Historic Streetcar “Boat” Sets Sail on Market Street

A 1934 English streetcar, which looks something like a boat, is the latest grand old vehicle to lumber down San Francisco’s historic F-line.

This week, Muni work crews buffed, polished and made some minor alterations to the vessel, which arrived in town last week from Blackpool, England.

It made its first public appearance during this weekend’s MUNI Heritage weekend. (See photo below).

Saturday and Sunday are a celebration of the City's transit history. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. vintage motor buses and trolley buses, as well as special cable cars and historic streetcars rarely seen in regular service, will be running around town, with the epicenter being across from the Ferry Building near the Market Street Railway Museum.

This weekend's debut of the new historic car, is the result of a purchase by the non-profit Market Street Railway. It will join a fleet of some 50 historic cars that traverse Market Street daily from the Castro neighborhood all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf.

“We’ve touched it all up, we’ve buffed it all out,” said Muni maintenance supervisor Karl Johnson. “We’ve modified the top where the little trolley base is going to be.”

Since beginning in the mid-1990s, the historic railway has become one of the most unique transportation systems in the country.

“The F-line is the most popular conventional streetcar line in America,” said Rick Laubscher, executive director of Market Street Railway. “Twenty-four thousand riders every day, seven days a week.”

The new car is called a “boat tram,” because it’s open on top like a boat. Muni already has a similar tram in its fleet, also from England. Laubscher said it’s the most popular of the vintage cars, constantly rented for events – and even a wedding or two.

“The boat car we’ve had here from Blackpool, England for 30 years has been so incredibly popular,” said Laubscher. “People want to ride it, they see it and they stop and they want to get on.”

The colorful, art deco cars may seem like a novelty, rumbling down Market Street at a slow, steady pace. But the F-line is one of the most popular with locals. Laubscher said 1,000 Fisherman’s Wharf workers ride the line every day. Overshadowed by its rolling wooden cable car cousins, it is a workhorse of downtown.

Laubscher said the one drawback of its popularity is the boarding lines of tourists in downtown are so long, it slows down the cars. He said his group is working with Muni to develop point-of-purchase ticket machines at some of the stops so visitors can pre-purchase tickets before boarding. Laubscher said the F-Line will be needed even more, now that 5,000 new homes are expected to soon open on Central Market Street.

At the F-line turnaround near Castro and Market, frequent passenger George Heen stood waiting for a ride to his doctor.

“They’re the smoothest ride of all the transportation Muni has,” said Heen, who used to ride the line daily to his job at Fisherman’s Wharf. “I just think the people who ride them appreciate the vehicles.”

This weekend, Muni will roll out some historic buses in addition to the vintage streetcars to celebrate the city’s historic fleet.

For anyone planning to ride the vintage cars, Heen offered some advice: “Grab your book and a newspaper sit down for about an hour ride and enjoy it.”

Contact Us