Cable Car Chronology

December 22, 1957 - December 12, 2007

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  • December 22, 1957 - California Street line began operation from the Washington-Mason cable car barn. Car No. 51 the last O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde car was the first car. When No. 51 entered service, the current three-line, 5.09 mile (one way mileage) cable car system became a reality.

  • March 19, 1958 - The front of No. 524 was demolished on a southbound (uphill) trip when it crashed into the side of a 60-foot flatbed truck and trailer at North Point and Hyde Streets, only one injury was reported.

  • September 13, 1960 - Presidential candidate Vice President Richard Nixon rode a Powell Street cable car.

  • November 27, 1961 - Twelve Powell-Hyde passengers and crew are hurt when No. 511 descending the Hyde Street hill rams into No. 516 just north of Francisco Street. Police said heavy rain may have caused 511 to have brake failure.

  • July 4, 1962 - To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Muni, a "new" cable car (second) No. 518 is placed into service. It was built almost entirely new, except for some spare parts, in 1961. It was the first new cable car to enter service since the Muni's 1944 purchase of the Market Street Railway and was the first passenger car to be built by the Muni since its inception in 1912.

  • 1964 - Muni states, "Patrons who live near the cable car lines proudly say they get the best 15 cents' worth of entertainment in San Francisco when they take a ride on a cable car. And every year thousands of people come thousands of miles to ride the cars - ten miles of roller-coaster thrills, scenic splendor and chiming bells. They're a living symbol of San Francisco's romantic and colorful past." ("Cable Cars of San Francisco," San Francisco Municipal Railway)

  • January 29, 1964 - Cable car system is designated a National Historic Landmark.

  • September 23, 1964 - Inbound Powell-Hyde cable car No. 517 lost the cable after climbing a half block past Chestnut Street resulting in No. 517 running backwards out-of-control. Two braking devices at Chestnut Street prevented No. 517 from plunging down the steep Hyde Street hill; however the severe first stop ripped the front wheel truck from No. 517's body. Nine persons were injured.

  • October 1, 1964 - The official National Historic Landmark ceremony was held at Hyde and Beach, presided over by Chief Justice (and former California Governor) Earl Warren.

  • Latter Part of 1964-Early 1965- All cable car lines are shut done for an approximate 40-day period as new winding equipment is installed at the Washington-Mason power house. Because of advanced techniques in manufacturing and a better knowledge of metallurgy, the materials used in the fabrication of the new machinery were of better quality than were previously used in the cable winding machinery. The cost of the new equipment was in the range of $250,000, making it the largest expenditure for any modification to the original machinery, which has been in operation since 1888.

  • February 2, 1965 – Mona Hutchin, a University of California student refuses to leave the outside steps of car No. 521 (now 21) on the Powell-Hyde line. The police removed her, only to discover that there was no legal basis for such a policy. That spring ninety-two years after the cable cars’ debut, the unofficial ban against women standing on the outside cable car steps is lifted.

  • November 5, 1965 – HRH, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and her husband the Earl of Snowdon rode Powell-Hyde cable car No. 527 from Hyde and Beach Streets to Russian Hill (Pacific Avenue).

  • July 21, 1966 - Four Powell cable car crashed together when a cable strand got caught in the grip of No. 505, just after passing Powell and Ellis streets (a block away from the Powell and Market turntable), sending No. 505 into the rear of standing Powell-Hyde car No. 514. No. 514's grip caught the strand and lurched into a white sedan that was shoved forward into No. 512 and another auto. No. 512 then crashed into Powell-Mason cable car No. 516 that was leaving the turntable.

  • November 10, 1967- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd spoke at a gala dedication of the Washington-Mason car barn and powerhouse celebrating the facility's renovation that featured an area for tourists to view the cable car power machinery, removal of outside paint to display the building's brick construction and "Ferries and Cliff House Railway" signage - the first operator of the Powell lines.

