Cable Car Lines in Other California Cities

by Joe Thompson

Where Should I Go from Here? Visit the Map

If you came to this page from an outside link, you may want to see the Picture of the Month and visit my main page.

  • Los Angeles

    The desire to develop land on and beyond the steep hills near the central plaza inspired Los Angeles to build cable car lines in imitation of San Francisco.

  • Oakland

    Oakland's cable car lines connected downtown with outlying residential and business sections.

  • San Diego

    San Diego's only cable car line was one of the shortest lived.


    Second Street Cable Railway

    Second and Broadway
    Los Angeles Second Street cable train at Fort (now Broadway) in 1893-1895, photographed by C.C. Pierce (Source: [group 1:12], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). Thank you to Don Young for correcting the date. Jan, 1999 Picture of the Month.

    line: Second Street from Spring Street to Diamond Street (now Beverly Boulevard)

    opened: 08-Oct-1885

    powerhouse: Second & Boyleston

    grip: Single-jaw side grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended dummy & trailer trains.

    turntables: single track

    crossings:
    Intersection Company Status
    Second/FortLACsuperior

    notes: Like most Spanish and Mexican colonial cities, Los Angeles grew up around a central plaza. Bunker Hill, like Nob Hill in San Francisco, impeded development northwest of the Plaza.

    Real estate promoters, seeing the success of the cable car lines in San Francisco, projected a line to climb Bunker Hill on Second Street. Their job was made more complicated by the fact that Second Street was not graded far past Fort Street (now Broadway). The work required deep cuts in Bunker Hill. The line climbed another hill beyond Bunker Hill. The powerhouse was in the valley in the middle. Two articles from the Los Angeles Times describe how the line was expected to raise property values, so property owners were expected to contribute to the line's financing:

    In an effort to save money, the line was built with a single track. Passing sidings were arranged so that downbound cars could drop the rope and coast through. The arrangement was not successful. The line was designed by J M Thompson, an engineer who worked for the patent trust's Pacific Cable Construction Company.

    The line was tested on 08-October-1885. "The road is evidently a success and will open up a delightful portion of the city which is in full view of the ocean. Since the road has become assured, there has been a considerable rise in values on South Spring street, where a new business center is rapidly forming. Rents have nearly doubled, and, in some cases, contributors to the cable road fund report that they have already been repaid tenfold for their investments." (Second Street Cable Railway Tested (Los Angeles Times, Friday, October 9, 1885))

    The line contained the single steepest cable gradient in North America, 27.7% between Hope Street and Bunker Hill Avenue.

    The company was short of cash throughout its life and it was especially hurt whenever it rained, because the water would run down the poorly drained conduit, damaging the cables and the pulleys. The line was shut down from late February to early March 1888 because a replacement cable could not get through the mud from the train station to the powerhouse. The line shut down on 13-Oct-1889 when the cable broke and the company could not afford a replacement. A terrible storm on 24-Dec-1889 ruined the property beyond repair.

    Two newspaper articles talked about the sad fate of the line:

    The Second Street Cable Railway became the first operational cable car line to be abandoned.

    The company connected with a steam line, the Cahuenga Valley Railroad, which ran to Hollywood. The steam line was later forced to cut back to the city limits, which hurt the Second Street company.

    Looking up Second Looking up Second Street, photographed by I.W. Taber (?) (Source: [group 3:3], Riverside and Los Angeles Area Views, ca. 1880-1889, by I.W. Taber and Others, BANC PIC 1905.06211--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

    Second Street Cut A train of the Second Street Cable Railway in Los Angeles passes through the line's deep cut in Bunker Hill. This CC Pierce photograph shows the lightly populated area which the line's promoters hoped would grow and provide riders. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Archive (c) 2004, California Historical Society: TICOT/Pierce, CHS-2867. All rights reserved. January, 2009 Picture of the Month.

    Second Street PH The powerhouse of the Second Street Cable Railway. Crewmen pose with a dummy and a side grip. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Archive (c) 2004, California Historical Society: TICOT/Pierce, CHS-M12634. All rights reserved.

