Cable Car Transfers, Tickets, Tokens and Signage
by Walter Rice

On January 1, 1878, the state outlawed the charging for same company transfers went into effect as part of the nickel fare law for cities more than 100,000 population (San Francisco). Enforcing the transfer law was another matter. Prior to this legislation companies were free to charge a passenger every time they boarded. The most notorious ploy to avoid this requirement was the creating in 1883 of the Park & Ocean (steam line) as a subsidiary corporation of the Market Street Cable Railway. Passengers were thus required to pay 5¢ to ride on that line's Haight Street cable cars and then at Stanyan Street another 5¢ to complete their journey to the beach. Ultimately, a single 5¢ from the Union Ferry Terminal to the Beach prevailed despite the need to transfer. Below are examples of historic cable car transfers.

Transfers were "good only for a single continuous trip from the meeting point with transfer line, for passengers for whose use this is issued, by the first car of the line for which transfer is given . . . " Today the three Muni cable car lines neither accept nor issue transfers, however, riders can purchase day passes on the cars.

Classic Cable Car Series

Series One: From the Market Street Railway (1893-1902).

Series Two: From the "Last Day"for most of the Cable Car Network

Series Three: From the California Street Cable Railroad (Cal Cable)

Series Four: From the Market Street Railway (1921-1944)

Series Five: From the Municipal Railway (1944-Present)

Series Six: From the Pacific Northwest -- Seattle and Tacoma

Series Seven: Melbourne Australia Cable Tramways Ticket

Series Eight: From Joe Lacey's Collection

Classic Cable Car Series

The cable car, a San Francisco invention, began to haul paying passengers on September 1, 1873, when the Clay Street Hill Railroad started passenger service on Clay Street from Kearny to Leavenworth. A second company, the Sutter Street Railroad started cable car operations January 27, 1877. In January 1882 the Presidio & Ferries Railroad (the Union Street line) opened for paying passengers. Cable service operated from Washington & Montgomery (Columbus) Avenue to Steiner & Union. The largest cable car company the Market Street Cable Railway opened from the Ferry its Valencia Street line to Mission Street and Haight Street line to Golden Gate Park (Stanyan) on August 21, 1883. San Francisco’s second largest cable car operation and its least successful the Omnibus Railroad & Cable Company, opened three lines on August 26, 1889.

Besides these cable car operations, three important pre-Earthquake and Fire companies’ transfers are displayed. Two of the companies — the North Beach and Mission Railroad and the Sutro Railroad Co. — considered employing cable technology, but ultimately rejected it in favor of the electric streetcar. The third company the San Francisco & San Mateo Electric Railway (originally the San Francisco & San Mateo) was the city’s pioneer electric railway. Its success and that of other electric operations soon led to the major shift to the electric streetcar over the cable car and horsecar.

Below are transfers from each of the early operations. Transfers in this series are from the Emiliano Echeverria Collection, Courtesy of the late James Gibson, except as noted.

In 1869, Benjamin Brooks, a San Francisco attorney along with C S Bushnell, E W Steele, and Abner Doubleday (the man who didn't invent baseball in Cooperstown, New York) acquired a franchise from the city to construct a "wire cable railway". They proposed a long system from downtown on various streets out to Cow Hollow. Brooks and engineer W H Hepburn worked out many of the mechanical details of the system. However, Brooks and his associates were unable to find financing for their now scaled Russian Hill Cable Railway Co. that was proposed only a cable line on Clay Street.

Because of the Russian Hill component of the franchise when the Clay Street Hill Railroad, the world's first cable car line, was being planned management put in place a connecting feeder horsecar line that served the Russian Hill area to meet the terms of the franchise. Concurrent with the September 1, 1873 opening of the cable car line, a horsecar line was opened from the then western terminus of the cable car, Leavenworth Street. The line ran along Leavenworth, Vallejo, Hyde, Union and Larkin to Chestnut Street. Initially, evidence suggests that the horsecars were through-routed trailers detached from cable grip cars (dummies). This arrangement soon proved to be operationally unfeasible, since as soon as 1874 to meet demand, cable car frequencies were increased. By 1876 the Clay Street line was averaging 150,000 passengers, per month). The horsecar line was accordingly operated independently from the cable car service. Therefore, transfers were issued for passengers transferring between the two lines. Shown is a transfer from the Leavenworth Street horsecar to the Clay Street cable car for July 4, 1874. During 1877 the cable line was extended westward from Leavenworth to Van Ness Avenue. The horsecar service was abandoned in January 1882, upon completion of the Presidio & Ferries Railway (the Union Street cable car). This horsecar line was San Francisco's only narrow gauge horsecar line.

Prior to the February 1880 opening of the Geary Street, Park and Ocean Railroad, San Francisco cable car conductors did not accept cash fares. The various street railway companies (horse, steam and cable) followed the railroad practice of having persons purchase tickets in advance from either company offices or designated agencies. This very rare Clay Street Hill Railway Company ticket entitled the bearer for one ride on that line. Val Lupiz Collection.

On January 27, 1877, the Sutter Street Railroad (after 1879 Sutter Street Railway) started cable car operation (converted from horse car) on Sutter Street from Larkin to Sansome (Market Street). During late 1878 the company opened the first phase of its crosstown line when it converted the Larkin Street line from Sutter to Hayes (Market Street) to cable from horse car. By 1888 the company had two cable car lines, Sutter Street from Sansome to Central Avenue (Presidio Avenue) and its crosstown Pacific, Polk, Larkin and Ninth Street line. This May 15, 1889 transfer allows the passenger to whom it was issued to transfer from the main Sutter Street line to the crosstown line.

On the back of this transfer (shown below) is an advertisement for the "Great Rock Island Route" at "36 MONTOGOMERY ST. for tickets to CHICAGO and ALL POINT EAST."

From Arthur Lloyd, Walter Rice Collection.

