Muni’s most popular electric streetcar, an 89-year old Boat Tram from Blackpool, England, will be back on The Embarcadero for an encore at the end of Fleet Week, Saturday-Sunday, October 7-8, 10:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Close to 10,000 smiling people showed up to give some love to San Francisco’s transit history over the weekend of September 23-24. The tenth Muni Heritage celebration was the biggest yet, drawing families from the City and around the Bay, and transit fans from around the nation and even from overseas.
The family-friendly Muni Heritage Weekend lets you ride vintage streetcars and buses and special cable cars that rarely operate. The world’s oldest cable car (1883), one of the oldest electric streetcars (1896), the very first streetcar Muni owned (1912), and the wildly popular English open-top “Boat Tram” (1934) will all be carrying passengers between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24.
The 1934 English “Boat Tram” is Muni’s most popular streetcar. But due to a variety of circumstances, including what Muni leader Julie Kirschbaum says is an ongoing shortage of trained operators, it didn’t carry any passengers this year until September 12-13 (Sunday-Monday). Instead, vintage Milan and Melbourne trams have been alternating on Sundays and Mondays carrying people along the northern Embarcadero between Pier 39 and the Ferry Building (with an additional stop at our San Francisco Railway Museum).
In 2013, Market Street Railway brought 1934 Blackpool, England “boat tram” to San Francisco, underwritten by a generous donation from the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping help from FedEx. We did it because the boat tram we brought over for Muni in 1984, thanks to Bechtel, had proven to be the most popular single vintage streetcar in Muni’s fleet.
With only one, though, it was impractical to schedule regular operation of the popular car. And even after the second boat tram (#233) arrived, most folks thought Muni still only had the one (#228). When the time came to do some work on 228, we suggested to Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum that they do what Blackpool itself had done more than a dozen years before: paint the trim on one boat a bright red, to contrast with the traditional green and make it obvious that there are two of them. She thought it was a great idea.
Giddy riders. Laughing kids. Happy crew members. Public transit that takes people where they want to go with flair and fun. THIS is why Market Street Railway worked hard to bring two Blackpool, England open-top “Boat Trams” to San Francisco and gift them to the City’s transit agency, Muni, 30 years apart.
Our dual vintage streetcar popularity contests have yielded two ‘winners’, though in fact every one of the 32 streetcars in the polls put together by our board member, Chris Arvin, drew love from fans of historic transit from around the world.
So we’ve been running a fun little contest on our Twitter account and our Facebook group. It’s an idea from our board member Chris Arvin to let people pick their “fan favorite streetcar” – however each person wants to define “favorite”. It was set up as an NCAA-style bracket, where you start with 32 teams, er, streetcars, and pit them against each other in pairs, where the one receiving the most votes in each matchup moves on to the next round, until you’re down to the Final Four, and then, the last two.
Smiles are breaking out along the city’s waterfront and along Market Street, as Muni’s vintage streetcars are out in force for the first time in more than a year. The F-line is running a full test schedule, including pull-outs and pull-ins along the J-Church line, in advance of the official reopening of the line for passenger service on May 15. Initial service will run seven days a week, but just eight hours a day (11 am-7 pm) initially, running the whole route from Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Like everyone in San Francisco, we miss the LGBTQ Pride Parade up Market Street this year. At least we can share a look back, framed with pleasure.
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