Melbourne Tram Subs for Boat This Week

The popular 1934 Blackpool (England) open-topped “Boat Tram” encountered a problem at the end of its service week last Wednesday and is being worked on this week, so 1929 Melbourne Tram 496 will substitute for it on the special waterfront service Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Muni assures us they’ll make every effort to return Boat service as quickly as possible.

The Melbourne tram is a sweet ride, and with windows that drop all the way down and an open center section, it provides great views and a breezy ride too. Come take a cruise, on the “Wonder from Down Under”.

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Great Start to Summer Boat Service

The first day of summer boat tram service, May 28, went very well. Some highlights:

  • The Boat ran great, the banners Market Street Railway prepared looked great; thanks to Randy Catanach’s rail maintenance crew.
  • The operating crew (Angel Carvajal and Juiel Rice) were great with riders, very welcoming.
  • Market Street Railway had docents on board all day answering questions.
  • Loads were good all day; full both directions on final few trips.
  • Lots of waves and positive feedback from onlookers all along the way, plus endless photos.
  • Quite a few people came into our museum and asked us when the boat would next be there.

Until this boat tram is updated with a low-voltage power supply, there’s no Muni GPS on the tram, so it doesn’t show up on Muni’s NextBus map. (The other boat tram, which Market Street Railway acquired for Muni in 2013, has already been updated with low-voltage, but is out of service this summer getting new wheels).

So, as an experiment, Market Street Railway has purchased a battery-powered consumer GPS unit, which should arrive later this week. We’re going to see if we can get it to shop up on our own live streetcar map.  We’ll let you know if we can get it working.

Meanwhile, come out every Tuesday and Wednesday through Labor Day to ride the boat. The first run from the Ferry Building will head for the Wharf about 11 a.m. Service will wrap up at about 5.

We’ll have a full report about the boat launch, with more great photos, in our member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in June.

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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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Friday Fun and Fantasy

 

It’s amazing how Muni’s historic streetcar operation has garnered fans and created fantasies all over the world. The wonderful “fictional image” by artist Garry Luck above is an example. It came to our attention today as part of a post and comments in a Facebook group called Blackpool’s Transport Past. It’s a modification of an artist’s conception of a decapitated version of Blackpool, England “Coronation” Tram 663. (The name refers to their construction date, 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II). Below is another artist’s conception by Mr. Luck, which we have learned after first posting this, depicts the red livery of Prague.

 

The original Facebook poster of the photo, Philip Higgs, headed the preservation group Lancastrian Transport Trust, which acquired several cars from Blackpool Transport when that venerable operator greatly reduced its heritage fleet after acquiring modern trams (to their great credit, Blackpool Transport has reversed course and now offers vibrant heritage tram services much of the year).

Higgs writes in his post that in 2012, his group “was forced to reduce the size of its preserved vehicle collection and prior to Coronation 663 passing to a private owner for continued preservation, discussions took place with a USA based tramway operator to produce a semi open top car”.  Group member Alun Wylde then posted the green and cream photo as a comment, noting “Whilst the open top ruins the car, the Muni livery of green and cream wings quite suits it”.

We at Market Street Railway do not know who the “USA based tramway operator” was who had discussions about this Coronation tram. We don’t believe it was Muni. Mr. Higgs did not mention this concept to us two years later during our negotiations with him to purchase an actual original open-top boat tram (Car 233) from his group for preservation by Muni. Happily, Tram 663 was eventually transferred to the Blackpool Transport Trust, the nonprofit support group for Blackpool Transport, and is said to now be under restoration to its original appearance in England for eventual return to Blackpool’s rails. Here’s the story on that.

Here’s how the Coronations appear, as built. The glass skylight windows are cool, but if memory serves they can make the interior hot, even in seaside Blackpool. And the automatic controllers of these cars, known by the acronym VAMBAC, were notoriously unreliable in service.

As our regular reader/members know, acquiring a vintage streetcar and getting it roadworthy and maintainable in a modern US street operating environment is a protracted process.

In fact, we do not even start making a serious acquisition attempt until we have ascertained that Muni leadership will accept the streetcar and commit to its restoration and upkeep as resources allow (knowing that this sometimes takes many years). Once we have that assurance, we seek funding to cover acquisition and transport costs.

We specifically sought a second open-top boat tram because the first one we acquired for Muni in 1984, Car 228, has proven to be the most popular vehicle in Muni’s streetcar fleet whenever it appears on the street. Having a second genuine boat tram will ultimately allow reliable chartering and special operation of this car type regularly.

We were and are gratified that the Thoresen Foundation, responded positively to our outreach for funding for 233 with a generous grant and that FedEx helped underwrite shipping. (We detail this process because one commenter on the Blackpool group mused that we go off chasing streetcars whenever a “wealthy foundation” has an interest in a particular one. Uh, no.)

Boat Tram 233 has had all its electrical modifications completed, but now awaits truck work for regular operation. (It’s worth remembering that when transit agencies choose individual cars to retire from service, they naturally pick the ones that need work to stay in their own fleet.)  Muni has to fit in the work on 233 around regular maintenance and other historic car processes, so for now, the boat tram we acquired for Muni in 1984, No. 228, handles most appearances (although both were out for Heritage Weekend in September for the first time since 233’s initial display appearance in 2014, pictured below, 233 on the left).

