The Cable Car Home Page

The Cable Car Home Page

by Joe Thompson

The Cable Car Home Page

I want to use this site to share my knowledge about and interest in cable cars (also known as cable tramways). I want to keep it simple. I welcome input from any source, especially about cable cars in cities other than San Francisco. I hope to build this page up gradually as time permits. I welcome information, photographs, and suggestions.

Where Should I Go from Here? Visit the Map

The Cable Car Home Page 25 Years
1996 -- The Cable Car Home Page - 25 Years -- 2021

November, 2021 was the 25th anniversary of this website.
I wish I had written down the date I started it. That is pretty darn old for a website.

The Cable Car Home Page 25 Years

San Francisco's Octopus
Hand Colored Transit Images
Presented by Emiliano Echeverria

Thanks to Emiliano Echeverria for letting me present a series of photos that were hand-colored by Charles Smallwood

San Francisco's Octopus

Cal Cable 42
2022 Muni Heritage Weekend

The 2022 Muni Heritage Weekend was held on Saturday-Sunday, 04- 05-June-2022.
Cal Cable 62

Bell Ringing Contest
Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest

Byron Cobb won the 2019 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest on Thursday, October 10 at Noon in Union Square. This was his eighth victory.

The 2020 and 2021 contests have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. #TrumpVirus

Bell Ringing Contest

Tales From the Grip

Tales From the Grip
10 Years 2003-2013:
"Maybelle the Cable Car"

I am proud to be the host of gripman Val Lupiz's column: Tales From the Grip.

Special Update, December 2011: Maybelle the Cable Car.

Tales From the Grip

San Francisco's Octopus
San Francisco's Transportation Octopus, the Market Street Railway of 1893

San Francisco's Transportation Octopus, the Market Street Railway of 1893, a new book by Emiliano Echeverria, Michael Dolgushkin and Walter Rice, is now available as an Ebook on a DVD. I have written a small review.

San Francisco's Octopus

San Francisco Cable Cars

San Francisco Cable Cars

You will enjoy Strephon Taylor's new documentary San Francisco Cable Cars: "At over 140 years old, the San Francisco Cable Cars are a moving monument, a snapshot of nearly lost technology, a romance story, and the very heart of the City."

Read my Review.

Read about or see some other Cable Car Videos.

The Feel of the Rope
The Feel of the Rope
Reflections on Life at the San Francisco Cable Car Division

I can highly recommend Nick Tomizawa's dvd The Feel of the Rope: "a tribute to the men and women that carry on a San Francisco tradition that has continued for over 130 years. Through the words of employees past and present representing two generations of operators, managers, maintainers, trainers, and car builders, you will get an insider's look at what makes the cable cars the most unique transit system in the world."

Read my Review.

Read about or see some other Cable Car Videos.

The Feel of the Rope

Book Cover
Of Cables and Grips:
The Cable Cars of San Francisco
Second Edition

by Robert Callwell & Walter E. Rice, Ph.D.

The second edition of Of Cables and Grips: The Cable Cars of San Francisco -- not yet available in a print-and-paper book format -- is available on this web site.
Book Cover

Toy Cable Cars The "Two Classic Streetcars" set contains a New Orleans Perley Thomas electric streetcar and Powell/Mason car 4. I received them for Christmas, 2021. See more collectible items on my Cable Car Kitsch page. See toys, magazine ads, and other new items.

Table of Contents


COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-December-2022

COVID-19 infections are rising, along with infections from the flu and RSV. Some people say we are experiencing a "Tripledemic".

I had surgery in November and I am still recuperating. I hope I can return to teaching in January.

The Giants had a strange situation, pulling out of signing a free agent the day they were supposed to close the deal. There was concern after his physical. He made a deal with the Mets. People lambasted the Giants for their stupidity, but the Mets, concerned about his health, have not signed him, either.

Ukraine continues to fight the Russian agressors.

Cable Car Service Cancelled - 31-December-2022

Cable Car Service Limited
Due to a night and day of heavy rain which caused flooding in many places, cable cars were supposed to be supplemented by buses all day on New Year's Eve. Despite the MTA notice above, all cable car service was cancelled for the day. The Cal Cable line is usually shut down in the evening of New Year's Eve.

Cable Car Cleanup - 17-December-2022

Cable Car Cleanup
The Cable Car Cleanup neatened streets near the cable car lines. If I was not still recuperating, I would have gone.

Taking a Break - 09-December-2022

While recovering from an operation and dealing with a death in the family, I am taking a short break.

