IF: you observe a bus/streetcar stop in San Francisco, AND
- A large number of people have waited a long time for a ride, AND
- A streetcar finally arrives at the stop, AND
- None of the people who have waited a long time board the streetcar, AND
- The Muni operators have to tell them that it’s open to the public, and they can ride, THEN
- You just caught a fleeting glimpse of San Francisco’s rarest vintage streetcar, the Blackpool.
The photograph below, taken along the Embarcadero, will show you why.
Yes. It’s a topless streetcar. Needless to say, it doesn’t run in winter. Because of its rarity, the Blackpool (more info here, well worth the detour) never fails to surprise native San Franciscans, let alone visitors. When it arrives at a stop, people often don’t board it because they just figure it must be some special private car for some special private event; therefore the operators have to tell them that they can in fact get on board. And boy, do we ever. I can’t be the only person who has changed a weekend schedule simply to get a ride on this extraordinary vehicle.
Although the Blackpool hails from Blackpool, England (constructed 1934), it truly belongs in San Francisco. The car rumbles smoothly up and down the Embarcadero, feeling rather like one of the ferries on the San Francisco Bay during very calm weather. The smell of salt water, the fog rolling in from west, the wind in your face, all these combine to give riders the feeling that they are sailing upon a true land yacht. The Blackpool also travels with surprising speed; you don’t have more than a few seconds to grab a fleeting photo of the fleetly fleeing vehicle. Rarely used, rarely seen; you have to grab your chance to grab a ride, even if that had not been part of your plans.
Vonn Scott Bair