  • December 3, 1967- After the gripman on Powell-Hyde cable car No. 519 decided to proceed from Chestnut Street down the Hyde Street hill without being attached to the cable (the cable acts as a brake), No. 519 ran away out-of-control striking an auto at Bay Street, rupturing its gas tank. The cable car rolled for two more blocks with a rivulet of flaming gasoline behind it before it could be stopped at Beach Street. Over forty injuries occurred, including one fatality.

  • July 31, 1968 - Presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey rode a cable car with Mayor Joe Alioto.

  • 1968- No. 519 after its December 3, 1967 runaway accident, No. 519 returned to service as No. 500, a number it used until the 1973 Powell cable renumbering, when it became No. 19. It was scrapped in 1986.
  • July 18, 1970 - California Cable Car line suspended, followed by a suspension of the Powell-Hyde cable in mid-September for track work and street repairs. Service restored both lines about November 1, 1970.

  • March 22, 1971 – Muni announces the purchase of 40 new design-grips that are bigger, heavier, and safer than the prior model. The “T- Model” design, named for Don Troya, chief cable car grip builder uses interchangeable parts in contrast to the individually machined and custom-fitted parts on the present grips. Each of the new grips contains 306 pounds of steel and five pounds of brass. Almost 200 pounds of that steel is in high-strength castings. The new grips have more parts than the former grips – 62 different types of parts and 149 separate pieces. Muni Press Release dated March 22, 1971.

  • November 1971 - Voters approve a proposition to maintain the cable car lines schedules (prohibits cuts). Fight for proposition lead by Friedel Klussmann and her Citizens’ Committee.

  • August 2, 1973 - Several days of events commemorating the centennial of the cable cars were held. These began with a 5 o’clock in the morning celebration at Portsmouth Square on August 2--a celebration highlighted by Clay Street Hill Car No. 8 (from the Cable Car Museum), with some riders on board, being carried on a flatbed truck down the hill from Clay and Jones to the square duplicating Andrew S. Hallidie’s first trip.

  • April 10, 1978 - Centennial celebration is held for the California Street line.

  • May 28, 1979 - Cable car service was suspended when a drive shaft broke in the Washington/Mason powerhouse

  • July 3, 1979 - Cable car resumed after a one-month shutdown.

  • April 16, 1980 - Full service is restored on the cable car system. System had been shutdown the previous fall to make repairs. The city’s engineering staff concluded that for the system to continue to operate, it would be necessary to renew the track, cable channels, and pulleys, as well as the entire barn and power house.

  • April 15, 1960 - Vice Presidential candidate Walter Monday rode a Powell Street cable car with Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

  • November, 1981 - Voters approve Proposition B that authorized "Cable car fares different than other Muni fares” with a vote of 58,622 yes, 35,802 no. Proposition M on the June 1980 ballot failed (84,201 yes, 86,058 no) that stated cable car fares may exceed other Muni fares." Differential higher cable car fares implemented April 1982.

  • September 21, 1982 - This was the last day of cable car service, Powell cable car No. 7 last car. The Cable Car System Rehabilitation Program started the next day. However, the system remained in operation for approximately one week for testing of new brakes and slot blade designs for the new system. Cars Nos. 16 and 19 were used for this purpose, with sandbags to stimulate passenger loads. Both cars had to be rebuilt because their frames were broken because of the tests.

  • June 3, 1984 - California Street line is re-opened for revenue service.

  • June 4, 1984 - Powell-Hyde line is re-opened for revenue service.

  • June 4, 1984 - The "new" $18 million Washington-Mason cable car barn and powerhouse is dedicated by Mayor Dianne Fienstein at a civic celebration. This facility is the third such structure at this location.

  • June 21, 1984 - After celebrations earlier that month for the return of California Street and Powell-Hyde cable cars, there were festivities celebrating the return of full cable car service with the return of the Powell-Mason cable. These four-day celebrations began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Union Square, followed by a parade of cable cars up Powell Street, led by a U.S. Marine band. This system had been rebuilt. Eleven California cars and twenty-six Powell cars were rehabilitated during the 1982-84 system rebuilding. The familiar green-and-cream paint scheme of the Powell Street cars was replaced (except car No. 3), with a paint scheme of maroon-and-cream reminiscent of the Powell Street Railway, the original operator of the Powell Street cable cars.

