The cable car was introduced to San Francisco on August 2, 1873. Wire-cable manufacturer Andrew Hallidie conceived the idea after witnessing an accident in which a horse-drawn carriage faltered and rolled backward downhill dragging the horses behind it.
The first cable car to descend down Clay Street on Nob Hill was an immediate success. besides creating a vital link in San Francisco’s public transportation system, the cable car opened the door for building on steep hills which until this time was thought to be impossible.
Throughout the 1890s, eight transit companies operated 600 cars which covered 21 cable cars which covered 21 cable car routes and a total of 52.8 miles. Cable cars remained the primary mode of transportation until the 1906 earthquake.
The quake and the fires that followed destroyed most of the cable car system. and as the City rebuilt, few lines were restored. A municipal railway replaced most lines.
San Francisco’s beloved cable cars are the only vehicles of their kind still in operation and are designated National Landmarks.
It was fun riding the cable cars hanging on the outside but it was more fun near the brakeman. Each one seemed to have their own personality and seemed to enjoy their jobs a lot. Some would tell jokes, others would sing while others would get to know their passengers by asking them questions about themselves. While talking to one, I found out that he had grown up in Bowling Green, KY. He actually had relatives that lived new Madisonville. What a small world it is.