San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars


The Willie Mays Cable Car

Built 1887 by Mahoney Bros.; Rebuilt 1958 by Muni Shops

Car 24 is very special, for both historic and sentimental reasons.

Built in 1887, it is one of four cable cars remaining from the original Ferries & Cliff House Railway fleet with substantial historic fabric still intact.  (Powell Cars 17, 22, and 27 are the others. Originally numbered 534, it became 524 in 1929, and 24 in 1973, when Muni dropped the first number from the Powell fleet.

As Car 524, it was the only active cable car to leave its hometown twice.

In 1949, Western Pacific Railroad sponsored its participation in the Chicago Railroad Fair, where it ran on a short cable operation along the shores of Lake Michigan. To make sure everyone knew positively where it came from, the signage on the side was changed from just “Municipal Railway” to “Municipal Railway of San Francisco”. Many Powell cable cars later received this lettering, modeled on today’s Car 8.

Then, in 1950, it was rolled onto a rubber-tired trailer and towed down to Los Angeles to participate in a Shriner’s 1949 and parading through Los Angeles the next year.

Just before the November 1947 election, it was chartered by activist Friedel Klussmann and other advocates to draw last-minute attention to their (successful) efforts aimed at saving the Powell cable cars from being replaced by buses, as the mayor of the day wanted to do.

When the cable car system was consolidated and routes changed in the 1950s, Car 524  was the last car to operate on the Washington-Jackson line to Pacific Heights in 1956 and the first in regular service on the Powell-Hyde line the following year.

In 2016, the City and County of San Francisco dedicated Car 24 to the most famous #24 of all, the greatest San Francisco Giant, Willie Mays. The car now carries a plaque celebrating Mays.

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