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Cable Cars Since 1873

Pros: Riding on a specially designated "Moving National Historic Landmark"
Cons: Intimidating hour-long lines to board on weekends and peak tourist times
Best For: Early morning or late night/Views from the top of the hill and heavily oxygenated Golden Gate air

Cable Cars in San FranciscoSan Francisco is the home of the world's last remaining manually operated cable car system. When the first regular service in the city was inaugurated, on September 1st, 1873, it was due to the intrepid ingenuity of one Andrew Smith Halladie (1836-1900). His father, a Scotsman, was the first patent-holder of metal wire rope. Settling in San Francisco after trying to strike it rich in the goldfields up North, Hallidie was appalled by the grim habitual occurence of horse-drawn carriage accidents on the slick cobbled hillsides. Horses tumbled and died. It was so challenging, getting goods and people up and down the steep slopes, safely. Having already fashioned bridges and mining equipment using metal wire rope, Halladie set to designing the cable car system, which is in use today, as it was one hundred and thirty-four years ago.

There are no engines on the cars. The power source comes from the Cable Car Barn. Motors there drive huge wheels that pull cables located underground. The driver is called a gripman and his job requires an enormous amount of upper body strength. He alone is responsible for working the lever that enables the car to grip the cable underground, or release it, to control speed. There has been only one gripwoman ever hired and that was Fannie Mae Barnes, in 1998.
San Francisco Cable Car
Three lines remain in service:
Powell-Hyde Line 60
Powell-Mason Line 59
California LIne 61 (used by residents and commuters as well as tourists)

In the 1940's buses were taking over the cable car lines and the city government was in favor of doing away with the antiquated mode of transportation altogether. Then in 1947 a Pacific Heights resident, Friedel Klussman led the Citizens Committee To Save The Cable Cars, which were in imminent danger of being rendered extinct. Her petition succeeded and the Powell-Hyde Line turnaround is named for her.

San Francisco Cable Cars
Current Fleet Composed of 28 Powell St. Cars and 12 California St. Cars
Service Every 6-15 Minutes From 6:30am-12:30am Daily
Route Map:

Visit The Cable Car Barn and Museum:
1201 Mason St.
San Francisco, 941-8
Admission is Free

Noteworthy: There is a plaque honoring Andrew Smith Halladie inside the entrance of the Hallidie Building, 130 Sutter St. between Montgomery and Kearny