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San Francisco - November 2003

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San Francisco –  Streetcar Deal

Rail Transit Online – November 2003

The Municipal Railways scored a major coup in the world of heritage streetcar preservation when it concluded long and difficult negotiations with New Jersey Transit for the purchase of 15 ex-Newark City Subway PCCs.  The price has not yet been revealed but will probably become known when the deal comes before the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on Nov. 18.  The city/county’s Board of Supervisors must also give its approval.  The cars, the pick of 24 owned by NJT, will supplement the existing PCC fleet on the F-Market & Wharves line, which is becoming increasingly overcrowded.  When the 50-year-old PCCs made their last Subway runs on Aug. 24, 2001, replaced three days later by new low-floor cars, some New Jersey elected officials vowed to keep the cars in the Garden State.  But no viable heritage trolley scheme materialized, giving San Francisco an opening to obtain a large number of PCCs all at once.  According to a report on the Market Street Railway’s Web site, Muni Executive Director Michael Burns kept the talks on track, even when it seemed they were ready to collapse. 

Burns wants to have an initial group of cars shipped directly from Newark to a rebuilder who would make only the mechanical and cosmetic changes required to place the vehicles in service.  These include reversing the front doors to avoid hitting station handicap access ramps, installing a front trolley pole and activating the backup controllers which were never connected when the cars were delivered to Twin Cities Rapid Transit, their original owner.  Also needed would be VETAG switch and signal controls and Muni radios and fareboxes.  The Newark cars will also be given liveries representing transit operators that once owned PCCs, following the pattern of Muni’s initial batch of streamliners.  A list of possible paint schemes is still being drawn up, but Market Street Railway officials believe Minneapolis-St. Paul and Newark will probably be included.  Because the cars were so well maintained by NJT, they won’t need an extensive overhaul right away.  The initial fleet, obtained from Philadelphia, was given a full refurbishment because is was in a deteriorated state.  In years to come, as money becomes available, the Newark PCCs will probably also be returned to as-new condition.  NJT car No. 14, which was leased for evaluation by Muni, is expected to be sent out for modifications with the other cars.  There has been no word on the fate of the remaining nine Newark PCCs, 30 of which were purchased from Twin Cities in 1953.  The first unit entered revenue service on Jan. 8, 1954.  In November 1977, two were sold to the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority and operated on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit system until their retirement in the 1980s.  Four others were scrapped for parts and two were lost in the late 1970s when workers digging foundations for a new office building accidentally broke through the roof of the Cedar Street tunnel, where two cars were parked.


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