There’s a rumble to San Francisco’s F cars that has a special place in our hearts.
We would ride those antique streetcars downtown, on our way to drinks and dinner in the Castro on Friday nights, feeling that rumble travel straight from the tracks to our ribs. Wooden seats would rattle; bells would ring; and, on long, slow curves, first-timers would whoop and laugh with every sway of those almost century-old cars.
Riding history — literally
There is nothing so welcoming as an orange F car, stamped Milan, Italy when you visit San Francisco, one of the few places in the world where you can literally ride history in a city.
Built in 1928 by Ohio designer Peter Witts, this style was copied in Milan, then cars returned full circle here, joining a collection of 50 restored trams, trolleys and streetcars.
San Francisco boasts that it has “one of the most diverse collections of vintage streetcars, trams and trolleys in transit.” That’s critical — these last-century cars are still in operation, through the non-profit Market Street Railway, and not grounded in some museum or junked.
You cannot ride a San Francisco streetcar without meeting visitors from other countries. Some are streetcar fanatics; some just enjoy the novelty of riding an historic, once-public vehicle for the same price — or less — of a public bus.
There are usually about 20 of the museum-quality cars on the streets any day. As many as 20,000 people line up daily just to ride one. Even locals commute on the F line.
The F line takes travelers along some of the most popular parts of San Francisco, including Fisherman’s Wharf, downtown and SoMa.
These “museums in motion” come to San Francisco from Japan, Australia, Europe, Canada and Mexico. Interest in these cars is so high that people from all over the world track their movements online. Want to see where the beautiful blue No. 1053 from Brooklyn is right now? Or the cool No. 1078 from San Diego? Follow the F cars.
NEXT: When San Francisco’s streetcars were “near death”