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
1996 -- The Cable Car Home Page - 20 Years -- 2016

November, 2016 was the 20th anniversary of this website.
I wish I had written down the date I started it.

Read "It Was 20 Years Ago Today," an article about where I have been and where I am going with the site.

The Cable Car Home Page

Cal Cable 42
2019 Muni Heritage Weekend

The 2019 Muni Heritage Weekend was held on September 7 and 8.
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.
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 Car

Blue and red toy plastic cable cars. They have friction motors on the rear wheels and a bell in the open section. I received them for Christmas, 2018. See more collectible items on my Cable Car Kitsch page. See toys, magazine ads, and other new items.

Table of Contents


Rey Morante Remembered - 05-October-2019

Cable car conductor Rey Morante was hit by a motorcycle on 11-June-2015 near the Bay and Taylor terminal of the Powell-Mason line. Morante was in a coma until he died on 12-January-2016. Powell Street cable car 17 will be dedicated to his memory.

Cable Cars Return From Outage September 23, 2019 - 23-September-2019

from the SF MTA:

"The Heart of Cable Car Propulsion

"Today, we are happy to announce the return of all Cable Car service. Over the past ten days, we performed an assortment of upgrades to our Cable Car system. The largest and most complex, being the replacement of the Hyde Line gearbox.

"The gearbox is basically a transmission that transfers power via a 600 volt DC motor, in turn, driving the pulleys carrying the cable. Those cables then loop through the city so the cable cars can be powered through the streets of San Francisco.

"The gearboxes have been in place since 1984 and their life expectancy was at an end. For the past two years we have been changing out the gearboxes and the Hyde Line gearbox was the last to be installed. The gearbox that was removed will be rebuilt and kept as a spare."

Cable Car Outage September 13-23, 2019 - 01-September-2019

Gearbox replacement

"SFMTA @sfmta_muni Aug 29

"HeadsUp: Starting Friday, 9/13, and lasting about 10 days bus shuttles will provide service on ALL cable car lines. This svc adjustment is needed to continue our Gearbox Rehab Project. Regular bus fare will apply. For further details:

Cable Car Outage August 29, 2019 - 29-August-2019

"SFMTA @sfmta_muni Aug 29

"UPDATE: Power restored and all cable car lines are resuming service. Bus shuttles will remain temporarily to support svc.

"SFMTA @sfmta_muni 7h "ATTN: All cable car lines currently disabled due to reported system power outage. Arranging shuttles to support the Hyde, Mason and California lines."

Bus Shuttles Substitute for California Cable Cars: Weekend of August 24-25, 2019 - 01-September-2019


"Bus shuttles will substitute the California Cable Car for the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, August 24-25, 2019."

Bus Shuttles Substitute for California Cable Cars: Weekend of August 24-25, 2019

Sacramento/Clay Car 19 - Taking It to the Streets - 26-July-2019

Sacramento/Clay Car 19 Former Sacramento/Clay Car 19, in storage at the Washington/Mason car barn. December 2003. Photo by Joe Thompson. August, 2020 Picture of the Month.

Gripman Val Lupiz operated Sacramento/Clay car 19 over the California Street line. This was the first time the car had operated under cable traction since the Sacramento/Clay line was abandoned in 1942.

Ten-Day Bus Substitution for Cable Car Lines on Powell and Mason Starting May 2, 2019 - 01-May-2019


"SFMTA @sfmta_muni Apr 29

"Reminder: Starting this Thursday the Powell Mason Line will be down for 10 days for gearbox rehab work. Bus shuttles will run btwn Powell/Ellis & Taylor/Francisco. IB Hyde cars will switchback at Washington/Powell (the bus/cable car transfer point)."

Bus Shuttles Substitute Powell and Mason Cable Cars

Podcast: Not Your Century -- 1957: Failed the Bus Driver Test? Try Cable Cars - 24-April-2019

Not Your Century

King Kaufman has published an interesting podcast, "Not Your Century -- 1957: Failed the Bus Driver Test? Try Cable Cars." He used some of my recordings of the bell ringing contests for background sounds.
Not Your Century -- 1957: Failed the Bus Driver Test? Try Cable Cars

San Francisco History Days, 2019 - 01-03-March-2019

2019 History Expo

The annual San Francisco History Days at the Old Mint returns on March 01-03, 2019.

