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The Historic Streetcar: Riding the F Market Street Line

A Moving Collection of Heritage Streetcars from all over the World

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The Historic Streetcar: Riding the F Market Street Line
San Francisco Travel Association Photo
Often overshadowed by the more famous San Francisco Cable Cars, the vintage streetcars that run up and down Market street are historic treasures that are actually functioning and integral parts of the city's eclectic public transportation system. The streetcars come from all over the world, including Milan, Italy; New Orleans, Louisiana and Blackpool, England and originally ran on their own local rails. Riding the streetcar is an elegant, romantic and inexpensive way to visit many of the city's attractions and inner neighborhoods independently.

Check Out Our San Francisco Streetcar Photo Gallery

Riding the Historic Streetcar

The Historic Streetcars run from 6am untill 12am, 365 days a year, never running more than 15 minutes apart. The fare is $2 for adults and $.75 for seniors and youth and transfers are given that are usable for the next couple of hours on Muni buses, Muni Metro subways or other streetcars.

If you purchase the San Francisco CityPass - which bundles the admission to a handfull of top San Francsico attractions into one low price - you also get a seven-day transit pass, which covers unlimited rides on both the streetcar and the cable car.

The Historic Streetcar Route

The cable car and the streetcar work together, both shuttling people from downtown to the waterfront, but along different routes. The streetcar also serves several of San Francisco's most interesting neighborhoods as well however, connecting them with downtown. Check out this Route Map.

The F Market Streetcar Line begins at Fisherman's Wharf just a couple blocks from the cable car turnaround. From the wharf, it cruises along the Embarcadero, San Francisco's waterfront and home to some of the city's top bayside restaurants. At the San Francisco Ferry Building, it turns onto Market Street and makes it's way through the financial district and to the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market near Union Square.

From here the street cars continue up Market Street past the Civic Center and City Hall into the upper Market Street area. Get off at Dolores Street and you are just a couple blocks north of Dolores Park and the Mission District. Jump out at Church Street and head north on Duboce to explore the Lower Haight, an artisitic and bohemian area blessed with a plethora of beautiful Victorians. Stay on board untill the last stop and you will find yourself at the corner of Market and Castro, the entry way to the faboulous Castro District, the heart of San Francisco's gay and lesbian community.

The San Francisco Railway Museum

Located just across the street from the Ferry Building Marketplace, the Railway Museum is an information center and exhibition space for all things related to the historic streetcars. Besides tons of historic photographs and artifacts, the museum features a full size motorman's platform which allows kids of all ages to learn how to operate the streetcars for themselves.
  • Address: 77 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
  • Hours: Tuesday - Sunday, 10:00am - 6:00pm
  • Admission: Free
  • Contact: (415) 974-1948 www.streetcar.org

History of the San Francisco Streetcar

The F Streetcar line began in 1915, but ran a different route through the city - connecting the Marina District with downtown. This line closed in 1951.

On Market Street itself, horse drawn carriages were replaced with electric streetcars in the 1880's, which looked and operated much like the cable cars that crossed, and continue to cross, Nob Hill.

In the 1920's, cities all over the country began adding PCC (Presidents' Conference Committee) streetcars to their busiest streets. PCC's are standardized streetcars that are interchangeable with other streetcars like them. After World War II, several European countries also began building PCC's.

In the 1970's the city of San Francisco closed down the Market Street streetcars in order to do construction on the underground Muni light rail and the BART regional rapid transit system, both of which still run under the length of the street today. The streetcars were not replaced after construction was over and Market Street was devoid of streetcars for many years.

Finally in 1987, after the historic streetcars had proven to be popular additions to festivals (the tracks were never removed), it was decided that the Market Street Line should be re-instated. Muni bought some PCC streetcars from Philadelphia (which still make up a large part of the fleet), restored many of it's own historic street cars and put in brand new tracks. After years of preparation and to great public fanfare, the F Market Line opened up in 1995.

Since then, streetcars from all over the world have been added to the fleet, including the classic "Peter Witt" streetcars from Milan, Italy, which feature gorgeous hardwood interiors, and the famous open roof "boat tram" from Blackpool, England, which is usually only put on the rails during festivals and parades like San Francisco Pride.

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