Few people realize that most of the cable cars that run on the two Powell Street lines originally ran on Sacramento and Clay Streets. Before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the Sacramento-Clay line ran all the way from the Ferry Building to Golden Gate Park (at Sixth Avenue and Fulton). It shared ownership with the Powell lines. A number of new cable cars were locally built in 1893-94 by Carter Brothers to serve the Midwinter Fair in the Park. One of them was Car 511.
At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, the 511 was one of a couple of dozen Sacramento-Clay cable cars resting in a car barn on outer Sacramento Street. These cable cars were spared the flames that engulfed the original Powell Street fleet of identical cars at Washington and Mason Streets. Rebuilding the system in the aftermath, the Sacramento-Clay cable cars became Powell Street cable cars, replaced on a portion of that line by double-end cable cars rebuilt from cable cars salvaged from Market Street service. (Electric streetcars took over Market Street and the flatter, outer portions of the Sacramento-Clay line.)
Car 511 (renumbered to 11 in the 1970s) soldiered on for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st in different liveries (paint schemes), but when it came time last year to freshen up the 11, Cable Car Superintendent Ed Cobean asked Market Street Railway what would be an appropriate livery for this car in its 125th year of service. We suggested its original Sacramento-Clay livery of Tuscan Red with tan and white trim, with the rocker panel on the side emblazoned with the name of its original owner (which happens to be an early company that bears our non-profit’s name). Ed graciously agreed, and the cable car body shop and painters did a beautiful job on the car, which went back into service today, with Val Lupiz gripping.
Jeremy Whiteman captured this fabulous photo at the Hyde and Beach turntable. He has contributed many great photos to our organization, especially its annual calendar (we expect the 2019 calendar in our museum and online in June).
The 1890s Sacramento-Clay livery on Car 11 brings to ten the number of Powell cable cars that now wear heritage liveries seen on these cable cars over the past 130 years, since the Powell lines first went into service in 1888. Our nonprofit is proud to have taken a leading role in bringing these liveries back to life, adding authentic color to the iconic cable cars. In coming months, we’ll be talking more about advocating for further improvements to the irreplaceable cable car system.