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San Francisco’s Cable Cars

Hop aboard for facts and fancy about the city’s beloved cable cars.

Via Contributors
San Francisco cable car, image
Photo caption
San Francisco cable cars travel at about 9.5 miles per hour.

San Francisco’s cable cars have had many ups and downs since they first clattered into service in 1873. When Mayor Roger Lapham proposed eliminating the cable car system in 1947 to save money, Friedel Klussmann, affectionately nicknamed the Cable Car Lady, and other citizens rallied to preserve it. Today, these classic people movers—unique in the United States—carry nearly 8 million riders halfway to the stars every year.

RUSH HOUR, OLD SCHOOL In the 1880s and ’90s, cable cars left from the bustling Ferry Building as often as every 15 seconds..

EXTREME MAKEOVER Early in the 20th century, people made discarded streetcars into homes in an area known as Carville–by–the–Sea. One house built around a cable car still exists.

CRUISING SPEED The current cable system pulls all cars along at an average 9.5 miles per hour.

THE SAN FRANCISCO TREAT The cable car began its long association with Rice-A-Roni in a 1959 television commercial.

A MOVING TRIBUTE In 1964, the Secretary of the Interior named San Francisco cable cars a moving National Historic Landmark.

FIRST LADY Fannie Mae Barnes became the city’s first—and so far only—gripwoman in 1998 at the age of 52.

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This article was first published in July 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.