Secrets Of The City

The (Steam) Rolling Streets of San Francisco

Given the city’s building boom, the presence of big machinery on San Francisco streets is not remarkable. But this past Sunday, a seven-ton 1924 Buffalo Springfield coal-powered steamroller doing printmaking directly on the surface of Rhode Island Street in Potrero captivated hundreds of on-lookers.

Sponsored by San Francisco Center for the Book, this annual event – Roadworks – brings together local artists who hand carve heavy-gauge linoleum blocks up to 3×3 feet. Paper is laid down directly on Rhode Island Street, the blocks – dubbed Battleship Linoleum – are inked and covered by thick mats, and the whole paper-block sandwich is steamrolled in two passes. Roots of Motive Power, the steamroller’s operators, tooted the steamroller’s whistle every time a pass on the press was made.

Local artists and businesses were on hand for demonstrations of related crafts. We joined our friends from Bell’occhio to do live demonstrations of calligraphy.