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


The Cable Car Home Page
1996 -- The Cable Car Home Page - 20 Years -- 2016

November, 2016 was the 20th anniversary of this website.
I wish I had written down the date I started it.

Read "It Was 20 Years Ago Today," an article about where I have been and where I am going with the site.

The Cable Car Home Page


Bell Ringing Contest
Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest

Byron Cobb won the 2017 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest on Thursday, 13-July-2017 at Noon in Union Square.
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.


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 Car

Car 504 with free-standing figures. In this rear three-quarter view, we see two seated ladies in short skirts on the left-hand bench. The brake handle is visible to the right of the conductor. This is an unusual detail on a toy cable car. See more collectible items on my Cable Car Kitsch page. See toys, magazine ads, and other new items.


Table of Contents


News

Cable Cars Honor Mayor Lee - 12-December-2017

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died suddenly this morning. The cable cars and all other San Francisco transit vehicles paused for one minute at noon in his memory.

SFMTA Threatens to Cut Cal Cable Late Night Service - 07-December-2017

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) wants to end service on the California Street line at 11:45pm instead of 1:00am. This would be a problem for San Francisco residents who work at the hotels and restaurants around the end of Market Street and live in areas reached by the cable cars. District Supervisor Aaron Peskin will fight the proposal. The change may not be legal because the city charter says that cable car must maintain 1971 levels as a minimum. There is a debate about what the hours of service were in 1971.

Car 22 Returns to Service - 28-November-2017

Powell Street car 22, one of the remaining 1887 Ferries and Cliff House cars, returned to service after rebuilding.

"Cable cars’ popularity takes huge hit with $7 fare" - 01-October-2017

A San Francisco Chronicle report by columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross states that cable car ridership fell by 25 percent between 2014 and 2016. They atrribute it to the $7 fare. "Muni spokesman Paul Rose said inconsistent service and long waiting lines may be causing people to turn away as well."

Cal Cable Shutdown - 22-September-2017

Cal Cable shutdown sign A sign at the California and Drumm terminal announces the shutdown. September, 2017.

Muni shut down the California Street cable line from 22-September-2017 to 29-September-2017 to replace the gearbox that drives the California Street cable. The old gearbox dated from the 1982-1984 Great Reconstruction.

Cal Cable shutdown sign/2 This sign stood in the center of the California and Drumm terminal. September, 2017.

New Muni Uniforms - 18-September-2017

Muni operators began to wear new gray uniforms, replacing the old brown uniforms. Jackets are black or high visibility yellow. The new uniforms are supposed to be more comfortable in hot or cold conditions.

Angels Flight Returns (Again) - 31-August-2017

CBS This Morning Angels Flight reopening mentioned on CBS This Morning. All rights reserved.

Angels Flight, the Los Angeles funicular returned to service on 31-August-2017. The line had been shut down since a derailment on 05-September-2013.

Animated Photos I took during our visit to Angels Flight, as an animated gif, courtesy of gifka.com.

Cable Cars Shut Down Because of Protests - 26-August-2017

Because of a planned white supremacist rally at Crissy Field in the Presidio, Mayor Ed Lee ordered the cable cars to be replaced by buses. All Muni lines in the Marina and Cow Hollow were shut down. This was inspired by the violence caused by Neo Nazis, Klansmen and other degenerates in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The degenerates cancelled Crissy Field, tried to go to Alamo Square, went briefly to Crissy Field, and somehow wound up in Pacifica. What did we poor Pacificans do to earn that?

San Francisco's Transportation Octopus - 13-August-2017

San Francisco's Octopus

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'm looking forward to reading it.

Update 01-December-2017:

I have written a small review.

California Street Inner Terminal Modified - 01-August-2017

58 and 51

I should have posted this in late May, but Muni has surrounded the inner terminal of the California Street line with a row of stanchions or posts. The ugly plastic barriers seen in the photo of cars 58 and 51 have finally gone away.

