San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No. 23

San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current

Built 1890 by Ferries & Cliff House Ry. Rebuilt 1969, 2018 by Muni

This car was built by the Ferries and Cliff House Railway in 1890, one of thee built in-house to augment the company’s original 1887 fleet of cars built for Mahoney Brothers, the system’s general contractor. It ran on the company’s Sacramento-Clay line, stored in a small barn at the outer end of the line. That saved the car on April 18, 1906, when the fire following the 1906 earthquake destroyed the entire fleet of Powell cable cars.

No. 23 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Close to the end of service on the Washington-Jackson line in 1956, Car 523, headed for Powell and Market, is about to cross the tracks of the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line, discontinued by Muni two years before during the Cable Car War of 1954. The pavement is already marked for the location of underground utilities. Soon, workers will cut off the tracks on the outer end of the Washington-Jackson line and route the cable cars north on Hyde Street, creating the new Powell-Hyde line. Jim Lekas photo, MSR Archive

These identical cars were transferred to the Powell lines. Car 523 served almost exclusively on the Washington-Jackson line from Powell and Market to Alta Plaza Park in Pacific Heights until that line was replaced by the Powell-Hyde line in 1957. It was heavily rebuilt by Muni in 1969 and was renumbered to 23 in the mid-1970s.

No. 23 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Car 523 gets ready to start another trip on the Powell-Hyde line from the turntable at Market Street, June 1967, shortly before its first rebuilding. Photo wnp25.5030 from

Car 23 was thoroughly rebuilt again in 2018 by Muni’s Cable Car Carpentry Shop. So far, this is the only Powell cable car originally built in-house by the company that owned it, then rebuilt not once but twice in-house by a subsequent owner.

No. 23 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Car 23 decorated for the San Francisco Giants, Aquatic Park, 2021. Rick Laubscher photo

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