Cable Car Destinations

by Joe Thompson

Where did people ride on cable cars? How did promoters decide where their lines should go? I created this page for two reasons:

  • To offer some observations about destinations chosen by cable railway builders and street railway builders in general.
  • To give my self a place to use some pictures I couldn't put anywhere else.

So where did they go?

Business Districts

Cable car lines were expensive to build. They had to serve areas that could generate lots of traffic.

Most cable car lines had their inner terminals in the business districts of the cities they served. San Francisco's first line, the Clay Street Hill Railroad, started next to Portsmouth Square, then the center of the city. The first line in Los Angeles, the Second Street Cable Railway, started at Spring Street, near the Plaza, which was the center of the original pueblo. All of Chicago's lines originated in the district now known as the "Loop".
Clay Street Car 10 Grip car 10 at the eastern terminus, next to Portsmouth Square. Some sources say that the picture was taken in 1873 and that the man on the left end of the front bench is Andrew Hallidie (Source: "Market Street Railway Company, Past, Present and Future", San Francisco News Letter, Sep 1925). Sep, 1997 Picture of the Month.

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Transit Terminals

Many cable car lines ran to or from a major transit terminal. All the lines of San Francisco's Market Street Cable Railway started at the Ferry Building. Philadelphia Traction Company's Market Street line connected with the Camden Ferry.

Loop at Camden Ferry
Philadelphia Traction cable cars on the narrow balloon loop at the Camden Ferry, foot of Market.

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Residential Areas

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Geary Street Train Geary Street Park & Ocean Railway train at Central (now Presidio) Avenue, before 1892. Calvary Cemetery is in the background. The cemeteries around Central Avenue were a major source of traffic for the line. (source: [group 5:50a], Jesse Brown Cook Scrapbooks Documenting San Francisco History and Law Enforcement, ca. 1895-1936, BANC PIC 1996.003--fALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). Apr, 1998 Picture of the Month.

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Amusement/Recreational Areas

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Copyright 2000-2002 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.

Last updated 01-Oct-2002