Streetcar Museum Comes To San Francisco

<p>A new transportation museum celebrating the streetcar has opened in San Francisco, fittingly opposite the ferry building where they once took commuters from the East and North Bay ferries down Market Street.</p>
October 11, 2006, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Museums are places for learning, and the new Market Street Railway museum is the place to learn about the antique streetcars running regularly along the city's main arteries that are every bit as wonderful as their more exalted cable car brethren, even if tourists don't make nearly as much of a fuss about them."

"We're not competing with the cable cars,'' said Rick Laubscher, president of the Market Street Railway, perhaps a bit wistfully. "We're different.''

The railway, which opened the small museum over the weekend on Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building, is the nonprofit group of streetcar lovers that acquires old cars from around the world and donates them to San Francisco's Municipal Railway, which runs them along Market Street and the Embarcadero.

"With the cable cars, the ride is the purpose of the ride,'' Laubscher said. "With the streetcars, a ride is a way to get where you're going.''

"The antique streetcars, which began running in 1983 as a stopgap summer tourist attraction during the overhaul of the cable car system, has always lived in the shadow of its better-known rival. Their success persuaded Muni to make them permanent and train operators and mechanics to run and maintain them. The streetcars carry 20,000 passengers daily, about as many as the cable cars.

The F line is the only system in the world to operate antique cars from other cities, including a rare open-air streetcar from England that is a lot more fun to ride than a cable car -- except that, being an English vehicle, it seems to be in the repair shop more often than not."

Thanks to MTC-ABAG Library

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Published on Monday, October 9, 2006 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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