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

cshrr Clay and Kearny
The Birth of the Cable Car - 150 Years

August and September 2023 will mark the 150th anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the birth of cable traction on the Clay Street Hill Railroad We see an image looking west on Clay Street at the terminal of the Clay Street Hill Railroad. One part of a stereoscope view.. (Image Source: OpenSFHistory / wnp24.224a.jpg).
cshrr Clay and Kearny

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
2023 Muni Heritage Weekend

The 2023 Muni Heritage Weekend wifll be held on Saturday-Sunday, 23-24-September-2023.
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.

Update 01-May-2023:

In honor of the 150th anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the birth of cable traction, there will be two special showings on 17-June-2023 at San Francisco's historic Four-Star Theater, which opened in 1912. Strephon will be there in person.

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 Toy cable car 504 with has uncommon free-standing figures. In this front three-quarter view, we get a view of the two seated ladies in short skirts on the left-hand bench. See more collectible items on my Cable Car Kitsch page. See toys, magazine ads, and other new items.

Table of Contents


COVID-19 Continues - 01-November-2023

My wife and I have been beset by bad coughs, so we have not yet gotten our new COVID-19 boosters. We hope to get our flu shots at the same time.

The Giants signed Bob Melvin as their new manager. I remember when he played for the Giants. He was very good when he managed the Athletics. Working for a team that pays people in money rather than hot dogs should be even better. 

Bruce Bochy's Texas Rangers beat Dusty Baker's Houston Astros in the ALCS. Dusty Baker announced his retirement. Texas and Arizona played in the World Series. 

We went without a Speaker of the House for most of the month. The guy they chose voted against certifying the election and is a Trump cultist. 

We have been able to use the computer lab at Good Shepherd and it is working well. 

There are reports that Russian troops in Ukraine are performing acts of insubordination..

Millbrae Earthquake - 27-October-2023

Millbrae earthquake

A roughly 4.0 earthquake near San Francisco International Airport (SFO) caused Muni to pause all rail lines, including the cable cars so the staff could make a safety check.

Cable Car/Auto Collision - 10-October-2023

Powell Street car 28 was going down Washington Street when the gripman noticed a Tesla stopped in the intersection at Taylor. The gripman had to use the emergency brake, which drops a guillotine-like blade into the slot. The car stopped abruptly and six passengers wound up in the hospital. More than one story I have seen said the conductor applied the emergency brake. Not likely. (Source: KPIX News)

COVID-19 Continues - 01-October-2023

COVID-19 is on the rise again. A new vaccine is available. I have been wearing my mask more outside of the house.

The Ukrainian offensive is making progress. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to the US to address the UN General Assembly. Many Republicans are taking Putin's side, calling for an end to aid.

The Giants struggled along to the end of the season. They remained in contention for a wildcard spot for a surprisingly long time. Manager Gabe Kaplan got fired with three games to go. 

They moved the tabernacle at Good Shepherd Church. I have been teaching at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica, but they tore the floor out of the computer lab and redid it. When that was done, they redid the walkway outside. When all of that was done, the Scholastic Book Fair took over the room for a week. 

Senator Dianne Feinstein, RIP - 29-September-2023

Mayor Feinstein on cable car Senator Dianne Feinstein riding on a California Street cable car (Source: Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein). October, 2023 Picture of the Month.

Senator Dianne Feinstein died on 29-September-2023. She was mayor of San Francisco during the Great Reconstruction of 1983-84. Without Mayor Feinstein pushing the project, we might have lost the cable cars. She also helped to create Muni's F-line.

She was President of the Board of Supervisors and became mayor when Dan White murdered Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. She did a lot to help San Francisco recover from the tragedy.

Later she became California's first woman Senator. She wielded immense power as a member of the Judiciary Committee. In her last year or so, before she died on 29-September-2023, she suffered from many health problems. People called for her to resign, but I knew she wouldn't. I had been aware of her since I was in grade school.

Her aunt lived across the street from my parents' house.

Mayor Feinstein memorial

San Francisco's Trolley Titan - 01-September-2023

San Francisco's Trolley Titan

San Francisco's Trolley Titan, United Railroads of San Francisco, a new book by Emiliano Echeverria with Walter Rice, and Michael Dolgushkin with Paul Trimble, is now available as an Ebook on a DVD. I'm looking forward to reading it.

This is a follow-on to Emiliano Echeverria and Michael Dolgushkin's previous book, San Francisco's Transportation Octopus, the Market Street Railway of 1893.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-September-2023

The Giants' wheels have fallen off. They played a game wearing San Francisco Sea Lions replica jerseys. I had to explain to my wife why they had a picture of a bear. They put clubhouse manager Mike Murphy on the Wall of Fame.
COVID-19 is rising. More people are wearing masks.

I started the new school year. This year I am teaching technology to K and coding to 1-3. I am also doing yard duty with K.

Ukraine made an attack on Crimea. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group mercenaries, probably died in a plance crash. This may have been retaliation for his brief rebellion against Putin.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-August-2023
The Giants had a ten-game win streak and then fell apart after the All Star break. 

Reports say that COVID-19 is on the rise again in hospitals and senior housing.

I have been preparing for the new school year. 

Much of the nation is suffering under enormous heat. 

Ukraine's offensive seems to be going slowly. Russia damaged the Orthodox cathedral in Odesa.

