Cable Car Museum - How Does a
19th Century Technology Thrive in a
21st Century Environment

It’s called a Cable Car Museum. But actually... it’s San Francisco's car barn and powerhouse for its cable system... a combination of a working cable car hub as well as a museum of the cable car’s historic past.

Built for the Ferries and Cliff House Railway in 1887, the building underwent an $18-million reconstruction to restore its original gaslight-era look.
 
Ever wondered how 19th century technology thrives in a 21st century environment?

Well... this museum shows it all.
 
FREE for all... you’ll see the displays of artifacts, photos, and historical information.
Watch a video showing the beginning of the cable car system.

Feel like part of the cable car museum history...

...when you're there, with all the sounds and actions going on both above and below ground.

Located at 1201 Mason Street, at Washington, on the northeast slope of Nob Hill, there’s two main stories, and two partial stories that do not go all the way across the building.

Cable Car Museum in San Francisco CA

The powerhouse is on the ground floor.
 
It contains the huge machinery that moves the four continuous steel and fiber "rope" cables for the three lines. The...

  • California line is 21,700 feet long - that’s 4.11 miles of cable
  • Hyde line is 16,000 feet long - 3.03 miles
  • Mason line is 10,300 feet long - 1.95 miles
  • and Powell line is 9,300 feet long - 1.76 miles

That’s over 10.8 miles of cable running through the streets of San Francisco.

Looking down you’ll see that each line has its own drive machinery...

  • A 510-horsepower DC electric motor 
  • Gears to reduce the speed of the motor to the proper cable speed  
  • And a set of three - 14 foot diameter - sheaves  - wheels with grooves along their edges for holding the cables in place

See the cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.

Cable Car Museum - Powerhouse

It's amazing - when you’re standing there - to think that all those cables running beneath your feet are transporting people all over the city right now!

Above the powerhouse is the balcony where you’ll explore the gallery, the cable car museum, and gift shop.
 
Survey models of cable cars and even old ones that you can sit in and take photos.
Enjoy loads of information about its history and how they work.

Shop in the gift store if you’re looking for memorabilia, DVDs books, postcards, models of cable cars and more.
 
Mechanical devices such as grips, tracks, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, and detailed models are on display... as well as a large collection of historic photographs.
 
See antique 3-D photos of the 1906 earthquake and fire.

The museum houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s.

  • Sutter Street Railway - grip car 46 and trailer 54
  • Clay Street Hill Railroad - grip car 8, the only surviving car from the first cable car company
Cable Car 54 in Cable Car Museum

The car depot - where the cars are stored when they’re not in service - is not accessible.

Did you know... the cars leave from the Washington Street side of the barn and return on the Jackson Street side? That's right!
 
So... if you want to see 19th century technology that’s still working today and can appreciate that this equipment is part of an otherwise modern metropolitan transit system, then you must stop by.

Hey! What are you waiting for...

C'mon... it'll be fun!

Let’s go see the cable car museum and experience San Francisco’s heart of the whole cable car operation.


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