  • August 12, 1984 - An automobile sped down the Hyde Street hill and slammed into the front of cable car No. 12 heading up the hill from Aquatic Park, causing No. 12 to roll backwards, out of control. Despite their injuries, gripman Ray McCann and conductor Charles Gerstbacher applied the emergency slot brake and stopped the cable car after a block and a half. Only three of the cable car’s passengers required hospitalization. The U.S. Department of Transportation honored the two cable car crew members for their heroism.

  • March 28, 1988 - The City holds a celebration for the 100th anniversary of Powell Street cable car service with a parade of cable cars from the Washington & Mason car barn to Union Square, and ceremonies and entertainment at the square.

  • October 19, 1989 - Cable car service resumes in the afternoon after being shutdown because of the major earthquake that hit the Bay Area at 5:04 p.m. two days previously.

  • April 10, 1990 - The rebuilding of Powell Street Cable Car No. 16 is celebrated with a parade on Powell Street and ceremony and entertainment. Car No. 16 is painted in the blue-and-yellow scheme Muni used between 1939 and 1946. (Three Powell cars had this scheme for a brief time after Muni acquired the Powell lines in 1944.)

  • April 15, 1992 - Presidential candidate Bill Clinton rode Powell Street Cable Car No. 26 near the Fairmont Hotel. Democrats stayed at the Fairmont.

  • December 5, 1992 - New Muni  built cars Nos. 13, 21, and 49 are dedicated.   No. 13 is painted in a green with red-trim paint scheme similar to the colors of the United Railroads. No. 49 is the first new California car in approximately seventy-five years.

  • September 15, 1994 - New Powell car No. 4 was placed into revenue service after a public welcoming ceremony at the Powell and Market turntable.

  • February 2, 1996 -  New California Street  cable car No. 52 enters revenue service  after a brief ceremony at the Washington-Mason cable car barn.

  • March 4, 1997 - Cable Car Museum and Muni hold a celebration at the Washington & Mason Cable Car barn commemorating the 50th anniversary of the official start of Friedel Klussmann’s successful campaign to save the Powell Street cable cars.

  • December 1, 1997 - Cable Car Museum and Muni hold a celebration at Victorian Park, at Hyde and Beach, to name the Powell-Hyde line turnaround the "Friedel Klussmann Memorial Turnaround" in honor of the Cable Car Lady.

  • January 1998 - Fannie Mae Barnes became the first gripwoman.

  • July 31, 1998 - Cable Car Museum and Muni hold a celebration for the 125th Anniversary of Andrew Hallidie’s successful operation of the cable car. A new California cable car No. 59, built by Muni, entered service as part of the celebration. Old No. 59 was sent to New Orleans (in trade for a New Orleans streetcar).

  • February Sunday 1999 - San Francisco Archbishop William Levada accompanies his good friend Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for a ride on the California Street cable car, a stroll through Chinatown and sight seeing at the Golden Gate Bridge. On Tuesday April 19, 2005 Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

  • February 19, 1999 - Cable Car Museum and Muni hold a celebration dedicating the Friedel Klussmann Memorial arch at the Powell-Hyde turnaround. The Museum with other civic groups had sponsored the project to honor Friedel Klussmann.

  • April 24, 2000 - New Powell Street cable car No. 9 entered revenue service painted in a green and white paint scheme similar to the colors of the Market Street Railway, the operator of the Powell Street cable cars 1921--1944.

  • July 20, 2000 - The Cable Car Museum presented to the City of San Francisco, at the annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest,  the restored memorial honoring Andrew Smith Hallidie, located at Hallidie Plaza at Powell and Market Streets.

  • August 1, 2000 - First Powell car No. 4 cosmetically restored and moved under the sponsorship of Yahoo to Pac Bell Park. The car is used to provide a cable car bell which is rung for each run the Giants have scored at the conclusion of a Giant at bat. No. 4 was renumbered at one end No. 24 in honor of Willie Mays and the other end No. 44 in honor of Willie McCovey.

