San Francisco's World Famous Cable Cars

Streetcar.org San Francisco Market Street Railway Museum
No.8

Municipal Railway of San Francisco (1948-1959)

Built 1893 by Carter Brothers; rebuilt by Muni 1958; completely reconstructed by Muni 2022

Powell Cable Car 8 wears the second of several variations of Muni’s long-time green and cream paint scheme. This variation first appeared on Powell Street Cable Car 524 in 1948.

In 1948-49, Chicago hosted a huge railroad fair on the shore of Lake Michigan. Western Pacific Railroad, based in San Francisco, sponsored sending Powell Car 524 to the Fair, where it actually operated on a short stretch of cable-powered track.

At that time, the Powell Cable Cars had recently been repainted from the green and white livery of the previous owner of the Powell Street lines, Market Street Railway Company. Muni but kept green as the main color. On the cream-colored lower side panels, Muni lettered “Municipal Railway” in black.

But for Car 524, City leaders wanted to ensure there was no mistaking the provenance of the cable car as it served as San Francisco’s ambassador in the Windy City, so the lower side panel lettering was changed to “Municipal Railway of San Francisco.”

Subsequently, some (but not all) other Powell cars received this lettering. In the early 1960s, the paint scheme was slightly modified and the owner’s panel lettering changed to “San Francisco Municipal Railway,” modeled today on Powell cable car No. 3.

No. 8 - Municipal Railway of San Francisco (1948-1959)

Powell Cable Car 524 at the Chicago Railroad Fair, 1948, with the lettering seen on Powell Car 8 today.

Powell Car 524 is still in service, renumbered to 24 in the 1970s and now dedicated to Giants’ great Willie Mays, who wore that number throughout his career. The livery and lettering it had from 1948 until the end of the 1960s was applied to Powell Car 8 during its 2018-2022 total reconstruction from just a frame.

Powell Street Cable Car Specifications

Number of Cars
28 on roster (Maximum of 19 in service at one time)

Capacity
60 (29 seated + 31 standing)

Weight
15,500 lb (7,030 kg)

Length
27′ 6″ (8.4 m)

Height
10′ 5″ (3.2 m)

Width
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

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