San Francisco cable car system
Overview
 
The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last permanently operational manually operated cable car
Cable car (railway)
A cable car or cable railway is a mass transit system using rail cars that are hauled by a continuously moving cable running at a constant speed. Individual cars stop and start by releasing and gripping this cable as required...

 system, in the US sense of a tramway whose cars are pulled along by cables embedded in the street. It is an icon of San Francisco, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The cable car system forms part of the intermodal urban transport network operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway
San Francisco Municipal Railway
The San Francisco Municipal Railway is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. In 2006, it served with an operating budget of about $700 million...

, or "Muni" as it is better known. Cable cars operate on two routes from downtown near Union Square
Union Square, San Francisco, California
Union Square is a plaza of bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets in San Francisco, California. "Union Square" also refers to the central shopping, hotel, and theater district that surrounds the plaza for several blocks. The area got its name because it was once used for rallies and...

 to Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street...

, and a third route along California Street.
Encyclopedia
The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last permanently operational manually operated cable car
Cable car (railway)
A cable car or cable railway is a mass transit system using rail cars that are hauled by a continuously moving cable running at a constant speed. Individual cars stop and start by releasing and gripping this cable as required...

 system, in the US sense of a tramway whose cars are pulled along by cables embedded in the street. It is an icon of San Francisco, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The cable car system forms part of the intermodal urban transport network operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway
San Francisco Municipal Railway
The San Francisco Municipal Railway is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. In 2006, it served with an operating budget of about $700 million...

, or "Muni" as it is better known. Cable cars operate on two routes from downtown near Union Square
Union Square, San Francisco, California
Union Square is a plaza of bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets in San Francisco, California. "Union Square" also refers to the central shopping, hotel, and theater district that surrounds the plaza for several blocks. The area got its name because it was once used for rallies and...

 to Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street...

, and a third route along California Street. While the cable cars are used to a certain extent by commuters, their small service area and premium fares for single rides make them more of a tourist attraction. They are among the most significant tourist sites in the city, along with Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island is an island located in the San Francisco Bay, offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. Often referred to as "The Rock" or simply "Traz", the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal...

 and Fisherman's Wharf.

It is the only transportation system listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

.

The cable cars are not to be confused with San Francisco's historic streetcars
F Market
The F Market & Wharves line is one of several light rail lines in San Francisco, California. Unlike the other lines, the F line is operated as a heritage streetcar service, using exclusively historic equipment both from San Francisco's retired fleet as well as from cities around the world...

, which operate on Market Street
Market Street (San Francisco)
Market Street is an important thoroughfare in San Francisco, California. It begins at The Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building at the northeastern edge of the city and runs southwest through downtown, passing the Civic Center and the Castro District, to the intersection with Corbett Avenue in...

 and on the Embarcadero.

Beginnings

The very first successful cable-operated street railway was the Clay Street Hill Railroad
Clay Street Hill Railroad
The Clay Street Hill Railroad was the first successful cable hauled street railway. It was located on Clay Street, a notably steep street in San Francisco in California, and first operated in August 1873....

, which opened on August 2, 1873. The promoter of the line was Andrew Smith Hallidie
Andrew Smith Hallidie
Andrew Smith Hallidie was the promoter of the Clay Street Hill Railroad in San Francisco, USA. This was the world's first practical cable car system, and Hallidie is often therefore regarded as the inventor of the cable car and father of the present day San Francisco cable car system, although...

, and the engineer was William Eppelsheimer
William Eppelsheimer
William E. Eppelsheimer was a tramway engineer known for his work on cable car systems. He was born and studied engineering in what is now Germany. Eppelsheimer designed the Clay Street Hill Railroad in San Francisco...

. The line involved the use of grip cars, which carried the grip that engaged with the cable, towing trailer cars; the design was the first to use grips. The term "grip" became synonymous with the operator.

The line started regular service on September 1, 1873, and it was such a success that it became the model for other cable car transit systems in San Francisco and elsewhere. It was a financial success, and Hallidie's patents were enforced on other cable car promoters, making him a rich man.

Accounts differ as to exactly how involved Hallidie was in the inception of the line, and to the exact date it first ran. See the article Clay Street Hill Railroad
Clay Street Hill Railroad
The Clay Street Hill Railroad was the first successful cable hauled street railway. It was located on Clay Street, a notably steep street in San Francisco in California, and first operated in August 1873....

for more information on this subject.