During the 1890s, this sign was posted in the trailers of all Sutter Street Railway trains, informing passengers the company issued and accepted transfers with the Market Street Railway’s (formerly the Ferries & Cliff House Railway) steam train lines to the Cliff House via Land’s End and Golden Gate Park via 7th Avenue. In addition, passengers on the Sutter Street Railway’s crosstown Pacific, Polk, Larkin and Ninth Street line at Harrison and Ninth Streets could transfer free of extra charge with the cars of the San Francisco & San Mateo Railway, San Francisco’s first electric streetcar line. Free transfers with other non Sutter Street Railway lines were not allowed. As a part of the culture of the 1890s passengers were warned against "expectoration." Violators were subject to fines and imprisonment. From the Walter Rice Collection.
By 1902 Sutter Street Railway transfers had changed considerably from the 1880s as illustrated by this example. The transfer issued from the Sutter Street’s crosstown line is punched for "Harrison Street" allowing the passenger to board an electric car of the San Francisco & San Mateo Electric Railway. At the time Sutter Street issued this transfer both companies were owned by the "Baltimore Syndicate." On March 20, 1902, the Market Street Railway merged with the Sutter Street Railway and plus other non cable properties creating the United Railroads of San Francisco. However, the Sutter Street Railway had been purchased by the "Baltimore Syndicate" nine months before the creation of the URR and was operated during this period as part of the SF & SM Electric Railway, the first "Baltimore Syndicate" San Francisco property. Richard Schlaich Collection.

The Market Street Cable Railway Fifth Street horsecar line was incorporated into the cable railway by the parent Southern Pacific, to provide convenient access to the main San Francisco Southern Pacific Railroad Station. The depot during mid-1872 had moved to a new terminal on reclaimed land between Third and Fourth streets, on the south side of Townsend.

The Fifth Street horsecar line was an outgrowth of the Potrero & Bay View Railroad (P & BV). In 1871, interests connected with the Southern Pacific had bought the P & BV. The Fifth Street line was opened in 1874 as the Northern Division of the P & BV. It ran Fourth & King Streets via Fourth, Bluxome, Fifth, Market, Grant Avenue, and Post to Market Street. In 1875 the Southern Pacific transferred the franchise and operations of the Northern Division of the P & BV to its Market Street Railway horsecar company. As a result the Fifth Street line had operating rights down Market Street to the Union Ferry Terminal.

After Southern Pacific, in 1883, incorporated the Fifth Street horsecar line into its then new Market Street Cable Railway horsecar service beyond Fifth & Market Streets ended. The Fifth Street horsecar line had become a feeder line between the main Southern Pacific station and the Market Street cable lines of the Market Street Cable Railway. This shortened version ran from its barn directly behind the Southern Pacific’s Townsend Street Headquarters, across Fourth Street, onto Bluxome, then North on Fifth Street to Market. The line lasted in this form for sixteen additional years. The Market Street Railway (of 1893) converted the Fifth Street line to electric streetcar September 1900.

The Omnibus Railroad & Cable Company opened its Post Street line along with two other cable car routes on August 26, 1889. The Post Street line was a circuitous routing from Market via Post, Leavenworth, City Hall Avenue, Grove, Polk, 10th Street to Howard. The Market Street Railway (of 1893) discontinued the Post Street cable along with the former Omnibus Howard Street cable line on December 31, 1899. This transfer allowed passengers to transfer upon arriving at the Montgomery Street terminal of the Post line to the non cable car service of the Third Street line. Although, the Omnibus system (that ultimately consisted of five cable car lines) was second only to the Market Street Cable Railway in size, it was economically the least successful of all the City’s cable car endeavors.

The North Beach and Mission Railroad’s (NB &M) horsecar lines were built in 1862-63, and 1890. The NB & M was an innovative horsecar company that its superintendent Michael Skelly for thirty-one years managed (1864-94)! The NB & M pioneered the use of building its own cars (1864), asphalt pavement (1868) and slat seats (1868) that are still in use on today's cable cars. NB &M, also, conducted San Francisco's first experiment with electric streetcars with an unsuccessful attempt at operating an underground conduit line (1887). In July 1892, to achieve economical electrification, Skelly unsuccessfully tried using a battery car on Folsom Street.

On June 21, 1890, the company announced plans to convert to a cable road at an estimated cost of $2,000,000 for changes in equipment and construction of roadbed. The company never carried out this conversion, because shortly after that control of the NB & M was acquired by the Omnibus Railroad & Cable Co. and the technological and economic success of the electric streetcar had made cable technology largely obsolete.

Nevertheless, the lines of the former NB & M were San Francisco's last all horsecar railway when they were merged into the Market Street Railway (of 1893). Even after the Market Street Railway electrified or abandoned most of the NB & M system, the last line wasn't removed until February 1906, when United Railroads ended service on the remnant on Market & California Streets from the Ferries to Montgomery Street.

The company consisted of three lines. The color of its cars distinguished each line. One extended from North Beach with a zigzag route via Kearny & Fourth Streets to the Central Pacific Railroad depot at Townsend Street using yellow-colored cars. The blue line, ran from the Oakland Ferries up California to Kearny, over to Market, and out Market to Eighth, over Eighth to Folsom, and out Folsom to Twenty-sixth Street. The third route, operating red cars, ran from Montgomery and California along Battery and First to Folsom and out Folsom to Eighth, and transferred to the blue line. Over the years there were slight changes in these routes, the last modifications occurring in 1890. The cars ran at five-minute intervals, and the fare was five cents. This yellow line transfer allowed passengers to continue their journey out Folsom Street by transferring to the red line at Fourth & Folsom Streets. Richard Schlaich Collection.