  • June 25, 2001 - New turntable placed into service at Powell-Hyde line turnaround at "Friedel Klussmann Memorial Turnaround," Hyde and Beach Streets

  • January 18, 2002 - The Olympic Torch, en route to the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City Utah, traveled on Hyde Street Cable Car No. 9. Fannie Mae Barnes, the system's first and only gripwoman, and conductor Rafael Cabrera were the crew.

  • May 23, 2002 - Service on the California line is suspended at approximately 4:30 p.m. for two days when the California cable broke into two parts at Taylor & California. No injuries occurred. Powell Street service was also suspended when the broken California cable struck the Powell cable at the Washington-Mason power house. The rare event of cable breaking apart last occurred in 1932. Historically, the cause of such an event was a crossing accident where cables crossed. The Castro cable, however, broke into two in 1896 when a splice unraveled.

  • October 28, 2002 - "Powell Cable Car Service Interruption, Due to Cable Car Turnaround Construction, October 28 - November 27, 2002, Powell Street cable car lines will be temporarily out of service between Powell & Ellis and the Washington & Mason cable car barn due to long-term preventative maintenance work, Buses will provide service between these two points. Board the shuttle bus at Ellis & Powell, Regular cable car service will operate between Washington & Mason and the cable car terminals at Hyde & Beach and Taylor & Bay, The California Street cable car will not be affected, Muni sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience." Text of Muni "Rider Alert" dated October 20. Closure for track work and new turntable at Powell & Market.

  • November 23, 2002 - Cable car service returned to Powell Street, four days ahead of schedule. The shutdown allowed Muni to replace the Powell and Market Street turntable, the most famous turntable in the world. The new $500,000 turntable has extra ball bearings so it will turn easier. Also, support and depression beams were tightened to keep the cable taut beneath Powell Street.

  • February 16, 2003 - (week of) New Muni built California Street cable car No. 60 enters revenue service replacing old No. 60 that is placed in storage at Pier 72.

  • February 22, 2003 – The Friends of the Cable Car Museum took ownership of the most historically important cable cars – Clay Street Hill Railroad open-grip car No. 8 and Sutter Street Railway open-grip car No. 46 and trailer No. 54, thus insuring that San Franciscans and the city’s many visitors will continue to enjoy these relics at their ideal location – the Cable Car Museum located in San Francisco’s Municipal Railway’s Washington-Mason cable car barn and powerhouse. (Information about these cars is found on the "Historic Cable Car" page.)

  • April 10, 2003 - The Friends of the Cable Car Museum and Muni hosted a celebration honoring the 125th anniversary of California Street Cable Car service (Kearny to Van Ness Avenue). New California Street cable car No. 60, especially decorated by the Museum, made a special trip on California Street as part of the Celebration.

  • August 2, 2003 – The Friends of the Cable Car Museum held a day of celebrations in honor of the 130th anniversary of Andrew S. Hallidie’s world’s first successful cable car journey. Highlights included the unveiling of a plaque at Friedel Klussmann turnaround (Hyde & Beach Streets) honoring the "Cable Car Lady" and the "The Friedel Klussmann Memorial Arch” that the Friends had been active in the fund raising, design and placement. Later the Museum held a program – "A Kaleidoscope About the Cable Car" – a series of historic presentations about San Francisco’s cable cars.

  • December 2003 – Eight cable cars are decorated for the holiday season. The cars and their sponsors are Powell Street cable cars No. 1 Buena Vista Café, No. 7 Gripman Ken Foster, No. 9 Gripman Val Lupiz, No. 13 Gripman Robert Hanssen, No. 16 Scoma’s Seafood Restaurant, No. 17 Argonaut Hotel; California Street cable cars No. 59 Gripmen Lance Perry/Val Lupiz and No. 60 Gripman Lance Perry.

