San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No. 17

San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current

Built 1887 for Mahoney Bros. Rebuilt by Muni 1956

This cable car was built in 1887 as part of the original Ferries & Cliff House Railway system, for the general contractor Mahoney Brothers. It features the “Bombay” roof style, with two rows of windows in the raised clerestory ceiling and eyebrow shaped windows at the ends of the roof, a more complex design than the simpler roof on Powell cars built by the Carter Brothers in 1893.

Its first assignment was the Sacramento-Clay line, where it served as Car 532. After the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed all of the Powell Street cable cars, plus their barn and powerhouse, this car changed lines, working mostly the Washington-Jackson line from Powell and Market to Pacific Heights as far west as Steiner Street and Alta Plaza Park. In 1929, this car exchanged its original number, 532, for 517, to fill a numbering gap.

No. 17 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Car 517 leads a trio of cable cars cued up for the Powell and Market turntable on March 8, 1947. Cable cars shared this first block of Powell with automobiles and trucks until 1972, when it was converted into a plaza. SFMTA Archive

In 1956, the same year the Washington-Jackson line shut down, Car 517 was rebuilt by Muni. On its return, it began working both the replacement Powell-Hyde line and the Powell-Mason line. In the 1970s, it was renumbered with the rest of the Powell fleet, becoming Car 17.

Today, it is one of just three 1887 cable cars that have only been rebuilt once, with a great deal of original historic fabric intact. (Cars 24 and 27 are the others.)

No. 17 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Powell Car 17 turns the corner from Washington onto Powell in the 2010s.

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

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