We stopped by Cameron Beach Yard this afternoon and what should be peeking out but the first of Muni’s new light rail vehicles, built by Siemens. Car 2001 was nestled in between 1914 Muni Car 130 (not visible, at right) and (visible to the left) 1952 Brussels, Belgium PCC 737.
There are Bredas under the canopy as well, which Market Street Railway fought for ten years to have built to protect the most vulnerable historic streetcars, which were then based at what was known as Geneva Division, built for some of the city’s first streetcars in 1900 and a Muni property since 1944. It was renamed for Cameron Beach, a board member of Muni’s parent, SFMTA shortly after his untimely death in 2011. (Cam had previously been vice chair of our nonprofit’s board.
But shortly after the facility was dedicated to Cam, the historic streetcars started leaving, as F-line (and later E-line) operations, maintenance, and storage were shifted across town to Muni Metro East. The reason given: rail replacement in the big LRV division across the street, Green Division, meant the tracks at Cameron Beach were needed for LRVs.
But that job, well behind schedule, is finally approaching the finish line, and we’re told the historic streetcars will return to Cameron Beach as soon as February 2018 — just three months for now.
And that Siemens LRV — just visiting during its testing operations, but we know that if Cam Beach himself had seen it today, he would’ve broken into his famous ear-to-ear grin and said, “Oh, YEAH!” Because Cam loved effective rail transit, old cars or new!
Here’s an artist’s concept of how the restored Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse might look, looking southwest across the intersection of Geneva and San Jose Avenue.
The long-running dream of transforming the 1901 Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse into vibrant community space got a $3 million boost, making it far more likely to become reality.
As reported in Hoodline, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, which bought the building in 2004 from Muni, appropriated the $3 million at its June 15 meeting, bringing total approved funding for the project to $11 million.
The project involves two structures that sit next to each other, both originally built for the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway Company but incorporated into the private United Railroads within a couple of years of being finished. The Office Building at the southwest corner of San Jose Avenue and Geneva Avenue housed workers for the adjacent streetcar storage area (now Muni’s Cameron Beach Yard, to which the historic E and F line streetcars will return later this year). The powerhouse housed large electric generators for the line. Both are built of brick, both suffered damage in the 1906 earthquake, but survived. Muni took them over in the 1944 merger with United Railroads’ successor, Market Street Railway Company, our namesake. Together with the adjoining tracks, they served as Muni’s only streetcar facility from 1957 until the Green Light Rail Division was opened across the street in the late 1970s.
Interior of the Geneva Powerhouse, which new funding will restore as a community performance and meeting space.
The 1989 earthquake damaged the two buildings further. Muni abandoned them at that point and wanted to tear them down. But community pressure to preserve the historic buildings led then-Mayor Willie Brown to direct Muni to sell them to the Recreation and Parks Department. A very active non-profit preservation group, Friends of Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, sprang up, led by Dan Weaver. We have had preliminary discussions about providing historical displays in the restored buildings to interpret their importance to transit.
But the Office Building (confusingly referred to as the Car Barn) still awaits funding for restoration. The current funding will finish design plans for both buildings but only provide construction funding for the large open space of the Powerhouse, which will be turned into a multi-purpose community performance and meeting space.
We salute Dan Weaver and all the supporters of this great project. We hope the remaining funds can be found soon to restore the Office Building too.
Attention shutterbugs! The F-line’s historic streetcars will head back to Cameron Beach Division via the J-Church line today and tonight (Friday, November 6). Grab your cameras and snap away!
The historic fleet has been exiled to Muni Metro East, just off Third Street on the T-line, for well over a year now. Light rail vehicles have been stored at Cameron Beach (formerly the venerable Geneva Division, opened as a streetcar yard in 1900!) instead, during reconstruction of the tracks at their home across the street, Green Division.
But with access to Muni Metro East cut off for the next eight days while Muni installs switches at Fourth and King Streets to connect to the future Central Subway, the only way to continue streetcar service on the F-line is the send the fleet back to Beach. (The E-Embarcadero line will NOT operate this weekend due to the Fourth and King construction.)
Market Street Railway wants this return to be permanent, not temporary. The historic fleet has been unprotected for too long already, while the $9 million protective canopy we worked so long and hard to have built at Beach has been all but unused.
With predictions of an El Nino-driven wet winter, it is more important than ever that the streetcars get back under that canopy — and stay there whenever they’re not in service. That’s why, even if the fleet is sent back to Muni Metro East at the conclusion of the Fourth and King work, we will strongly advocate for their permanent return to Cameron Beach before the heavy rains start. The City has too big an investment in these streetcars to leave them unprotected through a winter like this.
We invite photographers to post photos of pull-ins to Beach on the J-line on our Market Street Railway group on Facebook, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org tonight, and we’ll post the best ones over the weekend!
Let’s all welcome the fleet back home!