    Second & Boyleston Second & Boyleston powerhouse and carhouse in 1888. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Los Angeles, 1888, Vol 1, Sheet 40b).

    from Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, 1887

    P. 233

    Second Street Cable R.R. Co. operates 1.6 miles of road, owns 6 dummies and 6 cars. Directors, W. S. Newhall, San Francisco, Cal; Jas. McLaughlin, Jesse Yarnell, H. C. Witmer, Edward A. Hall, Los Angeles, Cal. -- Edward A. Hall, Pres., Jas. McLaughlin, Vice-Pres., H. C. Witmer, Sec., Jesse Yarnell, Treas., Edward A. Hall, Supt., F. F. Field, Pur. Agt.. -- GENERAL OFFICE, 33 South Spring St., Los Angeles, Cal.

    P. 378 Revised statement

    Second Street Cable R.R. Co. operates 1.6 miles of road, owns 6 dummies and 6 cars. Directors, Jas. McLaughlin, A. I. Hall, D. W. Field, Chas. McLaughlin, Los Angeles, Cal. -- Jas. McLaughlin, Pres., H. W. Davis, Sec., Treas., & Supt., E. H. Hutchinson, Asst. Supt. -- GENERAL OFFICE, Second and Figueroa Sts., Los Angeles, Cal.

    Go to top of page.


    Temple Street Cable Railway

    LA Temple Street cable train
    Temple Street cable train (detail of a large photograph taken from the tower of the county court house) (Source: [group 7:66], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). February, 1999 Picture of the Month

    line: Temple Street from Main to Edgeware Road

    opened: 14-Jul-1886

    extended: 30-Apr-1889 Temple Street to Hoover Street

    powerhouse: Temple & Edgeware

    grip: Single-jaw side grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: double-ended dummy & trailer trains.

    turntables: crossovers

    crossings:

    notes: The Temple Street Cable Railway was the most successful cable car line in Los Angeles. It was built by real estate promoters, and it succeeded in raising the value of property along the road. The line climbed through the draw between Fort Moore (Mormon) Hill and Pound Cake Hill.

    Like the Second Street Railway, the line was originally single-tracked. In 1889, the line from Main to Union was double-tracked.

    The Temple Street line connected with the Cahuenga Valley Railroad, a steam line to Hollywood.

    The company was sold under foreclosure on 28-Feb-1898. Henry E Huntingtion acquired it in 1902 and included it in the Pacific Electric Railway. It was converted to electricity on 02-Oct-1902. The line was transferred to the Los Angeles Railway in 1910. In the 1930's, the A line, which ran on Temple Street, was one of the first in Los Angeles to be converted to buses.

    The Los Angeles Times ran a detailed article about the completion of the line:

    Temple Street train A train of the Temple Street Cable Railway in Los Angeles near Temple and Hoover Streets in 1889. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Archive (c) 2004, California Historical Society: TICOT/Pierce, CHS-7070. All rights reserved.
    Hollywood steam train
    Cahuenga Valley Railroad steam train which connected the Temple Street Cable Railway with Hollywood (Source: [group 3:23], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).
    Temple & Edgeware Temple & Edgeware powerhouse and carhouse in 1888. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Los Angeles, 1888, Vol 1, Sheet 40a).

    from Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, 1887

    P. 234

    Temple Street Cable Ry. (in progress.) Length of road, 3 miles, owns 6 dummy engines and 6 cars. Directors, Walter S. Maxwell, Victory Beaudry, Prudent Beaudry, Julius Lyons, Thomas Stovell, Ralph Rogers, E. A. Hall, Octavius Morgan, John Milner. -- Walter S. Maxwell, Pres., P. Beaudry, Vice-Pres., Octavius Morgan, Sec., John Milner, Treas., O. Morgan, Supt., Pur. Agt, etc., Los Angeles, Cal. -- PRINCIPAL OFFICE, Los Angeles, Cal.

    P. 378 Revised statement

    Temple Street Cable Ry. operates 1.75 miles of road, owns 6 dummy engines and 6 cars. Directors, W. S. Maxwell, Victory Beaudry, Prudent Beaudry, Julius Lyons, Thomas Stovell, Ralph Rogers, E. A. Hall, Octavius Morgan, John Milner. -- P. Beaudry, Pres., O. Morgan, Vice-Pres., F. W. Wood, Sec. & Man., John Millner, Treas., Los Angeles, Cal. -- PRINCIPAL OFFICE, Los Angeles, Cal.

    Go to top of page.