In 1880 the Presidio & Ferries Railroad was organized. It opened for paying passengers in January 1882. The line created a direct route from the City’s commercial area to Cow Hollow-Harbor View via Union Street over Russian Hill. Before the Earthquake and Fire of April 1906 the line consisted of three parts. Horsecar service ran from the Union Ferry Terminal to Washington & Columbus Avenue (Montgomery) where passengers transferred to one of the line’s cable trains. At the Cow Hollow end connections were made with a steam motor line that during its twenty-nine years of operation had various routing patterns. After the Earthquake and Fire the company converted its line to electric streetcar service.

The transfer on the upper right is from the cable car era, providing for a transfer from horsecar to cable train and to and from the company’s connecting steam motor line. The other electric era transfers show the arrangements the Presidio & Ferries had made with other companies for free passenger transfer. These include the United Railroad’s Powell-Mason cable car line (north on Mason Street only), Polk Street car line, the Fillmore Hill counter balance line and the California Street Cable Railroad’s Hyde Street line. Of particular note, is the transfer dated "WED’DAY DEC’BER 10, 1913 (lower right). This transfer is from the last day of the Presidio & Ferries. At midnight on December 10, 1913 the company was sold to the City and County of San Francisco, becoming Muni’s "E-Union" car line. Richard Schlaich Collection

The Sutro Railroad Co. began as an outgrowth of the outrage entrepreneur Adolf Sutro felt when the Southern Pacific controlled street railroads charged ten-cents for a trip to Ocean Beach. Sutro felt that this was an economic hardship for families wishing to enjoy his beach resorts, or to buy Ocean Beach property. This began a battle between Sutro and the Market Street Railway and its subsidiaries that was to last for the remainder of Sutro's public life. The Sutro Railroad was designed to end the Richmond District travel monopoly to Golden Gate Park and the Beach that belonged to the Market Street Railway.

On July 2, 1894, the City granted to Adolph Sutro a street railroad franchise for a line between Central Avenue and the Cliff House area via Clement and Point Lobos, with an 8th Avenue branch line to Golden Gate Park. At first Sutro insisted the new line would be a cable line, he later opted for streetcar service that began on Feb. 1, 1896. This transfer allows for transferring at 8th Avenue and Clement between the Sutro Railroad’s two lines and most importantly offers a free transfer downtown on the independent Sutter Street Railway’s Sutter Street cable line. Richard Schlaich Collection

Another style of Sutro Railroad Co. ticket.

On May 1, 1896, the San Francisco & San Mateo Electric Railway completed the purchase, from the bondholders, the assets of the San Francisco & San Mateo Railway -- San Francisco’s first electric railway. The new ownership group was included Adolf B. and John D. Spreckels. Two electric lines were operated that became perhaps San Francisco's most interesting trolley car operations, namely, the "San Mateo Interurban" -- No. 40 Line (during this era service went only to Baden in South San Francisco), and the "18th and Park" -- No. 33 Line. On May 12, 1901, the SF & SM Electric Ry. was the first San Francisco street railroad purchased by the "Baltimore Syndicate," as the first step in the creation of the United Railroads of San Francisco (March 20, 1902).

This universal company transfer besides allowing for transferring between the company operations ("18th St.," Guerrero," and "3oth St.") provided for a free transfer with Sutter Street Railway’s 9th and Larkin cable line and Market Street Railway’s Mission Street streetcars and its Valencia and Castro cable cars. Passengers could also transfer to the cemetery operated Mt. Olivet car. A cigar ad is on the reserve side. Richard Schlaich Collection.

Series One: From the Market Street Railway (1893-1902).

The Southern Pacific created the Market Street Railway October 14, 1893 by merging the Market Street Cable Railway (including its subsidiary the Park & Ocean) , Omnibus Railroad & Cable Company, Ferries & Cliff House with three horsecar companies. On March 20, 1902, the Market Street Railway was merged with the Sutter Street Railway and two electric lines to create the United Railroads of San Francisco (URR), leaving San Francisco with three cable car operators-the URR including its subsidiary the Geary Street Park & Ocean, Cal Cable and the Presidio & Ferries (the Union Street line). After this date, however, the URR continued to use Market Street Railway transfer stock until new URR transfers could be printed.

From the Richard Schlaich Collection.

Market Street Cable Ry. Co. transfer for their Market & Castro cable, April 30, 1893. Note that passengers could transfer (at 18th Street) to the independent San Francisco & San Mateo Railway, San Francisco's first electric streetcar line.
Market Street Railway transfers for the Sacramento St. Line (later the Sacramento & Clay), August 16, 1896 and a combined transfer for the Valencia and Castro Street cable lines, June 28, 1896.
Market Street Railway transfer for the Valencia Street cable car, November 26, 1897 and Haight Street cable car transfer. Note that Haight riders can transfer to the short-lived "Fred'K St." streetcar line, which was the Market Street Railway's first electric streetcar line. (The Frederick Street line evolved into the No. 6 Hayes & Masonic, and after 1916 Nos. 6 Haight & Masonic & 32 Hayes & Masonic streetcar lines.)
The Ferries & Cliff House Railway Company began cable car service to City's Western Addition with the opening in April 1888, of its Powell-Jackson line. At the line's California and Central Avenue terminal, halfway across San Francisco, the cable car line made a connection with the company's steam train lines to the Cliff House via Land's End and Golden Gate Park via 7th Avenue. This rare December 22, 1901 Market Street Railway transfer is for steam trains of the "California St. and Cliff House Line." The notation that passengers could transfer "California East" meant passengers could transfer to the independent Cal Cable line.
Here are two examples of Market Street Railway transfers being used after that company became part of the United Railroads. The Powell St. Line transfer is for the still operating Powell-Mason cable car. This line began service from Market St. to Bay & Taylor on April 5, 1888, and has never been changed. A close examination of the Jackson St. Line transfer reveals it is for two lines - the Powell-Jackson from Powell & Market to Central Avenue and the Ferries & Cliff House line from the Ferry to Central Avenue. Usually these two lines alternated on Jackson St.

