Chronicling from the first run in 1873 to the present, the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco allows visitors to learn about the inventor, builders, technologies, expansion, near loss, and the ongoing efforts to maintain the much-loved cable cars that run up and down the hills of San Francisco.
Much of the allure of San Francisco’s surviving cables cars is due to the antique nature of the vehicles and the seemingly mysterious method by which they travel the slopes of the city. It has fascinated locals and tourists alike who marvel at how these little cars seemingly glide on their tracks apparently without any visible means of propulsion. In truth, the system is amazingly simple and has changed little since the first cable car lines appeared in the Victorian San Francisco of the late 19th century.
Established in 1974, the Cable Car Museum is operated by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum as a nonprofit educational facility. Located on Nob Hill in the historic Washington-Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables for the still operational system. It is the only remaining powerhouse for all currently running cable car lines. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street. In addition to explaining how the system works, on display are various mechanical devices such as grips, tracks, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, detailed models, and a large collection of historic photographs. The museum also houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s including the Sutter Street Railway number 46 grip car and number 54 trailer, as well as the only surviving car from the first cable car company, the Clay Street Hill Railroad number 8 grip car.
The perfect conclusion to any tour, be sure and visit the museum store, which features a variety of cable car memorabilia, books, clothing, cards, and even genuine cable car bells and used cable pieces.
Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108