Happy 105th Birthday, Muni!

On December 28, 1912, 50,000 people flooded Geary Street near Market.

They were there to cheer a streetcar!

More exactly, ten streetcars, lined up in numerical order pointed west, led by Car 1.

It was the opening of the first publicly owned transit system in a major American city: the Municipal Railway of San Francisco.

The new city-owned streetcar line on Geary was a product of the Progressive Era, which called for ownership of public utilities by the public, not by private corporations who did it to make a profit. “Muni”, as it soon came to be known by all San Franciscans, competed fiercely against private competitors until all transit routes were consolidated under city ownership mid-century.

The opening celebration saw San Francisco Mayor James Rolph, Jr. board Car 1, place one of the first forty nickels ever minted in San Francisco into the farebox, put on his motorman’s cap, and personally pilot the first car out Geary. San Franciscans considered it a very big deal, and supported Muni’s growth over subsequent decades.

For Muni’s centennial in 2012, Market Street Railway successfully advocated for the complete restoration of Car 1, which became the star of centennial celebrations, just as it was on that first day, December 28, 1912.

On a recent private charter of Car 1, a birthday party for a prominent San Franciscan (yes, you can charter it or other vintage streetcars for your own private ride), guests who had never experienced a ride on a vintage streetcar were incredulous that the city would still have — and operate — its very own streetcar. And the smiles and stares of onlookers along The Embarcadero reinforced that story line. San Francisco cares about its history, remembers its past, and puts it to work!

Happy 105th, Muni! San Francisco wouldn’t be what it is without you!

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Hail and Farewell, Mayor Ed Lee

In transit jargon, the trip to the carbarn after completing the day’s runs is the pull-in. A man who helped revitalize San Francisco’s transit system has unexpectedly — and very sadly — finished his runs, way too soon.

Mayor Edwin Lee died suddenly of a heart attack in the early hours of December 12, 2017. He was just 65 years old.

Pictured above on a boat tram at the opening of the E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line in 2015 with then-Supervisor Julie Christensen, we will always remember Mayor Lee for his delight with the historic streetcars. But he meant far more to the city’s transportation system than that.

As Mayor, Ed Lee put a team in place at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, parent of Muni, that dramatically improved the condition of the vehicle fleet, replacing hundreds of buses (both trolley coaches and motor coaches) and began the replacement of the light rail vehicle fleet. Led by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and Director of Transit John Haley, the LRV procurement and bus replacement were carried out in a fraction of the time that previous fleet replacements took.

He appointed strong bicycle advocates, disabled advocates, and transit advocates to the SFMTA Board of Directors. The Board’s strongest bicycle advocate, Cheryl Brinkman, is now the Board Chair.  These appointments are part of an important legacy.


And we also remember how Mayor Lee took delight in Muni’s centennial celebration in 2012, even repeating what his predecessor “Sunny Jim” Rolph had done a century before — personally take the controls of Muni’s very first streetcar (yes, the very same streetcar) to kick off the celebration.

Two bells, Mayor Lee. Rest in Peace.

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Muni’s First Schedule, From Our Archives

One important aspect of Market Street Railway is the preservation of important documents that illuminate San Francisco’s transit history.

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Muni’s first schedule, from the Market Street Railway Archives. Gift of Galen Sarno. Click to enlarge.

The leader of our archival activity, Alison Cant, has sent along this wonderful document, bequeathed to us by the late Galen Sarno (a very generous supporter of our San Francisco Railway Museum, by the way). It’s Muni’s very first schedule, for inbound streetcars on the A-Geary, beginning December 28,1912. If you click to enlarge the photo, you’ll see that eight cars were scheduled (Muni only had ten on hand at the time). It took 28 minutes to go from Tenth Avenue and Fulton Street (Golden Gate Park) to Geary, then all the way downtown to Kearny and Market Streets. Today, the schedule for the 38-Geary is about the same to run from Park Presidio (near 14th Avenue) and Geary to the same point downtown, about the same distance.
The first car of the morning left Tenth and Fulton at 5:30 a.m. The last car of the evening left Kearny and Geary at 1:37 a.m., headed for the barn at Geary and Presidio Avenue (home to Muni trolley buses today).
The more things change…

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Celebrating Muni’s Big Day December 28


Muni’s famed streetcar No. 1, on its very first run, with Mayor James Rolph, Jr. at the controls, headed west on Geary at Jones, December 28, 1912. San Francisco History Room, San Francisco Public Library photo.

