Cable Car Museum San Francisco

Cable Car Museum San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Cable Car Museum San Francisco

One of my favourite bosses in my legal career had a son who was a train fanatic.

Every time there was a school holiday, she’d take him on a “day on the trains”. They’d get an all day pass, he’d map out various routes for efficiency, and off they headed.

If you live in New South Wales in Australia, where my old boss and her son were from, you know what an utter mess public transport is. I had visions of him unravelling the hot mess and making a useable, efficient, and affordable system with his talents.

Sadly for the people of NSW, he was as talented a musician as he was a train enthusiast, and he ended up going to the conservatorium when he finished high school, rather than Transport NSW.

When I visited the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco with my mother and sister, I thought of how he would have loved to see the behind the scenes workings of the famous cable cars.

I must admit, we stopped off because I was dying to use a bathroom, and the cable car museum was guaranteed to have some clean ones!

We were really pleasantly surprised with the museum once inside.

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Fun Cable Car Facts:

  • The cable cars don’t have their own power! They can only move by gripping on to the moving cable. They have batteries solely for lighting.
  • The cables move continuously with the huge machinery in the middle of the museum. The huge boxes house motors and gears which move the pulleys called sheaves.
  • All of the machinery which moves the cable cars is called winding machinery.
  • The cables move at 9.5 miles per hour.
  • Four separate cables are used that move in channels under the streets with the help of pulleys and some of the larger sheaves.
  • The first cable car test run was at 4:00am in August 1873 by Andrew Smith Hallidie, who couldn’t bear to watch the cruelty towards the horses struggling up those San Fran hills.

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Cable Car Museum San Francisco by North & South Nomads

The information is interesting, but getting to see the enormous mechanisms, wheels, and pulleys that move the cable cars across San Francisco was fascinating!

I’d highly recommend anyone that visits San Francisco to drop in and check it out, if just for the whirring of the huge wheels. I should probably also mention the toilets were very nice and clean… 😉

Do you have cable cars in your city? Or maybe you have a favourite form of public transit?

Location: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, United States


Contact Details: +1 415-474-1887

Cost: FREE!

Opening Hours: 10 am – 6 pm April 1 to September 30 10 am – 5 pm October 1 to  March 3.
Open every day except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


6 thoughts on “Cable Car Museum San Francisco

  1. Is it sad that I’ve lived near SF for most of my life, but haven’t ever checked this place out? :[ I learned a lot from this post! 😛 (I think the only thing I really knew was that the cable cars don’t have their own power, haha.) I didn’t know the museum was free either!

    • Nah, I think that is totally normal Farrah! We rarely ever do tourist things in our own cities. Gosh, if I wasn’t dying to use a bathroom, I doubt we would have known about this place. But it was so cool, really awesome little freebie tourist thing to do 🙂

      • I guess my thought process was that “I could always go whenever I wanted to”…except now I can’t! ;_;

        Good thing you had to go to the bathroom! 😛

  2. thanks for sharing this lesser known attraction of the SF area. Not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Bay Area and what it offers tourists. But interesting!

  3. Free? I’m impressed. I have a lot of family members in transportation-related engineering and machinery professions–I grew up touring car manufacturing plants, so I have a spot spot for learning about how these sorts of things work. I know my Dad would love to visit (and he’d probably get stuck reading all the info for a really long time!

    • Free, AND free bathrooms! Hehe 😉 Honestly, being tourists and trying to find bathrooms in San Francisco was bizarrely difficult. We were having to buy bottles of water at McDonalds just so we could use clean bathrooms.

      That aside, the museum was wonderful if you like seeing how things work. There’s a show on cable in north America, maybe called something apt like How Things Work, and it reminds me of that!

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