Historic Cable Cars in San Francisco

Although it can be argued that all the cable cars in San Francisco are historic, the cable cars in this section no longer operate in the City, but  are representative of former operations.
Cal Cable No. 42. Built by the W. L. Holman Co. 1906, it was sold after  the O’Farrell, Jones and Hyde  line was abandoned  in May 1954.  Unlike  other cars, which usually met more orthodox fates, No. 42 found itself in an agricultural setting, a cattle feedlot at Betteravia in the Santa Maria Valley of the central California coast. The feedlot had its own 3'6" gauge railway! Soon the feedlot operator mounted No. 42 on a pair of Los Angeles Railway streetcar trucks, one of which was motorized.  Restoration of No. 42  was begun in 1993 by the San Francisco preservation  group,  the Market Street Railway Company, with  Muni. Returned to San Francisco in 1993, restoration was completed in 1997.  Currently in storage, it is expected that No. 42 may see limited service, primarily for charters. 

Photo above: O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde  Street car No. 42 at the cattle feed lot at Betteravia, California Below: Car No. 42 being restored by the Market Street Railway, 1997

Cal Cable No. 62. One of three cars built for the Jones Street Shuttle by Cal Cable in 1910.  These cars were only 22' 5" long compared with 30' 3" for  the other Cal Cable cars.  It was mounted on a bus chassis in 1953 so that it can be driven to events or exhibitions for display as an authentic San Francisco cable car.  It is used as the bell ringers’ cable car at the annual Cable Car Bell-Ringing Contest, held each July in Union Square.

Photo: No. 62 at Union Square for the 1999 Cable Car Bell-Ringing contest.
Clay Street Hill Railroad train illustrates what open-grip car (dummy) No.8 with trailer No.1 would have looked like running on Clay Street.
Today Clay Street Hill Railroad No.8 is housed at the Cable Car Museum.

Clay Street Hill Railroad’s open-grip car (dummy) No. 8 was operated from the start of service (revenue service began September 1, 1873) of the world’s first cable car line, the Clay Street Hill Railroad, until the 1891 rebuilding of the line by the Ferries & Cliff House Railway. According to the San Francisco Bulletin of July 24, 1873, No. 8 was one of four dummies. The Bulletin wrote, "It is believed that four dummies will be sufficient for the immediate wants of the road." The Bulletin of July 31, 1873 reported, "The cars (trailers) are similar to the one-horse cars used on the Woodward line (City Railroad). They are from the Kimball Manufacturing Company. In addition to the ordinary brake, there is on each side of the car between the wheels, a wooden frame which can be let down on the track, and held so firmly as to make the weight of the car rest on them, thus holding the car stationary, no matter how steep the grade."

On April 14, 1893, the Ferries & Cliff House Railway sent Clay Street Hill Railroad grip car No. 8 and trailer No. 1 to Chicago for display at the 1893
World's Columbian Exposition. The grip and trailer were refurbished, dissembled, crated and shipped to Chicago to be reassembled and exhibited in the Exposition's Transportation Building. After the Exposition ended not all exhibits were returned to their lenders; some were abandoned, including No. 8 and No. 1. By default, both were transferred to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s (B&O) collection. No. 8 and presumably No.1 were sent to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis. It is not known if they were shown at St. Louis. After this fair closed, the entire B&O collection of equipment was sent to Martinsburg West Virginia, to the B&O repair shops, for storage. In 1927, the B&O celebrated its centennial with the "Iron Horse Fair," held at Halesthrop, Maryland that August, with 1.25 million visitors. An authoritative source notes "a cable car" was shown. This would most probably have been No. 8. Whether No. 1 was also displayed is unknown.

Somewhere during this time, No.1 was apparently lost. It may have fallen apart from old age or it may have been part of the B&O collection lost during the hurricane of 1935 that destroyed Halesthrop storage sheds. It possible No.1 was misplaced and exists today (B&O archival records are scanty). Gilbert Kneiss, of the Pacific Coast Chapter of The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society(R&LHS), while searching for railroad exhibits for both 1933 Chicago World Fair and 1939 New York World Fair, at some point became aware that No. 8 existed as part of the B&O collection. Kneiss was able to persuade the B&O to return No. 8, in 1938, to San Francisco. No. 8 was displayed at the Golden Gate International Exposition (on Treasure Island) in 1939 and 1940. After the Exposition closed No. 8 was temporary displayed at the Ferry Building, before exhibited for many years at the Sutro’s Museum (near the Cliff House). In 1966, when Sutro’s Museum was about to be demolished, the R&LHS had No. 8 stored temporarily by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Later, No. 8 was transferred to the Muni’s Washington-Mason cable car barn’s car storage area. In 1973, No. 8 was placed on display in the Cable Car Museum, where it resides today. On February 22, 2003, this historic cable car became part of the permanent collection of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum. This acquisition by the Friends will allow San Franciscans and the city’s many visitors to continue to enjoy this relic, from the beginning of the cable car era, at its ideal location – the Cable Car Museum.

