“The Friends of the Cable Car Museum”

A Brief History of Recent Activities & Background of Directors

Note — To view the Cable Car Museum, please click on “Virtual Tour of the Museum” on the home page.

Mission Statement:

The mission of the nonprofit "Friends" is to promote and enhance, with a focus on cable cars, San Francisco's rich transportation heritage.

Beyond Displays:

The Cable Car Museum received unusual notoriety when both the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angles Times and other newspapers ran a crossword puzzle on January 3, 2004 in which 53 across was “San Francisco museum honoree.” Answer: cable car.


Each year for the past several years, the Friends of the Cable Car Museum have participated in the Municipal Railways Railway’s Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. Besides providing a judge for both the preliminary contest and the Union Square final, the Friends have presented the first place winner a gripman’s cable car bell valued at over $1,000. The bell is handcrafted for the Friends at San Francisco’s United Brass Foundry. Friends’ board member Gilberto Godoy is about to present to Ronald East, the 40th Annual bell ringing champion, the gripman’s bell award. The adjacent art work was designed by the Friends to promote the 40th Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest.

Photo: Dawn Cox; Art Work: Jose Godoy

Saturday August 2, 2003 marked the 130th anniversary of the world’s first successful cable car trip by Andrew Smith Hallidie. In honor of this event the Friends of the Cable Car Museum held a series of events. The first event was an unveiling ceremony of a plaque honoring Friedel Klussmann for her 1947 efforts that saved the Powell Street cable cars and the 1999 dedication of “The Friedel Klussmann Memorial Arch” at Hyde & Beach Streets. The ceremony was conducted by Friends’ Board member Merrill Cohn.

Later at the Cable Car Museum the Friends presented “A Kaleidoscope About the Cable Car," a series of historical presentations about of San Francisco’s cable cars. Walter Rice hosted this event.

Museum guests enjoyed a specially designed cake by Barbara and Don Holmgren. The cake featured an edible photograph of cable car No. 1, the "Centennial Car" built by Muni in 1973 for the 100th anniversary of the cable car. No. 1 carried special decorations for the 130th anniversary.
Transportation historian and Friends’ Board member Don Holmgren is shown during his talk "When the Cables Carried the Mails." Don who was active in the restoration of former California Cable Railroad cable car No. 42 made a second presentation entitled "Rebuilding O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Cable Car No. 42."

Merrill Cohn P. E. was Senior Project Manager for all Municipal Railway Capital Projects. As such Merrill was deeply involved with the cable car rehabilitation program (1982-1984). Here Merrill is shown giving a presentation "The Why and How of the Rebuilding of the Cable Car System, 1982-1984." Merrill also serves on the Friends’ Board.
The Museum Web site posted an article entitled, “THE WIRE ROPE STREET RAILWAYS OF SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA” written in 1881 by the inventor of the cable car Andrew S. Hallidie.

The Cable Car Museum thanks photographers Michael Kran and Sandra Killmeyer-Kran.

As part of the Friends organized and co-hosted with Muni celebration of the 125th anniversary of cable car service on California Street (Kearny to Van Ness Avenue), held April 10, 2003 at the Washington-Mason cable car barn, the Friends received a Certificate of Honor from the Board of Supervisors, City and County of San Francisco. The Certificate in part states:

