cable car san francisco

cable car san francisco

Cable Car San Francisco

The San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system. An icon of San Francisco, the cable car system forms part of the intermodal urban transport network operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three remain (one of which combines parts of two earlier lines): two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, and a third route along California Street. While the cable cars are used to a certain extent by commuters, the vast majority of their 7 million annual passengers are tourists. They are among the most significant tourist attractions in the city, along with Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The cable cars are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Cable Car San Francisco

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Cable Car San Francisco

Those objections disappeared after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. 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 electric streetcar line, the first line of the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni).
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Cable Car San Francisco

By 1979, the cable car system had become unsafe, and it needed to be closed for seven months for urgently needed repairs. A subsequent engineering evaluation concluded that it needed comprehensive rebuilding at a cost of $60 million. Mayor Dianne Feinstein 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 complete rebuilding of the car barn and powerhouse within the original outer brick walls, new propulsion equipment, and the repair or rebuild of 37 cable cars. The system reopened on June 21, 1984, in time to benefit from the publicity that accompanied San Francisco’s hosting of that year’s Democratic National Convention.
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Cable Car San Francisco

The cable cars are pulled by a cable running below the street, held by a grip that extends from the car through a slit in the street surface, between the rails. Each cable is 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter, running at a constant speed of 9.5 miles per hour (15.3 km/h), and driven by a 510 horsepower (380 kW) electric motor located in the central power house (see below), via a set of self-adjusting sheaves. Each cable has six steel strands, with each strand containing 19 wires, wrapped around a sisal 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. To start and stop the movement of the car, the gripman (see below) closes and opens the grip around the cable (similar to the clutch of a conventional car). The grip’s jaws exert a pressure of up to 30,000 pounds per square inch (210,000 kPa) on the cable.
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Cable Car San Francisco

In 1889, the Omnibus Railroad and Cable Company was 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-Hyde line, the Hyde section of which still remains in operation as part of the current Powell-Hyde line.
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Cable Car San Francisco

Wait for the Cable CarCable cars move quietly. Please be cautious, especially at night or in the fog. Stop, look and listen carefully before crossing cable car intersections. Please remember that the green “X” traffic signal is the “go ahead” signal for cable cars, not pedestrians. Listen for a bell ringing—it will be a cable car signaling its arrival. More Information: Cable Car Route Maps
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Cable Car San Francisco

Boarding at Mid-line StopsIf you are boarding from a cable car stop and not at the end of a line, please wait on the sidewalk and wave to request the Grip Operator to stop. Wait for the cable car to come to a complete stop before you board. You can enter on either end or side of the car. Tips: Be visible so the Grip or Conductor can see you. Never run in front of a cable car—it may not be able to stop in time! Remember, you may only board a cable car if there is enough room!
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In 1878, Leland Stanford opened his California Street Cable Railroad (Cal Cable). This company’s first line was on California Street and is the oldest cable car line still in operation. In 1880, the Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway began operation. The Presidio and 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.
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Both types of car ride on a pair of four-wheel trucks, to fit the track’s 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge. 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).
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The current cable car network consists of three routes. Like all Municipal Railway (Muni) routes which have route letters or numbers, the cable lines have route numbers, but the cable routes are generally referred to by the names of the streets on which they travel. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines use “single-ended” cars, which must be looped or turned around like a bus at the end of the line; the single-ended cable cars use manual non-powered turntables to rotate the car. There are three street turntables to do this, one at the end of each of the three terminals: at Market & Powell Streets, Taylor & Bay Streets, and Hyde & Beach Streets, with a fourth turntable located inside the car barn on Washington and Jackson Streets.
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Cable cars move quietly. Please be cautious, especially at night or in the fog. Stop, look and listen carefully before crossing cable car intersections. Please remember that the green “X” traffic signal is the “go ahead” signal for cable cars, not pedestrians. Listen for a bell ringing—it will be a cable car signaling its arrival.
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The driver of a cable car is known as the gripman or grip operator. 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 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.
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Ever ride a national landmark? It’s being done every day in San Francisco. The City’s right-out-of-the-Smithsonian cable cars were named a national historic landmark in 1964. Refurbished and equipped with new tracks, cables, turnarounds and cable propulsion machinery, they operate as much as they did on August 2, 1873 when Andrew S. Hallidie guided the first car down the Clay Street grade.
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In 1883, the Market Street Cable Railway opened its first line. This company was controlled by the Southern Pacific 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. During rush hours, cars left that terminus every 15 seconds.
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In 2006, then-mayor Gavin Newsom reported that he had observed several conductors pocketing cash fares from riders without receipt. The following year, 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. In 2017, after an audit showing that some conductors were “consistently turn in low amounts of cash” and a sting operation, one conductor was arrested on charges of felony embezzlement.

Published on May 29, 2017 | Under Car | By michael ellis
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