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 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


"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

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.

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


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.

50th Annual Cable Car Classic - 15-November-2016

Cable Car Classic

Tennessee State University defeated Santa Clara University 69-61 to win the 50th Annual Cable Car Classic basketball tournament hosted by Santa Clara University.

1967 Cable Car Classic A program from the inaugural Cable Car Classic in 1967. The Santa Clara Broncos have hosted the holiday basketball tournament since 1967. Santa Clara won the tournament. Butch Kaufman of Western Kentucky was the MVP.

Dunedin Cable Tram Revival - 04-November-2016

The Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust has proposed a project with four steps to revive cable traction in Dunedin, New Zealand, the first and last city outside of San Francisco to have Hallidie-type cable car lines.

Step one would be to build a temporary museum in Mornington Park. The museum would house three Dunedin cable trams, one from the Mornington Tramway and two from the Roslyn Tramway. One of the Roslyn trams will be restored onsite. There will be a track that extends outside so people can view one of the trams and climb on it.

The remaining steps would build a 1.5km line on the High Street with a terminal and powerhouse in the park. Original cable trams would be used as rolling stock.

An article from the 31-October-2016 Otago Daily Times.

I wish great success to the Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust.

New Book - A Thousand Points of Truth - 23-September-2016

A Thousand Points of Truth

VP Hughes has published a book about Confederate partisan ranger Colonel John Singleton Mosby, A Thousand Points of Truth. The reason I mention it on this page is that Hughes contacted me earlier this year for permission to use an image of a Geary Street, Park and Ocean cable train. It seems that Colonel Mosby had settled in San Francisco and worked as an attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

According to articles from newspapers all over the United States, in July or August, 1891, when Mosby would have been 57 or 58 years old, he got into a "fracas" with the crew of a Geary Street cable train. The conductor would not let him cross from the trailer to the grip car. Mosby was beating the conductor when the gripman jumped on him. According to the Associated Press, "Three lady passengers assisted Mosby by pulling the gripman’s hair." Mosby and the gripman skedaddled while the conductor looked for a cop.

A Thousand Points of Truth by VP Hughes is available on Amazon as a hard cover or electronic book. There is an associated Facebook group.

Muni Heritage Weekend and Special Trip for Car 42 - 02-September-2016

Muni's 2016 Heritage Weekend will take place on September 24 and 25. Vintage trolley coaches will recreate Muni's original trolleybus line, the R-Howard. There will be lots of electric streetcars, including the two Blackpool boat trams and Car 578, built in 1896.

Frank Zepeda photo
California Street Cable Railroad O'Farrell-Jones-Hyde car 42 passes the famous Swensen's Ice Cream at Hyde and Union Streets during a test run. Thank you to Frank Zepeda for letting me use his photo. (Frank Zepeda photo. All rights reserved.)

Unique original-condition California Street Cable Railroad O'Farrell-Jones-Hyde car 42 will operate. On Saturday, it will make a special VIP-only trip out Hyde Street to Beach. It may be a nice opportunity to get some unique photos.

Updated - 01-October-2016

I didn't get to go, but read a little bit about it and find a link to some photos: Muni's 2016 Heritage Weekend

POMA 2000 Closed - 27-August-2016

POMA 2000, a cable-driven automated people mover which has operated in Laon, France since 1989, stopped running on 27-August-2016. The local government had decided that the line cost too much money to maintain. The line had three stations and the cars operated at 28 miles per hour.

Car 42 Visits Hyde and Beach - 17-August-2016

Unique original-condition California Street Cable Railroad O'Farrell-Jones-Hyde car 42 made its first trip to Hyde and Beach since the late 1950s. This was a test run to see if the car would make it. Gripman Val Lupiz said the car performed beautifully.

Isle of Man Horse Tramway Gets Two-Year Extension - 20-July-2016

The Isle of Man's parliament, the Tynewald, decided that the Isle of Man Horse Tramway can continue to operate through the 2018 season, and stated that the terminal should stay at the Sea Terminal.

Los Angeles Magazine: If Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone Can Make Out on Angels Flight, We Should Be Able to, Too - 15-July-2016

La La Land Trailer Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone on Angels Flight. (source: La La Land Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2016))

An article in Los Angeles Magazine, If Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone Can Make Out on Angels Flight, We Should Be Able to, Too says that the trailer for their new movie, La La Land includes a shot the two stars necking on Angels Flight, the currently shut-down Los Angeles funicular. Film shoots like this raise some money to maintain the railroad.

News Archive

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2017 Anniversaries

150 years ago - 1867
Feb 16 - Brazil's partly cable-operated São Paulo Railway began service.
Mar 06 - A steam train last ran on San Francisco's Market Street, operated by the Market Street Railroad
Mar 07 - Horse cars began running on San Francisco's Market Street and Valencia Street, operated by the Market Street Railroad
Dec 07 - The West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway in Manhattan was first demonstrated.

