Like everyone in San Francisco, we miss the LGBTQ Pride Parade up Market Street this year. At least we can share a look back, framed with pleasure.
During the first year of the Trolley Festivals, 1983, we got the idea of asking if streetcars could be included in the parade. Yes, indeed came the answer. So the Blackpool boat tram and Muni Car 1 took their place in line and tooled up Market Street. The choice of destination for the boat tram’s roll signs (blinds, to the English) was obvious. People loved it!
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 of the event, but for the entire day and night of Sunday, June 24. Muni is operating substitute buses instead, via Mission Street.
The fact that the historic streetcar fleet has moved back to Cameron Beach Yard (across from the Balboa Park BART station) from its temporary home the past four years at Muni Metro East (in Dogpatch on the T-line), means E-Embarcadero line streetcars would have to head into service early and stay out until the parade route clears, since they must now use Market Street going into and out of service. Rather than do that, Muni Operations has cancelled E-line service altogether on Sunday.
So don’t look for any vintage streetcars on the street at all Sunday, June 24. No E-line service from the Ferry Building (shown above) to the Giants’ game, no streetcars to offer visitors to the city, or Pride Parade participants or spectators, a fun ride to Fisherman’s Wharf. As we have reported here before, any excuse to shut down or impede the E-line sounds like a good excuse to certain people in Muni Operations. (Important note: Muni has managed to operate streetcars along The Embarcadero on numerous occasions in the past when Market Street was blocked to transit. They know how to do it.)
By the way, June 23 marks the 35th anniversary of the opening of the first Historic Trolley Festival. We’ve found some never-before published photos of that memorable event that we’re publishing in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track, as part of a look back at the demonstration project that proved the value of historic streetcars as part of Muni’s daily operations. You can receive it by joining Market Street Railway.
By the time historic streetcars returned to San Francisco’s streets for the first Historic Trolley Festival in the Summer of 1983, the annual LGBT Pride Parade was already a summertime fixture on Market Street. Even then, the parade was such a major event that streetcar service was suspended for its duration. But that first year of the Trolley Festival, two of the Trolley Festival cars showed their own pride by joining in. Here we look through the 1934 Blackpool, England boat tram used in the first Festival to see vintage 1912 Muni Car 1 strutting its stuff.
The streetcars were busy that weekend, though. In special service, Car 1 made a couple of trips in from Ocean Beach on the N-line to pick up parade attendees and bring them through the Sunset Tunnel, then down Church and up 17th Street to Castro.
Our non-profit, Market Street Railway, has worked closely with the Castro Merchants and neighborhood groups over the decades to advocate for top-notch F-line streetcar service to the Castro. Our volunteers even clean the streetcars at their 17th and Castro terminal to make the ride more pleasant for passengers. We don’t get any money from the government at all; we depend on memberships and donations from people who think the streetcars are an object of pride for San Francisco.
By the way, that particular boat tram in the 1983 photo, No. 226, was leased from the Western Railroad Museum in Solano County. It was so popular that Market Street Railway leaders went out and acquired one, No. 228, and gave it to Muni. We got a second boat, No. 233, just a few years ago. With two of the popular boat trams at Muni, there’s always one available for groups to charter for a fun, private ride on the waterfront or Market Street. (As for boat tram 226, it has not operated at its museum home for decades, resting with various ailments.)