San Francisco is home to a fleet of colorful historic streetcars. They run on Market Street and the Embarcadero, as the F and E lines. We got the question “What is the oldest running streetcar in San Francisco?” KALW Audio Academy Fellow Magnolia McKay found the answer.
The answer is car number 578, a tiny, yellow streetcar from 1896 called Dinky.
“We call it the Dinky because it’s little. And when you ride it, it bounces a little bit,” says Alison Cant of Market Street Railway, a non-profit that preserves historic transit in San Francisco. While most of the vintage streetcars can seat 60 — Dinky has half that capacity. It’s made of wood and painted mustard yellow.
“It was built here in San Francisco by Hammond Builders. And up until 1906, it was in passenger service.”
After the big earthquake, Dinky was put to work. For decades, it went out in the early morning to release sand on the rails so passenger streetcars would have better traction. Then, in 1956, it was restored by Muni shopmen. And it’s been a show car ever since.
Because of its age, Dinky’s not in regular service. But we took a fun-sized trip out of the yard where it lives, surrounded by doting Muni drivers like Robert Parks. He says, “It’s a beautiful car. It’s a lot of fun to drive. It’s a thrill to drive. And I love to have it out.”
You can see Dinky once a year when it comes out for Muni Heritage Day each September.