Cable cars were invented in San Francisco in 1873 by Andrew S. Hallidie. Today, only San Francisco has street-running cable cars like these. The system is a National Historic Landmark.
There are 40 cable cars used in regular service: 28 single-ended cars that run on the Powell Street lines and need a turntable to reverse direction; and 12 double-ended, slightly longer cable cars that run on the California Street line.
There are also unique “survivor” cable cars from lines that disappeared decades ago. These run on special occasions.
Since the 1980s, more and more cable cars have been painted in the liveries (paint schemes) they wore under different owners in the past 125+ years. These are accurate portrayals of how cable cars looked back then, made possible by a cooperative program between our history-preserving nonprofit organization, and SFMTA, the city public transit agency that owns and operates San Francisco’s cable cars and historic streetcars, as well as its buses and light rail vehicles.
Click on any cable car below to see the history of that car and paint scheme.
Click here for a full roster list of all cable cars in today’s fleet.