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