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Trip Report

OTOL Northern California RailFest 2007

July 13-24, 2007
Section 4 of 8


Photos by Alan Burden, Lynn Hammond,
Kevin Korell, Jishnu Mukerji, and Steve Weagant.

Click small photos to see larger

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Chapter 7.5: BART Pittsburg/Bay Point-Daly City Line, Powell Street to Balboa Park

Now came the only BART trip of the day that was an official activity of our fest. We had to get from Powell Street to Balboa Park, the latter being a hub for several light rail lines.

We left Powell at 9:26 AM, still nine minutes down on our schedule. When we got to Balboa Park it was 9:35, seven minutes down.

I knew nothing about Balboa Park having never been there before, so I was generous and had allowed us 15 minutes dwell before our first light rail trip. As things turned out, we found the K-Ingleside platform right away and boarded the lead car.

Chapter 7.6: Muni K-Ingleside/T-Third, Balboa Park to Sunnydale Avenue

This light rail car departed from Balboa Park right on time at 9:43 AM, so we effectively had recovered any lost time in our plans for the day. This route makes its way downtown via the Twin Peaks Tunnel, and eventually runs along the Muni Metro tracks under Market Street, as do all other light rail lines. At the Castro station, the K-Ingleside officially becomes a T-Third car and heads over the newest line to Sunnydale Avenue.

We arrived at the destination station at 10:11 AM, right on time. The T-Third will eventually be extended a little bit further to the Bayshore CalTrain station, so this is one segment our group has to someday return to and ride!

Chapter 7.7: Muni T-Third, Sunnydale Avenue to Folsom

We returned inbound on another light rail vehicle. Our intended destination was Embarcadero, where we would be having lunch. However, at 11:30 we were "dumped" at the Folsom station when our operator told us that there was a power failure in the tunnel and they could not proceed further. We ended up with an unplanned but healthy walk back to Embarcadero Center.

Chapter 7.8: Lunch at Embarcadero Center

Lunch break at Embarcadero Center. We finally got to Embarcadero Center shortly before 12:00 Noon. The place was jumping, as this is a popular lunchtime spot amongst the downtown workers and tourists as well. We found a few adjacent outdoor tables, and then took turns getting our respective lunches. We decided to take our time, rather than trying to rush through the meal in order to get back on schedule. Since our day consisted of only transit riding, we had no scheduled commuter or intercity trains to catch today.

After utilizing our downtime to go to finish eating and use the rest rooms, we then reassembled and walked towards the California cable car.

Chapter 7.9: Muni California Cable Car, Drumm St. to Van Ness

Unlike the Powell cable cars, the California line uses double ended cars that don't have to turn around. So there are no turntables at the ends of this line.

Several cable cars in service on the steep California Street. We left from the Drumm Street station (really the Embarcadero area) at 1:00 PM, which meant that we were 16 minutes behind our own schedule. Mike Hammond, having anticipated these cable car rides for some time, enjoyed riding outside on the running board.

It was here that we really appreciated the advice we had gotten earlier about San Francisco's climate. While it was warm as one would expect in July at the Embarcadero, we could feel how cool it got when we were at the top of Nob Hill. Thankfully we had all heeded the advice and worn long pants and had brought jackets along.

We got to the end of the line at Van Ness Avenue at 1:16 PM. We stepped off the car briefly, and then reboarded to ensure we would get seats (and Mike a space on the opposite side running board) for the return trip.

Chapter 7.10: Muni California Cable Car, Van Ness to Drumm St.

Due to hilly nature of San Francisco’s streets, cable cars make their stops in the middle of the street intersections. After a ten minute layover we were on our way back towards Market Street. We arrived back there at 1:43 PM. We were still 16 minutes late according to the Fest itinerary.

On our way back downhill to the Embarcadero station area, we pass another California Street cable car. The next portion of our day would be spent finishing up the Muni Metro light rail lines. We made our way downstairs into the Embarcadero station in order to catch an M-Ocean View car.

Chapter 7.11: Muni M-Ocean View, Embarcadero to San Jose & Geneva (Balboa Park)

We had a rather long wait for the M-Ocean View. There was a lot of light rail traffic in the tunnel, but everything came but the route we wanted. Finally, we were on our way at 2:02 PM, now 29 minutes off our schedule.

This route took us back through the Twin Peaks Tunnel and for a while it also went the same way as the K-Ingleside route we had ridden earlier in the day (albeit in the opposite direction). It eventually split from that route and took a more southerly journey until it circled back to the area of Balboa Park. The M-Ocean View does not actually enter the Balboa Park in revenue service; it drops its remaining passengers off a block up the street at San Jose & Geneva, and they have to walk a distance to make connections.

I had absolutely no idea where we had to walk once we got off the light rail car at 2:44. Thankfully I spotted a walkway through a break in a fence near a street corner by the Balboa Park station, and we found ourselves in the right place to catch our next ride, a J-Church car.

