cable car conductor

cable car riders

The Cable Car Barn, Powerhouse and Museum is known as “Home Base” to the cable cars. It is here that the cars not only depart and arrive daily on their 11 miles of wrapped steel “rope” going a steady 9 1/2 miles per hour, but also where visitors find a variety of spectacular sights.

San Francisco's Cable Car System,  A Popular Tourist Attraction

San Francisco, Calif.--One of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco is the Cable Car ride. Much to the ire of local residents who use them for transportation, the tourists line up and pay just to experience the excitement of riding up and down the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco rice treat made the cable car more famous with a song and an advertisement that ran on television, affiliating a brand of rice with cable cars. It really worked! People bought the brand because the cable car rides looked so neat. And generations passed their enthusiasm for the public transportation to their heirs who all have come to San Francisco to see a list of attractions that are known around the globe.

Thus, the cable car ride is one such attraction where itt's a pretty good bet you'll find many tourists. In the picture above, I photographed out my car window as I drove beside the cable car. As a driver, that can sometimes be the intense part of driving around San Francisco.  But I, too, have ridden on cable cars and do find the ride every bit as enjoyable as a Disneyland thrill. It captures that aspect of travel that as a local you wear blinders and forget to see. With familiarity, it becomes just another ho-hum experience. While most tourists do not spend much time in the city, staying only a single night or several days, using the public transportation and riding cable cars would offer an insider opportunity to see it in a different light. The cable car system is actually integrated into a larger transportation program of buses and even ferries that transport people from nearby regions to work in the high-rise city.

Summary of first part of this San Francisco Cable Car story: Cable cars were over 100 years old and in a state of disrepair. The dilemma in 1982 was how to fund a replacement.

A San Francisco museum
houses one of the very first cable cars (1873), a Sutter Street grip car and trailer, as well as scale models of some of the 57 different types of cable cars which were once operated in the city. From the gallery, visitors can look down onto pulleys which thread the cable through big figure 8’s and back into the system via slack-absorbing tension racks. Daily visiting hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Nov.- Mar.) and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Apr. - Oct.). And if just seeing the sights in the museum are not enough motivation to come visit, how about the fact that it’s free?

There are currently 40 cars in service: 28 “single-enders” serve the Powell Street routes and 12 “double-enders” serve the California Street route. The cables pull up to 26 cars at a time on weekdays. The cars have a capacity of carrying more than 60 people, and an astounding 9.7 million passengers ride these cars each year. 

As the operators of these nationally designated moving landmarks, the cable car grip persons and conductors constitute something of an elite corps among public transit personnel. While the grip person tends to the brakes, and rings the brass bell, the conductor collects fares and gives a hand with the brakes. It’s a team effort and the audience eats it up. And though it may not be a roller coaster ride, at a grade of 17 percent over Nob Hill and 21 percent along Hyde Street, many people find themselves excitedly grasping whatever they can get a hold of, while the conductor shouts, “Heeeere we go!”

Many other large cities throughout the country adopted the idea of the cable car as well, however by the mid-1940’s, San Francisco was the only city left with running cable car lines. When the city government tried to get rid of the lines, there was a successful public crusade organized by the “Citizens Committee to Save the Cable Cars” under the leadership of

Interesting facts about San Francisco Cable Cars:

Cable cars are one of top 5 attractions in San Francisco

Number of Cable Cars = 39

Number of cable car riders yearly = 10 million (approx.)

Miles of cable car track 8.8 miles

Speed cars travel = 9 mph



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