Lost Streetcars of San Francisco, Now Lost in Missouri

pccsstcharles

ex-Muni PCC streetcars in St. Charles, Missouri. Scott Tiek photo.

The odd story of the Lost Streetcars of San Francisco has taken another very odd — and unfortunate — turn.
Here’s how the odyssey begins: During the 1980s, after Muni began selling off some of its old PCC streetcars to make way for more modern Boeing LRVs, a gentleman in South Lake Tahoe purchased 18 of the cars with an eye toward someday establishing PCC service in the Lake Tahoe area.

Thumbnail image for 1127pccdoor_2.jpg

No. 1127 in Tahoe (2006). Telstar Logistics photo.

That was his goal, but alas, it never happened. Instead, the fleet of ex-San Francisco PCCs spent two decades languishing incongruously in the snow, hundreds of miles from the Bay Area.
Fast-forward to 2007: Nine of the Tahoe PCCs (including former Muni cars No. 1113, 1127, 1139, 1145, 1148, and 1169) were sold to Whittaker Builders Inc., a real estate developer that planned to convert them into bookstores, coffee shops, and sushi bars
in a large housing development under construction in St. Charles,
Missouri. If funds were available, a few of the PCCs would also be used
to create a local streetcar line.

tahoe-pcc-arrives.jpg

A San Francisco PCC arrives in New Town (2007) Whittaker Homes.

That never happened either. Instead, Whittaker Builders got caught up in the housing bust and filed for bankruptcy in October 2009. So what became of San Francisco’s former PCC streetcars?

They are now wasting away in a an open field near St. Louis:

tahoe-pcc-wings.jpg

No. 1127 again, now stranded in Missouri (2010) by Scott Tiek

Photographer Scott Tiek, who shot these lost PCCs recently (and whose photos we’re reposted here), summarized their fate:

Two years later and they are still sitting here rotting away. The
problem seems to be coming up with the estimated $26 million in start
up cost it would take to get the line running. Whittaker spent $243,000
buying & transporting the 9 cars from a seller in South Lake Tahoe,
California. They were hoping the city could help pay for a portion of
the rail development with federal funds. Alas Whittaker Builders filed
Chapter 11 bankruptcy Oct. 15, 2009 so I am sure this project is dead
now.”

Obviously, the fate of these ex-Muni PCCs is unknown, and they’re now even farther away from home than before. Yet at this rate — after their meandering journey through Lake Tahoe and Missouri — it wouldn’t be all that surprising to hear they’re headed to the moon next.

tahoe-pcc-simplified-green.jpg

No. 1113 a long way from home (2010). by Scott Tiek

2012 UPDATE: Sadly, these streetcars were scrapped following a fire and the bankruptcy of the developer who owned them.

Read More

Comments: 17

  1. Is San Francisco or St Louis their home? They are now closer to where they were manufactured and the city they were manufactured for. They did spend their first years in service in St Louis. Now they are closer to their origin than to San Francisco. Hopefully they will be able to operate in MO and have a successful 3rd life carrying people there.

  2. I’m not that worried about those appearances. I restore streetcars. Rust and rotted wood happen.
    I care more about: Is the car complete, are all the parts there? Is the carbody badly rusted through? Are gearboxes and traction motors serviceable? Is the heavy wiring intact?
    San Francisco has 50 more of those old PCC cars stored at India/Tulare street in The City, and they’ve been sending them off to Brookville for restoration for F-line service. One thing they’ve discovered is that 60-year-old wiring harnesses are just no darned good no matter where they’re stored.

  3. We here at San Diego Vintage Trolley know all about this story. We bought three of these cars, #’s 1122, 1123 and 1170. We are in the process of restoring them, painting them in San Diego colors and running them as the “Sliver Line,” a downtown loop, using the current San Diego Trolley tracks. Our first car, MUNI #1122, SD #529, is getting close to being complete. We hope to have it running real soon. I rode 1122 & 1123 grownig up in the City, and I can’t wait to see it running again.