    Los Angeles Cable Railway/Pacific Cable Railway

    LA Viaduct The Los Angeles Cable Railway used the "Cape Horn" viaduct to cross the Southern Pacific Railway yards near the Los Angeles River. 1889 photograph. The viaduct was carried on a single row of columns for over 1 KM (Source: [group 3:21], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). Mar, 1999 Picture of the Month.
    LA Cable train A detail of the preceeding photograph. The steep approach and open tracks kept other vehicles off of the viaduct. The sign reads "Los Angeles Cable Railway Co/Caution, No Thoroughfare" (Source: [group 3:21], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

    line: East LA/West LA

    opened: 08-Jun-1889. Fort (now Broadway) from the Plaza to Seventh, Seventh to Grand.

    extended: 14-Sep-1889. Grand from Seventh to Jefferson.

    extended: 02-Nov-1889. North Spring to Downey (now North Broadway), Downey to Pritchard (now Lincoln Park).

    powerhouse: Seventh and Grand.

    powerhouse: Downey and Workman.

    grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended dummy & trailer trains.

    turntables: ?

    crossings:
    Intersection Company Status
    Second/Fort2STinferior

    line: Westlake Park/Boyle Heights

    opened: 03-Aug-1889. East First from Spring to Chicago.

    opened: 28-Sep-1889. East First from Chicago to Evergreen.

    extended: 02-Nov-1889. North Spring to Downey (now North Broadway), Downey to Pritchard (now Lincoln Park).

    extended: 07-Dec-1889. West Seventh from Alvarado to Grand.

    powerhouse: Seventh and Grand.

    powerhouse: East First and Chicago.

    grip: Eppelsheimer bottom grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended dummy & trailer trains.

    turntables: ?

    crossings:
    Intersection Company Status
    Second/Fort2STinferior

    notes: The Los Angeles Cable Railway, later known as the Pacific Railway, operated ten miles of cable and 25 miles of horse lines.

    The promoters of the Los Angeles Cable Railway, Isais W Hellman and James F Crank, studied the first electric line in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Electric Railway, which used the pioneering system of Professor Leo Daft (no kidding). The Pico Street line was entirely unsuccessful, so Hellman and Crank chose to use cable even though their system covered very few hills.
    Pico Street electric trains Two trains of the unsuccessful Los Angeles Electric Railway. The poor performance of this line convinced the promoters of the Los Angeles Cable Railway to use cable as their source of motive power (Source: [group 3:24], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

    CB Holmes Charles B Holmes (Source: The Street Railway Journal December, 1891).

    Hellman and Crank ran short of money and sold three quarters of the company to C B Holmes, promoter of the Chicago City Railway. Holmes reorganized the company as the Pacific Railway. Augustine W Wright of Chicago designed the system using patents controlled by the industry trust.

    AW Wright An ad for AW Wright "Consulting Engineer for Horse Railroads". He also worked on cable railroads, including the Los Angeles Cable Railway/Pacific Cable Railway. Note that he is to be contacted care of the North Chicago City Railway, where he was superintendant of track and construction. From the April, 1885 Anerican Railroad Journal.

    The system had several difficult features, including complicated pull curves around the Plaza, and three long viaducts used to cross rivers and railroad yards.

    The storm of 24-Dec-1889, which destroyed the Second Street Cable Railway, also caused damage to this company. General Manager James Clifton Robinson was allegedly fired after a huge rainstorm on 24-December-1889 obstructed the conduits with debris. Robinson, having bet a cigar that he could get the system going again, ordered the cables started the next day and caused severe damage to the cables and machinery, which were full of gravel and sand.

    Robinson's comments from "A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power":

    The provision of an efficient system of drainage is deserving of the greatest attention, as without adequate drainage of the conduits there can be no sustained and satisfactory operation of the cable road. Having a vivid recollection of our experience in this direction at Los Angeles, I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of this point. There, in a practically newly-founded city, hurriedly built up as Los Angeles was, and developed in a period brief beyond precedent, the city possessed no commensurate system of storm drains or sewers, consequently the cable roads for many miles of their extent were constructed without any drainage facilities whatever. In the rain storms which periodically visited us, we found our roads literally swamped with storm water, which had no means of escape other than through the cable conduits and thence into the terminal pits and power-houses, which had been located with their foundations 30 ft. below the level of the tracks. How, and to what extent, those power-houses were flooded, and with what danger, expense and difficulty the roads were maintained in continuous operation, are matters of Pacific Coast history.

