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

Each Cable Car is a Work of Art

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

Building a cable car is an exacting art that takes several dozen craftsmen 18 to 24 months to complete.

“Skilled carpenters create the frame and body, mainly of oak and other hardwoods” says Norbert Feyling, whose family has worked in cable car maintenance for three generations—since the 1880s. “The roof is tongue-and-groove Alaskan spruce, covered in canvas. The fittings are of iron, steel and polished brass. The fresh wood smell and bare oak grain of an unpainted cable car is a thing of rare beauty.”

New cable cars are painted at the cable car barn. The seats, stanchions and ceiling receive multiple coats of varnish. “It’s a slow, precise process, all hand brushed,” Feyling adds reverently. “No spray guns are used.”

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