San Francisco's cable cars are a tourist attraction and city's signature feature. But how much does a regular person really know about the origination of cable cars? Since the Cable Car Museum was on the way to Tony's Pizza in Little Italy, we took a slight detour to explore a little deeper.
The museum is housed in the building that's the heart of the cable car system, where you can watch the cable-winding machinery in action from an elevated gallery and then go downstairs to see the moving cable passing through a series of "sheaves" as it enters and leaves the building. The museum appears to be small, but do not let it be a down point - it is bursting with interesting information.
Here are a few interesting facts for your entertainment and a little photo-report.
*** Andrew Smith Hallidie tested the first cable car at 4 o'clock in the morning, August 2nd, 1873, on Clay Street, in San Francisco. His idea for a steam engine powered - cable driven - rail system was conceived in 1869, after witnessing horses being whipped while they struggled on the wet cobblestones to pull a horsecar up Jackson Street. As the story goes, the horses slipped and were dragged to their death.
*** Hallidie's father was an inventor who had a patent in Great Britain for "wire rope" cable. Hallidie immigrated to the U.S. in 1852 during the Gold Rush. He began using cable in a system he had developed to haul ore from mines and in building suspension bridges.
*** By 1920 cable cars had spread to London, England, where electric varieties operated through the city centre. These cars were usually double-deck rather than single-deck.
*** Unfortunately, due to the rise of automobiles between the Thirties and Fifties, cable cars began to be replaced by buses and cars. By 1955 there were no cable cars left in London.
*** Due to increased fuel prices and population growth, cable car systems have recently made a comeback, with new systems installed in major cities such as Houston and Washington DC.