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

Powell/Jackson switch
Santiago Montoya

On 06-April-2015, conductor Santiago Montoya was hit and gravely injured by an SUV on Powell between Washington and Jackson Streets. He is suffering from a broken leg, ruptured internal organs, broken ribs and a punctured lung. He is alive, but in ICU at SF General Hospital.

Transit Workers Union Local 250A has started a Gofundme page for his family:

I made a contribution.

Powell/Jackson switch

Cable Car in America
George W Hilton, RIP

Economist and transit historian George W Hilton passed away on 04-August-2014. His book The Cable Car in America was a major inspiration for this website.
Cable Car in America

Bell Ringing Contest
Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest

The annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest is happening on Thursday, 09-July-2015 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

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

A rear three-quarter view of toy cable car 504, with free-standing figures. The conductor and a passenger stand on the rear platform. The bell is visible in the cabin. The car is signed for the Powell-Mason line. See more collectible items on my Cable Car Kitsch page. See toys, magazine ads, and other new items.

Table of Contents


San Francisco History Expo #5 - 01-March-2015

Waiting to get in People lined up, waiting to get in when the expo opened at 11am.

We attended the fifth annual San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint. There was a good crowd. I didn't see the Wells Fargo exhibit.

Mike Sheridan At the Market Street Railway exhibit, I had a nice chat with rail historian Mike Sheridan, proprietor of

The Market Street Railway had a nice exhibit with lots of transit tokens.

Cable Car Museum The Friends of the Cable Car Museum exhibit.

The Friends of the Cable Car Museum had an extensive exhibit. I had a nice chat with Mike Phipps, who was going to speak about the Fillmore Hill Counterbalance. Jose Godoy gave us his custom-made buttons.

Car 16 model A beautiful model of Powell Street car 16 at the Friends exhibit.

Geary train A model of a Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway grip and trailer train at the Friends exhibit.

Sacramento-Clay A model of a post-1906 Sacramento-Clay car at the Friends exhibit.

Many of the exhibits had an emphasis on the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

I'm grateful to my wife for coming along and patiently putting up with my hobbies.

President Obama Visits San Francisco - 13-February-2015

President Barack Obama visited San Francisco on Febraury 12 and 13. He stayed at the Fairmont Hotel, a traditional spot for Democratic Presidents, so the California Street cable car line was shut down. The replacement buses and the 1 California were rerouted on Sutter Street. I saw him fly by Friday morning on his way to deliver an address on cyber security at Stanford. In the afternoon, he attended a fund raiser on Russian Hill, which shut down the Hyde Street cable car.

Big Rainstorm - 11-December-2014

The heaviest rainstorm in many years hit the Bay Area on the night of December 10 and all day on the 11th. Most schools in the Bay Area were closed on Thursday. The authorities encouraged people to work from home if they could. The San Francisco MTA decided that the cable cars should stay in the barn. BART's new cable-driven automated people mover, BART to OAK, was down for most of the day because of floating junk on the tracks.

BART to OAK Preview/Opening - 21-November-2014

sticker BART to OAK sticker on a fare gate at Colma BART Station. November, 2014.

BART to OAK, the 3.2 mile automated people mover (APM) which shuttles passengers from the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART Station to the Oakland Airport had a public preview on 21-November-2014 and opened for service the next day. The APM uses Doppelmayr's CABLE Liner Shuttle system. The CABLE Liner Shuttle uses an endless cable and an automatic grip in each car which allows the cars to stop and start at the stations. The Doolittle Maintenance Facility by the edge of the airport houses the powerhouse, which drives one cable to the Coliseum BART station and one to the airport station. The $6 one-way fare, coincidentally the same fare paid on San Francisco cable cars, is controversial.

invitation An invitation to the preview of the BART to OAK cable-driven automated people mover.

Cal Cable Shutdown - 21-November-2014

California Street cable cars were shut down because a window washer fell 11 stories from the Kohl Building and landed on the roof of a moving automobile at California and Montgomery. The auto broke his fall, and the window washer survived. The driver was not hurt. The cable cars were blocked for a while by emergency vehicles.