A Big Fat Family Christmas - 02-December-2022

Val Lupiz
Our friend gripman Val Lupiz made his film debut with a speaking role in one of these ubiquitous Hallmark Christmas movies, A Big Fat Family Christmas. I thought Val's performance was very natural, and I enjoyed the movie more than I thought I would. Most made-for-television movies that are set in San Francisco shoot most of their exteriors in Vancouver. This movie had scenes shot in different parts of the city. The film also starred Shannon Chan, Kent Shannon Kook and Tia Carrere. It was directed by Jennifer Liao.

A Big Fat Family Christmas/Hyde Street
Val was gripping on Car 16, decorated early for Christmas.

A Big Fat Family Christmas/ad

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-October-2022

COVID-19 infections are down, but new sub-variants are on their way.

I had two more procedures this month looking for a potential solution for my shortness of breath. I hope to have an operation in November. 

 I was supposed to start teaching again at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica, but first we have to fix my medical problem. 

It is nice to see Dusty Baker's Astros in the World Series. I keep thinking of them as a National League team.

Ukraine is holding its own. Putin keeps threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons. 

75th Anniversary of Saving the Cable Cars - 26-October-2022

Save the Cable Cars

On Wednesday, 26-October-2022, Muni, the Market Street Railway and the San Francisco MTA held a ceremony to honor "women, led by Friedel Klussmann, who kept the Powell cable cars on track in 1947, and celebrating women's civic leadership today.

Mayor London Breed and other civic leaders boarded a cable car at Powell and Market and rode it to Hyde and Beach to rededicate the turntable to Friedel Klussmann. Learn more about her leadership in saving the cable cars in 1947 in Walter Rice and Val Lupiz's article The Cable Car Lady & the Mayor.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 30-September-2022

COVID-19 infections are down, but some people are still being hospitalized with complications.

I had two procedures this month looking for the cause and potential solution of my shortness of breath.

I was supposed to start teaching again at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica, but first we have to fix my medical problem.

The Giants are out of it, but they have brought up some interesting players. The team might be able to make it to .500.

Ukraine launched a counter-offensive and the Russian army is in disarray. Putin has called up the reserves and may institute conscription. Some people in Russia are protesting.

Gerry Graham, RIP - 06-September-2022

Gerry Graham
I was sad to learn of the death of Gerry Graham, Chairman of the Board of The Friends of the Cable Car Museum. He did much to preserve and present our history.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-August-2022

covid statistics August 2022

I see fewer people wearing masks, even in crowded places like baseball games. The general trends of cases, deaths, hospitalization seem to be going down.

The Giants have gotten some of their injured players back, but are still performing unevenly.

I am getting ready to start teaching again at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica.

I am having trouble with shortness of breath. I'm seeing the doctor next week.

pray for Ukraine

It has been six months since Russia started its war against Ukraine. This must be deeply humiliating for Putin and his helpers. He is looking at using 100,000 mercenaries from North Korea.

Fred Lyon, RIP - 22-August-2022

Fred Lyon photo
Cable car conductor on a foggy day, 1950s. (c) Fred Lyon

Fred Lyon, one of the best San Francisco photographers, has died. Among the circles in which I travel, he was particularly well known for his transit photos. Thank you to Fred Lyons and his wife for publishing so many photos in recent years.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-July-2022

The highly contagious BA 4 and BA 5 subvariants of the COVID-19 Omicron variant are driving up infections and hospitalization. BART has resumed its mask requirement. 

The Giants, who have had many injuries, were swept in a road trip to Los Angeles and Arizona, but won the first home game against the Cubs. 

Church attendance may be picking up. 

The new pandemic is MonkeyPox.

Ukraine continues to fight the Russian invasion. The invasion helped Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 30-June-2022

Some sources say that variants of the COVID-19 Omicron variant could potentially infect everyone in the Bay Area. Some extended care places are reimposing lockdowns.

Attendance may be going up a bit at mass.

The Giants are struggling.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-May-2022

covid statistics May 2022

We are in the midst of another COVID-19 surge. Three family members have tested positive this week.

The US passed one million covid deaths.

The Giants have had a bad stretch in May.

I received my second Pfizer booster shot.

Val Lupiz Makes the News - 30-May-2022

Gripman Val Lupiz was the subject of a story by Joe Rosato, Jr that aired on NBC Bay Area: Filipino-Japanese Cable Car Gripman Has a Grip on San Francisco's History. The story was part of a series about Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month. Val talks about the origin of his love for cable cars and about his reviving the art of decorating cable cars for special events. This year he has decorated a car for AAPI Heritage Month.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 30-April-2022

There is a new rise in TrumpVirus infections, but most counties and many public transit agencies in California have lifted their mask mandates.

Good Shepherd Church in Pacifica is stopping mass in the gym, the radio broadcast and the livestream.