On the 125th Anniversary of California Street Cable Car Service, the Board of Supervisors recognizes your successful efforts and commends you as your dedication to promote and enhance San Francisco’s rich transportation heritage by creating a website, sponsoring civic events, publishing a cable car book, and saving our beloved, world renown historical cable cars.
At the ceremony, Walter Rice welcomed everyone and gave a brief talk on the history of Cal Cable, and its effect on the city's development and growth patterns. Cable Car Division Superintendent Brendan Scanlan, a 30-year Muni employee, noted that each of the three cable car lines has its “own character” – the California Street line, unlike the Powell lines, carries regular passengers, who ride the car every day. Muni General Manager Michael Burns spoke about many improvements which have taken place in recent years, including better on-time performance and the building of eight new cars. The highlight of Mayor Willie L Brown, Jr. remarks was how succeeding mayors from Mayor Elmer Robinson, whose administration had acquired in 1952 California Street Cable Railroad for the city, had been protective of the cable car lines, but not “as protective as the people who build, operate, and maintain them.” Friends’ board member Merrill Cohn spoke briefly about the occasion and the other board members, Don Holmgren, Gilberto Godoy, and Jose Godoy were introduced.
Next celebrates enjoyed a large sheet cake that featured the image of a California Street Cable Car. Soon the guests piled onto new Muni built, specially decorated by the Friends under the direction of gripman Val Lupiz for the occasion, California Street cable car No.60. As No. 60 exited the car barn onto Washington Street, No. 60 rolled through a special birthday banner. Along California Street pedestrians smiled and waved, and shouted "Happy Birthday" as No. 60 passed. Leland Stanford the entrepreneur and Henry Root the engineer who had combined their talents to create the California Street cable line a century and a quarter earlier undoubtedly were smiling from with approval from the heavens above. The Celebration received front page news coverage in both San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner newspapers and extensive radio and television coverage.
125th Anniversary of cable car service on California Street (Kearny to Van Ness Avenue) cable car No. 60 awaits celebrates, who are enjoying a specially decorated cake to board for the anniversary trip, car storage area of Washington-Mason April 10, 2003. Photo Tim Gormley.
Anniversary decorated cable car No. 60, a Muni product that entered service February 2003, heads west bound on Jackson Street as a special California cable line pull-out, April 10, 2003.

On Saturday, February 22, 2003 the Friends took ownership, from the Pacific Coast Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, of the most important historic cable cars – Clay Street Hill Railroad open-grip car No. 8 and Sutter Street Railway open-grip car No. 46 and trailer No. 54. Other artifacts acquired include grips and thirteen beautifully detailed cable car models of cable cars of the Market Street Cable Railway, United Railroads and the Omnibus Railroad & Cable Company. The Friends’ purchase of these treasures will ensure that San Franciscans and the city’s many visitors to continue to enjoy these relics at their ideal location – the Cable Car Museum.

Clay Street Hill Railroad open-grip car No. 8, which dates from the start of cable car revenue service September 1, 1873, became part of the collection of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum, February 22, 2003. No. 8 arguably is the world's most important historic cable car as the sole survivor of Andrew S. Hallidie's first cable car operation in the world.
Also acquired by the Friends was Sutter Street Railway open-grip car No. 46 and trailer No. 54, an example of a cable train that was not only used by the Sutter Street Railway, but the Clay Street Hill Railroad and the Geary, Park and Ocean. This equipment dates from the 1870s and was last used in 1929 by the Market Street Railway on the Pacific Avenue line. Its ownership by the Friends will ensure that it will continue to be displayed at the Cable Car Museum for San Franciscans and visitors to appreciate.

In the spirit to promote and enhance San Francisco's rich heritage, the Friends also that day made a contribution to the Market Street Railway, toward the return from southern California of San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcar No. 162, a 1913 product of the Jewett Car Company. The Friends funded the "purchase" of car 162's four motors.

The Friends present a check to the Market Street Railway as a contribution to return Municipal Railway streetcar No. 162. Pictured are Walter Rice, Jose Godoy, Friends Chief Executive Officer, Carman Clark and David Pharr Market Street Railway Board members and Rick Laubscher, Market Street Railway president.

To mark the importance of these events, two celebrations were held at the Cable Car Museum, Saturday, February 22 – a "Transfer of Ownership Celebration" followed by a "Donation Ceremony." NBC television provided coverage.

