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

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 51st Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest is NOT happening on Thursday, 10-July-2014 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 detail view of the cabin of toy cable car 514, with an interesting variety of passengers. A rider in a horseblanket-checked sport coat is reading Herb Caen's column. See more collectible items on my Cable Car Kitsch page. See toys, magazine ads, and other new items.

Table of Contents


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.

President Barack Obama Visits - 25-November-2013

President Barack Obama visited the Chinatown Recreation Center across the street from the Cable Car Barn at Washington and Mason to give a speech on immigration reform. All three cable car lines were covered by buses until about 1:30pm. I was walking to lunch and noticed a bus laying over at California and Drumm.

Come Hear the San Francisco Cable Car Chorus - 03-November-2013

Cable Car Chorus The Cable Car Chorus Poses on a cable car. Charles Haletky photo. All rights reserved.

Sunday November 3: Come hear the barbershop harmonies of the SF Cable Car Chorus performing a whole bunch of old songs you know, and all of the verses you don't! Details at

Powell Street Cable Cars Shut Down - 17-October-2013

The discovery of a mysterious package in Union Square caused the Powell Street cable cars to stop running. Police told all businesses lining the square to use their back doors. The package proved to be harmless.

Angels Flight Derailment - 05-September-2013

One of the cars on Angels Flight derailed. No one was injured. The operator of Angels Flight blamed the derailment on an electrical interruption that caused the emergency brake to engage. Apparently the brake lifted the car off the rails.

Cal Cable Discovery - 08-August-2013

Crews digging up the street on California near Scott discovered a stretch of Cal Cable tracks and conduit.

News Archive

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2014 Anniversaries

225 years ago - 1789
Apr 01 - The first Congress under the new Constitution met in New York, New York.
Apr 30 - George Washington took the oath of office as the first President.
Jul 17 - The French Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille.
Sep 25 - Congress submitted the proposed Bill of Rights to the states.

150 years ago - 1864
Feb 17 - Confererate submarine HL Hunley attacked and sank Union blockading vessel Housatonic. This was the first time a submarine sank an enemy vessel. After the attack, Hunley went down with her crew
Mar 09 - Lincoln appointed Grant to command the armies of the United States
May 04 - Grant advanced towards Richmond, pursuing a war of attrition
May 05 - Two-day Battle of the Wilderness
May 08 - Four day Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse
Jun 01 - Three day Battle of Cold Harbor
Jul 20 - General Sherman's Union Army beseiged Atlanta, Georgia
Sep 02 - Sherman captured Atlanta
Nov 08 - Lincoln was reelected
Nov 15 - Sherman began his march to the sea, laying waste to 300 miles of land
Dec 21 - Sherman reached Savannah, Georgia

125 years ago - 1889
Jan 01 - The Penn Avenue line of Pittsburgh's Citizens Traction Company started service
Jan 01 - The Butler Avenue branch of Pittsburgh's Citizens Traction Company started service
Mar 09 - A car of Cincinnati's Mount Auburn Cable Railway fell off a trestle, injuring ten people
Mar 13 - Seattle's Front Street Cable Railway started service
Apr 12 - The Butte City Street Railroad started service
Apr 30 - The Temple Street Cable Railway in Los Angeles opened an extension to Hoover Street
May 12 - A Seattle Front Street Cable Railway car lost the cable and ran away. One passenger was thrown out of the car on a curve and killed
Jun 01 - The Jackson Street line of the Sioux City Cable Railway opened for service
Jun 08 - The East LA/West LA line of the Los Angeles Cable Railway opened for service
Jul 01 - The Holmes Street line of Kansas City's Grand Avenue Railway opened for service
Jul 12 - The Kansas City Cable Railway extended its Ninth Avenue line to Elmwood Avenue
Jul 14 - A runaway on Cincinnati's Vine Street Cable Railway killed one woman and injured several other people
Aug 03 - The Westlake Park/Boyle Heights line of the opened for service
Sep 14 - The East LA/West LA line of the Los Angeles Cable Railway extended to Jefferson
Sep 21 - The north line of the Spokane Cable Railway began service
Sep 28 - The Westlake Park/Boyle Heights line of the Los Angeles Cable Railway extended to Evergreen
Oct 01 - The Washington and Summit line of the Kansas City Cable Railway opened for service
Oct 01 - The Larimer Street line of the Denver City Cable Railway opened for service
Oct 13 - In Los Angeles, the Second Street Cable Railway had to shut down when the cable broke and the company could not afford a replacement
Oct 15 - A broken cable on Cincinnati's Mount Auburn Incline caused a runaway which killed five people and injured many more
Oct 31 - The south line of the Spokane Cable Railway began service
Nov 01 - (approximate) The Goss Street/16th Street/17th Avenue line of the Denver City Cable Railway opened for service
Nov 02 - The East LA/West LA line of the Los Angeles Cable Railway extended on Downey
Dec 07 - The Westlake Park/Boyle Heights line of the Los Angeles Cable Railway extended to Grand
Dec 11 - The Providence Cable Tramway started service
Dec 20 - Kansas City's Union Cable Railway, intended to demonstrate the unique Terry grip, started and ended service
Dec 24 - A terrible storm damaged beyond repair the Second Street Cable Railway in Los Angeles, already shut down because of financial problems. The same storm severely damaged the Los Angeles Cable Railway

New York Giants record: 83-43, 1st place. Manager: James Mutrie. The Giants defeated the American Association champion Brooklyn team in the post season Temple Cup series.

100 years ago - 1914

New York Giants record: 84-70, 2nd place. Manager: John McGraw.

75 years ago - 1939
Jan 01 - The Market Street Railway raised its fare to seven cents. Rival Muni stayed at five cents. This helped to kill some of the surviving cable car lines
Feb 18 - The Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) opened on San Francisco's Treasure Island

50 years ago - 1964
Oct 01 - The surviving San Francisco cable cars were declared a National Landmark

San Francisco Giants record: 90-72, 4th place. Manager: Alvin Dark.

25 years ago - 1989
Oct 17 - A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck San Francisco just after 5 PM

San Francisco Giants record: 92-70, 1st place. Manager: Roger Craig. Beat the Cubs in an exciting playoff, but lost the earthquake-interrupted World Series to the Oakland Athletics.

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What's New

What's New Archive

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Ten Years Ago

Ten Years Ago Archive

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

Copyright 1996-2014 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 01-December-2014