Growth

The next cable car line to open was the Sutter Street Railway
Sutter Street Railway
The Sutter Street Railway was originally a horsecar line in San Francisco. In 1877 the line was converted to cable car operation. The line introduced the side grip, and lever operation, both designed by Asa Hovey....

, which converted from horse operation in 1877. This line introduced the side grip, and lever operation, both designed by Henry Casebolt and his assistant Asa Hovey, and patented by Henry Casebolt. This idea was brought about because Casebolt didn't want to pay Hallidie royalties of $50K a year for use of his patent. The side grip allowed cable cars to cross at intersections, and is still widely used to this day.

In 1878 Leland Stanford
Leland Stanford
Amasa Leland Stanford was an American tycoon, industrialist, robber baron, politician and founder of Stanford University.-Early years:...

 opened his California Street Cable Railroad
California Street Cable Railroad
The California Street Cable Railroad was a long-serving cable car operator in San Francisco, founded by Leland Stanford. The company's first line opened on California Street in 1878 and is still in operation, being the oldest cable car line still in operation.The company remained independent until...

 (Cal Cable). This company's first line was on California Street
California Street (San Francisco)
California Street is a major thoroughfare in San Francisco, California. Fifty-four blocks of California Street, from Van Ness Avenue westward to 32nd Avenue, comprised the last major leg of the final 1928 alignment of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America, leading out to the highway's...

 and is the oldest cable car line still in operation. In 1880, the Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway
Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway
The Geary Street, Park and Ocean Railway was one of the first cable car operators in San Francisco. Operation commenced in 1880, and the route soon proved quite popular. The line was purchased by the Market Street Railway in 1887. In 1912, the city declined to renew the franchise and instead...

 began operation. The Presidio & Ferries Railway followed two years later, and was the first cable company to include curves on its routes. The curves were let-go curves, where the car drops the cable and coasts around the curve on its own momentum.

In 1883 the Market Street Cable Railway opened its first line. This company was controlled by the Southern Pacific Railroad
Southern Pacific Railroad
The Southern Pacific Transportation Company , earlier Southern Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific Company, and usually simply called the Southern Pacific or Espee, was an American railroad....

 and was to grow to become San Francisco's largest cable car operator. At its peak, it operated five lines all of which converged into Market Street to a common terminus at the Ferry Building
Ferry Building
The San Francisco Ferry Building is a terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay and a shopping center located on The Embarcadero in San Francisco, California. On top of the building is a large clock tower, which can be seen from Market Street, a main thoroughfare of the city...

; during rush hours a cable car left that terminus every 15 seconds.

In 1888, the Ferries and Cliff House Railway opened its initial two-line system. The Powell-Mason line is still operated on exactly the same route today; their other route was the Washington-Jackson line, stretches of which are used by today's Powell-Hyde line. The Ferries & Cliff House Railway was also responsible for the building of a car barn and powerhouse at Washington and Mason, and this site is still in use today. In the same year, it also purchased the original Clay Street Hill Railway, which it incorporated into a new Sacramento-Clay line in 1892.

In 1889, the Omnibus Railroad & Cable Company became the last new cable car operator in San Francisco. The following year the California Street Cable Railroad opened two new lines, these being the last entirely new cable car lines built in the city. One of them was the O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde line, the Hyde section of which still remains in operation as part of today's Powell-Hyde line.

Decline

The first electric streetcars
Tram
A tram is a passenger rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets and also sometimes on separate rights of way. It may also run between cities and/or towns , and/or partially grade separated even in the cities...

 in San Francisco began operation in 1892 under the auspices of the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway
San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway
The San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway was the first electric streetcar company in San Francisco, California. The company was only in business for ten years, starting in 1892 until its merger into the United Railroads of San Francisco ....

. At that time, it was estimated that it cost twice as much to build and six times as much to operate a line with cable cars as with electric streetcars. Not surprisingly, San Francisco's cable car lines soon came under pressure.

By the beginning of 1906, many of San Francisco's remaining cable cars were under the control of the United Railroads of San Francisco (URR), although Cal Cable and the Geary Street Company remained independent. URR was pressing to convert many of its cable lines to overhead electric traction, but this was being resisted by opponents who objected to what they saw as ugly overhead lines on the major thoroughfares of the city center.