Valentines Day in San Francisco, 2019 - 14-February-2019


Thank you to @SF Cable Car for sharing this cable car Valentine.

Fallen Tree on Hyde Street - 16-January-2019

There was a storm with high winds on this day.

SFMTA @sfmta_muni

UPDATE: Delay on Hyde btwn Broadway and Pacific has cleared. Hyde Cable Car Line is resuming service.

Verified account

ATTN: Powell Hyde Cable Car Line is blocked btwn Broadway and Pacific by a downed tree.

SFMTA Cal Cable Replacement - 10-January-2019

SFMTA @sfmta_muni

UPDATE: Delay at California and Sansome has cleared. California Cable Car Line is resuming service.
SFMTA added,

Verified account

ATTN: IB California Cable Car Line delayed at Sansome due to a mechanical issue.

SFMTA Cal Cable Replacement - 09-January-2019

SFMTA @sfmta_muni

ATTN: Due to electrical issue w/ cable motor, Powell-Mason CC Line svc will be provided by bus shuttles today (1/9).

SFMTA Cal Cable Replacement - 08-January-2019

SFMTA @sfmta_muni

ATTN: Cable Cars at the terminals have begun the process of pulling back into the barn.

SFMTA New Year's Eve Service - 31-December-2018

Bus Substitutions

Service on the F Market & Wharves historic streetcar line is provided by buses all day
Service on the Cable Cars is provided by buses after approximately 6 p.m.

SFMTA Season's Greetings - 21-December-2018

sfmta Christmas

Holiday greetings and transit information from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).

The Big Event: Cable Car - 16-November-2018

San Francisco Chronicle reporters Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub, who earlier this year rode every Muni line in one day, interviewed Val Lupiz, Frank Zepeda and Jeremy Whiteman for a podcast.

Listen to it here.

East Cliff Railway in Bournemouth to Remain Closed - 16-November-2018

The Bournemouth Borough Council said it did not have the money to repair the East Cliff Lift, so it will remain closed. It was damaged by a landslide on 24-April-2016.

Cable Car Movie Shown on Salesforce Tower - 06-December-2018

Trip Down Market #6
The Sutter Street horse car is seen next to two outbound Market Street cable cars.

A newly restored version of the 1906 film "A Trip Down Market Street" was projected on the top floors of the new tallest building in San Francisco, the Salesforce Tower on 06- and 07-December-2018.

Cable Cars Pull In/Cable Car Museum Closed - 15-November-2018

The cable cars were ordered to puill in this afternoon because of unhealthy air quality caused by the Camp Fire in Butte County. The Cable Car Museum at Washington and Mason also closed today. The cable cars returned to service on Tuesday, November 20.

Cal Band Rides a Cable Car - 14-November-2018

The Cal Band was in San Francisco to promote the Big Game. They rode Blue and Gold Car 16.

Masks for Cable Car Crews - 11-November-2018

Because of the dangerous level of smoke from the tragic Camp Fire in Butte County, the SFMTA issued masks to cable car crews.

Powell/Mason Bus Substitution - 21-30-September-2018

Announcement from the SFMTA:

Mason Cable Car Bus Substitution: September 21-30, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018 - 10:00pm to Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 2:00am
Neighborhoods Affected
North Beach Russian Hill
Route(s) Affected
Powell/Mason Cable Car
Stops Affected
Taylor St & Francisco St (#16646)
Service Affected
Weekend Traffic and Transit Advisory

As part of the Cable Car Gearbox Rehabilitation Project, the Powell/Mason Cable Car will be temporarily replaced by a free shuttle bus. The shuttle bus will serve stops north of Washington. Transfer between the Powell/Hyde line and the Mason Shuttle Bus at Washington & Powell. In North Beach, the first stop is a temporary stop at Taylor & Francisco.
Though the Mason Shuttle Bus is free, regular Cable Car fares apply to the Powell/Hyde line.

"Collecting cable car fares an uphill struggle" - 16-September-2018

An article in today's San francisco Chronicle says that auditors who rode San Francisco cable cars were not asked to pay 25% of the time. The article did not mention that a conductor's primary responsibility is safety.

