This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

♪ I Left My Heart…♫


August 2, 1873: First San Francisco Cable Car

The Clay Street Railroad begins operation, making it the first cable car in San Francisco’s now famous cable car system.

Starting at the intersection of Kearny and Clay Streets the line proceeded up the sixteen percent grade on Clay to Leavenworth Street.  The Clay Street line, an immediate success, was promptly extended west to Van Ness Avenue in 1877, replacing horsecars along the .4-mile route.


Hallidie’s (the car designer) design involved a dummy car with driver pulling a trailer for passengers.  The trailer was enclosed, similar to a horsecar, while the dummy, or gripcar, was open to the air, with bench-type seating.




The system employed two turntables at the bottom terminus of the line.  The dummy and car were uncoupled and each was moved onto one of the turntables, where it was rotated 90 degrees by the crew, hooked up again and sent back up the hill.  At Leavenworth a single turntable with turnout was used to reverse the cars for the trip back down.

csh_tay csh_top cc5_chrr_1887 CABLe-car-on-Clay-1878

The Clay Street Hill Railroad ran as an independent line until 1888, when it was sold to the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, and incorporated into its Clay-Sacramento line.

San_Francisco_Cable_Car_MC Russian-Hill-Cable-Car-San-Francisco

   ♪ I Left My Heart…♫



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