But at 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, those objections were swept away as the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake
1906 San Francisco earthquake
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was a major earthquake that struck San Francisco, California, and the coast of Northern California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906. The most widely accepted estimate for the magnitude of the earthquake is a moment magnitude of 7.9; however, other...

 struck. The quake and resulting fire destroyed the power houses and car barns of both the Cal Cable and the URR's Powell Street lines, together with the 117 cable cars stored within them. The subsequent race to rebuild the city allowed the URR to replace most of its cable car lines with electric streetcar lines. At the same time the independent Geary Street line was replaced by a municipally owned
Municipalization
Municipalization is the transfer of corporations or other assets to municipal ownership. The transfer may be from private ownership or from other levels of government. It is the opposite of privatization and is different from nationalization.-Services:There have been two main waves of...

 electric streetcar line, the first line of the San Francisco Municipal Railway
San Francisco Municipal Railway
The San Francisco Municipal Railway is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. In 2006, it served with an operating budget of about $700 million...

.

By 1912, only eight cable car lines remained, all with steep gradients impassable to electric streetcars. In the 1920s and 1930s these lines came under pressure from the much improved bus
Bus
A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are...

es of the era, which could now climb steeper hills than the electric streetcar. By 1944, the only cable cars remaining were the two Powell Street lines—by then in municipal ownership, as part of SF Municipal Railway (Muni)—and the three lines owned by the still-independent Cal Cable.

Fight back

In 1947, Mayor Roger Lapham
Roger Lapham
Roger Dearborn Lapham was a shipowner and businessman who served as the 32nd mayor of San Francisco from 1944 to 1948.-Life and career:...

 proposed the closure of the two municipally owned lines. In response, a joint meeting of 27 women's civic groups, led by Friedel Klussmann
Friedel Klussmann
Mrs. Friedel Klussmann was a prominent member of San Francisco society. She is credited with leading the campaign that saved the San Francisco cable car system in the 1940s and 50s, and the foundation of the San Francisco Beautiful organization in 1947.- Friedel Klussmann and the Cable Cars :In...

, formed the Citizens' Committee to Save the Cable Cars. In a famous battle of wills, the citizens' committee eventually forced a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 on an amendment to the city charter, compelling the city to continue operating the Powell Street lines. This passed overwhelmingly, by 166,989 votes to 51,457.

In 1951, the three Cal Cable lines were shut down when the company was unable to afford insurance. The city purchased and reopened the lines in 1952, but the amendment to the city charter did not protect them, and the city proceeded with plans to replace them with buses. Again Klussmann came to the rescue, but with less success this time. The result was a compromise: a protected system made up of the California Street line from Cal Cable, the Powell-Mason line already in municipal ownership, and a third hybrid line formed by grafting the Hyde Street section of Cal Cable's O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde line onto a truncated Powell-Washington-Jackson line, now known as the Powell-Hyde line.

This solution required some rebuilding to convert the Hyde Street trackage and terminus to operation by the single-ended cars of the Powell line, and also to allow the whole system to be operated from a single car barn and power house. Much of the infrastructure remained unchanged from the time of the earthquake.

Rebuild

By 1979, the cable car system had become unsafe, and it needed to be closed for 7 months for urgently needed repairs. A subsequent engineering evaluation concluded that it needed comprehensive rebuilding at a cost of $60 million.
Mayor Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein is the senior U.S. Senator from California. A member of the Democratic Party, she has served in the Senate since 1992. She also served as 38th Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988....

 took charge of the effort, and helped win federal funding for the bulk of the rebuilding job. In 1982 the cable car system was closed again for a complete rebuild. This involved the complete replacement of 69 city blocks' worth of tracks and cable channels, the demolition and rebuilding of the car barn and powerhouse, new propulsion equipment, and the repair or rebuild of 37 cable cars. The system finally reopened on June 21, 1984, just in time to benefit from the publicity that accompanied San Francisco's hosting of that year's Democratic National Convention
1984 Democratic National Convention
The 1984 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California from July 16 to July 19, 1984, to select a candidate for the 1984 United States presidential election. At the convention Walter Mondale was nominated for President and Geraldine...

.

