San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No. 14

San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current

Built 1963 by Muni

Powell Cable Car 14 was built in 1963 by Muni crafts workers at the old Elkton Shops at Ocean and San Jose Avenues. Then numbered 514, it replaced an original 1887 cable car built by contractors for Mahoney Brothers, who installed the Powell Street cable operation on a turnkey basis.

No. 14 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Original Car 514, built in 1887, assigned to the Washington-Jackson line, on Powell approaching California Street in 1947. Note the “eyebrow” just under the bel on the roof. These were built as windows, but had often been painted over by this time. The second 514 has the simpler, Carter Brothers-style roof. MSR Archive

Muni had little experience in building cable cars, and most of the crafts workers from the previous owner, our nonprofit’s namesake Market Street Railway Company, had retired by the time the first of the original cable cars reached a point beyond repair. This new Car 514 featured a simplified roof, sheathed in plywood instead of the tongue-and-groove strips originally used. The new roof was also of the simpler design used on the 1893 cable cars built by Carter Brothers, with only one row of side windows in the raised ceiling area, called a clerestory. The original Car 514 had the 1887-style double row of clerestory windows with eyebrow-shaped end windows on the roof, a style known as the “Bombay Roof”. The arched side window frames of the original Car 514 were replaced with square window frames, which were easier to make.

No. 14 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
The original Car 514 at Powell and Ellis Streets, about 1959. MSR Archive

Renumbered as Car 14 in the 1970s, this car has received a recent refresh from the carpenters and painters at the cable car barn. It is worth studying as an example of the learning process Muni went through after taking over the Powell Street cable cars in 1944. The cable cars Muni has built since the 1980s reflect a quality of materials and craftsmanship equal if not superior to that of the original 19th century builders.

No. 14 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
The current Car 514 at the Aquatic Park turntable at the end of the Powell-Hyde line.

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