December 28 is the 100th anniversary of Muni’s opening day — the first big city publicly owned transit system in America. We wish we could all meet at Kearny and Market and ride Muni’s first streetcar out Geary Street — for a nickel. But we’ve teamed up with Muni to offer maybe the next best thing: riding that very same streetcar, No. 1, gloriously restored, along Market Street and The Embarcadero — for free!

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Car No. 1 as recently restored, thanks in part to the advocacy of Market Street Railway.

But (as the TV commecials say) wait, there’s more. ALL Muni service, including the cable cars, is free on December 28. We are working with Muni to put additional historic streetcars into regular F-line service that day, including 1914 car No. 162, 1948 PCCs 1006 and/or 1008, and 1952 PCC No. 1040. The historic streetcars will likely operate between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. We’re hoping to see 1950 trolley coach No. 776 operating downtown as well, but that hasn’t yet been finalized.

The center of action is going to be our San Francisco Railway Museum, across from the Ferry Building at the F-line Steuart Street stop, open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. that day. On that Centennial day, we’re offering Muni employees (with their ID cards) a 10% discount on all merchandise in our gift shop (the same deal our Members get every single day, whether at the museum’s gift shop or in our online store).

We’re planning special events for our Members that day, including a talk from our board chair and president, Rick Laubscher, on the status of the E-line and our vision for it. He’ll also answer your questions. That’ll happen at the museum at 2 p.m.

Don’t forget, all Muni rides are free that day, so pack up the friends and family and come to San Francisco — and the San Francisco Railway Museum — to celebrate Muni’s 100th birthday December 28.

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A Great Vintage Day! Don’t Miss Next Sunday!

226 years of Muni history at Market and Spear Streets, all carrying delighted passengers today. Left to right, 1950 trolley coach No. 776, 1912 streetcar No. 1, and 1948 streetcar No. 1006, all Muni vehicles restored to their original condition. They’ll be part of the fleet out next Sunday as well to celebrate Muni’s centennial. So will 1906 cable car No. 42, just out of frame to the right of this shot. That made it 341 years of San Francisco… — Read More

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Getting Ready for Centennial Celebrations

Muni teams have been working overtime to get vintage vehicles ready for special Sunday service tomorrow (November 4) and November 11. MSR member (and Muni operator) Tony Marquardt sent us the snaps in this post, representing the testing going on. Late Saturday morning (November 3), 1906 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42, went out for line testing under the expert handling of gripman Val Lupiz. The shot above shows it turning onto California Street from Hyde (it’s ancestral… — Read More

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Muni Centennial Vintage Service Nov. 4 & 11

With Market Street Railway’s help, Muni is celebrating its centennial with two Sundays of special vintage vehicle service, November 4 and 11, from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cable cars, trolley buses and motor coaches rarely if ever used in service will be carrying passengers on special routes, joining a wide array of Muni’s historic streetcars operating very special service as well. Never before has Muni offered rides on special vintage vehicles in all four modes — streetcar, cable… — Read More

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Muni Centennial Officially Under Way

Muni’s centennial officially kicked off this morning with the rededication of streetcar No. 1 at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Since we were involved in the action, hosting VIPs at the museum and speaking at the event, we’re glad our good friends at Muni Diaries shared the news quickly. The event combined speeches to an audience of several hundred invited guests in a tent opposite the museum and an inaugural ride on Car 1, with ridership limited for security reasons.… — Read More

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Mustn’t Miss Display at Our Museum – and On Market St.

Poster of 1914 image by John Henry Mentz, part of the Treasures From the Muni Archive Display on Market Street and (in this case) at our museum on Steuart Street, very close to the spot where this image was taken. As part of Muni’s centennial year activities, Mayor Ed Lee has unveiled a new, multi-faceted display that brings the history of Market Street, and its transit, to life. Part of it centers on our San Francisco Railway Museum. SFMTA (Muni’s… — Read More

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Muni Begins Its Centennial Year

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), America’s first publicly owned urban transit system, begins its 100th year of operation today. Created early in California’™s Progressive Era, in part as a reaction to a corrupt privately owned transit company, Muni opened its first lines on Geary Street 99 years ago on December 28, 1912. Ever since, Muni has played a big part in the lives of San Franciscans, taking them to work, study, shop, and play. Fifty Thousand San Franciscans came… — Read More

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