“Trackless Trolleys”?

The Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub, who does some productive digging around in the paper’s archives, has come up with a very good story on the conversion of many San Francisco streetcar lines to trolley coaches in the late 1940s. Above, one of several great photos from the story. Taken on the first day of electric bus service on Market Street, July 5, 1949, it shows a Twin Coach on the 5-McAllister followed by a mix of Marmon-Herringtons and Twins, outbound at Grant Avenue. Streetcars are still very much on the scene, including then-new double-end PCC 1009, still operating on the E-line today!

The conversion turned two dozen streetcar lines into bus routes. The majority of those conversions were to trolley coaches. Interestingly, Chronicle articles of the day referred to the new electric buses as “trackless trolleys”, a term mostly used in the East. Use of that term didn’t last long here; riders were soon referring to them as “trolley buses” while Muni officially called them “trolley coaches”.

A couple of clarifications on the article: Hartlaub seems to imply that the plans of PUC General Manager James Turner called for complete elimination of tracks on Market Street, when in fact only the outer tracks were taken up. He also noted that the only environmental benefit Muni seemed to tout for the new trolley buses was that the interiors wouldn’t smell bad. Not surprising that Muni would focus on this, though, since riders of converted streetcar lines had for a year been riding on interim gasoline motor coaches from White Motor Company, which had terrible ventilation that filled their interiors with gasoline fumes.

Overall, it’s a very good read. Worth your time.

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Take a 1950 Trolley Bus to Streetcar Movies Sept. 24


In a new addition to Muni Heritage Weekend, we — Market Street Railway — have chartered vintage 1950 trolley coach 776 to a special encore showing of Streetcar San Francisco Movie Night at the Balboa Theater. The 90-minute programs features archival footage (much of it supplied by us), new and original short films, highlights from the OpenSFHistory collection, and other historically-inspired surprises around the theme of San Francisco public and private transit. It’s narrated with zest by Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher.

In this case getting there will be at least half the fun. We’ll leave the San Francisco Railway Museum at 5:45 pm sharp on 1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach 776 and follow the 31-Balboa route (which was electrified after this bus was retired so it’ll be a historic trip in that respect) through the Tenderloin and Western Addition, over Lone Mountain, and then out Balboa Avenue to 38th Avenue and Balboa Theater.

There, we’ll give you a ticket for the show. After the show, use whatever Muni route you like to get back (though you would wait a long time for the B-Geary streetcar, which passed the theater until 1956).

The whole package is $20 for Market Street Railway members, $30 for non-members. Reserve your space by sending an email to info@streetcar.org including your name, number of guests in your party, and whether you’re an MSR member. (If not, you can join and save ten bucks on the deal.)

If you’ve already bought a ticket to the movie, you can ride the charter bus to the theater for $20 (non-members) or $15 (members).

We’re going to do this on the honor system, meaning you don’t have to pay for the ride in advance, but rather at the bus when you board Saturday night. Cash only; we can’t process credit cards or electronic payments for this. Only RSVP if you’re sure you’re going to go. This will sell out and we don’t want to turn people away, only to find some people were no-shows.

Remember, rsvp to info@streetcar.org.

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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 car, trolley coach, and motor coach — on the same day. If you rode just one vehicle of each type, you could experience up to 342 years of San Francisco transit history on those four vehicles. It’s an opportunity that will not likely come again soon. Regular Muni fares will be charged on the special rides.

The center of action will be our San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building, where most of the special service will terminate. On both November 4 and 11, we will have special displays, new centennial merchandise on sale, and a special sale of transit books and memorabilia that do not fit into our archival collection.


Both Sundays, a group of original Muni streetcars will be out and about, reliving Muni’s past, present, and future. The streetcars are expected to include Muni’s very first streetcar, century old No. 1, recently returned from a complete rebuilding. Its “little brother,” 98-year od No. 162, is expected to be in service as well, along with three newly rebuilt streamlined PCCs, all of which have spent their whole lives at Muni; all glorious in their original green and cream “Wings” livery. These include two 1948 double-end cars, Nos. 1006 and 1008 (both built in 1948) and the very last of almost 5,000 PCCs built in North America, No. 1040 (1952).

Car 1.

Car 1. Jeremy Whiteman photo from Market Street Railway Flickr group. (c) 2012, Jeremy Whiteman.