Under the leadership of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum, the concessionaire of the Cable Car Museum, the Museum has actively participated in a variety of civic San Francisco events. The Cable Car Museum with other civic organizations and Muni held a celebration at the Washington & Mason cable car barn commemorating the 50th anniversary of the official start of Friedel Klussmann’s successful 1947 campaign to save the Powell Street cable cars. This event received local and national press coverage. The Friends created a giant mural depicting Powell & Market Streets in 1947 (this can viewed at the Museum), commissioned a Louis R. Biro poster honoring the Golden Anniversary of Friedel Klussmann's campaign, created commemorative special flags for the cable cars and provided hosting.

A highlight of the Klussmann celebration was the official naming the Victoria Park end of the Powell-Hyde cable car line, "Friedel Klussmann Memorial Turnaround." Significant additional press coverage was obtained. United States Senator Feinstein attended this event. In addition, the Museum was active in the fund raising, design, and placement of "The Friedel Klussmann Memorial Arch" at this site. A major grant was obtained from Chevron Corporation to defray construction costs.

Other Museum sponsored and co-sponsored civic events include a celebration for the 125th Anniversary of Andrew Hallidie's successful operation of the cable car, the debut of new Powell Street cable car No. 9 (in a paint scheme similar to the colors of a former Powell cable car operator the Market Street Railway, 1921-1944) on the 100th anniversary of the death of Andrew Smith Hallidie (April 24, 2000), the restoration the Andrew Smith Hallidie memorial plaque at Hallidie Plaza, Powell & Market Streets and an active participation in the annual Cable Car Ringing Contest. For the last six years (1997-2002) the "Friends" presented to the winner a mounted cable car bell valued at $1,000.

The Friends expanded the Museum's scope and importance with the creation of the Museum web site (www.cablecarmuseum.com). The web site like the Museum provides not only a historical perspective of the importance of the cable car to San Francisco, but an insight into Muni and the daily operations of today's system. A unique feature of the site is the Virtual Tour of the Museum (here an individual can tour the Museum). In addition, the site includes among other features how a cable car works, a page that traces all major San Francisco cable car events from 1869 to today, today's cable car system, and a page devoted to a series articles about San Francisco’s rich transportation history amongst other features. The web site is continually being updated with new features. Museumspot.com has sited the Museum web page for excellence. More than 80,000 visitors each year are enjoying this site.

Consistent with the Friends Mission Statement, the Friends through its website and publications have expanded the scope of Museum activities beyond its unique location in the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) Washington-Mason barn — the world's only operating cable car power house and car barn.

A notable achievement was the publishing of a cable car book, Of Cables and Grips: The Cable Cars of San Francisco as our Museum book. Please refer to the Railway Museum Quarterly, No. 17 Fall 2000 for a review. A second revised edition is currently being written. The book meets an educational informational need.

The "Friends" have saved cable car shunter No.010. This vehicle – a four-wheel tractor fitted with flanged wheels for 3'6" gauge and a Ford Model A gas engine – dates from the 1930s and was used to shunt cable cars both by the Market Street Railway and Muni at the Washington-Mason cable car barn. No.010 has been cosmetically restored (by the historical group the Market Street Railway) and is currently in storage. No. 010 cannot fit easily into the Cable Car Museum. The Friends, therefore, are looking for an off-site location.

In April 1996, the "Friends" acquired the former United Railroads/Market Street Railway "Sacramento-Clay" cable car No. 20. Like No. 010, No.20 is currently in storage. Perhaps a future off-site location display could reunite the shunter with No. 20, a cable car it once shunted.

Plans include About This Car Series in which the Museum has developed for each of the Powell and California cable car a brief history to be placed in the respective passenger compartments. A pilot program for the California Street cars has been started.

Fodor, the travel guide service, has recognized the Cable Car Museum at 1201 Mason Street, San Francisco as one of the top ten free museums in the world. This recognition is in part a reflection of the significant upgrading of the Museum's overall appearance that has occurred during Friends’ tenure.

