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San Francisco Municipal Railway 178

San Francisco Municipal Railway car 178 San Francisco Municipal Railway car 178 Karl Johnson

Municipal Railway Car 178


San Francisco Municipal Railway is a double-end, double-truck, arch-roof streetcar known as a “box car” or “iron monster.”


The Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company of San Francisco built car 178 in 1923 for the San Francisco Municipal Railway. It spent its entire career working on the streets of San Francisco for the MUNI. This car was known as a “K type”. The MUNI had 213 of this style of car built by five different builders between 1912 and 1928. The cars of this style are the “A” type, cars 1 to 20, built by Holman Car Company; “A” type, cars 21 to 43, built by Union Iron works; “B” type, cars 44 to 168, built by the Jewett Car Company; “K” type, cars 169 to 189, built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company; and “L” type, cars 190 to 213, built by the St Louis Car Company. These cars were originally painted gray with red trim. Car 178 was equipped with Eclipse finders when it was new. In 1938 the MUNI changed to a blue and yellow paint scheme. At this time a fixed wire mesh panel to the right of the motorman was replaced with a glazed window. MUNI 178 is currently painted in the green and cream “wings” color scheme that was the last paint scheme used on this car.

The car originally had a wire mesh air-operated gate on right side of the platform and a pantograph gate on the left side. This was, of course, opposite on the rear platform. Inside the pantograph gate there was an oak bench that folded down and provided seating for four more passengers. When this bench was folded up, it folded down a step just outside the pantograph gate. After World War II, on cars 150 to 213, MUNI put air-operated folding doors replacing the pantograph gates. The door-equipped cars were considered safer and were used on the routes with tunnels. These doors were obtained from scrapped former Market Street Railway 800 series one-man cars. In 1949 MUNI purchased used Life Guard style pilots from the Key System, which was removing them from cars being scrapped in the East Bay. These Life Guards replaced the Eclipse finders.

These cars were always operated by a two-man crew. Passengers entered at the rear and paid their fare to the conductor before moving forward. The pantograph gate, and later the air doors, were normally left open for the passengers to enter. They were closed when operating through the tunnels. The passengers left by the front air operated gate that was controlled by the motorman. As originally built the car was designed for the San Francisco climate with no doors on the platforms and fixed windows. The weather was expected to never get extremely hot or cold. The car operated in San Francisco until 1958 when it was replaced by PCC cars. It was acquired by the Museum in February 1959. It was moved to Marysville, Ca. where it was kept on Sacramento Northern property and run on excursions on SN track. It was moved to the Museum in August 1964. Five of this style car has been preserved. They are cars 1, 130, 162, 171, and 178. Car 178 is the only car that still retains the air doors.

  • Vintage Photo: Vintage Photo
  • Vintage Caption: BAERA 18782
  • Owners: San Francisco Municipal Railway 178
  • Technical Data: Heavy steel streetcar. Built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Works in San Francisco in 1923. Seats 44 passengers, one operator. Weight, 51,000 pounds.
  • Trucks: Standard O-50. Wheels, 33” wrought steel. Axle. Journals, 4 1/4 X 8 plain bearing. Traction motors, 4-65 horsepower @ 600 VDC, outside hung.
  • Air Brake Equipment: Westinghouse Traction Brake, SM3. Motorman’s valve, PV-1. Emergency valve, H-2. Brake cylinder, 12 X 12. Governor, S16. Air compressor, Westinghouse Air Brake DH-16.
  • Dimensions: Width, 9’ 2”. Length over buffers, 47’ 4”. Height, 12’ 2”. Truck centers, 20’ 10”. Truck wheelbase, 58”.
  • Propulsion Equipment: Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing, type HL. Master controller, 15B. Switch group, 480 unit switch. Traction motors, 306CV. Control switch, 494-B. Control resistor, 197-J. Power resistors, 8” 3 point.
  • Misc Data: Trolley shoe, Ohio Brass form J6. Trolley base, US-20. Trolley catcher, Ideal made by The Trolley Supply Company of Canton, Ohio. Bell, single stroke.
  • Current Condition: This car is complete, operational, and in excellent condition. It was acquired out of revenue service by the Association and had been maintained in good condition since then.
  • Proposed Future Treatment: Maintain in current condition.
  • Date Last Modified: Thursday, 05 May 2011


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