San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No.42

O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Streets (1910s livery)

Built 1906, W. L. Holman Company, San Francisco

 

This is one of two cable cars in Muni’s fleet representing historic lines that haven’t operated in decades. It was acquired and partly restored by Market Street Railway.

In 1891, the last all-new cable car route opened in San Francisco, using O’Farrell, Jones, Pine, and Hyde Streets to connect downtown to Russian Hill and the northern waterfront.  Built by the California Street Cable Railroad Company, it used the same type of handsome maroon double-end cars as the company’s namesake line on California.  The only differences were the route lettering and the grip arrangement.  The 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed the entire fleet and over the next several years, new cars were acquired.

42 cresting Hyde St., early 1950s

In 1952, Muni acquired “Cal Cable,” as the company was known.  Following an intense political battle, the O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde line ended service in May 1954, at the same time the California Street route was shortened by half, from Presidio Avenue back to Van Ness.  Muni combined the inner portion of its Washington-Jackson line with the Hyde Street trackage to form the Powell-Hyde line in 1957, using the single-end Powell type cars.

The Cal Cable cars in the best condition were retained for the California Street operation.  To conform with the Powell fleet, doors were cut in the solid ends for easier grip removal, and some of the trim was removed.  (Five former O’Farrell line cars — #50, 51, 53, 56, 57 & 58 – still run on California Street today, in the current California Street livery.)  But dozens of the double-end cable cars were sold as surplus. One of them was #42, built in 1906 by W. L. Holman Company, which also built preserved 1912 Muni streetcar #1.  The buyer of #42, H. Stanley Brown, hauled it to his cattle ranch near Santa Maria, motorized it, built a set of tracks, and used it to give cattle buyers tours of his feedlot.  Protected in a shed when not in use, the car still had its 1954 appearance when it was donated back to San Francisco by Mr. Brown’s widow in 1993.

Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom (front right step) leads the celebration returning Car 42 to the active fleet in 2005.

In a cooperative effort, Muni experts and volunteers from its non-profit preservation partner, Market Street Railway, restored car #42 to its early appearance, under the leadership of the late Dave Pharr.  The original tongue-and-groove wooden ends were intact under later-applied sheet metal, and were restored.  New canvas roof covering was installed, and the entire car was stripped and repainted with five coats of hand-rubbed maroon.  Lettering, striping, and trim were all applied by the steady hand of master craftsman the late Fred Bennett.

This is exactly how this cable car looked when ferry riders from Sausalito, crossing the bridgeless Golden Gate, streamed off their boat at what was then called “North Beach,” climbed one block on Hyde amid dueling aromas from the fish processing plants, the Del Monte cannery, and the Ghirardelli chocolate factory, and clambered aboard for the thrilling ride immortalized by Gellett Burgess in “The Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip:”

North Beach to Tenderloin, over Russian Hill,

The grades are something giddy, and the curves are fit to kill!

All the way to Market Street, climbing up the slope,

Down upon the other side, hanging to the rope;

But the sight of San Francisco, as you take the lurching dip!

There is plenty of excitement, on the Hyde Street Grip!

 

O’Farrell, Jones & Hyde Streets Cable Car #42

Built
1906, W.L. Holman Co. SF

Restored
1994, by Market Street Railway volunteers; completed 2005 by Muni crafts workers

Capacity
68 (34 seated + 34 standing)

Weight
16,800 lb (7,620 kg)

Length
30′ 3″ (9.2 m)

Height
10′ 2″ (3.1 m)

Width
8′ 0″ (2.4 m)

Track Gauge
3′ 6″ (1.07 m)

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