich?).

Meanwhile, there appears to be good news on Boat 228: the shop has taken the motors off the car and believe they can fix the problem that took it out of service within two more weeks. Muni Rail Maintenance Chief Randy Catanach passed along these photos of one of the trucks, before and after the shop team pressure washed it. That boat is going to look great when it’s back.

We do expect at least one of the two boats to operate on Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7-8. We expect the Euro PCC to be out as well, along with the Melbourne tram(s!) and Muni’s famed 1912 Car 1, plus, of course the every popular 1896 “Dinky” 578 (although it can no longer traverse the route it’s signed for, “Ellis & O’Farrell” via Devisadero [cq]. Make sure you leave time to ride the buses and cable cars too!

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Boat Tram About to Land

In this fantasy composite by Traci Cox, Boat Tram 228 approaches the Ferry Building in a different way, with Muni’s Robert Parks (lower right) overseeing training as usual.

You may have already caught a glimpse of it along the J-line, or Market Street, or The Embarcadero, this week. Here are a couple of shots from Jeremy Whiteman’s Behind the Lens Facebook Group.

Headed downtown on Church Street, in Noe Valley. Jeremy Whiteman Photo.


Looping back at Pier 39. Note the Jolly Roger, traditional to this car, on the trolley rope at rear. Jeremy Whiteman photo.

Blackpool, England Boat Tram 228 is celebrating its 85th birthday this year by taking San Franciscans and visitors for a cruise along our waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero, from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 (gateway to Fisherman’s Wharf) starting the day after Memorial Day. The past few days, they’ve been training crews to operate it.

The boat will sail from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday, the two days of the week that Muni is able to provide operators right now. The last stop coming back will be our San Francisco Railway Museum (the Steuart Street stop on the F-line). The Chronicle’s SF Gate website gave it a nice writeup.

Our nonprofit (Market Street Railway) brought two of these boat trams to San Francisco and gave them to Muni (the other one is getting new wheels this summer). We appreciate Muni Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum launching the boat for the summer season. It will run at least through Labor Day and on Muni Heritage Weekend (September 7-8). We hope to keep it running a month longer, through Fleet Week. The best way to make that happen is to come down on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a ride (at regular Muni fares). Tuesdays are Ferry Building Farmers’ Market days, a bonus attraction. Wednesdays will feature the Off the Grid food trucks in the plaza opposite our museum (starting June 5). Great place to grab delicious food.

Because Tram 228 is still in its original 1934 state, it doesn’t have built-in GPS to show where it is on our live streetcar map. We have ordered a commercial GPS tracker in hopes that we can get it to interface with the map. If we can get it to work, it could be in place in time for the second week of operation. We’ll keep you updated on that.

Meantime, we really want your photos of the boat in action with crowds aboard. Post on Twitter, tagged #whereistheboat, and follow us at @sfmsr on Twitter and sfmsr on Instagram.

With your support, we can get the boats on track more often to delight more San Franciscans and visitors. (Psst: Making even a small donation to Market Street Railway would really help too.)

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