Series Two: From the "Last Day"for most of the Cable Car Network

Passengers who were issued these United Railroads cable car transfers, on April 17, 1906 had no idea that they maybe going for their last cable car ride. At precisely six seconds after 5:12 a.m. on April 18 the Great Earthquake struck. Sixty hours later, after the fires had ceased raging, much of the city lay in ruins. April 17 was to be the last day of full cable car service on the United Railroads' Sutter Street, Polk & Larkin Cross-town line (except Pacific Avenue), Market & McAllister, Market & Haight, Market & Hayes, Market & Castro (except between 18th and 26th Streets), Market & Valencia, Jackson Street via Sacramento-Clay, Sacramento-Clay west of Fillmore, and Powell-Jackson west of Steiner Street cable car lines. Also, it was the last day for the Presidio & Ferries (Union Street line).

On June 22, 1906, the Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railroad resumed service, the first cable car line to do so after the Earthquake and Fire. This was followed by limited restoration by Cal Cable of its California Street line on August 4, and on December 28 of its O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde and Jones Street Shuttle. The URR on January 30, 1907 restored cable cars on Powell Street from Market to Jackson only. The full Powell-Mason route and a shortened (to Steiner Street) Powell-Jackson line, now called Washington-Jackson returned to service on March 1, 1907. On August 29 of that year the URR restored the Castro cable, but only 18th to 26th Street. On June 8, 1908, a shortened to Fillmore Street Sacramento-Clay line was back in operation. Finally, in December of that year the United Railroads restored cable service to Pacific Avenue from Polk to Divisadero.

Below are ten URR transfers from lines that had full cable car service on that tranquil April 17, 1906 - the last day before San Francisco shook and burned. From the Richard Schlaich Collection

Series Three: From the California Street Cable Railroad (Cal Cable)

The California Street Cable Railroad (Cal Cable) holds the longevity record for a single company operating a San Francisco cable car service. On April 10, 1878, the company started cable car operations on California Street from Kearny to Fillmore Street. The next year on May 5 Cal Cable extended this line west to Central (Presidio) Avenue. During 1891, the California Street line was extended east from to Kearny to Market Street; the company opened the crosstown O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde Streets line and the Jones Street shuttle from O'Farrell to Market Street (these were the last entirely new cable car lines built in the City); and replaced its two-car trains with "California" cars - a "double-ended" car with an enclosed middle section and open sections at both ends (cars with this design are still in use on California Street). This pattern continued until July 31, 1951, the last day of service because of failure to obtain insurance. Currently, the Muni is operating parts of the former Cal Cable - a truncated California Street line from Market Street to Van Ness Avenue and the former Hyde Street leg of the O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde line as part of the Powell-Hyde cable.

Shown Cal Cable ticket size transfers pre-1913. The left-hand column shows the front of the transfers, the right-hand column the back side. The first transfer (brown, Mar. 11) is a California Street transfer allowing a transfer to the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable at Hyde Street and at California and Central Avenue (in 1909, the name was changed to Presidio Avenue) to the Sutro Railroad’s Golden Gate Park via 8th Avenue line. The second transfer (red, Oct. 29, post Earthquake) shows that the transfer point to Golden Gate Park has shifted to Sacramento & Presidio Avenue where Cal Cable passengers would board either a United Railroads’ Turk & Eddy or Mission & Chutes car for the Park. Passengers could also transfer to either a Sutter & California via Cliff or Sutter & Clement car for Ocean-Beach. The third transfer (orange, April 17, 1906, the day before the Earthquake & Fire), also a California Street transfer, restricts the Ocean-Beach transfer to "Cliff House on cars marked via Cal. St." This would later become the URR No. 1 line. The March 17 transfer is an O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line transfer allowing transfers to either the California or Jones Street shuttle Cal Cable lines. The light green transfer ( Mar. 8) is from the Jones Street Shuttle, authorizes only a transfer to connecting O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde cars. The last transfer is another O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde transfer, but now passengers can also transfer to Presidio & Ferries company cars at Union Street. Richard Schlaich Collection.
Cal Cable until the 1940s used small almost theater ticket size transfers. Displayed are both sides of three such transfers. The green transfer is for the California Street line. Besides allowing for free transfers on Cal Cable's Hyde Street cable, riders could transfer at "Sacramento and Presidio Avenue to Cars for Golden Gate Park, California and Presidio Avenue to Ocean Beach Cars via California Street." These transfers with Market Street Railway streetcar lines (given the dates of the transfers, 4-Sutter & Sacramento & 2-Sutter & Clement) stem from a 1887 agreement with the then Ferries & Cliff House Railway under which that company took over Cal Cable's non-cable franchise from Central Avenue (Presidio Avenue) to First Avenue (Arguello). The red transfer is from the Jones Street Shuttle and lastly the O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde line issued the black transfer. Hyde Street passengers could transfer to Muni's E-Union streetcar. This was a carry over from an agreement with the Presidio & Ferries.
Standard size Cal Cable transfers from the 1940s, used until service ceased July 1951. Routes are the Jones Street Shuttle, O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde and California Street.
A special souvenir ticket to celebrate the centennial month of the California Street cable car, April 1978, the "oldest cable car line in the world." Bank-America Travelers Checks sponsored the event. On April 10, 2003, the California cable marks its 125th birthday. Note, that Muni used as the symbol of the Cal line Powell-Mason cable car No. 501. Muni had renumbered 500-series Powell cable cars to their present 1-28 series in 1973, to reflect the numbering scheme of the original operator of the Powell lines, the Ferries & Cliff House Railway. From the Walter Rice Collection.
Shortly before Cal Cable ceased service in 1951 the company raised its fares from 10 cents to 15 cents with two tokens for 25 cents or nine rides for $1. This is a nine ride ticket of the period. From Richard Schlaich Collection.
A Cal Cable token used in 1951 after the basic fare was raised to 15 cents, or two tokens for 25 cents. Walter Rice Collection.

