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 marked 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 cars and other items on the shelf atop my desk. It is getting harder and harder for the cat to sit on the shelf. 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-April-2024

Covid-19 trends seem to be going down. Many people seem to be coming down with Covid-19 again, but the cases may be milder.  

More food aid is getting to Gaza, but there is still a risk of mass starvation. Israel is preparing to enter the last city in the south of Gaza, Rafah. President Biden called on the Israelis to be more careful of innocent lives. The whole world is calling for a ceasefire. 

The House is still delaying aid to Ukraine. The Republican Party is beholden to Putin. I am sorry to have to write that. 

The Giants have had a mixed record in spring training. It has been nice to see Pablo Sandoval again. He probably made his last appearance as a Giant during the Bay Bridge Series. 

Our former so-called president had until 25-March-2024 to post a huge bond after losing his real estate fraud case. His lawyers were able to get the bond amount reduced and to get an additional ten days. 

My students are making good progress with Code Avengers. 

COVID-19 Continues - 01-March-2024

California has updated its COVID guidelines on isolation.

Israel has changed the intensity of its operations in Gaza. Famine is spreading in the area. 

Ukraine and Russia appear to be in a stalemate.

Dusty Baker is returning to the Giants as a special assistant. 

Trump lost another lawsuit and will pay $83.3 million.

Catholic Schools Week started at Good Shepherd. 

COVID-19 Continues - 01-February-2024

Covid-19 trends seem to be going down. On the other hand, nearly everyone I know has some kind of a nasty virus. 

Israel has paused before attacking the southernmost part of Gaza. People all over the world are calling for a ceasefire or evacuation of civilians. A US Airman immolated himself in front of the Israeli Embassy. The US and other countries have started to airdrop humanitarian supplies in Gaza.

Congress is still delaying aid to Ukraine, which is running short on ammunition. The Republican Pary appears to be beholden to Putin. 24-February-2024 marked two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Spring training has started. Brandon Crawford has signed with the Cardinals. 

Trump lost a real estate fraud case and was ordered to pay $355 million. 

A bee flew into the computer lab today. The first graders wigged out. 

Tony Bennett Cable Car Commemoration - 14-February-2024

Tony Bennett Cable Car Dedication

San Francisco will celebrate Valentine's Day and dedicate California Street cable car 53 to Tony Bennett. The event will be held by the Fairmont Hotel, where Bennett first performed the song, on 14-February-2024 at 10:45 AM.

Willie Mays Day - 04-February-2024

SFMTA Willie Mays Day

San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared Sunday, 04-February-2024 (2-4-24), to be Willie Mays Day. A ceremony at Hyde and Beach (at 2:24 pm) dedicated Powell Street Car 24 to the greatest living ball player. Many people asked why they didn't pick May 6, his birthday.

SFMTA Willie Mays Day/2

COVID-19 Continues - 01-February-2024

California has updated its COVID guidelines on isolation.

Israel has changed the intensity of its operations in Gaza. Famine is spreading in the area. 

Ukraine and Russia appear to be in a stalemate.

Dusty Baker is returning to the Giants as a special assistant. 

Trump lost another lawsuit and will pay $83.3 million.

Catholic Schools Week started at Good Shepherd. 

Powell Street Turntable Blocked - 26-January-2024

SFMTA Powell turntable blocked

Inbound Powell Street cable cars were forced to turn back at Washington/Mason because a cable car was stalled, blocking the Powell Street turntable.

COVID-19 Continues - 01-January-2024

COVID infections are rising because of holiday gatherings and a new variant, JM.1.

Israel continues to lay waste to Gaza. They are losing much sympathy.

Ukraine has destroyed a significant part of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Russian soldiers are reported as surrendering to get away from abuse by their officers. 

The Giants signed outfielder Jung Hoo Lee from the Korean League. 

One day after it rained, I was doing yard duty with Kindergarten and most of us stood around a puddle and observed earthworms swimming. We discussed where earthworms live, what they eat and we reached a consensus that they don't wear shoes. 

Climb Aboard History At Powell Plaza - 16-December-2023

SFMTA Climb Aboard History

If the weather allows, a motorized cable car will park at Powell and Market each Tuesday and Saturday. The public will be welcome to climb aboard from 7am to 7pm. I haven't found out when this will end, so don't dawdle.

Climb Aboard History At Powell Plaza - 16-December-2023

Muni Photo Archive
The Harvey Milk Photo Center at 50 Scott Street is hosting "120 years: SFMTA Photo Archive 1903-2023," a display of photos from Muni and its predecessors. The show will run through 03-February-2024. Don't miss it.

COVID-19 Continues - 01-December-2023

My wife and I have finally gotten our new COVID-19 boosters and our flu shots. I should ask my doctor if we need to get the RSV shot, too.

The Giants have been quiet. 

Congress managed to hold off a government shutdown until the new year.

The war between Israel and Hamas had a cease fire based on the exchange of prisoners. 

Ukraine is making progress with its counterattack. 
We finished the first trimester at Good Shepherd School and my students are doing well in technology and coding. 

