Since 1888, a small wooden structure has stood on the southeast corner of Powell and California Streets. It’s an essential sentinel protecting the world’s only cable car crossroads. Here’s its story.
December 28, 1912. Fifty thousand San Franciscans gathered at Market and Geary Streets. Was it a presidential visit? No, it was the transit equivalent of a late visit from Santa. It was a new streetcar line.
On Black Friday, San Francisco felt, well, BACK! Our Board chair Carmen Clark and I attended the kickoff for Union Square’s “Winter Wanderland”, with a European-style holiday market in Hallidie Plaza featuring live entertainment, with Union Square itself brighter than ever with the big Macy’s tree, the ice rink, and entertainment. Folks were enjoying it, as were the many SFPD officers very evident this holiday season.
Ride Muni’s very first streetcar, built in 1912. Ride an even older streetcar that looks like a cable car, built in 1896. Ride two unique cable cars, from lines that disappeared in 1942 and 1954. Ride Muni’s brand-newest cable car, an incredible piece of the carpenter’s art. Ride a 1928 tram from Melbourne, the 88-year old open-top “boat tram” from England, a 1950s “EuroPCC”. And, for the first time since the pandemic started, a popular tram from Milan will operate. All on Muni’s own tracks.
Final installment of our six part series on Muni’s birth and first century.
In the early morning hours of August 2, 1873, Andrew Hallidie personally piloted his invention, the street cable car, over a precipice on Clay Street and launched a new era in street railroads. (There’s a free Zoom event August 2 at 6 p.m. talking about the cable cars and Hallidie. Details at the bottom of the post.)
There’s a familiar sound at the Powell and Market cable car turntable, at least some of the time. Thanks to the initiative of the Union Square Business Improvement District and the support of SFMTA chief Jeffrey Tumlin, a Powell cable car will be on the ‘table every Tuesday , Thursday, and Saturday for at least several weeks, probably through the holiday season.
The short answer is: we don’t know; it’s up to the virus and what we all do together to shorten its grip on our society. But Muni can be ready for that day, and we’re encouraging them to do so.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, May 16, 1954, several hundred San Franciscans gathered at California and Hyde Streets. They weren’t late-night shopping at Trader Joe’s, but rather were protesting what was then happening to the previous occupants of that property–cable cars.
Wes Valaris says it warmed his heart. Wes is the cable car superintendent, and in our eyes he’s been doing a fantastic job burnishing the historic aspects of this most historic transit operation. But the test ride he took last Friday (April 17) was unlike anything in his career.
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