In San Francisco school children went to and from school by public transportation, as opposed to a formal system of school buses. A "Pupil of Any School Under 18 Years of Age" received a fare discount from Cal Cable equal to one-half the standard fare. In order to guard against abuse of school discount ticket Cal Cable warned in bold type the consequences of a "misuse of these tickets." Ticket book dates from late 1930s.

Arthur Lloyd, Walter Rice Collection.

Cal Cable Dividend Check

Until the post World War II period, Cal Cable's passengers enjoyed a high level of service, and its stockholders were also financially rewarded. In 1940 the then company president J. W. Harris estimated that $600 worth of dividends had been paid out on every share of company stock, which originally sold for $60. In addition to dividends payments the firm had also completely retired all its debt, including the $960,000 incurred during the expansion of the early 1890s and the uninsured damage from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. All of this was accomplished on a 5¢ fare, instituted sixty-two years previously.

One of the stockholders C. R. Winslow is rewarded for his Cal Cable investment with a $25 dividend check, dated May 13, 1898. Note, the check is hand-signed by the then company president James B. Stetson and drawn upon Cal Cable's account at Alfred Borel & Co., 311 Montgomery St., San Francisco. The use of this banking house by Cal Cable is not surprising since Leland Stanford had sold his interest Cal Cable to a syndicate headed by the Swiss San Francisco banker Antoine Borel, in June 1884.

Walter Rice Collection.

TWA Poster

During the mid-1940s Howard Hughes’ Trans World Airline (TWA) to promote the fact “the Lindberg Line” served San Francisco used the symbol of San Francisco – the cable car. On September 1, 1946 Howard Hughes received his long awaited European rights for TWA. The airline’s name changed officially from Transcontinental and Western Airlines (note, the names on the bottom of the signs) to Trans World Airlines with the addition of these routes. TWA began flying from New York to Paris on February 5, 1946. By its 1948 schedule TWA’s European routes competed with Pan Am all the way east to Bombay, India and the Middle East. Domestically, its routes at that time were confined to the original transcontinental central route, which included only San Francisco and Los Angeles on the west coast.

The cable car view TWA selected was that of the California Street Cable Railroad’s California Street line west of Grant Avenue. Since the leader of the inbound (Market Street bound) cable car is the outbound car the headway appears to unusually long for Cal Cable.

Click here to see a BIG version.

Walter Rice Collection.

Series Four: From the Market Street Railway (1921-1944)

On April 1, 1921, Market Street Railway takes over the properties of the United Railroads including its cable car lines, because of reorganization and foreclosure proceedings. From the mid-1920s to the late 1930s the Byllesby group managed the Market Street Railway. Soon the company had adopted its famous white front paint scheme (applied to all cable cars except Pacific Avenue) and all cable cars (except Pacific Avenue) had placed on them the equally famous Byllesby shield of the Market Street Railway. After local management took control, the shields remained with outer-ring removed that referred to Byllesby.
This Market Street Railway transfer is part of the first set of transfers issued by that company in 1921, after the Market Street Railway took over the operating assets of the United Railroads. The only change made by the new company was the change of the corporate name on their transfers. Form No.9 was for "SHORT TRIP" lines, of which two cable car lines qualified - the Castro Cable and the Pacific Avenue Cable.

After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the United Railroads restored on August 29, 1907 Castro cable, but only from 18th to 26th Streets. The No. 8 streetcar now provided service between 18th Street and the Ferry. The Castro cable was incorporated into the new No. 24 crosstown motor coach line on April 5, 1941. The Pacific Avenue cable was the last post Earthquake and Fire cable car line to return. It had service restored in December 1908, but only on Pacific Avenue from Polk to Divisadero. The No. 19 streetcar covered most of the former route. The Pacific Avenue cable was abandoned without replacement Sunday, November 17, 1929. The Market Street Railway turned the occasion into a major public relations event with Supervisor Jesse Coleman, representing Mayor Rolph, delivering the farewell speech as the last cars (cable train of dummy and trailer) began the final run at 11:15 a.m.

Besides these two cable car lines, form No. 9 was used for four marginal streetcar lines - Divisadero Extension, Bosworth Street, Visitacion Valley and Parkside. The conductor determined the direction of the trip punching by the car's destination. Thus inbound Castro Cable passengers had 18th Street punched. Transfer from the Richard Schlaich Collection.
As illustrated in this post February 1916 United Railroads transfer the URR has ended their former policy of having each line have its own transfer, but were now issuing (undoubtedly as an economy move) transfers with multiple lines. The URR transfer dated "1" has a box for the "Castro Cable" and "Sacramento" for the Sacramento-Clay cable. The Market Street Railway continued this practice. Their transfer dated "17" provides for the "Castro Cable" and "Powell" for the Powell-Mason cable car. "Jackson" represents the Washington-Jackson cable car line, as shown on the transfer dated "16." The Market Street Railway transfer dated "7" has boxes for both the "Castro" and "Sacramento" cable cars. It is interesting that both the URR the Market Street Railway transfers carry the same slogan on their reverse side " OUR AIM CARE-COMFORT-COURTESY." From the Walter Rice Collection.
By the late 1930s ridership on the Sacramento-Clay cable had dropped significantly. Therefore, the Market Street Railway took the unusual step (for the time) of issuing a pocket time table for the Sacramento-Clay cable as a way of increasing ridership. Ridership had declined for two reasons. First, the increase in Market Street Railway fares to 7¢, while the parallel competitive Cal Cable California Street line kept the traditional 5¢ fare. This while America was still in the Great Depression. Second, the opening in January 1939 of the Bay Bridge’s Transbay Terminal with its East Bay Interurban and bus lines diverting most, if not all, East Bay commuter traffic away from the Ferry building. The need to ride the Sacramento-Clay cable car was now gone for many former riders. On February 14, 1942, despite the efforts of a Save the Cable Car League, the Market Street Railway discontinued the Sacramento-Clay cable car, the replacement being the No. 55 motor coach. Today’s cable car schedules can be found by going to the San Francisco Muni web page (
This Market Street Railway "Short Trip" form No. 9 transfer is punched for the Castro Cable, April 5, 1941, the last day of the Castro Cable. The Castro Cable was the last remnant of San Francisco’s largest cable car company, the Market Street Cable Railway. The next day the Market Street Railway would combine the Castro cable car with the No. 24 Divisadero streetcar (then only operating a single car shuttling from Sacramento to Oak Street, Monday thru Saturday daytime only) and the Fillmore Hill Counterbalance to create the new No. 24 crosstown motor coach line. Richard Schlaich Collection.
The Market Street Railway, like the other San Francisco transit properties, carried the City's school children to and from school at a reduced tariff. This school card issued in July 1941offered school riders a trip for only 3.125-cents, compared to the standard fare of 7-cents. Interestingly, the ticket was good for limited hours on school days, but at "all hours on other days."

