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.
Table of Contents
How to Ride Cable Cars - 30-May-2013
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) released the revised version of its site this day. It includes a page on "How to Ride Cable Cars." It gives some good advice, particularly "Follow the Crew's Instructions."
Cable Cars Named One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Mass Transit - 30-May-2013
An article by Amy L entitled "Cable Cars Named One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Mass Transit" appeared on the blog of
The Law Offices of Nelson C Barry III. Despite the title, which seems inflammatory, the article takes an even-handed
approach. I give them credit for allowing me to present the other side. I pointed out that:
I did not ask them to call me "one of the world’s foremost leading experts on the past and present of cable cars."
Secret San Francisco - 14-May-2013
I went to the Balboa Theater for the first presentation of "Secret San Francisco", a collection of short films about San Francisco put together and presented by Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher of the Western Neighborhoods Project. They encouraged audience participation. The show started late because it was sold out and there was a line out the door waiting to get in at 6:30pm. The first part was a trivia quiz with prizes. Then they showed several short movies and clips from movies. I had seen some, like the films of Sutro Baths burning, but I had not seen many of the others. The audience was fascinated by the Playland films. The auction after it closed was sad. The demolition of the Fox Theater depressed everyone. Blackie the Wonder Horse, who swam the Golden Gate towing Shorty Roberts of Roberts-at-the-Beach cheered everyone up.
There were many views of cable cars. Woody LaBounty made a comment that we were going to be seeing lots of Powell and Market. Amoung the scenes was a nice overhead shot from the 1930s. I remember when people would jump on the car while it was on the turntable. There were also views of California Street cable cars and one shot of a Sacramento/Clay car.
It was a wonderful show and I was happy when they announced at the end that they were going to repeat it because of the great demand.
Vampire Cable Cars - 24-April-2013
The San Francisco Weekly published Joe Eskenazi's article Running of the Bull: Cable Cars Are Trundling Money Away From the Transit You Actually Use. Eskenazi, inspired by a recent Associated Press article on how much cable cars cost the city in accident-related damage awards, says that they cost the cities in other ways. He feels that the Municipal Transportation Agency, which is always low on funds, should not be forced to subsidize the cable cars, which are mostly used by visitors, the same way it subsidizes other bus and rail services which are mostly used by working San Franciscans. He says "Maintaining cable cars for city tourists while struggling to provide core transit service is a bit like polishing the heirloom china for the guests while sending the kids to school with no shoes. But no amount of cold-hearted empirical analysis will sever city residents' emotional attachment to the cable cars. (It would also take a citywide election to scrap the cars.)"
Perhaps the cable cars should receive more funding from other sources. Perhaps the Municipal Transportation Agency should, too.
San Francisco History Expo #3 - 02-March-2013
I attended the third annual San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint. There was a good crowd. There were some new exhibitors this year, including ThinkWalks. It was nice to meet with Joel Pomerantz in person.
At the Cable Car Museum display, I had nice chats with José Godoy and with Don Holmgren and Mike Phipps, co-authors of the excellent book Watermusic in the Track. The exhibit included models, pieces of cable, photos and the world's largest cable car bell, created by José 's dad, Gilberto Godoy. I heard Mike Phipps talk about "The Geary Street, Park and Ocean Cable Car Company, 1880-1912: The Premier Line of the New Municipal Railway."
At the Western Neighborhoods Project display, I talked to Woody LaBounty and got to meet David Gallagher. I'm looking forward to Woody's new book about Ingleside Terrace.
The Market Street Railway had a huge exhibit where I met retired Muni inspector Art Curtis, whom I have corresponded with for years.
There was an auction which involved placing tickets in boxes on the tables of various exhibitors. I won second place from the Presidio Historical Association, a one-year membership. I am looking forward to it.
Wells Fargo, which sponsored the expo, had a nice exhibit.
Water Main Break Cable Car - 20-February-2013
An early morning water main break at Filbert and Mason delayed Powell/Mason service till noon.
Cable Car Accident - 06-February-2013
Powell Street car 25, outbound on the Powell-Hyde line between Washington and Jackson hit a large bolt apparently jammed in the slot or the conduit. This caused the car to stop suddenly, injuring seven people, including both crew members. Service was stopped for about 3 1/2 hours. Preliminary findings indicate that the bolt came from a hatch in the conduit.
