1941 - A Bad Year for Cable Cars

by Joe Thompson

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1906 was a bad year for cable cars. Many of the cable car lines in San Francsico were destroyed by the earthquake which struck on 18-Apr-1906 and the subsequent fires. Later in the year, the Chicago cable car lines were all converted to electric traction.

1941 was also a bad year for cable cars. The world economy was starting to recover from the Great Depression and some transit companies took the opportunity to invest in buses. Also, bus manufacturers were coming out with more powerful models which could handle steep hills.

Pioneer Square Looking up James Street from Pioneer Square. Yesler Way is to the right. The iron pergola that served as the terminal of the James Street and Yesler Way lines is in the foreground. See a contemporary version of this image: July, 2010 visit to Seattle.

On 17-February-1941, Seattle's James Street cable car line was abandoned. Unlike the other Seattle cable lines, it was not replaced by buses.

car on 25.54 per cent grade -- San Francisco Fillmore Hill Counterbalance car. (Source: "Ascending Grades by Electric Force", by SL Foster, Street Railway Journal, June, 1896)

On 05-April-1941, the Market Street Railway ended service on three rail lines, the electric 24-16th and Divisadero, the Castro Cable and the Fillmore Hill Counterbalance. The next day all three were replaced by the new 24-Divisadero motor coach line.

Madison Street A Madison Street single-ended combination car approaches a waiting passenger at the corner of Madison Street and Second Avenue. See a contemporary version of this image: July, 2010 visit to Seattle.

On 14-April-1941, Seattle's Madison Street cable car line was replaced by buses.

Car 133 Market Street cable car 133 sits on Castro Street on 08-May-1941, waiting to be towed to the scrapper. Wayne Miller Collection. All rights reserved. December, 2006 Picture of the Month.

On 08-May-1941, the Market Street Railway scrapped car 133, the last Market Street cable car which survived in original condition. The company didn't have enough space to store after it closed the Castro Street car barn.

The rest of the 22-Fillmore line remained an electric streetcar line until 31-Jul-1948, when internal combustion-powered buses took over. Since 16-Jan-1949, the 22-Fillmore trolley bus line has covered the route. The blocks between Broadway and Green are too steep even for the trolley buses, which detour one block west to Steiner.

Seattle grip car Yesler Way grip car preserved at the Smithsonian Institution. Used with permission of the Smithsonian Institution. January, 1998 Picture of the Month.

On 10-August-1941, Seattle's first cable car line on Yesler Way was replaced by buses.

On 02-September-1941, Seattle's Queen Anne Hill counterbalance was replaced by buses.

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Last updated 01-April-2016