    The Pacific Railway went bankrupt on 21-Jan-1891 because of storm damage and competition from Sprague electric cars of the Consolidated Electric Railway. The Consolidated Electric Railway purchased the company for a tiny fraction of its capital value on 13-Jun-1893. The Los Angeles Railway purchased the Consolidated on 13-Oct-1893.

    The Los Angeles Railway, run by Frederick W Wood, the former general manager of the Temple Street Cable Railway, strung wires over the former LA Cable tracks. On 01-Feb-1896, West Seventh and Fort were shut down. The Grand Avenue cable stopped on 12-Feb-1896. Service to Boyle Heights was converted on 13-Mar-1896. Downey Avenue was converted on 18-Mar-1896.

    The electric lines which replaced the Los Angeles Cable Railway were among the last in Los Angeles before the new era of light rail. They were converted, along with the Pico Street line, on 31-Mar-1963.

    The Los Angeles Cable Railway/Pacific Railway lost money for all concerned. Hellman continued to be a successful bank executive. He was also president of Wells Fargo Bank. Crank was bitter about the Consolidated's efforts to ruin the company. Holmes, one of the pioneers who spread cable cars beyond San Francisco, was ruined.

    Scientific American described the Los Angeles Cable Railway in an article in its 10-Oct-1891 issue.

    General Manager James Clifton Robinson wrote and delivered at the Tenth Annual Meeting of the American Street-Railway Association, held at the Monongahela House, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 21 and 22, 1891, "A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power", a paper about cable traction developments.

    from The Street Railway Journal December, 1891

    Amusing incidents often occur in street railway practice which vary the ordinary monotonous routine. One of these, which is worth relating, occurred recently on the Los Angeles cable line. A cable car entered a curve at the usual speed and a passenger slightly intoxicated, sitting on the front seat was thrown on the cobble stones below and landed fairly on the top of his head. He was assisted to arise by an inspector of the road and was helped to the curb where he sat down awaiting the arrival of a hack. Of course, the usual curious crowd gathered around. The man after recovering a little from his dazed condition, looked up with the blood streaming down over his face and said: "Well boys, I am just from Texas and this is my first ride on a cable car. I have ridden Texas bronchos and mules, but I never struck anything that could throw me as that car did."

    Second and Broadway Los Angeles Cable Railway cable train on Fort (now Broadway) near Second in 1889, photographed by C.C. Pierce (Source: [group 1:14], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

    Boyle Heights train A Boyle Heights train of the Los Angeles Cable Railway in Los Angeles near First Street and Cemetery around 1890. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Archive (c) 2004, California Historical Society: TICOT/Pierce, CHS-8471. All rights reserved. March, 2009 Picture of the Month.
    Downey & South Workman Downey & South Workman powerhouse in 1894. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Los Angeles, 1894, Vol 1, Sheet 35b).

    East First & Chicago East First & Chicago powerhouse and carhouse in 1888. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Los Angeles, 1888, Vol 2, Sheet 69b).

    Seventh & Grand Seventh & Grand powerhouse in 1894-1900. (Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Los Angeles, 1894-1900, Vol 2, Sheet 56a).

    LA Cable Powerhouse Tension run at the Seventh and Grand powerhouse of the Los Angeles Cable Railway. The closest sheave is on a movable tension carriage. The drivers and idlers are in the background (Source: [group 2:20], William C. Barry Collection of Los Angeles Area Photographs, BANC PIC 1964.056--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.).

    Go to top of page.


    Cable Cars at Knott's Berry Farm

    Car 59 A postcard showing former O'Farrell/Jones/Hyde cable car 59 at Knott's Berry Farm. April, 2009 Picture of the Month.

    In 1955, the San Franisco Municipal Railway sold former California St Cable Railroad cars 6, 17, 20, 43, 49, and 59 to Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Orange County. They ran under battery power, hauling visitors from the parking lot. The cars operated at Knott's until 1979.

    Car 17 is preserved at the Poway Midland Railroad in Poway, California. The Poway museum hopes to restore the car to operate it.

    Car 43 is preserved at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.

    Cal Cable 43 California Street Cable Railroad car 43 was used at Knott's Berry Farm. Bob Murphy took this photo at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. All rights reserved.

    Cal Cable 43/2 Another view of car 43. Bob Murphy took this photo at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. All rights reserved.

    Two sources say the other cars were returned to Muni in 1981, but they must have been used for parts, because they aren't on Muni's roster.
    Knotts Car A postcard showing a former Cal Cable car at Knott's Berry Farm, with costumed characters from the Ghost Town.