Angels Flight Takes Steps Forward - 01-July-2017

Angels Flight, which has been shut down since 05-September-2013 is scheduled to resume service by Labor Day.

Recent reports say that the cars and the stations have been repainted in primer white, and that construction has begun on the safety stairway, which is prerequisite to resume operation.

Isle of Man Horse Tramway Operations Resumed - 24-May-2017

The Isle of Man Horse Tramway resumed limited service after being suspended since 10-May-2017 because of a respiratory that affected the horses.

Political Idiocy - 16-May-2017

Political Idiocy

Some jerk in Georgia decided to try to smear Jon Ossof, the Democratic candidate for an open seat in the House of Representatives by calling him the "San Francisco Candidate." They wasted money by shooting actors portraying stereotypical liberals in San Francisco locations saying that they supported Jon Ossof. The low point of the commercial was a shot of Powell Street Car One that had been altered to show a huge photo of Jon Ossof and a banner saying "Jon Ossof (peace symbol) San Francisco Congressman."

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was taken by surprise. The SFMTA is sending a cease and desist letter.

Happily, Ossof came in first in the April election and nearly won outright. He will be in the June 20 runoff with a Republican candidate.

And what the hell is wrong with the peace symbol?

Update - 21-June-2017

Jon Ossof lost the election by two points in a district where he should have lost by twenty.

Cobblestone Riders - 16-May-2017

Cobblestone Riders

A Portuguese skateboarder/engineer designed a skateboard that could operate on cobblestoned streets. The board has three wheels. The single wheel at one end is larger, and is meant to run in the channel of a tramway rail. The board has a brake that the rider can operate using a lever.

A video taken during a visit in April shows him riding the board down both the California Street and Hyde Street hills. This is bad idea and he could have killed himself if he had encountered a switch or an irregular bit of track.

Please don't do this.

Isle of Man Horse Tramway Operations Suspended - 10-May-2017

The Isle of Man Government Department of Infrastructure released an announcement:
Isle of Man Railways, with the advice of Ray Cox of Milan Vets, have made the decision to temporarily cease all horse tram operations for approximately ten days.

The decision has been taken after a number of the tram horses were found to be experiencing a respiratory issue.

The infection is relatively common among horses and it is difficult to determine where it has originated. It is not fatal to horses, but it can be transmitted between them. Action to contain the infection and to manage the recovery of the affected horses will be taken in line with veterinary advice.

The infection cannot be passed to humans.

Mr Cox, Clinical Director of Milan Vets, stated:

‘We understand this is disappointing news for our customers. However, the welfare of the horses always comes first. We are confident that the horses will make a full recovery and we will work with the vets to resume our services as soon as possible.’

Ian Bates, Head of Public Transport Operations, added:

‘We understand this is disappointing news for our customers. However, the welfare of the horses always comes first. We are confident that the horses will make a full recovery and we will work with the vets to resume our services as soon as possible.’

Isle of Man Railways will issue an update regarding the resumption of horse tram services in the near future.

The other vintage transport systems continue to operate as normal.

Fare Pocketing - 27-April-2017

Two cable car conductor were arrested in April, accused of pocketing cash fares paid by riders. This has gone on for many years. The San Francisco MTA is looking into ending cash fares on the cable cars.

Downtown Power Outage - 21-April-2017

A major power outage in downtown San Francisco caused all cable car lines to hold position.

2017 CAMRA Isle of Man Beer and Cider Festival - 06-April-2017

IOM Beer and Cider Festival

The Isle of Man Horse Tramway will play an important part in the opening of the 2017 CAMRA Isle of Man Beer and Cider Festival. The Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, Sir Richard Gozney, will ride to the festival opening on tram car 18, a double decker built in 1883. The Festival will take place from April 6 to 8.

Cable Car - Electric Auto Collision - 30-March-2017

Around 5pm on 30-March-2017, Powell Street cable car 5 had a collision with an electric-powered Tesla automobile. Fault has not yet been determined. Buses ran on Powell Street for a while.