I subbed for two full days at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica.

The Giants are doing well even though they have lost a bunch of people to injuries and Covid.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-March-2022

covid statistics Jan 2022

A new TrumpVirus variant is spreading in other countries. Most California counties have lifted their mask mandates. At Good Shepherd Church, they removed the signs that limited people to every other pew. At the school, masks for students were made optional.

The lockout was settled, but Spring Training began late and the season will begin one week later than planned. At Good Shepherd Church, they removed the signs that limited people to every other pew.

we are with Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has lasted longer than a month. Russian advances have ceased, but war crimes have continued.

Charles Gertsbacher, RIP - 31-March-2022

I was sad to learn about the death of former conductor Charles Gertsbacher on 08-February-2022.

On 12-Aug-1984, gripman Ray McCann and conductor Charles Gertsbacher were taking a full load of passengers up the Hyde Street hill when a suicidal driver drove down the wrong side of the street at high speed and hit the cable car head-on. McCann was knocked off his feet and the car rolled backwards down the hill. Gertsbacher fought through the crowd of passengers and found McCann dazed and bleeding on the floor. Together, they pulled the emergency brake and stopped the car. The driver died, but many others would have, too, had it not been for the heroic action of the gripman and conductor. They both received medals from the US Department of Transportation.

McCann and Gertsbacher both reported to the car barn the next morning despite their injuries. They continued to work together for many years.

Cable Car Outage - 29-March-2022

An equipmment problem shut down the whole system in the morning. The Powell/Mason line remained down all day.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 28-February-2022

covid statistics Jan 2022

The Omicron variant of the TrumpVirus appears to have peaked. Most of the counties in California are revising their mask mandates.

The baseball owners have locked out the players, so Spring Training has been delayed.

I Stand With Ukraine

Russia has invaded Ukraine. I hope President Putin has made a big mistake.

Congratulations to Catrena Brown - 18-February-2022

Catrena Brown became only the fourth woman to operate the grip on a cable car. I wish her a safe and happy career.

Car 8 Rebuild Completed - 10-February-2022

Powell Street car 8, originally built in 1893-4 by Carter Brothers and rebuilt in 1958, was again rebuilt from 2018 to 2021. Testing of the refurbished car began in February.

Talk About Cable Cars - 02-February-2022

cable car thank you notes
Thank you notes from the Sixth Grade class at Good Shepherd School. Very well done. March, 2022 Picture of the Month.

As part of Catholic Schools Week, Good Shepherd School in Pacifica had a Friends of Good Shepherd day. They asked parents and other members of the community to talk about jobs, life experiences and hobbies. I spoke to the Sixth Grade about the history of public transit in San Francisco and about cable cars. The kids asked good questions.

The next day I was surprised to receive thank you notes with many wonderful drawings of cable cars.

Cars Decorated for Black History Month - 31-January-2022

This year for, the first time, two Powell Street cars were decorated to celebrate Black History Month.

Cars Decorated for Lunar New Year - 31-January-2022

Val Lupiz and his generous crew decorated Powell Street cars 11 and 16 and California Street car 49 to celebrate Chinese New Year. 49 was also decorated to celebrate the Forty-Niners making it to the conference championship game.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-January-2022

covid statistics Jan 2022

The Omicron variant of the TrumpVirus is the main source of infection in the United States. The hospitalization and death rates seem to have peaked. Most of the deaths are occurring with people who were not inoculated. I had my first COVID-19 test. Negative.

One Sunday we went to mass by watching the 11am live stream.

I have been teaching coding to my wife's Third Graders at Good Shepherd School as a volunteer. In January, I started teaching coding to grades 2 and 4.

The major league owners have locked out the players.
Barry Bonds was on the regular Hall of Fame ballot for the last time. He was rejected again.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-January-2022

covid statistics

The Omicron variant of the TrumpVirus rapidly became the major source of infection in the United States. The hospitalization and death rates are spiking. Most of the deaths are occurring with people who were not inoculated.

We had 5pm Christmas Eve mass in the gym. On the day after, we went to mass by watching the 11am live stream.

I have been teaching coding to my wife's Third Graders at Good Shepherd School as a volunteer. In the new year, I will be teaching coding to Kindergarten through Fourth.

Barry Bonds is on the regular Hall of Fame ballot for the last time.

