San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No. 19

San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current

Built 1986 by Muni

Powell Cable Car 19 was built new in 1986 by Muni’s Cable Car Carpentry Shop. It is built in the style of the 1893 car built by Carter Brothers, which it replaced in the fleet. (It is not to be confused with the former Sacramento-Clay cable car of the same number, known as “Big 19”, which runs on special occasions.)

No. 19 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
The original Car 519 finishing a run on the Washington-Jackson line at the Powell and Market turntable, 1947. The fondly remembered Pig ‘n’ Whistle restaurant is in the background. MSR Archive

That original car was numbered 519. On December 10, 1967, it was involved in one of the worst accidents in cable car history, losing grip on the cable at the top of the steepest hill in the system, on Hyde Street at Chestnut, and careening down Hyde Street, hitting several automobiles on the way, at least one of which caught fire. The incident injured 43 people, 12 of them seriously. The infamy that Car 519 gained from the accident caused Muni to renumber it as Car 500, a number it kept until Muni removed the first digits from its Powell cable cars in the 1970s, at which point it became Car 19 until its scrapping in the 1980s.

No. 19 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
The original Car 519 after running away down the Hyde Street hill, injuring 43, on December 10, 1967. Photo by Lt. Chet Born, SF Fire Department via San Francisco Chronicle

The bad memories of the original Car 519/500 have faded; of course, the new Car 19 contains virtually nothing of that older car.

No. 19 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Today’s Car 19 in an action shot at Powell and Washington Streets. Marj Kibby photo via Facebook

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