Arthur Lloyd, Walter Rice Collection

During the 1930s the Market Street Railway promoted heavily as part of its plan to increase revenues its Sunday and Holiday passes that for 25¢ offered unlimited rides on any Market Street Railway bus, streetcar or cable car in San Francisco. The exception being cars of the 40-San Mateo Suburban line where the San Francisco minimum fare was 10¢ (riders were required to show pass and pay 5¢).

On May 29, 1938, the Market Street Railway increased its basic fare from 5¢ to 7¢ with free transfers. Since July of 1937 the company had charged 5¢ and 2¢ for transfers when issued with a full fare. The effect of the fare increase was to cause revenues to decline because the competitive Municipal Railway and Cal Cable were still charging 5¢. Particularly, hard hit was the Sacramento-Clay cable car. This loss in patronage was a major factor in the 1942 abandonment of that line. Company patrons are being urged to purchase tokens at the rate of five for 35¢.

Arthur Lloyd, Walter Rice Collection

Bay Cafe Menu Let’s have cocktails and diner at The Cable Car Café. It is easy to get to, we ride the Market Street Railway’s Powell-Mason cable car to its northern end at Bay & Taylor, and there it is on the corner at 501 Bay Street. If we ride Powell-Mason cable car No. 501 we get a free shrimp cocktail! ORdway 9688 is the reservation number. Walter Rice Collection.

Series Five: From the Municipal Railway (1944-Present)

The Muni entered cable car operations from its 1944 purchase of the Market Street Railway that include that company's two remaining cable car lines-Powell & Mason and Washington-Jackson. On January 7, 1952, the Muni's cable car operation is expanded with the purchase of the three lines of the Cal Cable. However, as of May 16, 1954 all that remained of the former Cal Cable is a truncated California Street line from Market Street to Van Ness Avenue. On September 2, 1956, shortly after one in the morning car No. 524 (now No. 24) makes the last trip on the Washington-Jackson line. The new Powell-Hyde cable car line began April 7, 1957. This line was created by cutting back to Hyde Street the Washington-Jackson line and combining it with the former Hyde Street leg of the O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde line. Currently, Muni - the world's only cable car operator - operates three cable car lines; Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde and California.

This 1954/1955 transfer reflects the assignment of route numbers by the Muni of the former Market Street Railway and Cal Cable cable car lines. The route number assignments are:

59 - Powell-Mason
60 - Washington & Jackson (until September 2, 1956)
60 - Powell-Hyde (since April 7, 1957)
61 - California Street
62 - O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde
63 - Jones Street Shuttle

This transfer is for the three north-south cable car lines - Powell-Mason, O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde and the Jones Street Shuttle. From the Joe Thompson Collection.
By the 1960s/70s Muni had developed a standard simplified transfer design. Conductors or operators would punch on the transfer the route. Cable Car transfers bore the design of Powell-Mason cable car No. 501 (now No. 28). The transfer dated "5" is punched for the "59" Powell-Mason cable and the one dated "6" is from the "61" California Street line. From the Walter Rice Collection.

During the 1960s Muni produced this unusual "Youth Fare Ticket." The design depicts the San Francisco skyline of the period with PCC streetcars (single pole) and trolley buses (double pole) heading toward the city. At that time there were no special fares for the cable cars and all regular fares including youth fares applied to the cable car system as well as Muni’s motor coach, trolley coach and streetcar lines.

Art Curtis Collection.

During the 1980s Muni eliminated the use of cable car fare-registers. Riders received fare receipts that also served as transfers. On August 1, 1993, transfers to and from the three cable car lines were eliminated. The two 1984 fare receipts/transfers are for the then standard full fare of $1 and 5¢ for senior fares.

Arthur Lloyd, Walter Rice Collection

Souvenir Cable Ticket (see below)
Souvenir Cable Tickets Make Excellent Gifts

One of the most thoughtful ways to welcome a friend coming to the city is to present him with one of the souvenir cable car tickets. Those colorful cards entitle the bearer to two rides, and after the stub is attached by the conductor, the passenger retains the postcard as a souvenir of his trip.

The cards come in shades of rose, green, blue and beige. They a priced at 25 cents each or in a set of four at $1.00.

Tickets may be purchased at any of the car houses; also at 287 City Hall, the Emporium, Hale’s Mission Store, Romer’s Pharmacy (58 Leland Street), and at the turntable flower stand at Powell near Market.

It is expected that the cards will be in considerable demand as favors for conventions or other similar gatherings. Any inquires should be directed to the Bureau of Public Service, Public Utilities Commission, 287 City Hall.

Trolley Topics, August 1949. Published under the direction of the PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION.

From the Val Lupiz Collection; Richard Schlaich, Trolley Topics citation.

Currently, unlike the rest of the Muni system, cable cars neither accept nor issue transfers. A unique cable car ticket is Muni's Cable Car Souvenir Postcards ($2.50). They feature a tear-off ticket for a one-way cable car ride (value $2.00) plus a souvenir postcard featuring a historic cable car scene. Consult the Muni web page ( for sales locations).

