San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

Streetcar.org San Francisco Market Street Railway Museum
No.25

United Railroads, 1905-1907

Built 1890 by Ferries & Cliff House Railway

The fiery red of this cable car is a reminder that Powell Street cable cars were painted this way on the day they went up in flames. It was April 18, 1906, when San Francisco was changed forever by the most devastating earthquake-fire combination in American history.

Cable Car 25 at Car BarnRick Laubscher photo

San Francisco’s transit service had been further consolidated in 1902 with the rise of United Railroads, which acquired the Market Street Railway of 1893 and other operations. This Chicago-based utility became known for its corrupt operation, helping create a public backlash that led to the opening of the competing city-owned Municipal Railway in 1912. In its operations, United Railroads abandoned the color-coding of individual lines. By 1905, it had repainted all its Powell cable cars red with gray roofs, as modeled today by cable car No. 25.
The great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed virtually the entire Powell Street cable car fleet. To replace the Powell Street fleet, United Railroads used cable cars, including this one, that had been working the Sacramento-Clay line and were stored outside the fire zone.
By about 1909, the transferred red cable cars were repainted green, modeled on Powell cable car No. 13.
The distinctive livery of cable car No. 25 was recreated with help from our non-profit group, which serves as Muni’s preservation partner.

Powell Street Cable Car Specifications

Number of Cars
28 on roster (Maximum of 19 in service at one time)

Capacity
60 (29 seated + 31 standing)

Weight
15,500 lb (7,030 kg)

Length
27′ 6″ (8.4 m)

Height
10′ 5″ (3.2 m)

Width
8′ 0″ (2.4 m)

Track Gauge
3′ 6″ (1.07 m)

Round Trip Route Length
Powell-Mason line: 3.2 mi (5.15 km)
Powell-Hyde line: 4.3 mi (6.92 km)

Cable Speed
9.5 mph (15.3 km/h)

Cable Lengths
Powell: 9,300 ft (2,835 m)
Mason: 10,300 ft (3,140 m)
Hyde: 16,000 ft (4875 m)

Cable Motive Power
510-horsepower electric motor driving four cable winders at powerhouse

Powerhouse and Carbarn
Washington and Mason Streets

Built 1887 by Ferries & Cliff House Railway

Rebuilt 1906 by United Railroads

Rebuilt 1982-84 by San Francisco Municipal Railway

Steepest Grades on Powell Lines
Powell: 17% between Bush & Pine
Mason: 17% between Union & Green
Hyde: 21% between Bay & Chestnut