Chapter 7.12: Muni J-Church, Balboa Park to Van Ness Station

The waiting area at Balboa Park for this line is a very narrow platform on a curve. If one stands too close to the track they risk being hit by a trolley. The locals surely are aware of this, but for us newcomers we found ourselves quickly stepping out of the way of passing vehicles.

"J" & "K" trolleys at Balboa Park station. We departed from Balboa Park at 2:55 PM. That put us 24 minutes off our itinerary. We rode this line to the Van Ness station under Market Street. We could have made our switch to the N-Judah line outdoors at Church & Duboce, but we would have missed the trackage through the Duboce Portal. Besides, changing on a subway platform is easier than detraining and boarding outside.

We ended up making our tightest connection of the day here at Van Ness. As our J-Church car pulled into the station, so did an outbound N-Judah car. We literally ran across the platform and all 13 of us successfully made the change.

Chapter 7.13: Muni N-Judah, Van Ness Station to Ocean Beach

The quick change of vehicles saved us seven minutes, but we were still 18 minutes behind our previously laid plans as we departed from Van Ness at 3:28.

The N-Judah line does not go through the Twin Peaks Tunnel, but it makes up for that by going through its own tunnel, the Sunset Tunnel.

At 4:00 PM, we arrived at the appropriately named Ocean Beach terminus. It was the only glimpse of the Pacific Ocean that many of us got. The final drop-off point is actually one block from the trolley loop. We had to walk over to the loop to board an inbound car.

Chapter 7.14: Muni N-Judah, Ocean Beach to Van Ness Station

At 4:05 PM, we were headed inbound once more. We still were 17 minutes later than originally planned.

Our destination downtown was once more the Van Ness station. There, we would board our next Muni Metro route, the L-Taraval.

Chapter 7.15: Muni L-Taraval, Van Ness Station to San Francisco Zoo

This time we had a six minute wait for our next vehicle. We boarded an L-Taraval car at 4:45 PM and were on our way west once more. This trip was crowded, so it was difficult to see the sights once we left the tunnels. Welcome to rush hour!

Our destination was the end of the line at the San Francisco Zoo. It took us exactly half an hour to get there. We arrived at 5:15 PM. There were no other cars at the layover point. Our operator did not make us get off since we had mentioned we were railfans and would be taking this trip back downtown. The layover ended up being only three minutes. At this station we were also pretty close to the Pacific Ocean, but not as close as the N-Judah line had brought us ten blocks to the north.

Chapter 7.16: Muni L-Taraval, San Francisco Zoo to Castro Station

Our final Muni Metro light rail ride left the Zoo at 5:18 PM. We were still about 16 minutes later than the itinerary called for, thanks to the midday power failure and resulting walk. This time we didn't go as far as Van Ness. All but one of us detrained at the Castro station in order to ride the entire surface streetcar line. John elected to remain onboard the L-Taraval car to Embarcadero so that he could visit restroom facilities in the Ferry Building. He would join up with us later. It turned out to be a very wise choice on his part.

In the Castro District, we missed this "F-Market & Wharves" streetcar in yellow Cincinnati livery due to the rest room break. Cream & green streetcar #1051 of local Muni heritage was our ride from Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf. A few other members of our group, upon reaching the surface at Castro, also had the need to take a potty break. They spotted a self-cleaning pay toilet along Market Street, and took some time to figure out how to operate it, and then they used it one by one. We missed riding a bright yellow Cincinnati streetcar, but we got a dark green Philadelphia one instead shortly after that.

Chapter 7.17: Muni F-Market & Wharves, 17th & Castro to Jones & Beach (Fisherman's Wharf)

It was 6:10 PM when we finally all got aboard the streetcar headed for Fisherman's Wharf. We were now 37 minutes behind our schedule.

Our group aboard the 1051 streetcar along Market Street. One could immediately see why Muni prefers to run its regular routes in the tunnel. The streetcars get stuck in rush hour traffic just like the other vehicles on Market Street. There is so much traffic that signal pre-emption probably would not work. A "proceed" trolley signal is useless when cars and buses are gridlocked ahead of the streetcar.

At about 6:50 we got to the Ferry Building, where John rejoined us. The trip lasted another ten minutes, until we all got off at the end of the line, Jones & Beach.

Now it was time to find dinner. After our very long day on the rails, we were hungry. We walked around a bit aimlessly for a while, not sure what the consensus of the group was. In the confusion we lost Skip and John, who elected to return early to their hotels and get their own respective dinners. The other eleven finally decided upon Nick's Lighthouse, which was primarily a seafood place but they had some steak and Italian items as well.

Chapter 7.18: Dinner at Nick's Lighthouse

Steve, Jishnu, Lou, Grace, & Alan enjoy dinner at Nick’s Lighthouse, their table overlooking San Francisco Bay. Eric, Mike, Lynn, Michael, Kevin, & HaRRy dining at Nick’s Lighthouse. Aside from being in front of a window forced to stare into the setting sun, and having eleven people crammed into two adjacent tables that more comfortably could have seated eight, the meal was great. We also were very grateful for HaRRy's surprise!

Continued in next section

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