The $3 cable car collectors’ series ticket started in September 2003 when cable car one-way cash fares were increased from $2. Interestingly, the two classic views shown are both of the Sutter Street Railway Sutter line service. The Sutter street cable car was converted to electric streetcar after the April 1906 earthquake and fire. Thanks to Mike Anderson, Walter Rice Collection.
Save the Cable Cars Poster San Francisco’s love affair with their cable cars again was affirmed, when approximately 75% of the over $50 million necessary to rebuild, during 1982-1984, the entire cable car system came from the private sector. This poster is a small part of that fund raising campaign. Walter Rice Collection.
Notice for short-turning California Street cable cars on New Years Eve, 2004. Val Lupiz Collection.
On New Year’s Eve 2005, as in prior years, the eastern terminal of the California Street cable car was shortened from Market and Drumm Streets, in the late evening, to Kearny and California because of large celebration crowds. From the opening of cable car service on California Street April 10, 1878 until June 28, 1891 Kearny had served as California line’s downtown terminal. Courtesy Val Lupiz and Walter Rice.
Muni Rider Alert informing the riding public that due to the Chinese New Year parade this California Street (61-line) cable car stop has been temporarily discontinued, Saturday February 11 from 3:00 pm to 9:30 pm. Riders are advised to use the 1-California trolley bus. Note, this design presents an upgraded design over prior Rider Alerts, besides offering the text in both English and Chinese. Courtesy Val Lupiz and Walter Rice.
F Line Sign In 2001 the Municipal Railway extended its F-Market heritage streetcar to serve the northern Embarcadero, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the goals of this extension was to provide an alternative to the often overcrowded Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable car lines. This sign at Friedel Klussmann Memorial Turnaround at the Hyde and Beach Streets terminal of the Powell-Hyde cable informs and directs tourists to the F-line alternative. The art work is that of Dave Dugan of the Market Street Railway. Photo Walter Rice
Muni Employee Pass Randolph "Rudy" Brandt was a colorful motorman for the Market Street Railway during the war years of 1942-43. Often he was assigned to the 40-San Mateo Interurban. In late 1943 he joined the Pacific Electric. He soon returned to San Francisco to continue his trade as a motorman, now with the Municipal Railway. Pictured here is Rudy’s semi-annual pass for the first half of 1945. The text on back in part reads "This pass for free transportation on cars and busses of the Municipal Railway is issued as a courtesy and not as part of consideration for employment..."
Union Card Also pictured is his union card, as a Muni employee, for the month of January 1944 as a member of the A. F. of L. affiliated "Amalgamated Assn. of Electric Ry. and Motor Coach Employes (sic) of America," Division No. 1004, San Francisco, California. Market Street Railway employees were affiliated with the C. I. O. What was the "Special Assm’t" of $1.00 for?
Bay Cafe Menu Let’s have cocktails and diner at The Cable Car Café. It is easy to get to, we ride the Market Street Railway’s Powell-Mason cable car to its northern end at Bay & Taylor, and there it is on the corner at 501 Bay Street. If we ride Powell-Mason cable car No. 501 we get a free shrimp cocktail! ORdway 9688 is the reservation number. Walter Rice Collection.
Powell/Mason dash sign Powell/Mason dash sign Powell/Hyde dash sign Washington/Jackson dash sign At one time many San Francisco cable car lines were identified by the color the cable car was painted. For example, during the ownership of the former Ferries & Cliff House (Powell Street Railway) lines by the Market Street Railway (of 1893) Powell-Mason cars were yellow, Sacramento-Clay cars were red and both Jackson Street lines -- Powell-Jackson and Ferries-Jackson -- were green. Today’s relatively "new" practice of often identifying line’s -- usually, light rail or subway lines -- by color was first used in San Francisco by the Market Street Cable Railway of the 1880s.

After management realized that they had more flexibility in short-run equipment allocation, if all cars were painted regardless of line assignment, in the same colors and scheme, the dash sign was born. These signs that were placed on both the front and rear of cars. They described the car’s route and their color helped identify the line. It was not until 1909 that San Francisco became the first city in the nation to assign numbers and later letters to designate routes. Today on the Powell cars, Muni uses modified dash signage. (California Street cars never had dash signs.)

Shown are the dash signs that represent the three lines that have traversed Powell Street since the 1907 reopening. From the top, by line, Powell-Mason (1888- to date), Powell-Hyde (1957 - to date) and Washington-Jackson (1907-1956). The top two display the original and subsequent versions of the Powell-Mason dash signs. The differences are "Fishermen’s Wharf" vs. "Fisherman’s Wharf" and "&" vs. "and" and its placement, and the arched style of writing on the older sign for "POWELL" and "FISHERMEN'S WHARF." The difference in color is due to a color shift because the older sign from 1920s was varnished.

Both Powell-Mason signs and the Powell-Hyde sign Walter Rice Collection; Washington-Jackson sign Val Lupiz Collection; Artistic Correction Jack Neville.

Powell car 25 Powell/Mason round dash sign/1 Powell/Mason round dash sign/2 Powell/Hyde round dash sign/1 Powell/Hyde round dash sign/2 On cars of the original Powell Street Railway (1888) oval painted signs were used to describe destinations served by that company's cars. In 1973 Muni built Powell car No. 1 as the "Centennial Car," celebrating the first century of San Francisco cable car service. No.1 copied the original Powell Street Railway paint scheme and type of signage. However, since Muni wanted signage that was appropriate for each of its two Powell Street routes -- Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde -- oval plates were designed that could be reversed as line assignment changed. The two yellow signs are for Powell-Mason and the two red signs are for Powell-Hyde. Besides car No. 1, No. 25 also had this type of signage from the late 1970s until 1982. These signs are from car No. 25. August, 2005 Picture of the Month.