2018 Muni Heritage Weekend - 08/09-September-2018

Newly rebuilt Powell Street car 23 and California Street Car 56 ran for the first time in revenue service, and restored O'Farrell/Jones/Hyde car 43 made its first revenue trips sincwe 1954 on the outer part of the Hyde Street line during Muni's Annual Heritage Weekend.

Dunedin Cable Tram Revival - 22-August-2018


Dunedin website Thanks to Mac Gardner for letting me know about the website of the Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust and the High Street Cable Car Society, who are advancing a project with four steps to revive cable traction in Dunedin, New Zealand. Their website rolled out in August, 2018.

I am happy that the Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust and the High Street Cable Car Society are advancing in the quest to restore part of the Mornington Tramway.

Mornington 111 Mornington Tramway restored trailer 111 being loaded on to a truck trailer for the trip to Dunedin (source: "Dunedin on the Up With Return of Historic Cable Cars,", 07-Jun-2018).

Providence Conduit Discovered - 24-July-2018

Providence Conduit Thanks to Bob Vennerbeck for sharing this photo of a conduit once used by the Providence Cable Tramway and/or the counterbalance that replaced the line on College Hill. All rights reserved.

Bob Vennerbeck let me know that he was walking around the College Hill district of Providence, Rhode Island when he was hailed by a crew

"Yesterday, I was hailed by a crew working on replacement water mains under College Street at Benefit Street - 'You're the historian - you know anything about these brick foundations under the street?'

"It seems they had unearthed a parallel pair of low brick walls about 2' high, with a smooth concrete slab about 3' wide between them, forming a U-shaped channel under the length of the street. The tops of the walls were about 2' below modern grade, and after the backfill was removed, a series of metal 'chairs' were found embedded either side of the slab, with bits of heavily greased mounting bolts scattered nearby."

I agreed with Bob that this was the channel that the counterbalance's counterweight ran through or the cable conduit of the Providence Cable Tramway.

Thank you to Bob for letting me present this find.

2018 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest Has Been Cancelled in Part - Updated 01-August-2018

The 2018 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest has been cancelled in part because the people of the Cable Car Division are protesting the SFMTA cutting late night hours on the California Street line.

I asked the SFMTA about the contest and got this response:
Dear Mr. Thompson,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding a date for the next Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. Unfortunately, we will not have a traditional bell ringing contest this year. Instead, we will be hosting some elements of the bell ringing event as part of Muni Heritage Weekend September 8-9. This event will activate the plaza area at Don Chee Way in front of the Market Street Railway Museum. We hope to return to the traditional event next year.


Muni Customer Service

I asked the SFMTA and got this response:
Communications and Marketing

Dunedin Cable Tram Revival - 01-July-2018


Dunedin museum Thanks to Mac Gardner, here is a future view of the temporary museum being built near the former terminal of Dunedin's Mornington Line. It will display two cable trams and a trailer. All rights reserved. July, 2018 Picture of the Month.

This is an update of an article originally published in 2016. Thank you to Mac Gardner for providing the information.

The Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust and the High Street Cable Car Society are advancing a project with four steps to revive cable traction in Dunedin, New Zealand, the first and last city outside of San Francisco to have Hallidie-type cable car lines.

Step one is to build an Interim Cable Car Building in Mornington Park. This temporary museum would house two Dunedin cable trams and a trailer, the trailer from the Mornington Tramway and Two trams from the Roslyn Tramway. One of the Roslyn trams will be restored onsite. There will be tracks that extend outside so people can view one of the trams and climb on it. The work started in October, 2017.

The remaining steps would build a 1.5km line on the High Street with a terminal and powerhouse in the park. Original cable trams would be used as rolling stock.

An article from the 31-October-2016 Otago Daily Times.

I wish great success to the Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust and the High Street Cable Car Society.

