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San Francisco: San Franciso Cable Car | by wallyg
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San Francisco: San Franciso Cable Car

The San Francisco Cable Car system, the world's last permanently operation manually-operated cable car system, was launched in 1873 by Andrew Hallidie as an alternative means to horse-drawn trams to traverse the city's steep hills. By 1889, cars were running along eight lines and by the 1906 earthquake, more than 600 cars were in use. With the advent of the electric streetcar, the cable cars became obsolete and in 1947 Mayor Roger Lapham tried to replace them with buses. The idea was abandoned in the face of protests, led by Friedel Klussmann, and eventually the whole system was declared a national landmark in 1964--the nation's only moving landmark. The cable car was kept for the steepest lines, while the other modes took over the longer, flatter routes. Today, the system, operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, operates on three routes, covering 12 miles of the Financial District, Nob Hill, Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, and Fisherman's Wharf areas.


The cars come in two types--double ended cars run along the California Street line, and single-ended cars run along the the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines. The single-ended cars are 27-feet, 6-inches long, 8 feet wide, and have a passenger capacity of 60, 29 of them seated. The double-ended cars are 30-feet, 3-inches long, 8-feet wide and have a capacity of 68 passengers, 34 of them seated. The single-ended Powell lines start and end their journeys at turntables--one at the Hyde and Beach terminus, one at the Taylor and Babe terminus, and one at the Powell and Market terminus, where they are rotated to reverse direction. Each of the cars are numbered, have wood and brass fittings in the 19th century style, and are often painted in differing colors. They run on


The cars are powered by engines in a central powershouse that wind a looped cable under the city streets, guided by a system of grooved pulleys. When a gripman in the car applies the grip handle, the grip reaches through a slot in the street and grabs the cable. This pulls the car along at a steady speed of 9.5mph. To stop, the gripman releases the grip and applies a brake. The underground cables are 1.25 inches in diameter and consist of six steel strands of 19 wires each, wrapping around a rope, which acts a shock absorber.

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Taken on September 6, 2009