Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About San Francisco’s Cable Cars

Ever since they became a part of the city’s transit system, they have been iconic mainstays of its cityscape

Only 44 Cable Cars Are Left in Operation

(Courtesy of the SFMTA Photo Archive / ©2011 SFMTA)

Before the Great Earthquake of 1906, there were more than 600 cable cars in San Francisco. By 1912, there were less than 100. Today, there are 44. Every few years, a cable car must be replaced—a process comparable to building a sailboat, or high-end cabinetry. Several dozen Union carpenters, machinists, electric transit mechanics, painters, glaziers, pattern makers and transit operators participate, taking great pride in a world-renowned tradition of craftsmanship.

Above, Cable Car 513 is seen under construction at the historic Elkton Shops, which were built the year after the earthquake as a “temporary facility.” They lasted 70 years, closing in 1977. Today, new cable cars are built in San Francisco’s trendy Dogpatch neighborhood (a former shipbuilding area) on the former site of the old Tubb’s Cordage factory.

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