"San Francisco Cable Cars" Documentary Film - 19-March-2017

Balboa Marquee The marquee of the Balboa Theater announces the showing of Strephon Taylor's new documentary "San Francisco Cable Cars."

We went to San Francisco's Balboa Theater on Sunday to see Strephon Taylor's new documentary "San Francisco Cable Cars."

I enjoyed the documentary, which included beautiful photography of current operations and a good selection of photos and animations to explain cable traction technology.

One of the people interviewed was from the Mechanics' Institute, which Andrew S Hallidie helped found. Gripman Val Lupz and historians Emiliano Echeverria and Mike Phipps were also interviewed.

The documentary held the crowd's interest until the end and people had some good questions for Strephon Taylor after. I went to the lobby and bought a copy of the video. You can learn more about the movie and buy a copy here: San Francisco Cable Cars documentary website

The movie was held over for another week at the Balboa and has been touring other theaters in Northern California.

Strephon Taylor Strephon Taylor in the lobby.

Pedestrian Killed by Cable Car - 19-March-2017

An elderly pedestrian was struck by an inbound Powell-Mason car at Mason and Filbert. He died in the hospital.

Angels Flight is Saved! - 01-March-2017

Angels Flight announcement Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announces the rebirth of Angels Flight. (source: Angels Flight Railway Revival Press Conference, from Esotouric).

Today Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that Angels Flight, which has been shut down since 05-September-2013 will resume service by Labor Day. A petition organized by the Angels Flights Friends & Neighbors Society (FANS) Preservation Campaign deserves much of the credit. Thank you to everyone who signed. Petitions can work.

ACS Infrastructure Development and a team of other transportation and engineering firms have made a deal with the nonprofit Angels Flight Railway Foundation, which owns the railway, to refurbish it, improve the mechanism, and operate it for thirty years.

"San Francisco Cable Cars" Documentary Film - 01-March-2017

San Francisco Cable Cars

Strephon Taylor's new documentary "San Francisco Cable Cars" will premiere at the Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa Street, San Francisco on Friday, 17-March-2017.

The schedule:
Friday-Saturday March 17-18: 5pm, 7:30pm and 9:45pm
Sunday-Wednesday March 19, 20, 21, 22: 5pm, 7:30pm
Thursday March 23: 5pm

I'm looking forward to it. Among the people interviewed are gripman Val Lupz and historian Emiliano Echeverria.

The documentary website.

Bay to Bay Service - 10-February-2017

tpa2sf

Tampa International Airport announced a new Bay to Bay Nonstop Tampa to San Francisco service coming from United Airlines. The image features a San Francisco cable car and an open streetcar operated by the TECO Line Streetcar System in Tampa.

Isle of Man Horse Tramway 2017 Schedule Released - 03-February-2017

Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 2017 Timetable The cover of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 2017 Timetable. (source: Isle of Man Railways)

Download the 2017 Isle of Man Horse Tramway Timetable.

We all owe a big thanks to the Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway, which has worked hard to keep the line intact. We all have to remain vigilant.

Cliff Lift in Folkestone Shut Down - 27-January-2017

Folkestone's Leas Cliff Lift shut down after operating since 1885. It was older than San Francisco's Powell Street cable car lines.

News Archive

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2018 Anniversaries

150 years ago - 1868
Jul 03 - Charles T Harvey tested his West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway in New York City

