Why do I Maintain This Site?

by Joe Thompson

Where Should I Go from Here? Visit the Map

Picture of the Month -- Twenty Years (July, 2017)

Twenty years ago, in July, 1997, I started doing monthly updates to this website, with a Picture of the Month. Since then, there have been 233 Pictures of the Month and Pictures of the Quarter (229 Pictures of the Month and 4 Pictures of the Quarter in 2000-2001). There were two Pictures of the Month in November, 2006, for the tenth anniversary of the site.

You can see all the Pictures of the Month/Quarter here:

The first Picture of the Month:
Powell and Sutter Photograph of the intersection of Powell & Sutter Streets before 1906. Two Sutter Street trains cross Powell in the foreground. A Powell Street car descends the hill from Bush towards Sutter (Source: "Cable Car Days in San Francisco", Edgar M. Kahn, 1944). Jul, 1997 Picture of the Month.

When I started the Picture of the Month in July, 1997, I had six digital pictures, enough to last the rest of the year. I didn't have a scanner or a digital camera. I had faith that I would be able to come up with enough pictures to keep going.

Almost half of the pictures have been of San Francisco subjects -- naturally -- but I think I have captured a nice variety of cities.
cityTotal
Baltimore1
Binghamton, NY1
Birmingham2
Brooklyn2
Butte1
Chicago10
Cincinnati4
Cleveland1
Denver2
Douglas, IOM3
Dunedin7
Edinburgh1
Fairfax, CA1
Glasgow2
Grand Rapids, Michigan1
Hastings, Kent1
Hoboken, NJ2
Johnstown, PA1
Kansas City11
Lisbon2
Llandudno, Wales2
London3
Los Angeles14
Matlock1
Mauch Chunk, PA1
Melbourne3
NA3
New Orleans1
New York10
Newark, NJ1
Oakland3
Omaha, NE1
Paris1
Philadelphia2
Pittsburgh5
Portland, OR2
Providence, RI1
Saint Louis4
Saint Paul1
San Diego2
San Francisco101
São Paulo1
Seattle6
Sioux City1
Spokane1
Sydney2
Tacoma2
Washington, DC2
Grand Total233

The vast majority of the pictures -- naturally -- have been of cable cars.
SubjectCount
bell rining contest1
building1
cable1
cable 1
cable car182
carhouse1
electric car3
funicular/incline23
grip4
horse car2
machinery5
notice1
other1
overhead cable car1
powerhouse1
restaurant1
sign1
station1
steam train1
tracks1
Grand Total233

On one occasion, due to picking a picture at the last minute, I used a picture I had used before.

URR California-type cable car URR California-type cable car, probably on the Valencia Street line, before 1906. The United Railroads of San Francisco succeeded the Market Street Cable Railway Photograph courtesy of the Museum of the City of San Francisco. Oct, 1998 Picture of the Month.

Valencia 1904 A Valencia Street cable car at 28th Street and Valencia on 29-May-1904. (Source: San Francisco Municipal Railway United Railroads Collection Photo #175). November, 2005 Picture of the Month.

For the fifth anniversary of this site, I used a picture of car 5. For the tenth anniversary, I used a picture of car 10. For the fifteenth anniversary, I used a picture of car 15. For the twentieth anniversary, I used a picture of car 20. If I'm still doing this at 25 years, I'll be ok. If I make it to 30, what will I do then? Three pictures of car 10? A picture of 10 and 20 together? Two pictures of car 15? I'll worry about it if I make it that far.

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It Was Twenty Years Ago Today (November, 2016)

20 Powell & Market Car 20 waiting for passengers to board at Powell and Market. July, 2016. November, 2016 Picture of the Month.

I launched The Cable Car Home Page on AOL in November, 1996. I wish I had written down the day. My plan was to sharpen my new html skills and share information about a subject which had not been addressed on the web. I knew when I started that I would not be able to write about everything at once, so I tried to devise a format that was flexible, one that would allow me to develop the site in a modular fashion.

After about 6 months, I devised a 25-year plan to write about each Hallidie-type cable car line that had run in any city around the world. I made a list on the Where and When page. My goal was to have a link for each company.

Towards the end of 2015, I realized that I had been going faster than originally planned, and might make it by the 20th anniversary. This is how the Where and When page looked at the end of 2015:

ccwhere/1
ccwhere/2

There were seven more companies to write about, so I decided to try to do all of them in 2016.

