By STEVE DREYER APRIL 23, 2019 2:40 PM
A fundraising drive has been launched to get the Poway Midland Railroad’s authentic 1906 San Francisco cable car back into service.
The goal is to have a new set of wheels custom made at a shop in Pennsylvania at an estimated cost of $56,000. The nonprofit running the railroad can only cover about half that cost, generating this week’s appeal for funds.
The car was acquired by the city in 1997 and restored and modified though thousands of hours of work by railroad volunteers. It made its first appearance in Old Poway Park in April 2012. Drive train problems shelved it for several more years before returning to service in 2015.
“The old wheels malfunctioned last year and we have been diligently researching replacement options,” said Chuck Cross, president of the Poway Midland Railroad Volunteers. “The city has no money budgeted for this project and while we have funds in the bank, the amount needed is difficult for us to cover. We are announcing a fundraising campaign to get the wheels replaced and are asking our friends in the community to help us.”
Cross said if the public appeal raises $28,000, the order can be placed for the needed parts.
The “No. 17” The cable car was one of 45 cars in the California Street Cable Railroad fleet and was used on a 12-mile section of California Street, between Market Street and Presidio Avenue until being retired in 1954.
After being retired, the cable car was one of six acquired by Knott’s Berry Farm and used as a parking lot shuttle until 1977. Four of the cars were returned to San Francisco, one went to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris and No. 17 was purchased by San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System.
The plans were to use it on MTS’ Old Town line, but it turned out that the car’s wheels didn’t match the track and the car ended up rotting in a MTS lot for 20 years. The car was going to be thrown away until the Poway-Midland Railroad officials approached and said they wanted it.
“There is no other San Francisco cable car operational outside of the San Francisco system and we are very proud of this survivor of the 1906 earthquake and fire,” Cross said. “She has been very popular with the riding public as well as the occasional wedding party.”
The Poway Midland Railroad Volunteers is a nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law, Cross said. Checks made out to the group may be mailed to P.O. Box 1244, Poway, CA 92074. A Go Fund Me internet campaign is also in the works, Cross said.