125 years ago - 1893
Jan 04 - The Oakland Cable Railway's horse-drawn Broadway/Telegraph Avenue line was converted to electric traction
Feb 20 - The failure of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway was one factor that led to the Panic of 1893, which damaged many cable car lines that relied on real estate promotions for traffic. The Panic, an economic depression, lasted until 1897
Feb 21 - A train of the Kansas City Cable Railway lost its grip on the great incline and ran away backwards. Five people were injured
Apr 14 - San Francisco's Ferries and Cliff House Railway sent Clay Street Hill Railroad grip car 8 and trailer 1 to the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
Apr 29 - The Orange Mountain Cable Railway, a funicular in Orange, New Jersey, opened for service
May 01 - The World's Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago, providing increated business for all public transit companies in Chicago, but especially the Chicago City Railway
May 01 - The Denver Tramway Company's Broadway line was converted to electric traction
May 01 - In New York City, the Metropolitan Street Railway's Broadway line opened for service
May 06 - In New York City, a car of the Metropolitan Street Railway's Broadway line ran away
Jun 10 - Oakland's Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company converted its Piedmont Avenue line to electric traction
Jun 13 - The bankrupt Pacific Cable Railway (Los Angeles Cable Railway) was purchased at auction by the Consolidated Electric Railway
Jul 04 - The Mount Lowe Incline opened for service
Jul 06 - The Denver Tramway Company's Colfax Avenue and 15th Street lines were converted to electric traction
Jul 17 - In Sydney, the New South Wales Government Tramways extended its North Sydney line to Lane Cove Road (later Pacific Highway) at Crows Nest
Jul 23 - The Baltimore City Passenger Railway's Charles Street (Blue) and Gay Street (Red) lines opened for service
Aug 05 - San Francisco's Omnibus Railroad and Cable Company abandoned its Howard and 26th Street (blue) line
Aug 14 - San Francisco's Omnibus Railroad and Cable Company was taken over by the Market Street Railway
Aug 20 - The Baltimore City Passenger Railway's Madison Avenue (White) line opened for service
Aug 13 - The Southern Pacific Railroad formed San Francisco's Market Street Railway by combining all the cable car operating companies in the city except Sutter, California, Geary, and the Presidio and Ferries. It also included the Metropolitan Railroad, the second electric line in San Francisco.
Sep 01 - The Saint Paul City Railway's Seventh Street line was converted to electric traction
Oct 13 - The Consolidated Electric Railway was purchased by the Los Angeles Railway
Oct 30 - The World's Columbian Exposition closed in Chicago
Nov 01 - Oakland's Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company went into receivership. It was reorganized as the Piedmont and Mountain View Railway
Nov 05 - A train of the Chicago City Railway killed actor Daniel J Hart on State Street, near Jackson
Dec 04 - In New York City, the Third Avenue Railroad's Third Avenue line opened for service

New York Giants record: 68-64, 5th place. Manager: Monte Ward.

100 years ago - 1918
Feb 03 - Twin Peaks Tunnel opened
Nov 11 - Armistice Day

New York Giants record: 98-56, 1st place. Manager: John McGraw. The Chicago White Sox won the World Series 4 games to 2.

75 years ago - 1943
Oct 20 - The Court Flight, a funicular in Los Angeles, was damaged in a fire and went out of business

New York Giants record: 85-67, 3rd place. Manager: Mel Ott.

50 years ago - 1968
Jul 31 - Presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey rode a cable car with Mayor Joe Alioto
Aug 22 - Jennifer (Foreman) de Grassi was named Miss Cable Car 1968

San Francisco Giants record: 91-71, 2nd place. Manager: Herman Franks.

25 years ago - 1993

San Francisco Giants record: 72-90, 5th place. Manager: Roger Craig.

Anniversaries Archive

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What's New

What's New Archive

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Ten and Twenty Years Ago

Ten Years Ago

Twenty Years Ago

  • 01-Jan-1998
    • Picture of the Month: Yesler Way grip car.
    • Move Cal Cable to separate page. Add California & Grant pictures.
    • Roll out archive page.
  • 01-Dec-1997
  • 01-Nov-1997
    • Change picture on initial page from MSR open car to Cal Cable train.
    • Remove obsolete link to David Letterman in SF top ten lists.
    • Remove link JW Harris picture to conserve disk space.
    • Clean up some typos.

Ten and Twenty Years Ago Archive

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Copyright 1996-2018 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-January-2018