Here Comes Muni Heritage Weekend

This year’s Muni Heritage Weekend got off to a great start with a special reception, sponsored by Market Street Railway, honoring San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board Chair Tom Nolan, who just received a prestigious industry award. The universally-respected Nolan, a steady hand in leading SFMTA for many years, was just named board member of the year by the American Public Transportation Association.

Following the invitation-only reception at our San Francisco Railway Museum, everyone hopped on 1934 Blackpool, England boat tram 233 for a sail along The Embarcadero to Pier 39 and back, spotting a bigger boat at the Pier 27 Cruise Ship Terminal.  (Click the center of the screen below to see!) The new-but-traditional colored lights on this boat were made possible by contributions at the museum to our “Float the Boats” fund, enhancing these two wonderful ambassadors from Blackpool. Boat tram 233 itself was brought to San Francisco by Market Street Railway in 2013 and given to Muni thanks to a generous donation by the Thoresen Foundation, with shipping underwritten in part by FedEx Trade Networks.

Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25, starting at 10 a.m. and wrapping up between 4 and 5 p.m., there’ll be lots of vintage transit action. Two vintage trolley coaches (776 from 1950 and 5300 from 1975) will leave every 45 minutes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. giving free rides along Muni’s first trolley coach route, the R-Howard-South Van Ness, which opened 75 years ago. There’ll be rarely-operating historic streetcars, including a boat tram and 1896 “dinky” 578, offering free rides between the museum and Pier 39. Two streetcars from Muni’s original fleet, Car 1 (1912) and Car 130 (1914) are slated to run as part of E-Embarcadero line service, along with 1948 PCC cars No. 1006, 1008, and 1011. These rides will be at regular Muni fares, as will the special cable car, O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Street Car 42, built in 1907, which will operate in regular service on the California Street Line just a block from the museum.

At this writing, motor coach arrangements are pending after an unexpected maintenance issue cropped up in 1969 GMC Coach 3287. We will update this post as we know more.

At the museum, we’ll be offering a great line of gifts and some one-of-a-kind memorabilia, including books and photos of historic rail operations outside San Francisco. Get there early for the best selection.

And on Saturday night, we still have a few seats left on our special charter of trolley coach 776 to see the streetcar movies at the Balboa Theater.

Here’s a shot of last night’s honoree, SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan (right), with Market Street Railway Board Chair Bruce Agid, at the reception at our museum.

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It’s going to be a great Muni Heritage Weekend. Don’t miss it!

 

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“R” You Ready? Muni’s First Trolley Bus Line Runs Again Sept. 24-25

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Seventy-five years ago this month, Muni opened its very first trolley bus line. The “R-Howard” ran from Beale and Howard Streets out Howard and South Van Ness to Army Street (now Cesar Chavez). This Muni Heritage Weekend, September 24-25, you’ll be able to ride the R-line one more time, to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

The action starts at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission (across from the Ferry Building). There at the curb you’ll see the last surviving trolley bus that originally ran the R-line, a 1941 model that Market Street Railway acquired some years ago and cosmetically restored. It doesn’t operate — getting it back into running shape is a priority of ours, and we’re working with some good folks at Muni to see what can be done — but it will be on display carrying a timeline of Muni’s trolley bus history inside.

Once you’ve inspected the original R-Howard bus, you can board one of its two descendants — a 1950 Marmon-Herrington or 1975 Flyer — for an actual ride that gets pretty close to the R-line original. (The R-line became part of the 41-Union-Howard in the late 1940s, a route No. 776 used to run.) There hasn’t been passenger trolley bus service on Howard for a long time, but the wires were left up to give Mission Street buses a detour when needed, and to make a faster trip to and from the bus barn.

The buses will leave the museum every 45 minutes starting at 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Given that Howard is now one-way downtown, they’ll follow this route with no stops: Steuart, Market, Fourth, Howard, South Van Ness, and 26th Street to Mission. At the corner of 26th and Mission, they’ll make a brief stop to let riders from the Mission and Bernal Heights climb on, then head back downtown, again express, via Mission, 25th, South Van Ness, 11th Street, Market, Spear, Mission, and Steuart.

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The 776 was out today giving operators some refresher training. Here it is at Mission & 16th Streets, as captured by our friend Adolfo Echeverry.

Though the R-line was Muni’s first trolley coach line, it was San Francisco’s second. Its private competitor Market Street Railway Company (namesake of our non-profit) converted its 33-line streetcar through SOMA, the Mission,and over Twin Peaks, to trolley coaches in 1935. The R-line came about after the franchise the city had given Market Street Railway for the 35-line streetcar expired at the end of the 1930s. Single operator buses were cheaper to run than two-operator streetcars, and the 35-line didn’t have many riders, so Muni decided to try the newer trolley bus technology and maybe steal some passengers from their competitor’s lines on Mission, such as the 14.

The revival of the R-line is just one aspect of Muni Heritage Weekend, which includes rarely seen vintage streetcars and buses carrying the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, September 24-25. This is your chance to ride one of the popular boat trams from Blackpool, England or San Francisco’s oldest streetcar, the 1896 “dinky” at no charge from our museum to Pier 39. There’ll be a big sidewalk sale of streetcar memorabilia, and lots of other things going on as well. Keep an eye on this space to learn more!

 

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