San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

No. 6

San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current

Built 1893 by Carter Bros.(as Car 518). Rebuilt by Muni 1966.

Powell Cable Car 6 might be called the hybrid car. Its origins are different than any other cable car, and a little complicated.

No. 6 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Original Cable Car 506 at Jackson Street and Mason Street, March 11, 1910. Though just 17 years old at this point, the car shows signs of hard wear and needs body work. This car was replaced by a second Car 506 in the 1960s. John Henry Mentz photo, SFMTA Archive

In 1962, original Carter Brothers Car 518, built in the East Bay town of Newark in 1893, had worn down to the point where it was taken out of service. Operating on a constrained budget, Muni’s cable car crafts workers, operating in the dank confines of the old Elkton Shops at Ocean and San Jose Avenues, built a largely new 518, but kept the old one around.

No. 6 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
The second Car 506 at Powell and O’Farrell Streets, between 1968 and early 1970s. David Pirmann collection,

Then, in 1966, Carter Bros. Car 506 similarly reached what looked like the end of its line. But not so fast. Creative Muni workers took what was left of 518 and renovated it until it met operating requirements again, and put it back into service as the second Car 506.  The the roof and seats they salvaged from the first 506 were still serviceable, and these were used in 1973 to create a new “flagship” vehicle for the Powell fleet, Cable Car 1, which is dedicated to cable car savior Friedel Klussmann.

No. 6 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current

In 1971, Car 506 gained a measure of fame, when chosen to be the subject of a US postage stamp. A few years later, this second Car 506 was renumbered, along the the rest of the Powell fleet, dropping the first two numbers and becoming Car 6.

No. 6 - San Francisco Municipal Railway, 1984-current
Today’s Powell Car 6 at the same intersection as predecessor in the 1910 photo above, Jackson and Mason Streets. 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