S.F.'s Market Street Railway Celebrates Sesquicentennial

Carl Nolte, the San Francisco Chronicle's historian, writes on the 150-year anniversary of the Market St. Railway that began operation as a 2-car steam train on July 4, 1860, and the evolution of rail on/under Market St including BART & Muni Metro.

It began as the first railway on the west coast - steam powered, "dirty, noisy and ultimately a financial flop, but it was the start of something big" in that it began the transition of the corridor into one of the nation's busiest transit routes as homes and businesses began to replace sand dunes.

"By 1867, the steam trains were replaced with a new invention: rail cars drawn by horses. By 1883, the horse-car lines were converted to cable cars, with a cable slot down the middle.

The cables ran on tight headways; by the turn of the 20th century, a cable car was at the Ferry Building at rush hour every 15 seconds, transit historians say."

BART heavy rail opened under Market and Mission Streets in 1973. In 1980, Muni Metro light rail opened in a subway above the BART subway on Market Street. In 1995, the historic "F" streetcar line opened on Market Street itself.

Nolte mixes the history of transit with that of the City, which originally was not centered on Market St. More can be learned at the Market St. Railway Museum which opens a free exhibit on July 15 highlighting the 1860 railway.

Thanks to Leonard Conly

Full Story: 150th anniversary of first Market St. rail line


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