    Sutter Street Trailer Sutter Street Railway trailer 77 was used as a snack stand at Knott's Berry Farm. Bob Murphy took this photo at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. All rights reserved.
    KBF map A map of Knott's Berry Farm shows the two loops of track used by the cable cars, and the location of the carhouse. Big image.
    KBF map detail A detail of the map of Knott's Berry Farm shows the larger of two loops of track used by the cable cars.
    KBF plate This Knott's paper plate shows car 59.

    Go to top of page.


    Cable Car Murals at Disney California Adventure

    Ghirardelli/1 An animated mural in the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop features a California Street cable car passing Ghirardelli Square on North Point. California Street cable cars have never run on North Point. July, 2012.

    Disney California Adventure (it lost its apostrophe s in 2011-2012) is an amusement park that was built in the former parking lot of Disneyland. When it opened in 2001, one of the attractions was a tortilla factory in the Cannery Row section. When the park was renovated in 2011-2012, the tortilla factory was replaced by a Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.

    Behind the counters are two animated murals of San Francisco scenes.

    Ghirardelli/2 Another animated mural in the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop features a California Street cable car approaching the corner of Haight and Ashbury with Coit Tower in the background. Psychedelic. July, 2012.

    Ghirardelli/3 In the same mural, the scene has changed to night. July, 2012.

    Go to top of page.


    Oakland Cable Railway

    Oakland Cable Car
    Oakland Cable Railway Car One at San Pablo and Park Avenues in Emeryville, the outer terminal. This car was struck by a steam train in December, 1894. (Source: [group 3:29], Frank B. Rodolph Photograph Collection, BANC PIC 1905.17146-17161--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). April, 1999 Picture of the Month.

    line: Broadway/San Pablo Avenue

    opened: 19-Nov-1886. Broadway from Seventh Street to San Pablo. San Pablo Avenue to Park Avenue in Emeryville.

    extended: 1889. Broadway from Seventh Street to the ferry terminal at Water Street.

    powerhouse: Twentieth and San Pablo.

    grip: Root single-jaw side grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended California cars.

    turntables: double track

    crossings:
    Intersection Company Status
    Broadway/San PabloConPedsuperior

    The Oakland Railroad was founded in 1869. It built a 5 foot gauge horse car line on Broadway and Telegraph Avenue.

    Senator James G Fair, a Comstock millionaire who also built the South Pacific Coast narrow gauge railroad, purchased the company and promoted the Oakland Cable Railway.

    The cable car line had few grades and only one mild curve. The Southern Pacific bought both the SPC and the Oakland Railroad with its cable subsidiary from Fair in 1887.

    The line used the same Root single-jaw side grip as the Market Street Cable Railway, under license from the Patents Trust.

    The line used nice-looking single-ended California type cars that were similar to the original Ferries & Cliff House Railway cars.

    The line crossed steam railroads near both terminii. This was difficult because it required a very strong conduit to support the weight of the steam locomotives. There was at least one fatal accident when a Seventh Street local train hit Car One at Broadway: Cable Car Struck by Steam Train -- a series of articles. "A frightful accident occurred last night at Seventh street and Broadway, in Oakland, where two streetcar lines (one a cable and the other an electric) cross the broad-gauge local train track, on which trains run every half hour in the day and hourly after 7 p.m., and at a point at which just such an accident has been long expected."

    The horse-drawn Broadway/Telegraph Avenue line was electrified on 04-Jan-1893. The Telegraph Avenue cars shared the cable car tracks on Broadway to the Ferries. The Broadway/San Pablo Avenue cable line was converted to electricity on 21-May-1899.

    Some contemporary newspaper articles:

    from Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, 1887

    P. 233

    Oakland R.R. Co. owns 100 horses, 2 dummies and 25 cars. -- J. S. Emery, Pres., A. Doble, Vice-Pres. & Pur. Agt., H. H. Towns, Sec., First National Bank, Treas. G. Y. Loring, Supt. -- GENERAL OFFICE, 921 Broadway, Oakland, Cal.

    from Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, 1890

    P. 1186

    Oakland Cable Ry. Co. Main line, 5 miles; gauge, 3 ft.; rail (iron), 40 lbs.; owns 10 cars. -- J. G. Blair, Pres., C. S. Neal, Sec., G. Y. Loring, Supt. -- GENERAL OFFICE, 21st and Jones Sts., Oakland, Cal.

