Tales from the Grip: California, here I come


Last summer, I switched from the Powell Street cable car lines to the California Street line, or the Cal line, as it’s colloquially known. Now, this may not seem to be such a noteworthy event, but it’s not quite as simple as changing the color of your bathroom towels. (If you’re like my ex-girlfriend, that’s not simple, either.)

The Cal line is the most demanding of the three routes, as the cars are larger and heavier than their Powell Street cousins. Some gripmen and conductors refuse to work the Cal line–they like the hustle and bustle you find on Hyde and Mason. As one gripman put it, “The Cal line is too boring for me–not enough crazy people.” (Confidentially, he’s a bit crazy himself.)

Personally, I had waited nearly four years before I decided to try my hand on California Street. At first, I didn’t care for it–the cars were too heavy, the route too boring, whereas the Powell lines have the rollercoaster curves and grades and the postcard scenery.

Then, I hear you ask, why work on California instead of Powell? (You did ask that, didn’t you?)

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