On November 4, the Muni heritage streetcars will operate along the original routing (more or less) of Muni’s oldest surviving line, the J-Church, which opened in 1917. Streetcars will depart about every 20-25 minutes from the Museum (Steuart Street) F-line stop and head out Market. They will follow the F-line tracks to 17th and Noe, then take 17th to Church to join the J-line, following the scenic right-of-way alongside Dolores Park, then through Noe Valley to the original J-line terminal at 30th Street. They’ll then return to the Museum via Church and Market Streets. The streetcars will pick up passengers at ALL regular Muni stops along the route.

On November 11, the Muni heritage streetcars will run along part of Muni’s newest streetcar line, the T-Third. From the Museum, they’ll head south on The Embarcadero along the tracks built for the future E-Embarcadero line, then join the T and N line trains where they emerge from the subway at Folsom. They will pick up or drop off passengers at the low-level E-line platforms at Folsom, Brannan and 2nd & King stations ONLY. After turning onto Fourth Street, the heritage streetcars will operate as a no-stop excursion along Fourth (across the historic China Basin Bridge), Channel, and Third Street to Cesar Chavez, where they will turn east and loop through Muni Metro East, giving riders a quick look at Muni’s newest streetcar facility, which will house the Central Subway fleet. The streetcars will return to the Museum from there.

Also expected to be in service those two Sundays (weather permitting): the 1934 Blackpool Boat, which will shuttle passengers between the museum and Pier 39. It is possible that additional special streetcars could make an appearance on one or both Sundays, depending on availability.

If you can’t make it on either Sunday, Muni will be making every effort to have the five Muni heritage cars in regular F-line service during the week in-between (November 5-10).
Do note that Muni’s shops made concerted efforts to get 1914 car No. 130 back in service



O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42 on its inaugural (and so far only) run, 2005.

Muni has only run its ceremonial cable car, 1906 O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Street No. 42(reacquired and restored with our help) once with passengers on board. And you had to be a mayor or other big shot to get on. On November 4 and 11, though, this beautifully restored cable car will run in regular service on the California Street line. The downtown terminal is just a block from the Museum, at Market and California Streets.


The workhorses of Muni’s trolley coach fleet for a quarter-century were the burly Marmon-Herringtons. Freshly restored No. 776, built in 1950, will be running a downtown loop route leaving from Steuart Street next to the Museum.


1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach No. 776 being tested recently. Tony Marquardt photo.

Additionally, one of the first 10 trolley coaches Muni ever owned, No. 506, built for the R-Howard line by St. Louis Car Co. in 1941, is scheduled to be on display in the plaza across the F-line tracks from the Museum. This blue and gold beauty, which shares some of the distinctive lines of the PCC streetcars that St. Louis Car also built, does not operate, but Market Street Railway, which rescued the coach 25 years ago, is working with Muni to complete its restoration.
The more modern trolley coach era will be represented by 1975 Flyer No. 5300, painted in its original iconic Landor white, gold, and orange livery. It is expected to carry passengers alongside No. 776 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Sundays.

Muni motor coach No. 042

1938 Muni motor coach No. 042 (long numbered 062), restored to its original paint scheme, at Woods Motor Coach Division, October 2012.

Muni’s motor coach history will be represented by two buses. One, definitely planned for operation, is 1969 GMC “New Look” No. 3287, painted in its as-delivered maroon and yellow livery, a short-lived Muni paint scheme borrowed from the California Street cable cars. Possibly joining it in service would be Muni’s oldest bus, vintage 1938 No. 042. This bus spent most of its life on the 39-Coit route (renumbered to 062), and is currently finishing up a complete rebuilding by Muni’s Woods Division crafts workers. It has been given back its original number and painted in its eye-popping original orange and black livery (too bad it wasn’t ready for the first games of the World Series!). At this writing, it is not likely it will be ready for November 4, but it may be finished by November 11. Whichever motor buses do operate will follow a short route from the museum, still being determined, from around 10 a.m – 5 p.m. They would operate as excursion vehicles, with no stops en route.

This will be the biggest operating day of Muni’s centennial celebrations. The actual 100th anniversary date, December 28, falls in a week when many people are out of town, so we and Muni management agreed it would be better to celebrate before then, but after the America’s Cup and Fleet Week activities.
We will provide you with any updates we receive as soon as we get them, so watch this space! Hope to see as many of you as possible on November 4 and 11.

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