    Go to top of page.


    Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company

    Cable Conduit and Track Construction Consolidated Cable Company crews building the conduit and track on Oakland Avenue (Source: [group 5:60], Frank B. Rodolph Photograph Collection, BANC PIC 1905.17146-17161--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

    line: Broadway/Oakland Avenue

    opened: 01-Aug-1890. 8th Street from Clay to Washington. Washington from 8th to 14th. 14th to Broadway. Broadway to 24th. 24th to Oakland Avenue. Oakland to Highland Avenue. Inbound only: 14th to Clay. Clay to 8th.

    powerhouse: 24th and Harrison.

    grip: McClelle bottom grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended California cars.

    turntables: double track turntables. Loop at inner terminal.

    crossings:
    Intersection Company Status
    Broadway/San PabloOakCabinferior

    line: Broadway/Piedmont Avenue

    opened: 02-Aug-1892. 8th Street from Clay to Washington. Washington from 8th to 14th. 14th to Broadway. Broadway to Piedmont. Piedmont to Mountain View Cemetery. Inbound only: 14th to Clay. Clay to 8th.

    powerhouse: 24th and Harrison.

    grip: McClelle bottom grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended California cars.

    turntables: double track turntables. Loop at inner terminal.

    crossings:
    Intersection Company Status
    Broadway/San PabloOakCabinferior

    notes: The lines of this company were longer and more complicated than those of the Oakland Cable Railway; the company's corporate history was also complicated.

    The company was at some point known as the Piedmont Cable Company. It was taken over by the Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company. I have also seen it referred to as the Consolidated Cable Company.

    The company's lines started in the business district, where I used to work, and continued on Broadway after the Oakland Cable Railway's line turned off. The Oakland Avenue line made a steep climb into the East Oakland Hills. The area was projected as a highly desirable residential area.

    Linda Vista ad An advertisement for Linda Vista Terrace. "LINDA VISTA TERRACE is only ten minutes, by a charming ride, from the center of Oakland and only forty minutes from San Francisco. The cars of the cable-line reach both the broad and narrow gauge ferry depots, thus affording fifteen minute communication between the Terrace and San Francisco. Cars run every five minutes and connect with the last boat from the city." From the San Francisco Call, Sunday, 04-January-1891.

    An advertisement for the Flint Tract. "THE CABLE ROAD IS NOW BUILT PAST THE PROPERTY." From the San Francisco Call, Monday, 09-May-1891. Flint Tract ad

    Dingee ad A William J. Dingee advertisement for an auction of new Piedmont homes. "Take Piedmont cable-cars at Eighth and Washington streets." Would you want to live in a Dingee (dingy) home? From the San Francisco Call, Monday, 09-May-1891.

    At the outer turntable, cars could return on Oakland Avenue or hoist their grips and run along another route by gravity, rejoining the main line around Highland and Oakland. The "gravity loop" must have been a neat trip. I have collected some newspaper articles about the gravity loop.

    Blair Park detail A cable car pauses on the gravity loop at the entrance to Blair Park. From "Picturesque Piedmont," an 1891 San Francisco Call article. See this and other newspaper articles about the gravity loop. May, 2009 Picture of the Month.

    The Piedmont Avenue line climbed the hills to Mountain View Cemetery.

    To generate traffic, the company built the Piedmont Baths and the Piedmont baseball grounds near the powerhouse.

    The company considered converting its Fourteenth Street horse car line to cable. It began to lay conduit on the street, but converted the flat line to electric instead.

    The Panic of 1893 put the company into receivership. "Oaklanders were treated to a genuine surprise yesterday when the rumor was spread about the streets that the big concern known as the Piedmont Cable Company was in the hands of a receiver." PIEDMONT ROAD/It Is Placed in the Hands of a Receiver. (San Francisco Morning Call, Thursday, November 02, 1893).

    Ira Bishop of the San Francisco Tool Company, which had built the system, was appointed Receiver. The reorganized Piedmont and Mountain View Railway converted the Piedmont Avenue line on 10-Jun-1893. Oakland Avenue was too steep, so the line ran under electricity on weekdays and under cable on weekends when people rode to the hills for recreation.