The Museum's goals are two-fold – first, to continue to enhance the Museum exhibits and second to raise the public's awareness of the importance of the cable car to San Francisco, by reaching beyond the walls of 1201 Mason Street.

Friends Board of Directors & Biographies

The FRIENDS OF THE CABLE CAR MUSEUM, INC. is a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation (EIN: 93-1116690) organized under the laws of the State of California. As such none of the “Friends” Board of Directors has an equity interest. The Board members are:

Merrill R. Cohn P.E.: (Native San Franciscan) Merrill brings to the "Friends" a rich and varied 40-year professional record in the civil engineering. He holds a B.S., Civil Engineering (Transportation - Railroads & Highways) from the University of California, 1949. Presently, he is engaged by the engineering firm of Gannett Fleming, Inc. and working on projects involving public transportation, water and power supply, infrastructure of governmental facilities and project management.

Previously, Merrill was employed by the City and County of San Francisco where he held positions as Civil Engineer, Transit Equipment Engineer, Senior Civil Engineer, Manager of Civil Engineering, Project Manager, and Senior Project Manager. He was responsible for coordination of design and construction of San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District Rail and Station facilities in San Francisco including the reconstruction of Market Street; design, construction management, and project management for the Municipal Railway Metro subway, surface rail and yard projects; and design and procurement of light rail vehicles, trolley buses, diesel buses, and other rolling stock. Other design and construction projects that he managed included Green Division Rail Center, Geneva Carhouse, Woods Division Bus maintenance center, Muni Metro Subway Tunnels and Stations, Metro Subway extension and turnaround project ($200,000,000), Green Division Administration Building. As Manager of Civil Engineering he was also responsible for San Francisco Water Department, Hetch Hetchy Water and Power, and Americans with Disabilities Act projects. As Senior Project Manager, he was responsible for all Municipal Railway Capital Projects. Notably, Merrill was deeply involved with the cable car rehabilitation program (1982-1984).

Before being employed by the City and County of San Francisco, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for twenty-two and half years before retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was involved in the design and construction of Military roads, railroads, airfields and bases overseas and in the continental US. He is a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Besides his rich and useful engineering experience Merrill provides the "Friends" with a unique knowledge of the governmental process. Merrill was, for example, the "Friends" lead for the design, construction and installation of the Friedel Klussmann Memorial Arch at Hyde and Beach Streets and the reinstallation of the Andrew Smith Hallidie memorial at Powell and Market Streets. He has also been involved in the acquisition of additional artifacts for the museum and the organization of civic activities commemorating celebrations of cable car historical events.

Jose Godoy: (Native San Franciscan) Jose is the “Friends” Chief Executive Officer and Museum Manager. His primary responsibilities are to oversee the business practices and policies of the Museum gift store and the logistical maintenance of the Museum. Since Jose assumed these duties (1995) the gift store has moved from a negative cash position to that of a positive economic asset. The size of the gift store inventory has been reduced with an accompanying increase in inventory turns and thus profit margins. Jose has created new cable car oriented products, which has differentiated the gift store and enhanced profit margins. For example, it was Jose’s idea for the Museum to produce its own cable car book, Of Cables and Grips; San Francisco Cable Cars.

Jose’s efforts are directly responsible for the Museum being in its best condition ever. For example, at Jose’s initiative the Museum walls have been painted, the floor degreased, sanded, verathaned and sealed. In addition, brass lettering was added over main entrance, the Museum entrance awning was restored, gold-leaf “1201” address was painted on the windows above the main entrance, as joint project with the Muni Museum lighting was improved (“Friends” contribution was $7,000) improved display signage was put in place, and artifacts such as Clay Street Hill Railway No. 8 have been cleaned.

Jose has over twenty years of management business experience. With United Brass Foundry (San Francisco), Basic Tool & Supply (Oakland), Jose engaged in sales and customer service pertaining to product and manufacture; billing; inventory control; equipment and supplies maintenance; hiring, training, supervising and scheduling of staff (upwards of 27) and production; creating and maintaining office systems for filing, bookkeeping and accounting reports.

