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Last of Muni’s 1980’s-era clunker trains will be scrapped

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A Muni light rail vehicle from the 1980s is seen at the Cameron Beach Yard in San Francisco, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

If it runs on rails in San Francisco, it might be immortal.

The City’s famous cable cars, for instance, continue to ferry tourists 143 years after they first clicked and clacked.

And the 1930s-50s era Presidential Conference Committee streetcars still traverse the F-Market & Wharves line – running on Market as other streetcars have since before 1912, the birth of Muni.

But that’s not the fate for Muni’s (once) iconically orange, Boeing-Vertol light rail vehicles, which were constructed in 1979 and a staple of transit life in San Francisco’s 1980’s and 1990’s. No afterlife seems in store for cars 1264 and 1320.

The last two Boeings in the fleet are now on track for the scrap heap.

According to its historical page on these LRV’s, Boeing-Vertol started construction on these vehicles in 1973. And what was then known as the San Francisco Municipal Railway received 100.

Their first regular Muni runs began in 1979.

They broke down as often as they ran. The doors stuck, the siding rusted. Rick Laubscher, head of Market Street Railway, was blunt about their failures:

“[The LRVs] were filled with unreliable and now extinct early generation electronic components,” he said. “Muni management hated them for their unreliability.”

These trains were key in the agency’s now infamous 1990’s “Muni meltdown,” he said, when the entire system came to a halt.

The front page of that afternoon’s San Francisco Examiner read, “Muni hell on Wheels.”

Laubscher’s organization, which also runs a museum, partners with SFMTA to restore historical streetcars, which run on the F-Line.

When asked if the Boeings could run on the F-Line as well, Rose said no, because “the Boeings didn’t run particularly well when they were in regular service.”

Muni started retiring these clunkers in 1995, and its last Boeing light rail vehicles left service at the end of 2001. Two of these were sent to museums, according to Boeing: the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Museum near Salem, Oregon, and the Western Railway Museum near Fairfield.

Two others were stored in Muni railway yards, with hopes that museums would pick them up. No one did, Rose said.

Next week they’ll be scrapped.

If anyone’s interested in two rusty old light rail vehicles without a home, the SFMTA will give them away for free, Rose said. The catch is, you have to pay to have them hauled away – and you also need somewhere to keep them.

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The interior of a MUNI light rail vehicle from the 1980s currently housed at the Cameron Beach Yard in San Francisco, Calif. Wednesday, March 30, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

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  • Zippster

    I used to love graffitiing these trains!

  • lunartree

    Just in time to send our current ones out too!

  • Henry

    Upvote this if you want to see these cars remain.

  • I am surprised the Western Railway Museum wouldn’t want them for parts on their current one.

  • Howard Greenbrown

    I lived on Chattanooga & 24th in 1980-81 and remember how cool it was when those trains first came online. It was around the same time they opened the underground on Market Street. The N-Judah came up the hill from 30th & Church with the fluorescent lights shining out the windows at night–stop in front of the donut shop at 24 Street & then continue over through Dolores Park.