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


News

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 30-September-2022;;
nytimes.com

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.

nonprofitjenni.com

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
covid.cdc.gov

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
nytimes.com

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. 

unsplash.com

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

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 30-June-2022
nytimes.com

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
nytimes.com

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.


coverbrowser.com

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
nytimes.com

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.

Cable Cars and Metallica - 16-December-2021

Metallica One cover
listal.com

At a City Hall ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the band Metallica and proclaiming 16-December-2021 to be Metallica Day, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said "They’re part of the fabric of the community. They have touched people’s lives for generations. When you talk about San Francisco, you talk about cable cars and then you talk about Metallica. And on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, I want to officially declare today ‘Metallica Day.’".

Dunedin Cable Tram Calendar - 01-December-2021

DunedinCalendar

The Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust is advancing in its quest to restore part of the Mornington Tramway.

The Trust has published a beautiful 2022 calendar with photos of the original Dunedin cable trams in operation and photos of the historic cars restored in 2021. If you would like to buy a copy of the calendar, it is available on their website.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-December-2021

covid statistics

The Omicron variant of the TrumpVirus has turned up in South Africa and is seen as a new threat. In general, there is fear of a new spike during the holidays when people gather together indoors.

The 5pm Saturday mass at Good Shepherd Church in Pacifica still has low turnout. I continued to do the census during November. We may have passed 40 one weekend. Most were in the 30s.

Buster Posey won Comeback Player of the Year for the second time.

I started to teach coding to Third Graders at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica. They are a lively bunch. I will start teaching Fourth Grade in January.

Dr Peter Pfaelzer, RIP - 01-December-2021

San Francisco State University Engineering Professor Peter Pfaelzer has died. At Whirlwind Wheelchair he worked to improve mobility. During the 1982-1984 Great Reconstruction of the cable car system, he redesigned the slot brake, changing it from a single solid blade to a three-part blade that is more effective. The improved slot blade has saved many passengers and crew members. Thank you to Norbert Feyling for the tip.

Gilberto Godoy, RIP - 01-November-2021

Trophy presentatioon Leonard Oats receives his trophy and his bell after the 2008 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest in Union Square. Seen in the photo are host Deb Durst, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Nat Ford, Leonard Oats, Gilberto Godoy, and a Union Square merchant. Photo by Joe Thompson.

I was sad to learn of the recent passing of Gilberto Godoy, operator of the United Brass foundry, which makes bells and other hardware for San Francisco's cable cars and who was also CFO of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum. It was always nice to see him at events like the bell ringing contest. My condolences to his son José and the rest of the family.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-November-2021

covid statistics

New cases and deaths are spiking in the south and parts of the Mid West, where anti-vaccine mania is at its highest.

The 5pm Saturday mass at Good Shepherd Church in Pacifica still has low turnout. I did the census during October.

The Giants had the best record in the division, beating the Dodgers by one game, but went on to lose the National League Division Series.

I will to start volunteering to teach coding to Third Graders at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-October-2021

covid statistics

New cases are still rising, especially in states with Republican governors who have been ignoring the pandemic.

Good Shepherd Church in Pacifica revived the 5pm Saturday mass in September. Turnout has been low.

The Giants were the first team to win 100 games.

Byron Cobb Retires - 24-September-2021

Byron Cobb Byron Cobb poses with his first-place trophy after the 2017 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. Photo by Joe Thompson.

Today was the last day of working as a gripman for Byron Cobb, eight time winner of the Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. His record is second only to the late Carl Payne, who won ten times. Cobb's regular riders on the California Street line were sorry to see him go.


Byron Cobb at the 2017 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest in Union Square.

Melvin Van Peebles, RIP - 21-September-2021

Melvin van Peebles
listal.com
Filmmaker, author and musician Melvin van Peebles has died. So far, the obituaries that I have read have rightly discussed his influential independent movie career and his successful plays. No obituary has mentioned that he had been a San Francisco cable car gripman. He wrote a successful book called The Big Heart.

Cable Cars Down - 09-September-2021

Cable cars were down for most of the day because of an underground electrical fire.

from the SF MTA:
"SFMTA
"@sfmta_muni

"19h
"UPDATE: All Cable Car lines will be down for the rest of the night. Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.
"SFMTA
"@sfmta_muni
"20h
"UPDATE: Evacuation now cleared due to an earlier smoke alarm. All Cable Car lines will continue to be down due a power outage. Bus shuttles providing service. Will update. twitter.com/sfmta_muni/sta…
"SFMTA
"@sfmta_muni


"18h
"We recommend using #SFMuni alternatives near Cable Car routes such as the #FMarket, 19, 30 & more. Here's our Trip Planner:
"Trip Planner
"Find your way around San Francisco
"sfmta.com
"SFMTA
"@sfmta_muni


"18h
"UPDATE: All Cable Car lines will be motorized until end of service.


"SFMTA
"@sfmta_muni


"3h
"UPDATE: Due to an electrical issue at the Cable Car Barn, all Cable Car lines will be motorized until further notice. Consider nearby alternatives such as the #FMarket, 19 Polk, & 30 Stockton.
"Visit our Trip Planner for more options:
"https://sfmta.com/trip-planner

The cable cars remained down until an electrical part and an industrial-sized fire extinguisher could be replaced in the barn. Service resumed on 18-September-2021.