Tony Bennett, RIP - 21-July-2023

Tony Bennett has died. My condolences to his family and his friends. Here is a sheet music cover for "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by George Cory and Douglass Cross. At one time I was very tired of this song, but I've always loved Tony Bennet.

Today's Market Street Railway has suggested naming a California Street cable car after Bennett. He first performed "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" at the Fairmont Hotel at California and Mason.

Ferry Building 125 - 13-July-2023

In July, 2023 San Francisco's Ferry Building began celebrating its 125th anniversary. I took the photo in 2015 when the clock tower was decorated to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. 

Engineer Howard C Holmes designed the Ferries and Cliff House Railway's cable car lines and later became Chief Engineer of the State Board of Harbor Commissioners. He built the Ferry Building and many of the piers in San Francisco. I took this photo in 2013.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-July-2023

In June the New York Times cleverly hid its covid statistics behind the paywall. I had a terrible cold but a covid test was negative.

The Giants had a ten-game win streak and reached second place in the division. They have brought up several good players.

We reached the end of the school year. The license for the software we were to use had expired. I had the kids use an implementation of TurtleGraphics written in Scratch. The principal took us to lunch at Nick's. 

Ukraine's offensive appears to be moving well. 

Cable Car Sesquicentennial Events - updated 01-August-2023

Ongoing events include:

  • For the first time ever: Public tours of the Cable Car Carpentry Shop in Dogpatch. Every first Friday from May through November. Free, but don't wait to reserve your tickets. They are going like a runaway cable car on the Hyde Street hill.
  • Starting 06-May-2023: Historic car 19 (Sacramento/Clay line) will run on California Street on Saturdays until the end of October. Board the car when it pulls out of the barn at 11am and experience some rare mileage.
  • Starting 07-May-2023: Historic car 42 (O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde line) will run on Hyde Street on the first Sunday of each month through October. You can also board the car when it pulls out of the barn at 11am.
  • Starting in July, 2023: A $5 daily pass for the California Street cable line. I don't know why it only covers Cal Cable.
  • More to come...

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-June-2023

In May I took some time off from blogging after my wife had an operation. She is doing well. 

The World Health Organization declared that the COVID-19 emergency was over. I still wear a mask when visiting crowded places. 

The Giants reached .500.

We changed parishes from Good Shepherd to Saint Peter's. 

Due to licensing issues, I taught kids at Good Shepherd school to use Turtle Graphics. They were very enthusiastic. A second grader told me "I'm a real coder now."

Cable Car Sesquicentennial Events - 01-May-2023

Events marking the 150th anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the cable cars are getting underway, including rides on special cable cars and a revival of an excellent documentary.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 30-April-2023

Covid-19 is still there but people don't seem to pay much attention anymore.

I returned to teaching technology and coding during the last week of April. This year I am also teaching fifth grade. I am happy the kids remembered things I taught them last year. 

I continue to wear a mask when I am out in public around other people. 

Russia is making no progress in its war on Ukraine. Ukraine may be preparing for a counter-offensive. Many people say that Putin is tottering on his throne. 

The Giants started with a bad stretch, but were nearing .500 by the end of April.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-March-2023

It took me a while to test negative for COVID. I continue to wear a mask when I am out in public around other people.

Russia is making no progress in its war on Ukraine. Ukraine's allies are supplying main battle tanks and may soon provide airplanes. There are rumors swirling that Putin is in bad health or may be taken down by the oligarchs. In March the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant because he kidnapped Ukranian children. 

I hope to get back to teaching soon. 

The Giants brought Sergio Romo back to pitch an inning in the last Spring training game. 

We had heavy rain, strong winds, landslides, flooding and an earthquake. 

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 28-February-2023

Governor Newsome is cancelling the Covid-19 emergency at the end of February. Ironically, a fully vaccinated family member came down with it the week before, probably the omicron variant. I came down with Covid-19 the following week.

24-February-2022 marked one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. I think Putin knows by now that he made a terrible mistake. 

I have not yet returned to teaching technology and coding at Good Shepherd School, but I am feeling better and hope to start soon.

Major League Baseball introduced some new rules. I like the larger bases. I am uncomfortable with the pitch clock. It will damage the careers of some pitchers. I know why they are trying to eliminate the shift, but I think more batters should have tried to hit to the big holes it opened.

Spring Training has started. 

Spring Training has started. 

Cal Cable Cable Derailment - 01-February-2023

Cable Car Derailed
A California Street cable car returning to the barn hit an object obstructing the slot and derailed in the late evening at Hyde and Washington. There were no passengers aboard and the gripman and conductor were injured mildly (Source: KTVU Channel 2. All rights reserved).

Cable Car Service Interrupted

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 31-January-2023

COVID-19 infections are down, but a new sub-variant is causing a high percentage of new infections. Everywhere I go, I see a mixture of people with and without masks. 

We had heavy rain for most of the month. Muni service, including cable cars, was disrupted. 

California had three mass shootings in three days. 

Jeff Kent and Matt Cain are off of the Hall of Fame ballot after this year.

After nearly a year, Ukraine is still holding off the Russians. Russian bots are spreading all kinds of crap about Ukraine. Britain, Germany and the US have agreed to send main battle tanks to Ukraine.

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.

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
May 11 - The Giants traded Willy Mays to the Mets.
Aug 02 - The 100th birthday of the cable car

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

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

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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Last updated 01-November-2023