Recent history

Since 1984, Muni has continued to upgrade the system. Work has included rebuilding of another historical car, the building of 9 brand new replacement cars, the building of a new terminal and turntable at the Hyde and Beach terminus, and a new turntable at the Powell and Market terminus.

The cable cars are principally used by tourists rather than commuters. The system serves an area of the city that is already served by a large number of bus
Bus
A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are...

es and trolleybus
Trolleybus
A trolleybus is an electric bus that draws its electricity from overhead wires using spring-loaded trolley poles. Two wires and poles are required to complete the electrical circuit...

es. The two lines on Powell Street (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason) both serve only residential and tourist/shopping districts (Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach
North Beach, San Francisco, California
North Beach is a neighborhood in the northeast of San Francisco adjacent to Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf and Russian Hill. The neighborhood is San Francisco's Little Italy, and has historically been home to a large Italian American population. It still holds many Italian restaurants today, though...

, Nob Hill, Aquatic Park
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located in San Francisco, California, USA. The park includes a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility...

 and Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street...

), with the "downtown" end of both lines a substantial distance from the Financial District. The California Street Line is used more by commuters, due to its terminus in the Financial District.

In mid-April 2007, the San Francisco auditor's office reported that the city was not receiving the expected revenue from cable cars, with an estimated 40% of cable car riders riding for free. Muni's management disputed this figure, and pointed out that safe operation, rather than revenue collection, is the primary duty of conductors.

Network

The current cable car network consists of three lines. Like other Muni routes, they have line numbers, but are generally referred to by the street name. The single-ended cable cars require manually-operated turntables to rotate the car around, so that it faces in the right direction. The city of San Francisco is home to three such turntables, or turn-arounds, outdoors (at Market & Powell, Taylor & Bay, and Hyde & Beach); with a fourth one being located inside the car barn.
  • The Powell-Hyde (Line 60) line runs north and steeply uphill from a terminal at Powell and Market Streets, before crossing the California Street line at the crest of the hill. Downhill from this crest it turns left and uphill again along Jackson Street (as this is one-way, cable cars in the opposite direction use the parallel Washington Street), to a crest at Hyde Street. Here it turns right and steeply downhill along Hyde Street to the Hyde and Beach terminal, which is adjacent to the waterfront at the San Francisco Maritime Museum
    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
    The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located in San Francisco, California, USA. The park includes a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility...

    . Man-powered turntables turn the cable cars around at the two ends. This line is used greatly by tourists and often has long queues.

  • The Powell-Mason (Line 59) line shares the tracks of the Powell-Hyde line as far as Mason Street, where it crosses Washington and Jackson Streets. Here the line turns right and downhill along Mason Street, briefly half left along Columbus Avenue, and then down Taylor Street to a terminal at Taylor and Bay. This terminus is near to but two blocks back from the waterfront at Fisherman's Wharf
    Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
    Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street...

    . There are man-powered turntables at each end to reverse the cars like the Powell-Hyde. This line is also used greatly by tourists, but also some commuters.

  • The California Street (Line 61) line runs due west on California Street from a terminal at California and Market Streets, close to the junction of Market with the waterfront Embarcadero. The line once ran a much longer distance from Presidio Avenue to Market Street but was reduced in the 1950s. Ideas to restore the whole line have been proposed but not acted on. The whole of the line lies on California Street, running at first uphill to the summit of Nob Hill, then more gently downhill to a terminus at Van Ness Avenue. This line is used to a greater extent by commuters, with majority of passengers on weekdays being commuters.


There is also a set of non-revenue tracks from the California Street line along Hyde Street to join the Powell-Hyde line at Hyde and Washington. This connection exists to enable California Street cars to reach the car barn.

There are turntables
Turntable (railroad)
A railway turntable is a device for turning railroad rolling stock. When steam locomotives were still in wide use, many railroads needed a way to turn the locomotives around for return trips as their controls were often not configured for extended periods of running in reverse and in many...

 at the three terminals served by the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines, and these two lines are served by a common fleet of single-ended cable cars. Cable cars on California Street, however, have cabs at both ends, and so the terminals are single-track stubs and the operator only switches ends.