Jose's successful business experience combined with his innate desire to achieve excellence is an invaluable asset of the “Friends” team.

Gilberto Godoy: Gilberto is the “Friends” Chief Financial Officer. His duties monitoring the financial reports of the “Friends” Gilberto brings to the “Friends” more than forty years of business experience, primarily in the foundry business. He holds a Steel Foundry Practice Certificate from Metals Engineering Institute, a division of Society for Metals and a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship (as Molder and Coremaker) from the California Department of Industrial Relations; California Apprenticeship Council. His major industrial clients have included the City and County of San Francisco (Municipal Railway, Water Department, Parking and Traffic Department, Fire Department), San Francisco Fire Department Union, Stero Dishwashing Manufacturing Company, J-Tec Model Airplane Manufacturing Company, Biro and Son, Inc., Sunset Scavenger, Griffin Company, Superior Aluminum Truck Bodies, Coast Marine, Scala Radio Corporation, Stryco Manufacturing Company, Chas. M. Bailey & Company, Cookson Company, and Tatone Products. Gilberto’s artistic clients include Ghirardelli Square Fountain (Ed Plant Co.), C. B. Johnston and Louis Pearson, Ruth Asawa . . . and many other local artists.

Besides being a collector of cable car memorabilia for over thirty years, Gilberto has designed many unique cable car based products for the “Friends” gift store. He has an extensive inventory of materials that will be used for future exclusive cable car based products, including a gift line of executive collectibles.

Gilberto’s current cable car product lines as well as his planned cable car products are consistent with City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ resolution number 680-82, file no. 326-82, dealing with the use of scrapped product materials from the Cable Car Renovations (1982-1984).

These items have not only improved the gift store’s profit margin but have added to the uniqueness of the product line.

Don Holmgren: (Native San Franciscan) Don brings to the “Friends” a significant background and knowledge in the important area of restoration. He worked with the San Jose. Trolley and Railroad Corporation in the restoration of six vintage electric streetcars and a former San Francisco horsecar; the Market Street Railway on two California Street cable cars and an early San Francisco electric car No. 578 and the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources (Ardenwood Regional Park) on the restoration of locally constructed freight cars. Don has, also, volunteered with the Western Railroad Museum and California Railroad Museum where he worked on two locally constructed interurbans. His duties included mechanical work, carpentry, painting, electrical work and other tasks.

Don is also very knowledgeable in local transportation history. For example, for the Oakland Heritage Alliance he has organized and provided historical material for a walking tour of the former Consolidated Piedmont Cable Company’s line on Oakland Avenue. Don provided research and technical assistance in the “Friends” publication of Of Cables and Grips; San Francisco's Cable Cars. In addition, he has provided technical assistance to other groups (for example, the Poway-Midland Railroad) restoring former San Francisco cable and horse cars. These activities have further enhanced the reputation of the Cable Car Museum. Don obtained a grant from Chevron Corporation that allowed the “Friends” to purchase former Sacramento-Clay cable car No. 20.

The “Friends” anticipate that Don’s knowledge and talents will prove to be of greater value in the future as the “Friends” expand the scope of our on and off site programs.

Key Personnel:

Sharon Phelan: Sharon holds the position of Assistant Manager of the Museum Store. Sharon’s responsibilities include purchasing, designing displays, employee scheduling and seeing that customers are appropriately serviced. She has worked at the Cable Car Museum since 1985. Besides dealing with retail sales customers, Sharon is often asked questions about cable car operations. Many of these questions are technical, and others deal with tourist information including Muni route, schedule and fare information. Sharon’s knowledge both for technical and the tourist related questions contributes significantly to the Museum’s goal of positive public relations.

To the Library Home Page
Back to the Museum's Home Page