2023 Anniversaries

175 years ago - 1848
Jan 24 - James Marshall discovered gold in the run of Sutter's Mill near Coloma, CA. This led to the Gold Rush, which shaped the future of California and San Francisco.
Feb 02 - The treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican War and formally ceded California to the United States
Dec 05 - President James K Polk formally told the US Congress about gold in California

150 years ago - 1873 150 years ago - 1873
Jun 02 - Andrew S Hallidie broke ground for the Clay Street Hill Cable Railroad
Aug 02 - The Clay Street Hill Cable Railroad made its first test run
Sep 01 - The Clay Street Hill Cable Railroad started revenue service

125 years ago - 1898
Feb 01 - The Mount Adams & Eden Park RailwayMount Adams & Eden Park Railway/a> (Cincinatti, OH) closed
Feb 15 - US battleship Maine blew up in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. The incident, which may have been an accident, triggered the Spanish American War
Apr 21 - US Congress declared war on Spain
May 01 - Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish cruiser squadron at Manila, PI
May 25 - The Washington and Georgetown Railroad's Seventh Street line closed. Electric rails for the conduit electric cars had been laid while the cable cars were running.
Jun 31 - The Saint Paul City Railway's Selby Street line closed. It was replaced by a counterbalance, which helped electrics up and down the Selby Street hill. The counterbalance was replaced 10-Oct-1906 by a tunnel.
Jul 01 - The Battle of San Juan Hill, which made Teddy Roosevelt's reputation
Jul 03 - The US fleet destroyed Admiral Pascual Cervera's Spanish squadron at Santiago de Cuba
Sep 16 - The Vine Street Cable Railway (Cincinnati, OH) closed
Nov 01 - The Metropolitan Street Railway (Kansas City, MO) closed its 5th Street-Wyandotte line
Nov 01 - The Brooklyn Elevated Railway (New York, NY) began running its trains across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, using the New York & Brooklyn Bridge's cable line.
Dec 10 - The Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War
? - The current Ferry Building opened at the foot of Market Street - The current Ferry Building opened at the foot of Market Street

New York Giants record: 77-73, 7th place. Managers: Bill Joice, Cap Anson (22 games), Bill Joice again.

100 years ago - 1923
Aug 01 - The City of Glasgow takes ownership of the cable-operated Glasgow District Subway

New York Giants record: 93-61, 1st place. Manager: John McGraw. Defeated New York Yankees 4-0-1 for the second straight year.

75 years ago - 1948
Jan 15 - Carl Hubbell, great Giants pitcher, was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Jun 11 - Mel Ott made his last appearance as a player for the Giants.

New York Giants record: 81-73, 4th place. Manager: Mel Ott. The team had terrible pitching, but was known as "the Windowbreakers" because of their power. They hit 55 home runs in July. They hit 221 for the season.

50 years ago - 1973 50 years ago - 1973
May 11 - The Giants traded Willy Mays to the Mets.

San Francisco Giants record: 81-73, 5th place. Manager: Charlie Fox.

25 years ago - 1998 25 years ago - 1998

San Francisco Giants record: 90-72, 1st place. Manager: Dusty Baker. Won National League West. E816

Anniversaries Archive

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What's New

  • 01-January-2023
    • Picture of the Month: Last Cable Ride -- When the first Madison street cable car started up Madison 50 years ago, one of the passengers was Mrs. George Heilbron, whose husband was one of the founders of the line. And on the last trip Sunday Mrs. Heilbron rode again. She is talking to Col. C. D. Mills, general manager of the transit system, ahe aged cable car sways along the tracks to the barn. Today gasoline buses operated up and down the hill. (Source: Seattle Star, 15-April-1940, page 11)
    • On the Cable Cars in the Pacific Northwest page: More pictures and information about Seattle cable cars, including newspaper accounts of the closing of three lines in 1940. Aside from the lines in San Francisco, these were the last three Hallidie-type cable car lines in the United States.
    • On the Decorated Cable Cars page: Cable cars decorated for Christmas 2022.
    • Added News item about the Cable Car Cleanup
    • Archived October 2022 What's New, 2022 Anniversaries, and July-December 2021 News items.
  • 01-December-2022
  • 01-November-2022
    • Picture of the Month: The voting machine entry for Proposition 10, which required the city to keep the Powell Street cable car lines operating, despite the wishes of Mayor Roger Lapham. On the Cable Car Lines in San Francisco page: A new article about San Francisco Proposition 10, 1947, which required the city to continue to operate the Powell Street cable car lines. Also see The Cable Car Lady & the Mayor by Walter Rice and Val Lupiz an article about the epic battle between Mrs Friedel Klussmann and Mayor Roger Lapham.
    • Add News items about the 75th anniversary of the first Save the Cable Cars movement.
    • Archived August 2022 What's New

What's New Archive

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Ten and Twenty Years Ago

Ten Years Ago

Twenty Years Ago

Ten and Twenty Years Ago Archive

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Copyright 1996-2022 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-November-2022