News Archive

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2019 Anniversaries

150 years ago - 1869
Jul 03 - Charles T Harvey tested his West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway in New York City
May 10 - The Last Spike ceremony celebrated the joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific rails at Promontory Point, Utah, marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the US

125 years ago - 1894
Jan 06 - San Francisco's Market Street Railway assigned sixteen former Howard Street Omnibus cars to McAllister line for the Midwinter Fair.
Jan 27 - San Francisco's California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 opened in Golden Gate Park.
Feb 11 - Manhattan's Third Avenue Railroad extended its Third Avenue line.
Feb 19 - San Francisco's Market Street Railway extended the Sacramento-Clay line from Walnut Street via Lake and 6th Avenue to D Street (Fulton) Golden Gate Park for the Midwinter Fair.
Feb 26 - San Francisco's Market Street Railway extended the Powell-Jackson and Ferries-Jackson lines to Golden Gate Park via the extended Sacramento-Clay line on Sundays and holidays for the Midwinter Fair.
May 16 - The Cable Tramway Company of Omaha converted to electric traction.
Jul 02 - San Francisco granted Adolph Sutro a franchise for the Sutro Railroad, which would connect Central Avenue with the Cliff House area, breaking the Market Street Railway's monopoly.
Jul 04 - San Francisco's California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 closed with San Francisco Day.
Jul 04 - San Francisco's Market Street Railway stopped extending the Powell-Jackson and Ferries-Jackson lines to Golden Gate Park via the extended Sacramento-Clay line on Sundays and hoidays.
Sep 19 - A cable tramway begam running between King and Ocean Streets, Sydney, Australia.
Dec 04 - A Southern Pacific local train crossing Broadway struck a cable car of the Oakland Cable Railway, killing 22 year old teacher Miss Mae Coates.
Dec 06 - Manhattan's Metropolitan Street Railway opened its Columbus Avenue line.

New York Giants record: 88-44, 2nd place. Manager: Monte Ward.

100 years ago - 1919
Jan 09 - The Los Angeles and Mount Washington Railway, a funicular, was abandoned.
Jul 01 - The Edinburgh Corporation took over operation of the city's tramways and soon began to convert the cable lines to electric traction.

New York Giants record: 71-53, 2nd place. Manager: John McGraw.

75 years ago - 1944
Aug 15 - In San Francisco, Paramount premiered the movie I Love a Soldier, starring Paulette Goddard and Sonny Tufts. The movie had largely been shot in the city

New York Giants record: 55-98, 8th place. Manager: Mel Ott.

50 years ago - 1969
Mar 22 - Lynda Johnson, President Lyndon Baines Johnson's daughter, was ordered off a cable car because she was eating an ice cream cone.
May 18 - Angels Flight in Los Angeles closed. It returned at a different location in 1996.

San Francisco Giants record: 88-74, 2nd place. Manager: Herman Franks.

25 years ago - 1994
Sep 15 - New Powell car No. 4 was placed into revenue service after a public welcoming ceremony at the Powell and Market turntable.

San Francisco Giants record: 103-59, 2nd place. Manager: Dusty Baker. Winning 100 and finishing second made for a frustrating year.

Anniversaries Archive

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What's New

What's New Archive

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Ten and Twenty Years Ago

Ten Years Ago

Twenty Years Ago

  • 01-Nov-1999
    • Picture of the Month: Mount Washington, Los Angeles
    • Roll out Los Angeles area funiculars/Los Angeles and Mount Washington Railway on the Other California Cities page
    • Add Fillmore Hill counterbalance postcard to the SF page
    • Add news item and bibliography item about a collision at Washington and Taylor
  • 01-Oct-1999
    • Picture of the Month: Powell and Mason, 1880's
    • Roll out More Ferries and Cliff House Pictures page
    • Roll out Los Angeles area funiculars/Court Flight and Catalina on the Other California Cities page
    • Add news item and bibliography item about a loose strand
    • Add RR Extra to links
    • Updated SF Roster page
  • 01-Sep-1999
    • Picture of the Month: Angel's Flight.
    • Roll out Los Angeles area funiculars/Angel's Flight on the Other California Cities page
    • Add link to new site from the Friends of the Cable Car Museum
    • Add cable car sudden stop to news & bibliography

Ten and Twenty Years Ago Archive

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This page has been referenced  many times since 01-March-2015.

Copyright 1996-2019 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-November-2019