San Francisco's Cable Cars
San Francisco's famous cable cars entice all visitors of the city to go for 'a once in a lifetime' ride up and down the many hills that make San Francisco so unique. This system of climbing 'halfway to the stars' over steep hills was invented in 1871 by Andrew Hallidie, and has essentially remained unchanged since the first car was inaugurated in 1873. Now designated as a moving National Historical Monument, the three remaining cable car lines traverse through San Francisco's famous downtown neighborhoods, from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf and the Embarcadero through Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Chinatown and the Financial District. With views of San Francisco's famous Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world), Aquatic Park, the Maritime Historical Park at the Hyde Street Pier, Alcatraz, Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge, the ride on one of these cable cars is a breathtaking adventure in itself.
Stop along the way and visit the Cable Car Barn and Museum, which houses the 40+ cable cars at night. This garage, repair shop and museum, which houses the original cable car from 1873, is also the powerhouse that operates the wire cables for the entire cable car system over its 17 miles (25 km).
When Andrew Hallidie, a mechanic from London who made wire cables, saw a horse-drawn wagon drag its cargo and the horses down a steep hill, he decided that there had to be a better and safer way to cross over San Francisco's numerous steep hills. By 1889, there were eight lines in the city, and by 1906, the year of the Great Earthquake and Fire, there were over 600 cable cars in use. By the middle of the 20th Century, automobiles and combustion engine buses had made the cable car system obsolete. Before they were totally dismantled, a hue and cry went out to preserve the last three lines and in 1984, a complete overhaul of all the tracks ensured that the famous cable cars of San Francisco would be around for another 100 years.
Inn San Francisco recommends you try the Powell-Hyde cable car for the best views and the exhilarating descent down Hyde Street with the killer view of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Each car seats 29 to 34, with another 20 to 40 passengers standing.
Visit the Tourist and Visitors Center at Powell and Market Streets for a possible discount fare or day pass.