San Francisco Cable Car

I'm back from my trip and it's time for show and tell! Let's start with the San Francisco cable car.


The cable car (for the purpose of this blog), first introduced in the 1800s, is a rail car that is hauled by an endless, continuous running cable between the rails. It is known for its hill climb ability. The rail car does not depend on wheel-rail adhesion on steep grades and therefore performance is not affected by rail conditions (i.e. rain, snow). However the major attraction for most cities (especially on flatlands) was the fact that they replaced horse drawn cars which was deemed cruel and inefficient at the time.

For such system in San Francisco, a grip from the rail car is used to control the speed of the cable car by applying and releasing pressure to the cable, moving at a constant speed of 9.5 mph. The Clay Street Hill Railroad, opened in 1873 in San Francisco, California, is the first cable car railway in the world of its kind. The grip is controlled by a gripman of considerable strength and skill on board of the car. The San Francisco cable car is also the last permanently operating traditional cable car system in the world.

There are currently 3 operation lines in the San Francisco cable car system. They cost $5 per single ride (2011 price). If you ever have a chance to visit the beautiful city of San Francisco, visit the cable car museum (also the power house and car barn) at Washington Street and Mason Street where you’ll learn a lot more about the history and mechanics of the San Francisco cable car.

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