So what will I do now? I keep learning new things and finding new newspaper and magazine items. The cable cars keep rolling along in San Francisco, generating new stories and photos. People keep digging up bits of long-gone lines. People send me stories about their experiences or information they have learned about ancestors who worked on the cables. I hope I will have enough items to keep me going.

I want to thank all the kind people who have shared information with me. I have learned a lot from building this site.

I look forward to the next 20 years.

Updated December, 2016: Thank you to Emiliano Echevarria for reminding me to mention this:
By surviving for twenty years, the Cable Car Home page has lasted longer than all but 30 of the about 83 companies that built Hallidie-type cable car lines around the world. In the past two years, it passed the North Chicago Street Railroad and the Brooklyn Heights Railroad. In 2017 it will pass the Kansas City Cable Railway.

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Fifteen Years and What Do You Get? (November, 2011)

15 Powell & Market/2 A 3/4 view of new car 15. November, 2011 Picture of the Month.

By staying around for 15 years, my website has managed to last longer than almost half of all cable car lines.

Leaving out lines that were intended purely for demonstration purposes (Liverpool United Tramways, Brooklyn Street Railroad/South Side Railway (Cleveland), Chicago West Division Railway), about 83 companies in about 40 cities built Hallidie-type cable car lines or lines that were similar in technology. 47 of the companies and their lines lasted less than 15 years. Two lasted less than one full year (Union Cable Railway, Brooklyn Cable Company). One more lasted into a second year ( Essex Passenger Railway/Newark and Irvington Street Railway). 35 lasted 10 years or less.

Of the 36 companies that lasted 15 years or longer, 6 lasted less than 20 years, 12 lasted 20 to less than 30, 7 lasted 30 to less than 40, 4 lasted 40 to less than 50, 2 lasted 50 to less than 60. None lasted from 60 to less than 70. 3 lasted 70 to less than 80, and two companys' lines are still running at more than 120 years old ( California Street Cable Railroad, Ferries & Cliff House Railway).

I want to thank all the kind people who have shared information with me. I have learned a lot from building this site.

I look forward to the next 15 years.

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Move to GeoCities -- Ten Years (April, 2008)

Ten years ago, in April, 1998, I moved this site from its original home on AOL (members.aol.com/jthomp9919).

As I mentioned below, "I found that AOL was slow, undependable, and limited in server space, so I searched for a new home." I think this site came of age after the move. The counter shows that visits have increased over the years.

yearcount
19981683
19993979
20006445
20018609
200213702
200313703
200415230
200515799
200618501
200716653

2006 was the best year by far because of the anniversary of the 1906 Fire and Earthquake.

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Picture of the Month -- Ten Years (July, 2007)

Ten years ago, in July, 1997, I started doing monthly updates to this website, with a Picture of the Month. Since then, there have been 114 Pictures of the Month and Pictures of the Quarter (110 Pictures of the Month and 4 Pictures of the Quarter in 2000-2001). There were two Pictures of the Month in November, 2006, for the tenth anniversary of the site.

You can see all the Pictures of the Month/Quarter here:

The first Picture of the Month:
Powell and Sutter Photograph of the intersection of Powell & Sutter Streets before 1906. Two Sutter Street trains cross Powell in the foreground. A Powell Street car descends the hill from Bush towards Sutter (Source: "Cable Car Days in San Francisco", Edgar M. Kahn, 1944). Jul, 1997 Picture of the Month.

When I started the Picture of the Month in July, 1997, I had six digital pictures, enough to last the rest of the year. I didn't have a scanner or a digital camera. I had faith that I would be able to come up with enough pictures to keep going.

More than half of the pictures have been of San Francisco subjects -- naturally -- but I think I have captured a nice variety of cities.
CityCount
Butte1
Chicago6
Denver1
Douglas, IOM2
Dunedin2
Fairfax, CA1
Glasgow1
Hastings, Kent1
Hoboken, NJ1
Kansas City4
Llandudno, Wales1
London1
Los Angeles6
Melbourne1
NA2
New York6
Oakland2
Paris1
Philadelphia1
Portland, OR1
San Diego1
San Francisco64
Seattle4
Spokane1
Sydney1
Tacoma1
Grand Total114

The vast majority of the pictures -- naturally -- have been of cable cars.
SubjectCount
cable 1
cable car99
funicular/incline7
machinery3
other1
overhead cable car1
sign2
Grand Total114

On one occasion, due to picking a picture at the last minute, I used a picture I had used before.

