Powell Street Turntable Replacement, 2002

by Joe Thompson

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Powell Street Turntable Replacement, 2002

The turntable installed at Powell and Market during the great reconstruction of 1982-1984 never worked very well. Crews complained about how hard it was to turn. Muni installed pipe handles on the turntable and stationed an extra man to help turn the car for the last few years. The old turntable was installed on 12-March-1984. According to the Chronicle, it was "manufactured in Oakland by Ocean Research and Engineering Co., weighs 10 tons and was brought over the Bay Bridge with an escort Sunday morning" (13-March-1984).

turn table 1 The 1984-1992 Powell/Market turntable. Note the pipe handles which made it easier to turn. Photo by Joe Thompson, December, 2001.

On 28-October-2002, Muni shut down the inner portion of the Powell Street lines to replace the turntable and do some other maintenance. I was able to walk by many days at lunchtime and see what was happening. Here are some notes I took.

  • 28-October-2002.

    Walking towards Powell and Market the first thing I noticed was a long line of anxious-looking people at the ticket kiosk. The poor ticket seller was trying to explain that they should go over to Ellis and get on a shuttle bus. There was no one else around to help the customers.

    The turntable area and the track area all the way to Ellis were surrounded by a high cyclone fence. I was happy to see that rhe fence was not draped. The wooden facing boards were off the turntable. The "Do Not Board Here" sign on the inbound side closer to Ellis was leaning at a sharp angle. Perhaps a construction vehicle hit it.

    The sign explaining the closure was inside the fence, on a pole near the start of the queue area.

    The 1984 Flyer shuttle bus (I forgot to write down the number) was full of people and very dirty on the outside. Cable car division operators are not trained on Muni's newer buses, so they were forced to use some elderly members of the reserve fleet.

    turn table 28-October-02 The 1984-1992 Powell/Market turntable with its facing boards removed. Photo by Joe Thompson, October, 2002.

  • 29-October-2002.

    turn table rider alert Muni rider alert. Photo by Joe Thompson, October, 2002.

    Things looked more organized on the second day.

    Two cable car division guys stood by the fence around the turntable handing out yellow cards labelled "CABLE CAR RIDER ALERT", with English text on the front and Chinese on the back. No Spanish? The cards explained that there are two phases to the project, the seond one coming in Spring, 2003.

    Rider Alert/English The English side of the Rider Alert card. Scan by Joe Thompson. Rider Alert/Chinese The Chinese side of the Rider Alert card. Scan by Joe Thompson.
    Rider Alert/Chinese
    The header of the Chinese side of the Rider Alert card. Scan by Joe Thompson. October, 2004 Picture of the Month.

    Thanks to Nick Kibre for explaining that the top two characters represent "cable car" as "string cart". I like that.

    There was still a good line in front of the ticket booth.

    The old turntable was gone. I could see the spindle and the rollers the table turned on. The cable passed around it to the terminal sheave under the sidewalk on the Market Street side.

    There were six city trucks parked in the fenced area, three with cherry pickers. The latter were for trimming the trees along the block between Market and Ellis.

    This day, there were signs on the fences directing people to the bus at Ellis.

    Two Muni guys stood outside the bus talking to people. 4599 was waiting for people. I later saw 4668 pull around the corner from Stockton. The buses looked a little cleaner than the one I saw yesterday.

    turn table 29-October-02 The turntable pit showing the spindle and the rollers. The sheave which suppresses the cable under the turntable mechanism is visible in the background. Photo by Joe Thompson, October, 2002.

  • 30-October-2002.

    I saw two shuttle buses climbing Powell, but didn't get numbers. An article in today's Chronicle remarked that they have a bad time getting up the hill, especially when they have to stop for lights.

    One Muni guy was standing by the shuttle (4671) waiting at Ellis.

    A guy was using a jackhammer around the concrete base in the center of the turntable pit. The article mentioned that the "new $500,000 turntable will have an extra set of ball bearings, to make turning easier. In addition, workers will strengthen the support beams and the depression beams, which keep the cable taut, beneath Powell Street".

  • 31-October-2002.

    There was one Muni guy by the turntable. No one at Ellis.

    All the hardware was off of the concrete base in the turntable pit, except some standing bolts.

    I caught shuttle bus 4667 and rode it up to Jackson. People were standing. The bus strained, especially going from Pine to California.