  • December 12, 2003 – By this date first No. 28 (former 501) is listed on the Washington-Mason shop bulletin board as “retired.” No. 28 had been out of service for several weeks. Muni has built a new No. 28 that has yet to enter service.

  • December 12, 2003 – Cable Car Invitational bell-ringing contest held at Washington-Mason featuring winners of the annual cable car bell-ringing contest. The winners were 1st Place Carl Payne, 2nd Place Al Quintana and 3rd Place Pete Palukevich.

  • January 2, 2004 - New Muni built Powell Street cable car No. 28 enters revenue service replacing first No. 28, a Mahoney Bros. product dating from 1887. First No. 28 although “retired” in early December did see limited revenue service after retirement.

  • May 17 - 25, 2004. As part of the ongoing improvement to the California Street line, the California Street line will be shut down (bus substitution) for major construction and upgrade. Work is to be completed by June 11, 2004.

  • May, 2004 - Powell Street cable car No. 9 that is painted in a green and white paint scheme of colors similar to the Market Street Railway, operator of the Powell Street lines 1921-1944, has had its window sashes painted red from its former inaccurate tan. Red was used in the initial late 1920s white front scheme.

  • Summer 2004 - Powell Street cable car No. 15 (Carter Bros. 1894) removed from service because of structural deficiencies, notably a significantly weakened rear platform, and stored out-of-service at Muni’s Pier 80 facility.

  • June 21, 2004 - Muni hosts at the Washington-Mason Cable Car Barn the "20th Anniversary Celebration of the Rebuilding of the Cable Car System." The event included the 2004 preliminary Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. (Some of the costs were underwritten by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum.)

  • June, 2004 - Muni revised its cable car track mileage. The revised single-track mileage (equivalent to round-trip mileage), by line with the former figure in parenthesis are:
    Powell-Mason -- 3.2 (3.1) miles
    Powell-Hyde -- 4.3 (4.2) miles
    California Street -- 2.9 (2.8) miles
    Subtracting the duplicate 1.6 round-trip mileage for the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines from the 10.4 total yields 8.8 miles of revenue track mileage. This value does not include the non-revenue track used by the California Street line for pull-outs and pull-ins on Hyde Street between Washington/Jackson and California.

  • July 2004 - Muni’s Short Range Transit Plan, FY 2004-2023 includes the following future projects for the Cable Car Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program, the year of construction is in parenthesis: Bay/Taylor Turntable Overhaul (2004), Crossover on Powell near Market (2005), Replace Slot Rail, various locations (2005), Mason/Washington Curve (2007), Redesign and Replace All three (3) Turntables (2009) and Barn Turntable Rehabilitation (2009). Unfunded and uncommitted projects include the extension of the Powell-Mason cable car to an off-street Fisherman’s Wharf terminal (2010).

  • July 2004 - Cable car gripman and San Francisco transit authority Val Lupiz is recognized for his job excellence by being named Muni’s Runner Up System Wide Operator of the Month.

  • September 13, 2004 - The Mason leg of the Powell-Mason cable is shut down for the replacement of the Bay and Taylor turntable. The work is scheduled to occur through October 29. Diesel buses in the interim will operate from Jackson and Powell to Bay and Taylor.

  • September 22/23, 2004 - Loose strands on consecutive days shut down the part of the Powell Street system that was operating during the turntable replacement.

  • October 8, 2004 - Passengers were injured when a cable car made a sudden stop at Washington and Mason.

  • December 31, 2004 - Muni issues a notice to have California Street cable cars for New Years Eve operate inbound only to Kearny Street, then switch back at Kearny and proceed outbound. All layover is to taken at outer terminal (Van Ness Avenue). Only two or three cars actually were thus diverted.

  • January 3, 2005 - California Street line is shut down at 5:45 pm when the cable, at a bad splice, unraveled causing the various strands to "ball up." If such a strand ball got entangled in a grip, a cable car could run forward out of control.