The cable car system connects at both its terminals on Market Street with the F Market
F Market
The F Market & Wharves line is one of several light rail lines in San Francisco, California. Unlike the other lines, the F line is operated as a heritage streetcar service, using exclusively historic equipment both from San Francisco's retired fleet as well as from cities around the world...

 heritage
Heritage railway
thumb|right|the Historical [[Khyber train safari|Khyber Railway]] goes through the [[Khyber Pass]], [[Pakistan]]A heritage railway , preserved railway , tourist railway , or tourist railroad is a railway that is run as a tourist attraction, in some cases by volunteers, and...

 streetcar line. The Taylor and Bay terminal, and the Hyde and Beach terminal, are both short walks from the F Market line.

As of July 1, 2011, riding a cable car costs $6 for a single ride, except for seniors riding before 7am or after 9pm when the senior fare is $3. Cable car rides are included in monthly Muni passes, as well as 1-day, 3-day, 7-day passes, and the CityPASS
CityPASS
is an American company that produces and sells booklets containing entrance tickets to groups of attractions in 11 North American destinations: 10 major cities and the theme parks of Southern California....

 program. Transfers or fare receipts are not accepted.

Cars

  • Single-ended cars serve the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines. These cars have an open-sided front section, with outward-facing seats flanking the gripman and his collection of levers that actuate the grip and various brakes. The rear half of the car is enclosed, with seats facing inward and entrances at each end and the car has a small platform at the rear. These cars are 27 ft 6 in (8.6 m) long and 8 ft (2.4 m) wide and weigh 15,500 pounds (7,000 kg). They have a passenger capacity of 60, 29 of them seated. These cars must be rotated to reverse direction at each end of the line, an operation performed on turntables. Most of these cars were built or rebuilt in the 1990s at Muni
    San Francisco Municipal Railway
    The San Francisco Municipal Railway is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. In 2006, it served with an operating budget of about $700 million...

    's Woods Carpentry Division.

  • Double-ended cars serve the California Street line. These cars are somewhat longer, having open-sided grip sections at both ends and an enclosed section in the middle. These cars are 30 ft 3 in (9.2 m) long and 8 ft (2.4 m) wide and weigh 16,800 pounds (7,620 kg). They can hold 68 passengers, 34 of them seated. These do not need to be rotated to change direction and so this line has no turntables. Some of these cars are genuine O'Farrell, Jones, and Hyde Street cable cars, while some of these cable cars were built in 1998 at Muni's Woods Division/Woods Carpentry Division.


Both types of car ride on a pair of four-wheel trucks
Bogie
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

, to fit the track gauge of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm). The term California Street car, as in a car running on the California Street line, should not be confused with the term California Car. The latter term applies to all the cable cars currently operating in San Francisco, and is a historical term distinguishing this style of car from an earlier style where the open grip section and the enclosed section were separate four-wheel cars (known as the grip car and trailer).

There are 28 single ended cars in operation on the Powell lines and 12 double ended cars in operation on the California Street line. The cable cars are occasionally replaced with new or restored cars, with the old cars being moved to storage for later restoration or to the train museum in Rio Vista. There are 2 cable cars in storage in the cable car museum / power house inside the garage, car numbers 19 and 42 which were used on the Clay Street and old O'Farrell and Jones Street lines, respectively.

Car barn, power house and museum

The car barn is located between Washington and Jackson Streets just uphill of where Mason Street crosses them. Cars reverse into the barn off Jackson Street and run out into Washington Street, coasting downhill for both moves. To ensure that single-ended cars leave facing in the correct direction, the car barn contains a fourth turntable. Cars are moved around the car barn with the assistance of a rubber-tired tractor
Tractor
A tractor is a vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery used in agriculture or construction...

.

The car barn is situated directly above the power house and the Cable Car Museum. The museum's entrance is at Washington and Mason. It contains several examples of old cable cars, together with smaller exhibits and a shop. Perhaps of more interest are two galleries which allow the visitor to overlook the main power house, and also to descend below the junction of Washington and Mason Streets and see the large cavern where the haulage cables are routed out to the street.

There are four separate cables: one for the California Street line, one each for the separate parts of the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines, and one for their common section. Each cable is 1.25 inches (3.175 cm) in diameter, running at a constant speed of 9.5 mph (15.3 km/h), and driven by a 510 horsepower
Horsepower
Horsepower is the name of several units of measurement of power. The most common definitions equal between 735.5 and 750 watts.Horsepower was originally defined to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses in continuous operation. The unit was widely adopted to measure the...