    A crew was working on the depression beam at Pine. As I walked back, another crew was setting up at Post. I also saw 4668 and 4669 on the shuttle.

  • 05-November-2002.

    There was no line at the kiosk, and there were no Muni people handing out fliers.

    The turntable pit was empty except for two ladders. The sheave above the outbound cable was either replaced or had been painted yellow (!). The bit of visible cable looked as if it was getting rusty.

    I rode 4511 on the shuttle up to Jackson. The bus did not fill up, which was fortunate because it seemed to have trouble shifting on the hill, especially between Bush and Pine. I also saw 4671.

    There was work going on the on the depression beam at Pine. The tower at Powell and California was closed.

    I walked across Powell up the street on the Saturday before and saw work going on near the turntable area.

  • 12-November-2002.

    The hatches over the terminal sheave were open.

    There was either new rail around the turntable pit, or they cleaned or replaced the bolts holding it.

    There was a crane next to the pit with a line attached to a big round grey thing, which looked as if it would support the turntable and the rollers when installed. On the concrete base in the pit, the bolts around the edge had yellow extensions (pipes?) on them.

    There was one Muni guy near the turntable.

    I saw 4650 on the shuttle. Looking up the hill, it appeared they were working on the depression beam at Bush.

  • 14-November-2002

    The round grey metal thing I saw on 12-November-2002 was in place on top of the concrete base in the turntable pit. There were two shiny metal rings, stainless steel-looking and about four-five feet across, on the ground. I was not sure where they would go. The hatch over the turntable latch was closed and the wire used to pull the latch protruded through it.

    No Muni people were around the turntable, but a Burns guard by the kiosk was giving directions to a tourist.

    It looked as if the bricks which had been grooved by a car or cars running off of the table had been pulled up.

    I saw 4620 on the shuttle.

  • 18-November-2002

    turn table 18-November-02 The new Powell/Market turntable just after it was installed. Photo by Joe Thompson, November, 2002. November, 2002 Picture of the Month.

    The new turntable was in place, 18-Nov-02. A guy was standing between the girders welding items that stood upright. Perhaps to attach the wood facing? The whole thing was white.

    Another guy was grinding the inbound rails and checking their alignment with the rails on the turntable.

    The sheave pit was open.

    I saw 4658 on the shuttle. There was work going on on the outbound tracks at Bush.

  • 20-November-2002

    Muni people were doing the woodwork around the new turntable. There was a big pile of lumber and a tablesaw by the turntable. Between the girders of the turntable, they had installed metal grates, which are apparently removable, I guess to allow access to the pit. They were adding wood along the edges of the tracks, around the circumference of the turntable, and in a radial fashion between the grates. I don't remember seeing wood on the old turntable when they removed the facing boards.

    I saw 4558 on the shuttle, and work going on up at Pine.

  • 21-November-2002

    turn table 21-November-02 The new Powell/Market turntable with half its facing boards installed. Photo by Joe Thompson, November, 2002.

    The facing boards were on half the turntable and between the slot and the rails on one side. The facing is unfinished redwood.

    The new pipe handles for pushing had been installed. I was hoping the table would turn easily enough that the handles would not be necessary.

    One guy was cutting away the bricks around the turntable.

    turn table 21-November-02 Another view of the new Powell/Market turntable with half its facing boards installed. Photo by Joe Thompson, November, 2002.

  • 23-November-2002

    I didn't get to go this day, but an article in the Chronicle reported that the cars were back in service four days ahead of schedule.

  • 26-November-2002

    turn table 26-November-02 The new Powell/Market turntable completed. Photo by Joe Thompson, November, 2002.

    The line of tourists was on the short side.

    I watched cars 14 & 21 go through, and the new turntable seemed to turn more easily. 14's crew didn't get the car quite all the way onto the turntable, and had to get off and push. I don't know if that had anything to do with track alignment, or was just the result of being out of practice.

    As I walked up Powell, the cable sounded quieter to me, but it was a purely subjective impression.

    The cars looked nice and clean.

    car 14 26-November-02 Car 14 being pushed after it stopped short while coasting onto the new Powell/Market turntable. Photo by Joe Thompson, November, 2002.

The Bay and Taylor turntable, terminal of the Powell/Mason line, was replaced in September/October 2004.

For more about turntables, see my article Turning the Cars

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Last updated 01-Oct-2004