Visible Pride for Harvey Milk

Since his passion and determination grabbed the attention of San Franciscans in the 1970s, Harvey Milk has been a household name here. His terrible assassination in 1978 brought global attention to his human rights advocacy, specifically for LGBTQ people. The movie “Milk” in 2008 brought his story to millions more around the globe.

In 2009, Market Street Railway urged the SFMTA to dedicate a PCC streetcar used in the movie, No. 1051, to Harvey. It wears the simple green and creme paint job commonly used on the Muni streetcars of that day — the streetcars Harvey boarded at the old East Portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel on Castro Street and rode to City Hall to do his job — or sometimes, to protest.

For Harvey Milk was also a dedicated transit advocate, one of the strongest on the Board of Supervisors of his day. He didn’t really have a choice, in one sense, because he didn’t own, or want, an automobile. Living on the limited income from his small camera store on Castro Street and the part-time salary of Supervisors (which was $9600 a year in 1978), he took Muni’s streetcars and buses everywhere. He was the first Supervisor to buy and use a Fast Pass, and believed that attractive, affordable mobility was the key to livability in cities.

Market Street Railway created interior displays for the streetcar when it was first dedicated, celebrating the different facets of Harvey Milk. When the car was rededicated March 15 of this year following a total rebuilding, we restored those internal displays. We were delighted at the ceremony when SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley asked us if we could help create external signage to let people who see the car on the F-line know that it’s Harvey’s car, without making too big an impact on the historic livery the car wears. (By the way, the unique and diverse liveries are a major reason SFMTA prohibits advertising on the outside of the historic streetcars, a position we have steadfastly supported for decades).

Car 1051 now wears this decal over its front door, paying visible tribute to Harvey to boarding riders and passersby. It reads, “Dedicated to Harvey Milk, 1930-1978: SF Supervisor, Human Rights Champion, Transit Advocate.”

We were able to do this thanks to a generous grant from Ambassador James Hormel and his husband Michael Nguyen, which will also enable us to expand and maintain the displays on Car 1051 and tell the story of Harvey Milk, Transit Advocate, in other media and forms as well.  We thank Jim and Michael for their support. We welcome your donations to Market Street Railway to help us bring more positive attention to Harvey Milk and other transit advocates in our city’s history as well. Just click here to help us. Thanks!

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Welcome Back, Harvey Milk’s Streetcar!

The streetcar honoring Harvey Milk, civil rights icon and transit advocate, was rededicated in a ceremony at the Castro Street F-line terminal on Wednesday, March 15. Car 1051, looking factory fresh, was on display at the spare track next to Jane Warner Plaza while a parade of speakers, led by district Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, paid tribute to Harvey Milk — and to Muni’s parent, SFMTA, and Market Street Railway for their respective roles in keeping the F-line up to date.

Castro Merchants Board Chair Daniel Bergerac, and head of the Castro Community Benefit District, Andrea Ailello, also spoke. Both emphasized the importance of the F-liine to Castro residents and businesses.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin pointed out that Harvey Milk was the first elected official in San Francisco to use a Fast Pass, Muni’s then-new payment method. SFMTA Board Chair Cheryl Brinkman praised the F-line for making transit both effective and attractive. All speakers had good things to say about Market Street Railway’s advocacy for the streetcars and for the Castro.  (*blush*)

After the ceremony, Car 1051 returned to Muni Metro East for final preparations by the shops before it enters revenue (passenger) service on Saturday. The video above shows it leaving the terminal after the ceremony.

Car 1051 is the first of 16 cars from the original F-line fleet to be fully refurbished under a contract with Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania. The second car to enter service will be 1056, honoring Kansas City, which should be carrying passengers within a couple of weeks. Two more cars from the order will arrive in San Francisco within a couple of weeks as well.

We’ll have a report for our members on the details of the restoration and what Muni found during testing in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, out in early April. (If you haven’t joined us yet, this is a great time.)