Al (Tito) Quintana, RIP - 12-November-2023

Al Quintana Al Quintana, four time champion, performs as a "ringer" for Samaritan House at the 2003 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest in Union Square. Photo by Joe Thompson.

Al (Tito) Quintana, retired Muni gripman and four time champion of the Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest has made the final pull-in. My condolences to his family.

He attended many of the recent Bell Ringing Contests and gave exhibitions.

APEC 2023 San Francisco - 11-November-2023

APEC SF 2023

The 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum caused large areas around Moscone Center and on top of Nob Hill to be closed to traffic. The California Street cable line was temporarily replaced by buses. The inner portion of the Powell Street lines was replaced by buses from Market to Washington/Mason. Powell Street cable cars switched back at Washington/Mason.

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.

News Archive

2024 Anniversaries

175 years ago - 1849
Dec 24 - The First Great Fire in San Francisco destroyed the buildings on the south and east sides of the Plaza, causing $1 million in damage.

150 years ago - 1874
Feb 01 - San Francisco's Clay Street Hill Cable Railroad carried 76,500 passengers.

125 years ago - 1899
Mar 23 - Baltimore City Passenger Railway (Baltimore, Maryland) converted
Apr 29 - Duke Ellington, America's greatest composer, was born in Washington, DC.
May 21 - Oakland Cable Railway (Oakland, California) converted.
Jul 15 - Peoples' Cable Railway Tenth Street line (Kansas City, Missouri) closed.
Jul 16 - The Brooklyn Elevated Railway (New York, New York) stopped running its trains across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, using the New York & Brooklyn Bridge's cable line, except during busy summer periods.
Jul 23 - Columbia Railway (Washington, DC) converted.
Sep 28 - Third Ave Railroad's 125th Street section (New York, New York) converted to electric. The rest of the company's cable trackage was converted by the end of the year.
Dec 31 - Former Omnibus Howard Street main line and Post Street Francisco, California) were closed.

100 years ago - 1924
Jun 01 - The New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 22-8 at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. The Giants scored at least one run in every inning, a rare feat.
Sep 27 - Travis "Stonewall" Jackson played the first game of his Hall of Fame career for the Giants
Aug 01 - The City of Glasgow takes ownership of the cable-operated Glasgow District Subway

New York Giants record: 95-58, 1st place. The Giants played the Yankees in the World Series for the third year in a row, but lost 4 games to 2. Manager: John McGraw.

75 years ago - 1949
Apr 16 - The Mount Adams and Eden Park funicular in Cincinnati, OH closed
Jul 16 - New York Giants fans were shocked when hero Mel Ott resigned as manager and was replaced by Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher.

New York Giants record: 78-76, 5th place. Managers: Mel Ott, Leo Durocher.

50 years ago - 1974
Apr 12 - San Francisco Giant Willie McCovey hit two home runs in the fourth inning during a game against the Houston Astros.
Jul 15 - San Francisco Giant Willie McCovey hit his four hundredth home run and Juan Marichal shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-0.
Aug 02 - the Centennial
Surviving Clay Street cable car #8 was loaded onto a flat bed truck and driven on the Clay Street hill.
Oct 25 - The San Francisco Giants traded Willie McCovey to the San Diego Padres.
Dec 07 - The San Francisco Giants sold Juan Marichal to the Boston Red Sox, completing the dispersal of the three greatest SF Giants players up to that time - Willy Mays, McCovey, and Marichal - within a period of 18 months.

San Francisco Giants record: 88-74, 3rd place. Manager: Charlie Fox.

25 years ago - 1999
May 01 - The Funiculaire du Vieux Québec, which had been closed since a fatal accident in 1996, reopened
Aug 01 - Muni rolled out new California Street Car 59 to honor the 125th birthday of the cable car

San Francisco Giants record: 89-74 2nd place. Manager: Dusty Baker. The Giants tied with the Cubs for the National League wildcard spot and lost a one-game playoff.

Anniversaries Archive

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What's New

  • 01-April-2024
  • 01-March-2024
    • Picture of the Month: "Ascending an Inclined Plane." Source: History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company by William Bender Wilson, 1895.
    • On Cable Cars in Pennsylvania page: A ten year update about the Allegheny Portage Railroad, the first railroad to cross the Alleghenys, using inclined planes.
    • Added News and Chronology items about cable cars being dedicated to Willie Mays and Tony Bennett
    • Archived December 2023 What's New.
  • 01-February-2024
    • Picture of the Month: A postcard view of the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway shows both the Mount Pisgah and Mount Jefferson inclined planes.
    • On the Cable Cars in Pennsylvania page: A ten year update about the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway, one of America's oldest railroads and one of the inspirations for the roller coaster. Includes information about other gravity rail operations.
    • On the Miscellany page: "American Inclined Plane Railways," by Samuel Diescher, Cassier's Magazine, June, 1897.)
    • On the Sutter Street Railway page: An item about the SSR receiving its boiler water from the ocean and sending the used water to the nearby Lurline Baths.
    • Added News item about disruptions caused by a cable car getting stuck on a turntable
    • Archived November 2023 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 1996-2024 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-April-2024