top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Cable Car Heritage

It was a scotsman who first originated San Francisco's cable car system after witnessing the struggles of horsedrawn loads attempting the steep inclines of that fast growing Pacific coast city in the 1880s. Perhaps it is no surprise that Edinburgh with more modest inclines boasted Britain's largest cable tramway operation until electrification in the 1920s. San Francisco is one of the world's most famous destinations for transport enthusiasts - with both a busy four line cable car system, plus expanding popular heritage trolleycar (tram) service; together with several light rail lines in the city itself.

The cable car operation is an absolute mecca for tourists and provides an important rail service for residents living or working in proximity to the cable lines. The hub of the operation contains the cable 'power house' with its museum and viewing platform of the actual winding machinery. These provide the power for continuously moving cables running below street level with surface slots allowing cable car grips to access their means of motive power. Apart from the inclines the scene could well have been similar in Blackpool in the 1880s when conduit power required similar installation but instead of cables an electric 'third rail' provided the source of energy for conduit cars to maintain their slow and unsteady speed.

A recent visit to California by the Author's wife afforded a look inside this unique museum highly recommended to visiting enthusiasts amid all the other traction delights which abound.

The seperate cable car routes with their respective cable lines labelled for the benefit of visitors on the viewing gallery - always in motion. Hyde, California, Mason and Powell.

Sutter Street Railway - Car 54 on display in its ornate livery of the 1880s.

Half open half enclosed type cable car Number 46 with the central grip level just visible in the middle of the car where the 'Grip Man' stands controlling speed and movement of his charge.

Featured Posts
bottom of page