We plan to work with Muni in the coming months to advocate for a schedule with more appearances during the good-weather months for the boats, which are the “people’s choice” as most popular cars in the historic fleet whenever they appear.

Meantime, that Wings fantasy livery…well, well…  🙂

 

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Buses on F-line, No E-line Sunday, June 24

The Pride Parade has been San Francisco’s summer kickoff celebration for more than decades now, with huge throngs lining Market Street to watch almost 300 parade units go by. Back in the 1980s, historic streetcars were actually part of the parade, shown here in 1983, as a Blackpool boat tram and Muni’s famed Car 1 participated. The boat tram’s authentic destination sign seemed particularly appropriate. This year, though, streetcars will be completely absent from the parade route, not only for the duration… — Read More

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Boat from “Beach to Beach” May 6

UPDATE, April 6 — This event SOLD OUT in record time. We’ll announce future excursions through a blog post here or in our monthly email newsletter. To subscribe to either or both, click here. We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary year of the Twin Peaks Tunnel with a special excursion along the streetcar lines it created. Though we’d love to go through the venerable tunnel itself, the overhead wires were converted years ago to allow only modern light rail vehicles. But… — Read More

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Boat Tram An Added Attraction at Fleet Week

Blackpool “boat tram” 228 joined in the celebration of Fleet Week this past weekend, thanks to a decision by Muni to operate the popular 1934 open-top tram. Here are a few photos from a very happy weekend. At the top, MSR board member and #1 boat fan Katie Haverkamp caught some sailors in uniform enjoying the ride. (Muni has a tradition of letting military members in uniform ride free!) Below, MSR member Steve Souza caught the boat cruising with a… — Read More

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Boat Cruising This Weekend!

In a welcomed decision, Muni has launched one of the 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” to help carry crowds along The Embarcadero enjoying Fleet Week 2017! Open-topped boat Tram 228 will be shuttling between The Ferry Building and our San Francisco Railway Museum and Pier 39 Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8 from 11 am to 6 pm. Come out and enjoy a ride. Thanks to Muni for operating it on one of the most warm and beautiful weekends of… — Read More

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Private Cruise on the Boat Tram, Just for You, June 4

UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT. If you’d like to be the first to know when our next trolley tour will happen, ask to be added to our excursion notification list by emailing us at info@streetcar.org. Sunday, June 4, one of the famous 1934 Blackpool “boat trams” will cruise again on the tracks of the F-line, with a guided tour of everything historic along the route from our friends at City Guides and our own Paul Lucas. It’s a private charter, and… — Read More

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“R” You Ready? Muni’s First Trolley Bus Line Runs Again Sept. 24-25

  Seventy-five years ago this month, Muni opened its very first trolley bus line. The “R-Howard” ran from Beale and Howard Streets out Howard and South Van Ness to Army Street (now Cesar Chavez). This Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25, you’ll be able to ride the R-line one more time, to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The action starts at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission (across from the Ferry Building). There at the curb… — Read More

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New Boat at E-line Ceremony July 31

Muni’s new “boat tram,” Blackpool, England open-top Car No. 233, will officially debut on July 31 at the opening press event for the new E-Embarcadero line. The new boat tram, Muni’s second example of this popular 1934 design, was acquired for Muni by Market Street Railway in 2013, thanks to a very generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, and ocean shipping subsidized by FedEx Trade Networks.  The boat, pictured above when on display during 2013’s Muni Heritage Weekend, has been… — Read More

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Toot Toot!

Muni’s “newest” streetcar, 1934 Blackpool boat tram No. 233, ran under its own power today at Cameron Beach Yard, less than a week after it arrived in San Francisco from England. Enormous credit goes to Muni’s vintage streetcar shop crew, who swarmed the boat upon arrival. They repaired bumper and panel damage incurred at the museum that had custody of it (that’s the repaired end in the photo), painted all the seats, cut down the tower atop the center cab… — Read More

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New Boat Could Be on Display This Weekend

Muni’s Otto Granados working on the body of Blackpool boat tram No. 233, October 29, 2013. George Bernal photo from our Facebook group. The second Blackpool Boat Tram that Market Street Railway just acquired for Muni may be ready to show off as part of Muni Heritage Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. The Muni shops have already shortened the trolley pole tower that sits above the tram’s center cab (used in Blackpool because their double-deckers require higher trolley wire, but… — Read More

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New Arrival

Blackpool, England "boat tram" No. 233 arriving at Cameron Beach Yard October 25, 2013, following its trip from England. It becomes Muni’s second boat tram. As our members learned first in their exclusive newsletter, Inside Track, Market Street Railway has acquired for Muni a second boat tram. We’ll have much more to say about this here in a few days, but for now, we just want to thank Michael Thoresen, the most generous donor who made the acquisition possible through… — Read More

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Mid-Market Comeback

PCC No. 1060 enlivens the scene at Seventh and Market Streets. (c) Melissa Wuschnig. In his Chronicle column today, former Mayor Willie Brown said of the mid-Market area, “After decades of nothing but talk, that area is really taking off.” Decades is right. I grew up on Market Street. My family had delicatessens between Fifth and Sixth and between Fourth and Third in the 1950s (and one at Fifth and Jessie as well). As a kid, I watched the stretch… — Read More

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