125 years ago - 1892
Jan 26 - A California Street cable car hit a Powell Street cable car and ran away down the hill. The California Street car stopped when it hit a wagon at Montgomery Street
Feb 04 - The US Army gave the Presidio and Ferries Railway to extend its Union Street cable line into the Presidio
Feb 17 - Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway crews distribute materials along the line to prepare for conversion to standard gauge
Mar 06 - A Sutter Street Railway Larkin Street cable car crossing Market severed the Market Street Cable Railway's cable
Mar 09 - The Market Street Cable Railway extended its McAllister Street line on D Street (now Fulton) to a spot between 7th and 8th Avenues
Mar 21 - The Mount Auburn Cable Railway's powerhouse burned down
Apr 08 - The King's Heights line of the Portland Cable Railway opened for service
Apr 26 - The Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway closed its line west of the powerhouse at Buchanan Street to allow for reconstruction to standard gauge
Apr 27 - San Francisco's first electric railroad, the San Francisco and San Mateo Railway, opened for service
May 29 - A fire at the J Hammond and Company factory destroyed six O'Farrell/Jones/Hyde cars being built for the California Street Cable Railroad
Jun 06 - The West Denver (11th Street) line of the Denver City Cable Railway opened for service
Jun 28 - Lisbon's Elevador da Bica, a street-running funicular, opened for service
Jul 07 - The Bridgnorth Cliff Railway opened for service
Aug 02 - The Broadway/Piedmont Avenue line of Oakland's Consolidated Cable Company opened for service
Aug 06 - The Washington and Georgetown Railroad's Pennsylvania Avenue (Georgetown) and 14th Street lines opened for service
Aug 07 - The Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway converted from broad gauge to standard gauge and extended from Central (now Presidio) Avenue on Geary and 5th Avenue to D Street (now Fulton) at Golden Gate Park
Aug 30 - The Baltimore Traction Company's Gilmor Street line opened for service
Sep 23 - Cable traction pioneer Henry Casebolt died in San Francisco
Oct 15 - The San Diego Cable Railway stopped service.
Oct 15 - Two cars of Pittsburgh's Central Traction Company ran away and hit men marching in a political parade. Two people were killed and seven badly injured.

New York Giants record: 71-80, 8th place. Manager: Pat Powers.

100 years ago - 1917
Jul 26 - The Bleecker Street horse car line in Manhattan made its last run
Aug 12 - United Railroads of San Francisco carmen went on strike, demanding pay on a par with that of San Francisco Municipal Railway carmen

New York Giants record: 86-66, 4th place. Manager: John McGraw.

75 years ago - 1942
Feb 15 - The Market Street Railway ended service on the Sacramento/Clay cable car line. The next day it was replaced with buses. This line had replaced the first Hallidie-type cable car line, the Clay Street Hill Railroad
Jul 10 - Ferdinand Lemott (Jelly Roll) Morton, American composer and piano player, passed away.

New York Giants record: 74-79, 5th place. Manager: Mel Ott.

50 years ago - 1967
Nov 10 - The Cable Car Museum at Washington and Mason was dedicated.
Dec 03 - Powell/Hyde car ran away on the Hyde Street hill and hit an auto at Bay. One person was killed and 40 were injured.

San Francisco Giants record: 93-68, 2nd place. Manager: Herman Franks.

25 years ago - 1992
Apr 15 - Presidential candidate Bill Clinton rode Powell Street Cable Car No. 26 near the Fairmont Hotel. Democrats stayed at the Fairmont.
Dec 05 - New Muni built cars Nos. 13, 21, and 49 are dedicated.

San Francisco Giants record: 75-87, 4th 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

  • 01-Nov-2007
    • Picture of the Month: An 1886 advertisement for the John Stephenson Company shows their first horse car, the John Mason of 1832, and their latest model.
    • On the Miscellany page: 26-November-2007 marks the 175th birthday of the Horse Car. Read a new article on its history
    • Archived August 2007 What's New
  • 01-Oct-2007
    • Picture of the Month: "In the Club Room" shows California Street Cable Railroad carmen in 1902, in the powerhouse at California and Hyde
    • On the Cal Cable page: "How The 'Grip' Arm is Trained", a 1902 San Francisco Call article about physical training and recreation for carmen
    • On the More Muni Photos page: A new section on Wreckers and Service Trucks, with photos of a California Street car having its grip changed and photos and videos two Powell Street cars being towed
    • Added News items about a cable unstranding on California Street and a new children's book
    • On the new Cable Car Video page:
      • Powell Street cars getting towed by the wrecker. Also on the More Muni Photos page
      • F Line views of New Orleans 952 and the Blackpool Boat
    • Archived July 2007 What's New
  • 01-Sep-2007
    • Picture of the Month: Powell Street car 2, with its front dash removed because of dry rot
    • On the More Muni Photos page: A new section on a visit I paid to the car barn with Val Lupiz. I took lots of photos and videos
    • On the UK page: London's Tower Subway, a cable-driven line which ran for a few months in 1870
    • On the new Cable Car Video page:
      • Cars pulling out from the car barn and other images from a visit I made. Also on the More Muni Photos page
      • Two more Powell/Market turntable shots
      • Melbourne W-2 tram 496 on the F Line
    • Archived June 2007 What's New

Twenty Years Ago

  • 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.
  • 01-Oct-1997
  • 01-Sep-1997
    • Change picture on initial page from JW Harris to Clay St Hill grip car
    • Updates in SF detail page.
    • Change link to Museum of SF to thank them for linking to this page.

Ten and Twenty Years Ago Archive

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Last updated 01-November-2017