THE TOP TEN Cable Cars
It’s impossible not to love these sturdy little vestiges of another age, as they valiantly make their merry yet determined way up the city’s precipitous hills. Yet these San Francisco icons came perilously close to being completely scrapped in 1947, when a “progressive” mayor announced it was time for buses to take their place. An outraged citizenry, under the leadership of “cable car Vigilante” Mrs. Friedell Klussman, eventually prevailed, and the whole system was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964. In the early 1980s, the tracks, cables, power plants, and cars all underwent a massive $60-million overhaul and retrofit. The present service covers some 12 miles (19 km) and utilizes about 40 cars.
It’s impossible not to love these sturdy little vestiges of another age, as they valiantly make their merry yet determined way up the city’s precipitous hill... more
Cable cars come in two types; one with a turnaround system, one without. All are numbered, have wood and brass fittings in the 19th-century style, and are often painted in different colors.
During the course of operating up and down the busy hills, the cable car’s bell is used by the grip person like a claxon, to warn other vehicles and pedestrians of imminent stops, starts, and turns.
The grip person must be quick-thinking, and strong to operate the heavy gripping levers and braking mechanisms. The grip is like a huge pair of pliers that clamps onto the cable to pull the car along.
The conductor not only collects fares, but also makes sure that everyone travels safely, and that the grip person has room to do his job.
The underground cables are 1.25 inches (3 cm) in diameter and consists of six steel strands of 19 wires each, wrapped around a rope, which acts as a shock absorber.
There are three braking mechanisms. Wheel brakes press against wheels; track brakes press against the tracks when the grip person pulls a lever; while the emergency brake is a steel wedge forced into the tail slot.
Cable Car Museum
Downstairs, look at the giant sheaves (wheels), that keep the cables moving throughout the system; upstairs are displays of the earliest cable cars.
There is a choice of sitting inside a glassed-in compartment, sitting on outside wooden benched, or hanging onto poles and standing on the running board. The third gives you the sights, sounds, and smells of San Francisco at their most enticing.
Part of the fun of cable-car lore is being there to watch when the grip person and the conductor turn their cable car around for the return trip. The best view is at the Powell and Market streets.
The three existing routes cover the Financial District, Nob Hill, Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, and Fisherman’s Wharf areas. As these are always important destinations for visitors – and for many residents, too – most people find that a cable car ride will be practical as well as pleasurable.
[source: Top Ten San Francisco ]
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