Cable Cars

SF Municipal Railway (Muni) maintains the current fleet of 28 Powell St. cars and 12 California St. cars.


The single-ended Powell Street cars are the older of the two types now in service. The Powell cars have one open grip end. There are turntables built into the street to turn the car around at the ends of the Powell-Mason and the Powell-Hyde lines. This type of car is a scaled down version of the large combination cars developed in the early 1880's by Henry Root for the Market Street Cable Railway. Called the "combination car" it combined the open grip dummy and closed car train into one car (in some cases the enclosed section was a former horse car). The Ferries and Cliff House Railway began service on the Powell-Mason line in 1888. Some of the original F&CH cars (extensively rebuilt) are still in use today.
The combination car concept was popular in other cities as well; the cable railway systems in Oakland, San Diego and Portland, Oregon also used combination cars.

The double-ended California type cars were developed later and have been used on California Street since 1891 when Leland Stanford's California Street Cable Railroad (Cal Cable) began replacing their 2-car trains. These cars are equipped with a set of control levers at each end, thus eliminating the need for a turntable at each end of the line. To change direction on the California Street line, the car crosses over to the opposing track and the gripman uses the grip at the other end of the car.
Called “California-Type” car due to its having an enclosed center section with open sections equipped with outward facing benches at each end. Designed for service on the California Street line of the California Street Cable R. R. Co., they were comfortable during warm sunny days and provided protection on a typical damp chilly San Francisco evening.
California-type cable cars found favor in cities with less hospitable climates as well, such as Seattle and Spokane Washington.

Learn more about the Cable Car.
Cable Cars