Did you know that a historic streetcar in San Francisco bears the design scheme of the old Birmingham Electric Streetcar line in The Magic City? We took a look at the history of streetcars in Birmingham to learn more.
A History of Streetcars in The Magic City
During the late 19th century, dozens of streetcar lines popped up in cities across the country as an early form of public transport. In fact, America’s first citywide streetcar route, the Lightning Route, was established in Montgomery in 1886. In cities like Birmingham, streetcars allowed residents to expand outside of the city, in what were referred to as “streetcar suburbs“. Birmingham had several streetcar suburbs, including:
- East Lake
- Forest Park
- And more!
Since streetcars ran on electricity, most streetcar fleets were owned by the local power & utility companies. In Birmingham, that was the Birmingham Railway & Electric Company. For decades, streetcars ferried Birminghamians back and forth from their homes to work and life in the city.
Eventually, streetcar lines declined in popularity while personal automobiles and public buses became more commonplace. By 1953, the last remnants of Birmingham’s streetcar fleet were sold to the Toronto Transit Commission in Canada and replaced by buses. Over the next few decades, most streetcar rails in Birmingham were paved over.
In the mid 2000s, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford proposed a “Heritage Streetcar Line”, aiming to bring back streetcars to The Magic City—however, the idea was never realized.
What is a Birmingham Electric Streetcar doing in San Francisco?
San Francisco’s iconic cablecar fleets make up one of the world’s last cable car systems. In addition to the city’s main cablecar fleet, San Francisco operates several “heritage streetcar” lines. These fleets are made up of historic streetcars—some from San Francisco and others from around the country.
One heritage streetcar line, F Market & Wharves, pays homage to Birmingham’s streetcar history with Muni F-Line Streetcar 1077. Although the 74-year-old Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcar is not originally from Birmingham, F Market & Wharves have designed it to resemble the classic Birmingham design.
Currently, the F Market & Wharves line is closed due to COVID-19—but be sure to keep an eye out for Muni F-Line Streetcar 1077 if you ever visit San Francisco!