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

Muni Holds a Bell-Ringing Competition Every Year

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

Informal bell-ringing competitions have long taken place, but the contest didn’t become a real event until the early 1950s.

“San Francisco is a diverse city,” says Emiliano Echeverria, a retired cable car signal operator and one of Muni’s most eloquent historians. “You have operators from India and the American South; there have been Cubans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Italians—all bring their own backgrounds and traditions. You’d be amazed at the intricacy and complexity of the rhythms. You get some pretty interesting tunes out of those bells, considering it’s just one note!”

The 49th Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest took place on September 6, 2012, amid crowds of spectators in Union Square. A tense draw was decided when gripman and conductor Trini Whittaker, 45, bested three-time champion Leonard Oats.

Listen to the rings here:

Singh b. Rai
Trini Whittaker

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