URR California-type cable car URR California-type cable car, probably on the Valencia Street line, before 1906. The United Railroads of San Francisco succeeded the Market Street Cable Railway Photograph courtesy of the Museum of the City of San Francisco. Oct, 1998 Picture of the Month.

Valencia 1904 A Valencia Street cable car at 28th Street and Valencia on 29-May-1904. (Source: San Francisco Municipal Railway United Railroads Collection Photo #175). November, 2005 Picture of the Month.

For the fifth anniversary of this site, I used a picture of car 5. For the tenth anniversary, I used a picture of car 10. If I'm still doing this at 25 years, I'll be ok. If I make it to 30, what will I do then? Three pictures of car 10? A picture of 10 and 20 together? Two pictures of car 15? I'll worry about it if I make it that far.

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Ten Years After (November, 2006)

Car 10 Car 10 rolls up Powell Street in October, 2006. Photo by Joe Thompson. November, 2006 Picture of the Month.

10th anniversary A special tenth anniversary dash sign created by Val Lupiz. November, 2006 Picture of the Month.

When the Cable Car Home Page debuted in November, 1996:

Thank you to all the people who have contributed photos, information, and articles to this site. There are too many of you to list. I can only say that I have learned a lot.

I feel that I have gotten away from one of my primary purposes, which is to write about cable car lines in cities other than San Francisco. I hope to write about Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas in 2007.

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Reflections After Five Years (November, 2001)

Car 5 Car 5 on Powell between Market and Ellis. Powell/Mason dash sign. July 2001. Photo by Joe Thompson. November, 2001 Picture of the Month.

I launched The Cable Car Home Page on AOL in November, 1996. I wish I had written down the day. My plan was to sharpen my new html skills and share information about a subject which had not been addressed on the web. I knew when I started that I would not be able to write about everything at once, so I tried to devise a format that was flexible, one that would allow me to develop the site in a modular fashion.

As I watched the web grow, I found that there were some things that bothered me:

  • Sites that don't update. In November, 2001, one of my favorite sites still says "WHAT'S NEW? (June 1, 1999)".
  • Sites that say "Coming Soon". One site has promised that an article on color film processes was "Coming Soon" since I discovered the site in 1997.
  • Sites that don't update when they say they will. Another favorite site used to do monthly updates. One month the June update came out on June 23rd.

To address some of these concerns, in July, 1997 I added my Picture of the Month and began doing monthly updates. I figured the monthly photo would give people a reason to return. I also developed the habit of rolling the page out before the first of the month.

I found that AOL was slow, undependable, and limited in server space, so I searched for a new home. In April, 1998 I moved the site to GeoCities. I have generally been happy with GeoCities.

My home and work responsibilities grew, so in October, 2000 I switched to quarterly updates. I found that I spent more time thinking about what I was going to do each quarter than I had before. My quarterly changes wound up being bigger than almost any three monthly changes, so I returned to monthly updates in October, 2001.

I consider myself lucky to have been able to maintain this site for five years. I have corresponded with many knowledgeable people from all over the world. I hope other people have learned half as much about cable cars as I have learned from them.

I look forward to the next five years.

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Why do I Maintain This Site? (August, 1998)

I often ask myself that question. Here are some of my reasons, in no particular order.

  • I don't have room in the house for a model train layout.
  • I like the way hypertext works. My thought processes have always jumped all over the place.
  • When I first tried a web search engine, I searched for the phrase "cable car" and I didn't find much. I saw an opportunity.
  • I've been interested in cable cars since I was a child.
    • Some relatives visited from Ohio in the late 1960s or early 1970s. We took them for a cable car ride. An auto cut the cable car off going up the Hyde St hill and it had to stop. The crew had to coast back down to the previous intersection. I remember my father explaining why the car couldn't start again on the hill.
    • Until I was 18, I could ride the cars for a nickel. I rode them constantly during the summers when I was in high school.
    • I remember hearing from older relatives and from Herb Caen that there were cable car lines other than the three current ones and I wanted to learn more.
    • I remember going for a hike with my father on the right of way of the Ferries and Cliff House's Lands End line.
    • The crowning moment came when I found a copy of the first edition of George W. Hilton's The Cable Car in America at the Richmond Branch Library. A great book.

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Last updated 01-July-2017