The Return of Powell Street Car One - 16-November-2014

San Francisco Municipal Railway Powell Street cable car Number One returned to service in November. It had been built new, except for the roof, to commemorate the centennial of the cable car in 1973. Its buiilders tried to reproduce the earliest appearance of the Powell Street cars. Many of the features had been lost over the last 40 years. Now they have been restored. I have heard that it runs noisily, which is common until wooden trams loosen up in service, and that the distinctive signs on the front dash are locked, so the shop crew has to change them if the car is assigned to a different line.

Hyde Street Shutdown - 30-September-2014

The Powell-Hyde line was shut down "until further notice" because of issues with the cable.

Cal Cable Shutdown - 26-September-2014

California Street cable cars were shut down because of a fatal shootout at the corner of California and Battery. A high speed chase from Richmond via the San Rafael and Golden Gate bridges ended at that intersection when the suspect's car overturned. He began shooting at people and the police eventually shot him.

George Hilton, RIP - 04-August-2014

Cable Car in America The Cable Car in America was a major inspiration for this website.

George W Hilton, economist and tranist historian, who wrote the most important book on the subject of cable cars, The Cable Car in America, has passed away.

Muni Sickout - 02-June-2014

Transit workers unhappy with a net pay cut offerred by management had a sickout on June 2 through 4. The cable cars were shut down Monday through Wednesday.

Wells Fargo Museum is Open - 16-May-2014

Abbott Downing stagecoach An Abbott Downing stagecoach at the Wells Fargo History Museum.

The Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco closed last August for renovation. It reopened on 28-March-2014. I was able to visit in May and enjoyed it immensely. The beautiful Abbott Downing stagecoach still sits in the front window, but much has changed. The skeleton stagecoach that people can sit in has moved downstairs. There are more interactive exhibits. I liked the telegraph key connected to a key in the Portland, Oregon museum. Nobody responded when I tried it.

cable car model A model of a Clay Street Hill Railroad cable car.

I liked the display case with a model of a Clay Street Hill Railroad cable car and mementos of Andrew S Hallidie.

cable car model and Hallidie mementos A model of a Clay Street Hill Railroad cable car and mementos of Andrew S Hallidie.

Cable Car at Auction - 08-April-2014

cable car in barn California Street Cable Railroad car 11 in a barn in New Jersey (Source: Bonhams. All Rights Reserved).

I recently received an email from Eric Minoff of Bonhams, the auction house. He was researching an item from The Auction of the Estate of Dr Ralph W.E. Cox Jr, which will be held on 10-May-2014. Among the Ford Models AC, S and T Torpedo, the Silsby Steam Pumper, the Fifth Avenue Coach Company 1925 Yellow Coach Open-Top Double-Decker Bus, the 1925 American La France City Service Ladder Fire Truck and an "1890 Brill Street Car" was former California Street Cable Railroad car 11.

My wife says I don't have any place to put it, so I can't bid on it.

Updated - 31-May-2014

The car sold for $87,500. I hope it has found a good home.

Joe's Cable Car Last Day - 16-March-2014

Joe's Cable Car closed after 49 years of serving excellent hamburgers.

San Francisco History Expo #4 - 01-March-2014

Waiting to get in People lined up, waiting to get in when the expo opened at 11am.

We attended the fourth annual San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint. There was a good crowd. There were some new exhibitors this year, including the Odd Fellows.

Slavin and Lindner Paul Slavin and Scott Lindner, who is leading the restoration of Ocean Shore Railroad car 1409.

The Friends of the Cable Car Museum were kind enough to share some of their space with the group restoring Ocean Shore Railroad car 1409.

button Jose Godoy of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum designed this button especially for the Expo.

The Friends of the Cable Car Museum were in a new position, as were many other groups. I had a nice chat with Mike Phipps and Dom Holmgren, who spoke on Sunday about the Ocean Shore Railroad. The Friends' web site had been down for over a week, but it has since been fixed.

MSR volunteers MSR volunteers Dominic and Julian.

The Market Street Railway/San Francisco Railway Museum had a nice table. I had a good chat with young volunteers Dominic and Julian.

Expo poster A poster advertising the 2014 Expo.

