San Francisco, California
After having to wait in line for about an hour and a half, I was so thankful that I had gotten here early in the day. No trip to San Francisco is complete without a thrilling cable car ride up and down the steep hills of San Francisco.
History of San Francisco Cable Cars
On August 2, 1873, the first person to ride a San Francisco cable car down Clay Street was Andrew Hallidie, its inventor. He got the idea after witnessing an accident. A horse-drawn carriage was going up a steep hill when the team faltered and the carriage rolled backward downhill, dragging the horses behind it.
Hallidie’s invention changed the way people in San Francisco lived, creating a vital link in the San Francisco transportation system and making it feasible for people to live on steep hills, which until then was impossible. The cable cars were an immediate success and by the 1890s, eight transit companies operated 600 cars on 21 routes covering over 50 miles.
Cable cars remained the primary mode of transportation until the 1906 earthquake, when most of system was destroyed. A municipal railway replaced most lines afterward. The iconic cars are the only vehicles of their kind still in operation and they are designated National Landmarks.
In 2010, the term “gripman” faded into history after being used for 137 years to describe the person who operates the cable car’s brakes. When Willa Johnson became the second-ever woman cable car operator on April 12, 2010 , the city officially changed the name of the job to “grip person.” Johnson’s predecessor Fannie Barnes, retired from active cable car duty in 2002.
To learn more, visit the Cable Car Barn Museum, which is located at Mason and Washington and can be reached on the Powell-Mason or Powell-Hyde lines.
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