San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No. 13

United Railroads, 1907-1921

Built 1991 by Muni shops

The great earthquake and fire of April 1906 destroyed virtually the entire Powell Street cable car fleet. To replace the Powell Street fleet, owner United Railroads used cable cars that had been working the Sacramento-Clay line and were stored outside the fire zone.

Under a previous owner, the cable cars that served several lines from the cable car barn at Washington and Mason Streets (still the cable cars’ home today!) were painted different colors according to the lines they served. The Powell-Mason cars were painted yellow (modeled on Car 15); the Washington-Jackson cars were painted green; and the Sacramento-Clay cars were painted red (modeled on Car 11). United Railroads started painting them all into red, but hadn’t quite finished when the quake and fire struck.

After rebuilding the badly damaged system after the quake, United Railroads started painting all the cable cars stationed at the Washington and Mason cable car barn a dark green, with red window trim and roofs, the colors they also adopted for their hundreds of electric streetcars. By about 1909, the job was done.

Green would remain the dominant color in Powell Street cable car liveries for 75 years, until the system was rebuilt in 1982-84, though the trim colors on the cars changed several times. Car 13 itself was built new by skilled Muni craftworkers in 1991, replacing a worn out car.



Powell Street Cable Car Specifications

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

60 (29 seated + 31 standing)

15,500 lb (7,030 kg)

27′ 6″ (8.4 m)

10′ 5″ (3.2 m)

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