Riding Muni 578 ~ Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Last weekend the SF Muni and Market Street Railway had a Heritage Weekend in which many seldom-seen pieces of equipment were brought out. I was particularly excited to get a ride on car 578, an 1895-built California-type-car (that is, open on each end and enclosed in the middle) "dinky" (single trucker). It looks like a cable car except for having a trolley pole, and being quite a bit shorter than any currently running cable car, though there were dinky cable cars back in the day as well. (The Muni was founded in 1912, but inherited this car when it bought out the Market St Ry).
I've seen this car before, but we've never gotten to ride it. We rode the first block standing on the footboard, until we were told we couldn't do that. On the face of this seemed kind of silly since they let you do that on the cables, but it's not totally unreasonable considering that it goes at least twice as fast, and that since it's a single-trucker, you get tossed around a bit more when it goes around curves. Of course, back in the day, they trusted kids to hold on, as this picture of a sister car in 1927 (from the White Front Cars book about the MSRy) shows:
This car is the almost-sole survivor of hundreds of cars built to roughly the same design that once went up and down the streets of dozens of California cities big and small (often, starting out in the big cities and finding second careers in small ones). In fact, I'd say probably more lines ran cars like this than didn't. There are some nice pictures on my trolley postcard site, especially for Eureka, CA; here's one of the best in higher resolution:
The 578 survived as a work car, hauling sand, and looked like this in that service (again from the White Front Cars book):
I said the 578 was almost the sole survivor of its type because there is one other nicely-restored example at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, Bakersfield and Kern car #4. I'll take the liberty of hotlinking one of their images:
There may be one or two other unrestored cars in the backlots here and at the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista.
There were also vintage trolleycoaches and diesel busses on display, including this GMC New Look/Fishbowl which looks like ones I rode to school.
Though I'm not sure I like seeing something made in 1969 considered "vintage"!direct link