 (380 kW) electric motor via a set of self-adjusting sheaves. Each cable has six steel strands, with each strand containing 19 wires, wrapped around a sisal
Sisal
Sisal is an agave that yields a stiff fibre traditionally used in making twine, rope and also dartboards. The term may refer either to the plant or the fibre, depending on context...

 rope core (to allow easier gripping). The cables are coated with a tar-like material which serves as a sacrificial lubricant (much like a pencil eraser erodes away rather than the paper).

Gripmen and conductors

The driver of a cable car is known as the gripman or grip person. This is a highly skilled job, requiring the gripman to smoothly operate the grip lever to grip and release the cable, release the grip at certain points in order to coast the vehicle over crossing cables or places where the cable does not follow the tracks, and to anticipate well in advance possible collisions with other traffic that may not understand the limitations of a cable car. Being a gripman requires great upper body strength needed for the grip and brakes, as well as good hand-eye coordination and balance. Only a portion of the people who attempt the training course actually pass (about 30%).

, there have been two grip women, Fannie Mae Barnes, who served from 1998 to 2002, and Willa Johnson, who became a grip person in April 2010.

Besides the gripman, each cable car carries a conductor whose job is to collect fares, manage the boarding and exiting of passengers, and control the rear wheel brakes when descending hills. With the common practice of carrying standing passengers on the running boards of cable cars, passenger management is an important task.

Some crew members are locally well-known personalities.

Cable car bell-ringing contest

On the second or third Thursday each July, a cable car bell-ringing contest is held in Union Square between cable car crews, following a preliminary round held during the second to last or the last week of June. The preliminary round determines which contestants go on to the finals in Union Square, by a process of points awarded by a panel of judges.

Year First Place Second Place Third Place
2002 Ken Lunardi Byron Cobb Ronald East
2003 Ronald East Ken Lunardi Walter Scott, III
2003 Invitational Carl Payne Al Quintana Peter Palukevich
2004 Frank Ware Walter Scott, III Byron Cobb
2005 Byron Cobb Frank Ware Howard Woo
2006 Ken Lunardi Byron Cobb Warren Robinson III
2007 Leonard Oats Ken Lunardi Frank Ware
2008 Leonard Oats Ken Lunardi Byron Cobb
2009 Leonard Oats Frank Ware Howard Woo
2010 NoneThere were no participants from the SFMTA Cable Car Division in the 2010 contest, which was limited to local celebrity participants. None None


See also

  • 49-Mile Scenic Drive
    49-Mile Scenic Drive
    The 49-Mile Scenic Drive in San Francisco highlights many of the city's major attractions and historic structures.Opened on September 14, 1938 as a promotion for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, it...

  • Cable car (railway)
    Cable car (railway)
    A cable car or cable railway is a mass transit system using rail cars that are hauled by a continuously moving cable running at a constant speed. Individual cars stop and start by releasing and gripping this cable as required...

  • Fisherman's Wharf
    Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
    Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street...

  • Grade (slope)
  • San Francisco Railway Museum
    San Francisco Railway Museum
    The San Francisco Railway Museum is a local railway museum located in the South of Market area of San Francisco.This small museum features exhibits on the antique streetcars of the F Market & Wharves and national landmark cable cars that continue to run along the city's major arteries. The museum...


Further reading

  • Val Lupiz and Walter Rice (2004). "San Francisco: cable cars are here to stay". Tramways & Urban Transit
    Tramways & Urban Transit
    Tramways & Urban Transit , also known as Modern Tramway, is a British monthly magazine about tramways and light rail transport, published continuously since 1938. Its content is orientated both to tramway enthusiasts and to persons working in the tram transport field or studying tramways. It has...

    , October 2004, pp. 376–378. Light Rail Transit Association
    Light Rail Transit Association
    The Light Rail Transit Association is a non-profit organisation whose purpose is to advocate and encourage research into the retention and development of light rail and tramway/streetcar systems...

     and Ian Allan Publishing Ltd
    Ian Allan Publishing
    Ian Allan Publishing is a UK publisher, established in 1942, which specialises in transport magazines and books.In 1942 Ian Allan, then working on enquiries on the Southern Railway, published his first book, "ABC of Southern Locomotives"...

    .

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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