Thank you to Randy Hees and Suzanne Fisher for their research.

Market Street Railway No. 19. Originally built for the Market Street Cable Railway in the 1880s and rebuilt into a Sacramento-Clay car by the United Railroads in 1907. Length, 34'. Width, 8' 2". Seating Capacity, 40. Out of service since 1942, No. 19 was returned to the Washington-Mason barn on July 16, 2002 after being stored at Pier 80, for approximately two years. Muni had stored the car previously at Washington-Mason. Its future status is uncertain, it had been planned that No. 19 would be restored to operating status and painted the White Front paint scheme of the Market Street Railway. If this occurs then No. 19 may see limited service, primarily for charters.

However, since No. 19 is longer than the double-ended California cars, whose length is 30' 3," No. 19 may experience clearance, radius and bottoming problems and thus maybe unable to operate. A prior "road" test of No. 19 was unsuccessful. The former Sacramento-Clay car did not make it past the car barn’s Washington Street pullout gate because of radius problems with its new, California Street cable car standard trucks — despite modifications to No. 19's running boards and platform grip slot.

Sacramento-Clay cable No. 19 is turning briefly onto Market Street before turning onto Sacramento Street for another trip to the Western Addition and Fillmore Street, late 1930s. Note, the inner rail of the cable car track, at this point, is the outside rail of the Ferry Outer Streetcar Loop, used by the Market Street Railway's Sutter Street lines Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and all Market Street Municipal Railway car lines.

Photo: Sacramento-Clay No. 19 in storage at the Washington-Mason Car Barn, Spring 1998 before being stored at a San Francisco’s Pier 80, for approximately two years.

No. 19 being returned to Washington-Mason is on flatbed truck heading up Jackson Street (above Mason Street) near the entrance of the cable car barn, July 16, 2002.

Market Street Railway No. 20.  Similar history as No. 19 until 1915 when the United Railroads rebuilt No. 20 a  second  time  after it had a run-in with a Kearny Street streetcar. Because of this latter rebuilding,  No. 20 was the only car in the Sacramento-Clay  fleet to get an  arch roof.  Following the abandonment of the "Sacramento-Clay" line in 1942, No. 20 severed as ticket office for the Gray Line at Fisherman's Wharf before being motorized in Medford Oregon, in 1965. The car had been in storage since 1972.  In 1996, No. 20 was purchased by The Friends of the Cable Car Museum, returned to the Bay Area  and held for future restoration.  Currently,  the Friends are looking for a partner to help restore No. 20 and find a  San Francisco display location.

Photo: In the late 1940s early 1950s  former Sacramento-Clay car No. 20 was a Harbor Tours ticket booth at  Fisherman's Warf.

Photo: Sutter Street dummy and trailer between Powell and Stockton 1905, illustrates a typical Sutter Street cable train. On display at the Cable Car Museum is Sutter Street cable train consisting dummy (grip car) No. 46 and trailer No. 54.
Sutter Street Railway Nos. 46 and 54 were built by Sutter Street Railroad in the late 1870s. No. 54 was renumbered from No. 49 by the United Railroads on December 10, 1913.  These cars last saw service on the Pacific Avenue line in 1929. No. 46 and trailer No. 54 were displayed at the "Cavalcade of the Pacific" exhibition at San Francisco's 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.  The R&LHS had discovered the grip car and trailer in a Market Street Railway carbarn in 1938.  In storage for many years after the Treasure Island exposition, the cars were moved to the Museum  in 1968. On February 22, 2003, this historic cable car train became part of the permanent collection of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum. This acquisition by the Friends will allow San Franciscans and the city’s many visitors to continue to enjoy these relics, from the beginning of the cable car era, at their ideal location – the Cable Car Museum. See Virtual Tour of the Museum page for pictures.
Market Street Railway and post 1944 Municipal Railway 010 was the former Washington-Mason cable car barn "yard goat" (tractor), where it pushed and pulled cable cars in the storage track area. It was equipped with a Ford four-cylinder Model A engine. Acquired by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum and cosmetically restored by the Market Street Railway (1999), 010 now awaits a San Francisco display location. Please contact the Cable Car Museum if you could provide such a location.

Photo: "Yard Goat" 010 is pulling Sacramento-Clay cable car No. 22 out of the car storage area to place into service, c 1940. From 1907 thru 1982 the car storage area of the Washington-Mason cable car barn was open. In the current barn (post 1984) this area is again enclosed, as it was in the original barn, 1877-1906.

A Cable Car & Yard Goat Need a Home!

The Friends of the Cable Car Museum have former Sacramento-Clay Cable Car No. 20 & Washington-Mason Yard Goat that need a home. Please check above on this page for details. The museum will place on permanent loan, in any suitable site (commercial or otherwise), these historic pieces of equipment. If interested e-mail holmgrendon@earthlink.net.

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