Cal Cable Inner Terminal Surrounded
I was walking along Market Street one day this week and I noticed that I could barely see the California Street cable car terminal at California and Drumm. It was surrounded by board and plastic fencing. I think the crews are doing sewer work.
Model: Wurlington Bros Press Cable Car - 18-January-2013
The Wurlington Bros Press produces a series of postcards which can be cut and folded to produce models of landmarks and vehicles. One of their models represents California Street cable car 60. Another is a BART car. Their site is worth a visit.
BART Cable Shuttle to the Oakland Airport - 02-January-2013
Articles in various sources reported on the erection of columns along Hegenberger Road which will support the 3.2 mile automated people mover (APM) which will shuttle passengers from the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART Station to the Oakland Airport. The APM will use Doppelmayr's CABLE Liner Shuttle system. The system is currently used on the CLS MGM CityCenter Shuttle in Las Vegas and in other cities. The CABLE Liner Shuttle uses an endless cable and an automatic grip in each car which allows the cars to stop and start at the stations.
Book: Watermusic in the Track by Mike Phipps and Don Holmgren - 29-December-2012
The Friends of the Cable Car Museum have published a new book, Watermusic in the Track by Mike Phipps and Don Holmgren. The authors have done an excellent job of explaining the history of the cable cars and how they fit into the broader history of San Francisco, and how cable cars work. The diagrams which illustrate the lines of the various companies and how various aspects of the technology work are really excellent. You can order the book on the Friends website.
The title comes from an Al Tolf cartoon.
Cable Car 26 Dedicated - 14-November-2012
As part of Muni's 100th anniversary celebration, Powell Street car 26, built in 1890 by the Ferries & Cliff House Railway, was dedicated when it returned to service after a thorough renovation. I was stuck at work.
Cable Car Clothiers Moved - 16-October-2012
Cable Car Clothiers has opened in its new location on Sutter Street.
No No No No No - 14-October-2012
Fox announcer Joe Buck worked the 49 game against the New York Giants at Candlestick Park (the 49ers lost) and then the San Francisco Giants' National League Championship Series game against the Saint Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park (the Giants lost). He rode a motorized cable car between the gigs. Fox showed an overhead view of the car making slow progress and an idiot in the studio called it a "trolley bus." No No No No No.
2012 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest - 06-September-2012
The 49th annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest ended in an unprecedented tie. A ring-off between defending champion Leonard Oats and Trini Whittaker resulted in Trini Whittaker taking the title.
Cable Car Clothiers Moving - 31-August-2012
I spotted a sign saying that Cable Car Clothiers was having a moving sale. The store was leaving its location at Bush and Sansome to return to Sutter Street. I went in and bought a wonderful cap for 30% off.
Icons of San Francisco - 11-March-2012
I stopped by the Hyatt Regency on my way to give a walking tour and I found a series of exhibits in the lobby. Icons of San Francisco, on display from 19-January-2012 through 31-March-2012 included a Beach Blanket Babylon hat, a section on the 160th anniversary of Ghiradelli Chocolates, and a reproduction of a California Street cable car from the San Francisco MTA. The exhibit included photos, text and samples of cable.
Testing Car 26 - 04-February-2012
Powell Street car 21 was temporarily decorated with New York Giants pennants and signs. Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco had made a bet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York on the result of the NFL National Conference championship game played at Candlestick Park on 22-January-2012. If the 49ers had won, 49th Street in Manhattan would have been temporarily renamed "49ers Street". The New York Giants won 20-17, so cable car 21, which was already in a close approximation of New York's red and blue colors, got decorated.
Testing Car 26 - 18-January-2012
Newly rebuilt Powell Street car 26 made a test run this morning. The car is painted in Muni's 1950s green and cream livery.
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225 years ago - 1788
150 years ago - 1863
125 years ago - 1888
New York Giants record: 84-47, 1st place. Manager: James Mutrie. The Giants defeated the American Association champion Saint Louis Browns in the post season Temple Cup series.
100 years ago - 1913
New York Giants record: 101-51, 1st place. Manager: John McGraw. The Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series 4 games to 1.
75 years ago - 1938
New York Giants record: 83-67, 3rd place. Manager: Bill Terry.
50 years ago - 1963
San Francisco Giants record: 88-74, 3rd place. Manager: Alvin Dark.
25 years ago - 1988
San Francisco Giants record: 83-79, 4th place. Manager: Roger Craig.
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Last updated 01-June-2013