Photo by Walter Rice. Walter Rice and Val Lupiz Collections

Series Six: From the Pacific Northwest -- Seattle and Tacoma

Seattle, like San Francisco, is a city whose geographic characteristics made the cable car a natural public transport choice. Hills surround its central area located on the flat lands next to Puget Sound. A steep ascent that is beyond the capacities of most horse-drawn vehicles is required to conquer most of these hills. Three of Seattle’s cable lines -- Madison Street, James Street and Yesler Way -- lasted to 1940. By 1901 ownership of these lines had passed to the Seattle Electric Company. In 1919 the City of Seattle (Seattle Municipal Street Railway) took over all of the city’s transit operation. During 1940 each of the remaining cable car lines was discontinued as part of the conversion to an all-bus system. All Seattle cable car service ended August 10, 1940 leaving San Francisco as the only American city still running cable cars. With the March 2, 1957, closure of the Mornington line in Dunedin, New Zealand Muni became the sole operator of all cable car service in the world.

Like Seattle, Tacoma’s steep gradients next to the central business districts resulted in the selection of cable cars (over the company’s preferred choice of electric trolley cars) and kept the city’s single line in service longer than any other American system other than Seattle and San Francisco. Tacoma ran its last cable car on April 8, 1938 -- a victim of the 1930s mass conversion rail to motor coach. The American last city to eliminate cable cars prior to Tacoma was Kansas City that ended its service on October 13, 1913.

Tacoma News Tribune, Nov. 22, 1902:

There was an unusual accident on 11th Street yesterday when the cable car ran away uphill. The fog was very thick about supper time, and the grip of the car froze to the cable. After stopping to let some people off at I Street, the car turned the corner onto K without slackening its pace proceeded to 13th, turned that corner at the same speed, and started down the hill. Conductor Pipkin had jumped off at 11th and K, got the powerhouse by telephone and as soon as the dilemma was realized there, the power was turned off. Three people were injured by jolting and several by jumping in the five-block runaway.

Given that the Seattle Electric Company issued this James Street transfer, it dates between 1900 and 1919, most probably closer the latter. The Union Trunk Line in March 1891 opened this line from Pioneer Square to Broadway, a distance of only .75 mile. Walter Rice Collection

Seattle’s last three cable car lines, all abandoned during 1940, are represented by these three Seattle Municipal Street Railway transfers. The City’s first, last and most famous the Yesler Way cable started in 1888. The Yesler cable took passengers from Pioneer Square to Lake Washington. Its last day of service was August 10, 1940. The last Madison Street cable reached the barn on April 13, 1940. James Street was the first to go, ending without notice and without replacement at midnight February 17, 1940. The reason being the cable had worn out! The cable car lines, along with all of Seattle’s streetcars, were the victim city’s push to be an all-bus city. On the back the transfers the following messages were printed: "Property Values Depend Upon Transportation Facilities" and "Transportation Facilities Depend Upon Your Patronage. Richard Schlaich Collection.

Only one cable car line ever operated in Tacoma Washington. As such, this Tacoma Railway & Power Company transfer just uses the word "cable" to differentiate this route from the other lines in the system. Service on this "loop" cable line started on August 4, 1891 and lasted to April 8, 1938. Uniquely for a cable car line, from 1917 onwards the line used pay-as-you-enter steel cars characteristic of trolley car lines. Richard Schlaich Collection.

Series Seven: Melbourne Australia Cable Tramways Ticket

Melbourne, Australia began cable car (cable train) service in November 1885. Management had purchased rights to Andrew S. Hallidie's cable patents. Unlike San Francisco that had eight original cable car companies, Melbourne had but a single cable car company -- the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company. At its height Melbourne’s cable tramways had 64.12 route miles and 1200 cars and trailers, ranking the Melbourne system comparable to that of San Francisco before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. After 1916, a government agency ran the system -- the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. Under this management and the system was gradually electrified, with the last line ending in 1940 on Bourke Street. The system had lasted fifty-five years. Melbourne’s cable trains were comparable to those of the Sutter Street Railway. The San Francisco Cable Car Museum’s Sutter Street Railway cable train display provides a flavor of a Melbourne cable train that consisted of a grip (dummy) and a trailer. The colors of the two systems are comparable.

Displayed here is a prepaid ticket for the an adult cable tram journey. The value is 3D ( converts to 3 pence). Ric Francis Collection.

Special note: If you have a cable car transfer from San Francisco or any other cable car system and would like to see it posted (with credit) please let us know.

Series Eight: From Joe Lacey's Collection

Joe Lacey, former cable car conductor, has shared some nice items from his collection.

This certificate, signed by Mrs Friedel Klussmann, was issued in 1947 by the Citizen's Committee to Save the Cable Cars to honorary committee member Frank McQuaid for contributing to the cause. Read The Cable Car Lady & the Mayor by Walter Rice and Val Lupiz for more information. Joe Lacey Collection

In 1971, Proposition Q promised to freeze cable car schedules at a minimum. Read Proposition Q for more information. Joe Lacey Collection

A letter from the Cable Car Committee in favor of Proposition Q. Read Proposition Q for more information. Joe Lacey Collection

Mayor Joseph Alioto and the San Francisco Cable Car Centennial Committee invited the people of the Cable Car Division to a picnic in Golden Gate Park. Read A Photo Album of 1970s Cable Car Supporters by Walter Rice for more information. Joe Lacey Collection

The San Francisco Chronicle issued this certificate to people who participated in a centennial walk along the route of the Clay Street Hill Railroad on 05-August-1973. Mrs Doss wrote a popular Sunday column about walking. Read A Photo Album of 1970s Cable Car Supporters by Walter Rice for more information. Joe Lacey Collection

This certificate was issued at the cable car centennial celebration in Portsmouth Square on 02-August-1973. Read A Photo Album of 1970s Cable Car Supporters by Walter Rice for more information. Joe Lacey Collection

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Last updated 01-Sep-2006