Great Video of the “Not-So-Good Old Days” on Market Street

Our first post about Carl Nolte’s Chronicle column on the “not-so-good old days” on Market Street mentioned that back when there were four streetcar tracks on Market, there was less than two feet of clearance between Muni and Market Street Railway Co. streetcars — including the stops where passengers had to stand while behemoth streetcars bore down on them.
This 1935 video, one of the You Tube sources Nolte mentions in his column, shows just how terrifying that tight squeeze was. (It comes up one minute into the video.)

The film itself was a campaign tool in support of two ballot measures — one to build a Muni subway under Market Street, the other to replace streetcars with buses. Both failed, although of course a Market Street subway was eventually built, almost half a century later. (By the way, the segments claiming buses were better than streetcars were filmed in … Oakland.)
Our non-profit has access to a trove of historic motion picture film from all over San Francisco, taken from 1906 through the 1970s. We’ve created some specially narrated segments from that film, available to see at our San Francisco Railway Museum, and we’re working on more. Later this year, we’ll be offering all of those video segments on a DVD available at the museum and here on our website, with all proceeds benefiting Market Street Railway’s programs. We’ll let you know when it goes on sale.

Comments: 4

  1. The big question is, what happened to Oakland? Oakland looks like a happening place in the old days, it certainly was attractive to look at in these videos. It had the transit, but what happened to the City? Come to think of it, they also mentioned Newark, Manhattan’s Oakland–and even worse off nowadays! So much for all those buses and subways, eh?

  2. a dvd would be great! it’s really interesting to see how the city and the region has evolved, esp. when you look at the changes from pre to post-war Bay Area…we sure do have a habit of knocking stuff down, only to have to build it up again (thinking of the San Mateo Interurban, for example..)

  3. Yes, what is the future to be in our cities and travel in general?
    Great film! Thanks!
    Is there hope that we will ever recognise that expansion cannot go on forever in a limited world?
    Things don’t look very good right now!
    Here’s hoping the young can really make some good changes!
    Amen,
    Uncle Jim
    Kailua, Hawaii

  4. 18 lines on a single street was maybe a little excessive. On the other hand, if most of them went through Market Street and you just wanted to go from one end to the other, then you would have many routes to choose from. If the cars weren’t allowed on Market it would have been way better. The 4 tracks was probably not the smartest idea; they could have left more space between the inner/outer tracks. But then again, maybe this was intentionally done by MUNI to thwart their competitor to the extent possible.
    I’ll take a street slightly congested by streetcars to one jam-packed with gas-guzzling cars and buses any day.

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