The following week, the Chronicle carried a story saying that the city was unhappy with the progress made by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society in renovating and retrofitting the Mint and may turn it over to the California Historical Society.

Fare Gouging Proposal - 17-February-2014

Cable car riders are forced to pay six dollars, three times the regular Muni fare. Now the Municipal Transportation Agency has proposed raising the fare on Muni's historic electric streetcar line, the F-Market & Wharves, to three dollars or six dollars. This is a bad idea. Regular San Francisco people depend on the F line and they do not all have monthly passes.

2014 Chinese New Year Parade - 15-February-2014

Trini Whittaker, 2013 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest champion, marched with other Muni operators in the Chinese New Year Parade. He rang a bell as he marched.

Joe's Cable Car to Close - 29-January-2014

A report on KPIX Channel 5 said that Joe Obegi is going to close Joe's Cable Car in March and retire. Coming after the closing of Caesar's Italian Restaurant and Westlake Joes, this was a shock.

Cable Cars Pulled Because of NFC Championship Game - 19-January-2014

Muni announced on 17-January-2014 that the cable cars and the F-line electric streetcars would be pulled off the streets at Noon on Sunday, 19-February-2014 because of the National Footbal Conference championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, in Seattle. Worried that people celebrating a victory might damage the cars, Muni took the precaution of pulling them in and de-energizing the electric overhead on Market Street. The 49ers lost the game 23-17. I don't watch football much, but that was an exciting game.

News Archive

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2015 Anniversaries

225 years ago - 1790
Apr 17 - Benjamin Franklin died.

150 years ago - 1865
Jan 31 - The Union Congress approved the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery
Mar 04 - Lincoln's second inauguration. "With malice toward none; with charity for all...let us strive on to finish the work we are do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations..."
Mar 25 - Lee's Army of Northern Virginia makes its last, unsuccessful, attack against Grant at Petersburg.
Apr 02 - The Confederates evacuated Richmond
Apr 04 - Lincoln toured Richmond
Apr 09 - Lee surrendered to Grant at the town of Appomattox Court House
Apr 14 - Lincoln was shot by murderous coward John Wilkes Booth
Apr 15 - Lincoln died
Apr 18 - General Longstreet surrendered to Sherman
Apr 26 - Murderous coward Booth was shot and killed by Union soldier Sergeant Boston Corbett
Dec 06 - The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified

125 years ago - 1890
? - Denver City Cable Company (Denver, Colorado) West Denver line converted to electricity
Jun 07 - The San Diego Cable Railway started service.
Oct 20 - Ferdinand Lemott (Jelly Roll) Morton, American composer and piano player, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana

New York Giants record: 63-68, 6th place. Manager: James Mutrie.

100 years ago - 1915
Feb 21 - The Panama Pacific Exposition opened in San Francisco
Dec 16 - Turk Murphy, traditional jazz trombonist and band leader, was born
Dec 29 - San Francisco's new City Hall opened

New York Giants record: 69-83, 8th place. Manager: John McGraw.

75 years ago - 1940
Feb 17 - Seattle's James Street cable car line was abandoned. Unlike the other Seattle cable lines, it was not replaced by buses.
Apr 14 - Seattle's Madison Street cable car line was replaced by buses.
Aug 10 - Seattle's first cable car line on Yesler Way was replaced by buses.
Sep 02 - Seattle's Queen Anne Hill counterbalance, which had replaced the Front Street Cable Railway, was replaced by buses.
Sep 29 - The Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) closed on San Francisco's Treasure Island
Oct 26 - Melbourne's surviving cable tram lines were all replaced by buses

New York Giants record: 72-80, 6th place. Manager: Bill Terry.

50 years ago - 1965

San Francisco Giants record: 95-67, 2nd place. Manager: Herman Franks. The Giants began a string of five straight second place finishes. They had the best record in baseball over that period, but never won a pennant.

25 years ago - 1990

San Francisco Giants record: 85-77, 3rd place. Manager: Roger Craig.

Anniversaries Archive

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This page has been referenced  many times since 01-April-1998.

Copyright 1996-2015 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-April-2015