The fiery red of this cable car is a reminder that Powell Street cable cars were painted this way on the day they went up in flames. It was April 18, 1906, when San Francisco was changed forever by the most devastating earthquake-fire combination in American history.
San Francisco’s transit service had been further consolidated in 1902 with the rise of United Railroads, which acquired the Market Street Railway of 1893 and other operations. This Chicago-based utility became known for its corrupt operation, helping create a public backlash that led to the opening of the competing city-owned Municipal Railway in 1912. In its operations, United Railroads abandoned the color-coding of individual lines. By 1905, it had repainted all its Powell cable cars red with gray roofs, as modeled today by cable car No. 25.
The great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed virtually the entire Powell Street cable car fleet. To replace the Powell Street fleet, United Railroads used cable cars, including this one, that had been working the Sacramento-Clay line and were stored outside the fire zone.
By about 1909, the transferred red cable cars were repainted green, modeled on Powell cable car No. 13.
The distinctive livery of cable car No. 25 was recreated with help from our non-profit group, which serves as Muni’s preservation partner.
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)
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)
9.5 mph (15.3 km/h)
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