Omnibus Railroad & Cable Company

by Joe Thompson

Where Should I Go from Here? Visit the Map

Howard car Omnibus Howard Street car.
Howard and 26th Street Omnibus cars on the double tracked turntable at Howard and 26th Streets.
Union Hall on Howard Street Union Hall, on Howard near Fourth. The ground floor was used by the Omnibus Railroad as a horse car barn from 1862 until 1895, when the horse lines were converted to electric (Source: [group 8:73], Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection, ca. 1850-ca. 1968, BANC PIC 1905.17500--ALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

line: Howard Street (Yellow Line)

opened: 26-Aug-1889. East Street (now Embarcadero) from the Ferry to Howard, Howard from East to 26th Street. Outer Howard is now South Van Ness.

powerhouse: 10th & Howard.

grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip, lever-operated

gauge: 3'6"

cars: single-ended California cars.

turntables: double track, powered.

crossings:
IntersectionCompanyStatus
Howard/9thSSRinferior

line: Howard/24th (Yellow Line)

opened: late 1889. East Street (now Embarcadero) from the Ferry to Howard, Howard from East to 24th Street, 24th from Howard to Portrero. Outer Howard is now South Van Ness.

powerhouse: 10th & Howard.

grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip, lever-operated

gauge: 3'6"

cars: single-ended California cars.

turntables: double track, powered.

crossings:
IntersectionCompanyStatus
Howard/9thSSRinferior

line: Post Street (Red Line)

opened: late 1889. Post Street from Market to Leavenworth. Leavenworth to City Hall Avenue (does not exist any more; ran parallel to Market near old City Hall, present Main Library), City Hall Avenue to Grove, Grove to Polk, Polk to 10th Street, 10th to Howard.

powerhouse: 10th & Howard.

grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip, lever-operated

gauge: 3'6"

cars: single-ended California cars.

turntables: double track, powered.

crossings:
IntersectionCompanyStatus
Post/PowellFCHinferior
Post/JonesCSCsuperior
Leavenworth/GearyGSPOinferior
Leavenworth/EllisORRinferior
Leavenworth/McAllisterMSRinferior
Leavenworth/HayesMSRinferior
Leavenworth/MarketMSRinferior

line: Ellis Street (Blue Line)

opened: late 1889. Ellis Street from Market to Broderick. Broderick to Oak, Oak to Stanyan, Stanyan to Haight at Golden Gate Park.

powerhouse: Oak & Broderick.

grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip, lever-operated

gauge: 3'6"

cars: single-ended California cars.

turntables: double track, powered.

crossings:
IntersectionCompanyStatus
Ellis/PowellFCHinferior
Ellis/JonesCSCsuperior
Ellis/LeavenworthORRsuperior
Ellis/LarkinSSRinferior

line: Oak Street (Green Line)

opened: late 1889. 10th Street from Howard to Fell. Fell to Franklin, Franklin to Oak, Oak to Stanyan, Stanyan to Haight at Golden Gate Park.

powerhouse: Oak & Broderick.

grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip, lever-operated

gauge: 3'6"

cars: single-ended California cars.

turntables: double track, powered.

crossings:
IntersectionCompanyStatus
10th/MarketMSRinferior

notes: The Omnibus Railroad started as a broad-gauge horse car system in 1861. Management studied whether to convert to cable or electricity and made the wrong choice. Only the Oak Street line had significant hills. The main line was too far from Market Street. The other lines had too many curves. The 26th and Howard line was stopped in Aug, 1893. The company was taken over by the Market Street Railway on 13-Aug-1893. The Oak and Ellis lines were converted in late 1895. The Howard/24th line was killed on 31-Dec-1899.

Car 0603 0603 served as the sand car at the Oak and Broderick. This is appropriate because it was built in 1889 by Hammond as an Omnibus cable car. The Market Street Railway rebuilt it as an electric car in 1898. This image was taken at Funston Yard, where 0609 was usually stationed after Oak and Broderick was closed in 1938. It later ran out of Haight Street. 0607 was scrapped in 1947. Wayne Miller Collection. All rights reserved. Thanks to Emiliano Echevarria for the details about the car.

The Omnibus's 143 steel under-framed, almost-new cars wound up all over the place. Market Street Railway used some on its cable lines and converted others to electric passenger and work cars, including the 772-778 class. Cable mail cars "A" and "B" were former Omnibus cars. Two of the post-1906 Castro Street cable cars (1 & 7) were rebuilt from ORR cars. Some were used in Seattle - on Front Street, Madison Street, and Yesler Way. One served as the first passenger car on the Mill Valley & Mount Tamalpais (later the Mount Tamalpais & Muir Woods) Railroad.
Mount Tamalpais Car 5 A former Omnibus cable car used as passenger car 5, pulled by Shay locomotive 498 on the Mill Valley & Mount Tamalpais Railroad. Despite the numbers, they were the lines' first passenger car and locomotive. May, 2002 Picture of the Month
South Drive Overpass A former Omnibus cable car converted to electricity crosses South Drive (now Martin Luther King Drive) in Golden Gate Park before 1906. Note the trotter approaching from the direction of the beach.

Omnibus elevator An ad for Cahill and Hall, who manufactured the elevator in the Tenth and Howard powerhouse. From The Western Engineer, compiled by John H Godbold, 1890.

Tenth and Howard Tenth and Howard powerhouse in 1899. Howard is at the left and Tenth at the bottom (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, San Francisco, 1899, Vol 2, Sheet 145).
Oak and Broderick map Oak and Broderick powerhouse in 1899. Oak is at the left (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, San Francisco, 1899, Vol 3, Sheet 349).
Oak & Broderick photo Oak and Broderick in 1921, serving as an electric car barn. (Source: San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, AAC-8376).

from Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, 1887

P. 233

Omnibus R.R. and Cable Co. operates 8.5 miles of road, and owns 395 horses and 57 cars. Directors, Daniel Stein, Gustav Sutro, C. D. O'Sullivan, Eugene Le Roy, E. Hull, San Francisco, Cal -- Gustav Sutro, Pres., Daniel Stein, Vice-Pres., G. Ruegg, Sec., M. M. Martin, Supt.& P. A., Wm. Barry, Mast Tr. Rep., M. M. Martin, Mast. Car Rep. -- PRINCIPAL OFFICE, 727 Howard St., San Francisco, Cal.

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Copyright 1996-2008 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.

Last updated 01-September-2008