    On 19-March-1895, the line was sold at auction for $82,000. Receiver Ira Bishop was the auctioneer and the purchaser, and only bidder, was Charles R. Bishop. Ira's brother? My favorite line from the newspaper account: "Ever since the road began going down hill..." AN OAKLAND ROAD SOLD AT AUCTION/The Consolidated Piedmont Is Bought In by Banker Bishop. (San Francisco Morning Call, Wednesday, March 20, 1895).

    Bondholders A notice from the California Trust Company requests all Consolidated Piedmont bondholders to contact them immediately. This is usually not a good sign. From the San Francisco Call, Thursday, 31-January-1895.

    In December, 1896, the line was completely electrified.

    Ira Bishop Receiver Ira Bishop. "Ira Bishop Ends Life In The Park" (San Francisco Morning Call, Thursday, February 23, 1905).

    Receiver Bishop had a difficult job. "... Ira Bishop will be compelled to appease the wrath of Mrs. Phoebe Blair, who is after him with a sharp stick." He Wants to See the Books. (San Francisco Morning Call, Saturday, January 05, 1895). Various disputes in court persisted into the new century. After sufferring a stroke, Bishop shot himself in Golden Gate Park in 1905.

    The line was the only one in California to use a non-trust grip, using a bottom grip designed by R A McLelle (or McLellan). The company was sued by the trust.

    The company's powerhouse and car barn still stands. It was a Cadillac dealership for many years and then was vacant for many years. Clay Burrell, a famous local architect, remodeled it for Cox Cadillac. A Whole Foods store opened there in 2007. As part of the store's first anniversary celebration, on 28-September-2008, The The Friends of the Cable Car Museum dedicated a plaque at the store. Board member Don Holmgren, the leading authority on Oakland's cable car lines, spoke on the company's history.

    Con Ped Powerhouse Former Consolidated Piedmont powerhouse at 27th and Harrison Streets in Oakland. March 2003. Photo by Joe Thompson.

    Some contemporary newspaper articles:

    In January, 2004, workers digging near Mountain View Cemetery may have uncovered the turntable or the base of the turntable under the asphalt.

    from Poor's Directory of Railway Officials, 1887

    P. 231

    Broadway and Piedmont R.R. Co. -- Walter Blair, Pres., Samuel Howe, Sec., Montgomery Howe, Supt. -- GENERAL OFFICE, Oakland, Cal.

    Go to top of page.


    H Casebolt's Elevated Railroad

    Casebolt Henry Casebolt stands at the controls of his overhead cable car. Photograph courtesy of the Museum of the City of San Francisco. July, 1999 Picture of the Month.

    In 1887, Henry Casebolt, builder of the Sutter Street Railway built an experimental line in Piedmont's Blair Park to demonstrate an overhead cable system. He hoped to sell it to the management of the Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company. They were not interested.

    Casebolt's idea was that not having to lay an expensive conduit under the street would save money. In this system, the cable would run on pulleys attached to cross arms on poles along the line. In the accompanying photograph, the grip sits atop the ornate metal structure, which reminds me of the legs under my grandmother's sewing machine. One of the poles is dimly visible in the background. In larger and clearer copies of the photograph, one can read the legend "H Casebolt's Elevated Railroad" on the dash panel of the car. The grip is essentially a single-jaw side grip.

    According to historian Roy Graves, the cable and pulleys dripped lubricant on the passengers.

    I am still trying to determine how long the track was, what gauge the track was, and how the cable was powered.

    I found some contemporary newspaper references:

  • "The Casebolt Overhead Cable Road, in operation at Blair's Park, is returning good results ... It is estimated that the Casebolt cable road can be built at one eighth the outlay for an underground cable, or at a saving of 87 1/2 per cent in the cost of construction, while the cost of operation is considerably less. It is claimed that this system is practicable, to the best advantage in small towns or suburban localities, where the expense of an underground cable would not be warranted." -- This article answered the question of where the line had been located (Daily Alta California, Monday, September 26, 1887)
  • "Mr. Casebolt is at present figuring upon placing the cable in operation upon a road to be built from the end of the East Berkeley local line up the foothills." (Daily Alta California, Saturday, October 15, 1887)
  • "On Saturday, August 4th, the people of San Mateo county will meet at Germania Hall, Redwood City, and there discuss with Henry Casebolt of this city the building of an elevated cable street-railway between Menlo Park and Redwood City." (Daily Alta California, Saturday, May 19, 1888)
  • "Patents for Califonians -- Henry Caseboldt (sic - JT),, elevated cable and car propeller" (Daily Alta California, Thursday, June 7, 1888)

    Casebolt patent Henry Casebolt's patent drawing for Patent 384,124, "ELEVATED CABLE AND CAR-PROPELLER." July, 2009 Picture of the Month.

