About the California Street Cable Railroad
The Most Scenic Route in the World


April 10, 2003 marks the 125th anniversary of cable car service on San Francisco’s California Street (from Kearny to Van Ness Avenue). A century and a quarter before thousands had come from all parts of San Francisco to witness and be part of the inaugural ceremonies of the opening San Francisco’s third cable railroad – The California Street Railroad. More than 6,000 San Franciscans crowded the intersection of Kearny and California to cheer the line’s first cable train (an open grip car or dummy coupled to an enclosed trailer) on its first official journey to Fillmore Street, a distance of 1.7 miles.

In addition to today’s Municipal Railway of San Francisco (1952 to date), two companies have provided this service – the California Street Railroad (1878-1884) and the California Street Cable Railroad (1884-1951) (Cal Cable). The 1884 name change occurred as a result of the purchase of the company from Leland Stanford by a syndicate headed by the Swiss San Francisco banker Antoine Borel. Under this management the company replaced its cable trains with California-type cars that featured open-end sections and an enclosed center section, extended the California line to Market Street and built the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde and Jones Street Shuttle cable line.

Cal Cable remained independent longer than any of the other cable or electric San Francisco traction company. Throughout most of its history Cal Cable was a very lucrative enterprise enjoying exceptionally good management, good labor relations and strong daily traffic.

Although, former Muni management in 1954 truncated the California Street line and discontinued the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line and the Jones Street Shuttle, today’s management has maintained the remaining parts of Cal Cable – California Street Market to Van Ness and Hyde Street north of California – to high standards.

Recognizing the importance of this 125th Anniversary, the Cable Car Museum in conjunction with the Municipal Railway organized a celebration to commemorate this important San Francisco milestone. The reader is invited to click on the About the Friends of the Cable Car Museum page for a description of this celebration. The complete history of Cal Cable is found in the book “San Francisco’s California Street Cable Car, Celebrating a Century and a Quarter of Service.” For further information about this book, please go to the homepage and scroll to “For Your Library!”



The California Street Cable Railroad Company’s Connection to the Emerald City – Seattle
By Don F. Holmgren

After the California Street Cable R.R. Co. in collaboration with John Hammond & Co. developed in 1888 the California-type cable car, a design that featured open sections at each end and an enclosed center section, two Seattle cable car companies had Hammond in 1900-01 build sixteen California-type for their operations. A Hammond product was the last Seattle cable car in 1940. This is a chronicle of Seattle's California-type cable cars.

All-Time Roster of California Cable Railroad Cars & Muni California Cable Cars

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