  • March 2, 2005 - Cable car crews walked off the job for two hours in the afternoon, claiming that management had failed to follow agreed-upon procedures in firing two employees accused of mishandling funds. An arbitrator later ruled that the firings were justified. Muni sued the union for violating a no strike clause in its contract.

  • April, 2005 - Former California Street Cable Railroad O’Farrell, Jones and Hyde cable car No. 42, out of service for 51-years, which was cosmetically restored in the 1990s by the Market Street Railway is being readied to return to the city’s streets by Muni’s Washington-Mason shop personnel who are adding brake rigging, grips and trucks. No. 42 scheduled during June to carry on California Street mayors from around the world as part of United Nations Environment Day activities. Thanks to Val Lupiz and MSR's "Inside Track."

  • April 11, 2005 - The California Street line shut down for six days to allow for repair work at Grant and California.

  • May 25, 2005 - Former California Street Cable Railroad’s O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde car No. 42, built in 1906/07 by Holman and retired from revenue service in 1954, after being restored by the Market Street Railway and the Muni’s Washington-Mason craft people is tested on California Street, running on that street for the first time in its 99-year history.

  • June 3, 2005 - Former Cal Cable O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 42 carried on California Street mayors from around the world as part of San Francisco’s hosting of United Nations Environmental Day celebrations. After the ride, the mayors attended a buffet luncheon at Muni's Washington-Mason cable car barn.

  • August 20, 2005 - A car came to a sudden stop at California and Powell Streets, injuring several people.

  • August 31, 2005 - California Street cable becomes un-stranded at California and Drumm Streets, which caught in car No. 58 dragging No. 58 into back of parked No. 51, slightly injuring two crewmen.

  • September 1, 2005 - Because of San Francisco deficit problems most Muni fares are raised. The basic cash fare (includes a free transfer) is increased from $1.25 to $1.50, a 20% rise, whereas the basic cable car fare (no transfer privileges) goes to $5 from $3 a two-thirds rise.

  • September 24, 2005 - Cable Car Division conductor Kevin Grady won the 2005 American Public Transit Association (APTA) International Roadeo Championship in Dallas, Texas. He had to drive a 40 foot bus over a timed obstacle course.

  • October 2005 – Former California Street cable car the first No. 59 that had been sent in 1998 to New Orleans for display in that city’s City Park survived the New Orleans’ flooding and is currently intact in the Carrollton streetcar barn.

  • November 11, 2005 - Over 200-feet of the Hyde cable unravels creating a strand so large that grips could not clear it, thus stranding over night seven Powell-Hyde cars and forcing a multiple-day shut down of the Powell-Hyde line.

  • December 31, 2005 - The California Street line’s eastern terminal (instead of Market Street) for New Year’s Eve is its pre-June 28, 1891 terminal of Kearny Street. See a Muni Rider Alert

  • January 21, 2006 - Mrs Joyce Wong Lam, mother of a San Francisco Superior Court judge, was struck by a cable car at Mason and Filbert. She died three days later.

  • February 11, 2006 - Service on California Street and Powell Street suspended because of the Chinese New Year parade, from 3:00 pm until the San Francisco police gave the "all-clear." California Street cars were banked at Van Ness. See a Muni Rider Alert

  • April 1, 2006 - Cable car conductors start selling a "New All-Day Passport Receipt" for $11. Unlike the former $11 ticket that was good only on cable cars for the day, this ticket is good on the entire Muni system

  • September 21, 2006 - Out-of-service cable cars, as of this date, include Powell car No. 15 with severe dry rot throughout its car body, dead storage Pier 72; Cal car No. 55 with massive damage to its frame, bulkheads and cabin section sustained when the rear grip failed to negotiate the switch at Hyde & Washington, and No. 57 the victim of a similar accident, but with lesser damage. Both in storage at Washington-Mason. Powell cars Nos. 8 and 10 are being rebuilt.

  • April 7, 2007 -- The total number of cable car runs is increased from 48 to 49 by adding an additional daytime run to the Powell-Hyde line.

  • December 12, 2007 -- Walter Rice, author of this chronology, passed away.

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Last updated 01-March-2012