    G T Beauregard (General P G T Beauregard, CSA) had tried to build a similar system in New Orleans, Lousiana in 1869 or 1870. In Beauregard's experimental installation, the cable was powered by a steam locomotive at each end of the line. Casebolt's grip was similar to Beauregard's; Casebolt appears to have infringed upon Beauregard's patents, but as far as I know was never sued for it.

    Beauregard patent General Beauregard's patent drawing for Patent R7,669 (reissue of patent 97,343), "IMPROVEMENT IN MACHINERY FOR PROPELLING CARS."

    James Clifton Robinson visited New Orleans while Beauregard was making his experiment. Here are Robinson's comments from "A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power":

    In the following years a number of inventions were put forward for the operation of railways by overhead or underground cables, but no solid progress falls to be recorded until 1869-70, when, at a time when I happened to be in New Orleans, General Beauregard put forward an important invention in which the principles of the modern cable grip were first distinctly set forth. Although the plan with which this invention was connected was one for the use of an overhead cable, this does not detract from the value of his suggestion, furnishing as it did the groundwork of all further development in the line of a side grip apparatus, with mechanically moving jaws.

    Beauregard patent side detail A side view of the car in General Beauregard's patent drawing for Patent R7,669.

    Beauregard patent front detail A front view of the car in General Beauregard's patent drawing for Patent R7,669.

    Go to top of page.


    San Diego Cable Railway

    San Diego Cable Car A San Diego Cable Railway combination car, Las Penasquitas. From Charles B Fairchild's book Street Railways: Their Construction, Operation and Maintenance/A Practical Handbook for Street Railway Men. June, 2009 Picture of the Month.

    San Diego Cable CarConverted to Electric Former San Diego Cable Railway car converted to electricity. This picture was taken between 1896 and 1898. Photograph used with the kind permission of the San Diego Historical Society. June, 1999 Picture of the Month.

    line: Main

    opened: 07-Jun-1890. Sixth Avenue from L to C Street. C to Fourth Avenue. Fourth to Spruce.

    extended: late July 1892. Fourth from Spruce to University. University to Normal Street. Normal to Park Boulevard. Park to Adams Avenue.

    powerhouse: Fourth and Spruce.

    grip: Van Vleck bottom grip.

    gauge: 3'6"

    cars: single-ended California cars and open cars.

    turntables: Single track at terminals.

    crossings:

    notes: The San Diego Cable Railway was one of the least successful lines in the industry.

    The San Diego Cable Railway was incorporated on 22-Jul-1889. It took over the franchise of an unsuccessful electric line. The line was intended to connect downtown with elevated residential areas.

    Frank Van Vleck, who had been associated with the Los Angeles Cable Railway, designed the system, which was single-tracked to save money. He made a variation of the Eppelsheimer bottom grip suitable for single track operation. Van Vleck presented a paper on the subject of Light Cable Road Construction in which he described the San Diego line in detail.

    The company used combination cars and open cars similar to those used on the Ferries and Cliff House Railway in San Francisco.

    The first cars ran on 07-Jun-1890. On 09-Sep-1890, the company opened Mission Cliffs Gardens. The cable company went into receivership during the widespread economic downturn in early 1892 and the last cable cars ran on 15-Oct-1892.

    Many people expected the system would be back in business after reorganization, but the system lay idle until 1896. The Citizens Traction Company took over the property and began running the old cable cars converted to electrics on 28-Jul-1896. Converting cable cars to electricity was not common because cable equipment was usually too light. The San Diego Electric Railway took over the Citizens company and converted the line to standard gauge some time after 23-Mar-1898.

    SD Logo  

    Visit the San Diego Historical Society, which has a wonderful collection of old San Diego photographs, including several more pictures of the cable railway. They also have an interesting article from The Journal of San Diego History, January 1956, Volume 2, Number 1: "Those Fabulous Cable-Cars" by William C. Enneking.

    Go to top of page.

Home/ What/ How/ Where & When/ Who/ Why
Chronology/ Miscellany/ Links/ Map/ Bibliography

Copyright 1999-2014 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.

Last updated 01-June-2014