A chance encounter on the ‘old 55-Sacramento’


This is one to tell your grandkids. Muni rider Davy sent us the following:

So, as I‘m getting on the bus today and attempting to scan my Clipper card on the bus’s meter by the back stairwell, the bus driver decides to gun it up the hill, and I suddenly find myself holding onto the metal grab rail for life, completely sideways, my whole upper half now almost completely in the lap of a white-haired 80ish lady in a leopard-print overcoat who’s sitting in the seat facing me. Her lipstick is very red. Somehow I am able to maintain my equilibrium and rectify the situation with some major coaxing and deft calibration of my person, and soon am sitting quite comfortably in the seat next to the elderly lady. In a strange, low voice she says (I’m not sure at first to whom it’s directed), “San Francisco used to have a county fair.”

I look at her. “…um…what?”

Her teeth are stained with lipstick and her white hair is slicked straight back. “San Francisco used to have a county fair.”


“This bus line was called the 55-Sacramento back then. And they used to have an event called ‘Surfing The 55.’ You would’ve been a star.”


I haven’t felt this good about myself in a long, long while.

San Francisco history, old, retired Muni lines, strangers sharing stories with each other … more of this, please. Thanks for sharing, Davy!

Photo by Marc Tarlock


  • Dexter Wong

    There was nothing like watching a 55 bus climb the hill between Stockton St. and Powell St. It would start out at a normal speed but slow to a crawl as it reached Powell St. The engine would be going all out but the bus would be barely moving. Usually it would make it to the top of Nob Hill and coast down to Polk St. at the bottom. But sometimes if the engine was overworked, the bus would go no farther and people would have to wait for the next bus to get to their destination. All of that ended in 1981 when the line was converted to trolley bus, which has no trouble climbing hills. Later that same year the 55 became part of the 1 line, where it still is.

    • eugenia

      Just as 90% of us wondered: which line used to be the 55? You come to the rescue with the answer! 🙂 Thanks Dexter!

  • Bus Driver

    The 55-16th Street is the new 55.

    • heyokayo

      I used to ride the 55 sacramento in the late 70s to early 80s. Almost every time, all the passengers would have to get off the bus at Powell, walk up the hill, and get back on the bus. It could not make it up the hill with any passengers at all. It was so nice when they made it electric.

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