 

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First Rebuilt PCC, Honoring Harvey Milk, to be Welcomed Back March 15

 

The first of 16 PCC streetcars to go back into service following a complete rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15 at the F-line terminal on 17th Street at Castro and Market.

Streetcar 1051 will be rededicated to Harvey Milk, to whom it was originally dedicated in 2009. The streetcar contains informational displays, prepared by Market Street Railway, celebrating Harvey Milk not only as a pioneering openly gay elected official and champion on LGBTQ rights, but also as a vocal advocate for public transportation.

Milk was the first member of the Board of Supervisors to regularly use a Muni Fast Pass. He rode PCC streetcars painted exactly like the 1051 between his City Hall office and his home and camera store in the Castro. District Supervisor Jeff Sheehy will speak, as will SFMTA officials and a representative of the Castro Merchants, a strong supporter of the F-line.

“We are proud to welcome this streetcar back into Muni service fully restored, rebuilt and ready for action,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation, in a SFMTA news release. “The Harvey Milk streetcar honors the memory of Supervisor Milk. His legacy is well-known and this permanent exhibit honors his life and draws additional attention to his efforts to improve Muni and make San Francisco a better place to live.”

The historic streetcar displays the simplified green and cream livery of the 1970s and is the same Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) model that was in service at that time. It was featured in the film “Milk,” starring Sean Penn, which debuted in 2008.

The current $31.5 million rehabilitation of the original 16 PCCs in the F-line fleet, which were built between 1946 and 1948 and were last overhauled 25 years ago, includes re-engineering of the electrical and propulsion systems, inspection of current ancillary electrical systems and rewiring all lighting systems. The cars are being “skinned” down to their frames, which are inspected and repaired where needed. New sheet metal is applied over the whole body.

The streetcar will be open for public inspection before and after the brief 10:15 ceremony and is then cleared to enter regular passenger service. Come by for the event, and then look for the shiny new car on the street.

 

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Harvey Milk Remembered

Harvey Milk Dedication onboard Streetcar 1051

Until the Academy Award winning film “Milk” was released, Harvey Milk was not very well known outside San Francisco. For the upwards of 500,000 who have traveled to San Francisco this weekend for the annual Gay Pride Celebration, it was almost certainly “required viewing” and they will find a very familiar looking city since it was filmed entirely on location.

Some may even get to ride one of the film’s props, the green and cream colored streetcar which appeared in a scene were protestors marching to City Hall and can be found nearly every day on the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar line.

Streetcar No. 1051Streetcar No. 1051 turning at the corner of Noe & Market, one block from Castro. Jamison Wieser Photo.

“Milk” focused on Harvey Milk’s gay rights activism, but if all he had was the gay vote he wouldn’t have likely won a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Harvey was interested in every issue that affected his district, from school closures and child care to dog poop.

He also championed public transit, being the first district Supervisor to ride Muni every day using the then-new monthly FastPass. That is an issue close to our hearts at Market Street Railway and even if it’s not what he’s best known for, we think it’s important we remember him as for that part of his persona as well.

Several years ago, Market Street Railway president Rick Laubscher had put forward the idea of dedicating one of the San Francisco streetcars to Harvey and when the preview trailer for Milk was released last year including the scene with streetcar no. 1051 it was the perfect opportunity. We contacted the Castro’s Supervisor, Bevan Dufty, who loved the idea.

When we made the announcement at our board meeting, a long-time Muni employee in the audience spoke up, sounding choked up as he declared Harvey Milk was the strongest advocate Muni has ever had on the Board of Supervisors. We saw the same sentiment from everyone who Market Street Railway worked with at the SFMTA and City Hall to make this dedication and onboard memorial happen.

For those who’ve only recently come to know about Harvey Milk as a LGBTQ rights pioneer, we hope a ride onboard no. 1051 would be a chance to learn more about this multi-faceted hero.

» About Muni Streetcar No. 1051
» PCC Streetcar Makes a Cameo in Harvey Milk Movie

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