Cable Cars Back in Revenue Service - 04-September-2021

return to service

On Saturday, 04-September-2021 the cable cars returned to regular, scheduled revenue service.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-September-2021

covid masks

covid masks

The City and County of San Francisco has imposed a requirement for people attending indoor events to have proof of vaccination and to wear a mask.

covid vaccine

Carl Payne, RIP - 07-August-2021

Carl Payne

Carl Payne, the only 10-time winner of the Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest, transit operator, police officer, San Francisco ambassador and great all-around guy, passed away on 07-August-2021. Above we see him giving an exhibition performance at the 2016 contest. He was born in Pittsburgh, but settled in San Francisco after he served in the Marine Corps.

He went to work for Muni and stayed for 29 years. He spent 28 years working in the Cable Car Division. The only person who has come close to his record of ten Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest championships is Byron Cobb, who has won eight times. Payne travelled the world, appeared with symphony orchestras, and shared his joy for life with everyone.

While working on the cable cars, Payne became an expert at spotting pickpockets. When he left Muni, he applied to join the San Francisco Police Department. He passed the test, but was told that he was over the maximum age. He sued the department and eventually won. He spent 25 years with the police. After retiring from the SFPD, he became a Golden Gate Park ranger. He had to give that up when he started to have health issues.

Carl Payne had a long career of service to the people of San Francisco and our visitors.

The image above shows him giving an exhibition at the 2013 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. Four former champs gave an exhibition at the 2017 contest: Al Quintana (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994), Ken Lunardi (1997, 2002, 2006), Frank Ware (1999, 2004) and Carl Payne (1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989).

Cable Car Museum Reopening/Cable Cars to Return - 01-August-2021

cable car museum reopening button

The Cable Car Museum reopens on August 1. Come by and receive a beautiful button.

After nearly a month of testing and training, the cable cars will resume service on 02-August-2021, which is also the 148th anniversary of Andrew S Hallidie's first test of the Clay Street Hill Railroad. If all promises come true, there will be no fares collected on the cable cars during August.

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-August-2021

covid statistics

By late July, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are all rising. Many of the new cases involve the Delta variant. Almost all of the new hospitalizations and deaths are from the group of people who have refused to get vaccinated. Many cities are reimposing mask requirements. States where their goverments discouraged vaccination are running out of ICU beds. Some right wing nutjobs are finally encouraging their followers to get vaccinated.

Good Shepherd Church in Pacifica was able to increase capacity for the 11am Sunday mass. They are going to revive the 5pm Saturday mass in September.

I went to the barber and got my shelter-in-place beard professionally trimmed for the first time.

The Giants were still in first place after the All Star Game.

keep wearing your mask William S Hart reminds us to keep wearing our masks. Great Falls Tribune, 16-April-1921.

Visit a Cable Car - 10-July-2020

To give people a happy experience, a cable cars have been on display at the Powell/Market turntable and Hyde and Beach. Today was the last day. Val Lupiz reports that next week, recertification training will begin for cable car crews.

wear your mask

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues - 01-July-2021

Happy Hour

Much of California became fully open on 15-June-2021. People who have been vaccinated will not have to wear masks outside. I will probably continue to wear mine for a while.

The virus is still out there, but almost 70% of Californians have been vaccinated. The 600,000th American died in June.

In June, San Francisco may have become the first city in the United States to reach herd immunity.

The Giants were able to return to selling all of their seats.

Good Shepherd Church in Pacifica was able to double its capacity in the gym. They may soon revive the 5 o'clock mass on Saturday. The archdiocese wants us to continue to wear masks.



2022 Anniversaries

125 years ago - 1897
Jan 21 - The Glasgow District Subway reopened
Mar 04 - Frank (Lefty) O'Doul born, San Francisco, CA. He had nothing to do with cable cars, but he had a .349 lifetime average and managed the San Francisco Seals for many years. He's not in the Hall of Fame, but he should be.
May 14 - Sidney Bechet, important early jazz musician, was born in New Orleans, LA
Jun 14 - Citizens Traction Company (Pittsburgh) closed
Aug 31 - West Seattle Cable Railway closed
Sep 19 - Butte City Street Railroad closed
Sep 29 - Washington and Georgetown Railroad 14th St Powerhouse destroyed by fire. 14th St & Georgetown lines temporarily replaced by horses, next year by electric cars

New York Giants record: 83-48, 3rd place. Manager: Bill Joice.

100 years ago - 1922

New York Giants record: 94-59, 1st place. Manager: John McGraw. The Giants defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series, 5 games to 3.

75 years ago - 1947
Mar 4 - Mayor Roger Lapham declared that the Powell Street cable car lines, owned by the San Francisco Municipal Railway, should be replaced by buses to save money. At a rally meeting attended by leaders of twenty-seven women’s civic groups, Mrs Friedel Klussman persuaded them to found the "Citizens’ Committee to Save the Cable Cars." Lucius Beebe later wrote, "It was destined to wield the terror and authority once possessed by San Francisco’s Vigilantes of 1851."

New York Giants record: 61-93, 8th place. Manager: Mel Ott. Nice guys finish last.

50 years ago - 1972
Feb 26 - A loose strand on the Powell Street line caused four cars to pile up at the Market Street turntable.
Jul 06 - Louis Armstrong, one of the most important figures in American music, passed away

San Francisco Giants record: 90-72, 1st place. Manager: Charlie Fox. Lost NLCS to Pittsburgh Pirates, 3 games to 1.

25 years ago - 1997
Oct 12 - A broken cable caused a runaway which killed one passenger and closed the Funiculaire du Vieux Québec

San Francisco Giants record: 68-94, 4th place. Manager: Dusty Baker.

Anniversaries Archive

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What's New

What's New Archive

Go to top of page.


Ten and Twenty Years Ago

Ten Years Ago

Twenty Years Ago

Ten and Twenty Years Ago Archive

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

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