  4. Id love to see Muni pick these up for future use than see them rot away.
    Chuck
    Redding, Ca.

  5. I just wish Whittaker would either use them as they had planned or donate them to the Museum Of Transportation or even sell them off to someone else…. Being they have sat in the exact same spot for 3 years I am worried not much is going to be done with them.
    I wish I could get better pictures of them but technically it is private property and Whittaker wouldnt refused my request to do a more thorough job of photographing them (which I understand do to legal & insurnace issues and what not). From people I have talked to a few of the cars would not take much work to restore them to operational condition, some of the others that were not as mechanically sound were the ones they planned to convert for commercial purposes such as a bookstore, coffee shop or sushi bar..
    I know they is also a group pushing for the return of streetcars in the Delmar Loop area of St. Louis so maybe they could be used there.

  6. And the above posters are right.. they are back home. From the information I was able to gather they were built by St. Louis Car Co in 1946 and ran here in St. Louis as part of the 1700 series until being sold to SFMR in 1957. SFMR renumbered them to the 1100 series and they ran there until being retired in 1982.

  7. Not as discouraging as the old photos of Pacific Electric “Hollywood” cars stacked up on Terminal Island, but still not a happy sight. Western Ry. Museum (Rio Vista Jct.) already has an 1100-class car. Museum of Transportation might have room for one, but they already have a lot of electric railway cars tucked away in need of restoration. As far as Muni retrieving them, Muni has nine 1016-class cars and thirteen 1100-class cars stored for possible rebuilding. Adding up the stored cars, the in-service PCC’s and those sent (or awaiting shipment) to Brookville, we come up with about 50 PCC’s, nearly half the number in service back before 1970, when PCC’s were running all five lines. One hates to see the “lost cars” deteriorating at a failed (or at least dormant) project, but it’s not likely that we’ll see them back in California.

  8. It would be considered SOOOOOO bad taste in this enlightened age when our Blue Bloods swear their blood is actually beige–their entire world is beige–but once upon a time people simply lived in the streetcars–we know that because there was an article on this very site about the old cable streetcars (okay okay, calm down, Cable Cars) that were turned into homes at Ocean Beach. We also have a MSR car that was a shop in Columbia. So, some Missouri hipsters should take a few of them somewhere safe from otherwise respectable people who see everything as a threat to their property values and lay them out on a grid, or radiant, and create a Trolley Town commune.

  9. SCOTT: You are correct in your second post above. The cars were built in 1946 by the St. Louis Car Co. and did run there as the 1700 series. They were first leasted by MUNI and then bought out right. St. Louis Public Service re-painted them into MUNI colors. The three cars we have at the San Diego Vintage Trolley were St. Louis numbers; 1728; 1745 and 1777. If you’d like to see what the St. Louis Public Service cars looked like click on this link: http://world.nycsubway.org/perl/show?44684
    That is a photo of MUNI #1128 painted as St. Louis #1704.

  10. I also feel that this situation is probably not going to change in the near future, however with our goals for the future in regard to expansion of our operations in San Francisco and the unfortunate accidents regarding PCCs ,,, and even though Muni has a lot of extra unrestored PCCs on property,,, We are not going to have the opportunity to accquire more of these in the future. Would it be that difficult for Market Street Railway to re-evaluate these streetcars and possibly either purchase a few of the best candidates for future restoration or the whole bunch aws a permanent future parts supply….. Since the company that bought them is bankrupt I have a feeling we could get them all at a reasonable cost.

  11. Because these are single ended PCC’s I would doubt if Western Railway Museum would be interested in any of them. With no turnaround or “Y” at the end of the line, I was surprised that the museum recently restored one of the x SF MUNI PCC’s as it is.

  12. Regarding single end cars at Rio Vista Jct.: Muni PCC’s have two trolley poles and backup controllers. BAERA also has a lightweight interurban from Iowa which is single ended but has a backup controller.

  13. I used to ride these old PCC cars when I lived in the Bay Area. I would be great to see these cars restored and running. I also rode on the old Toronto Canada PCC cars when they were in service back in the 1970’s.
    I now live in Arizona and when I make trips to the bay area. I like to ride the classic PCC cars

Comments are closed.