We still build moving landmarks. *ding, ding*
February 25, 2008 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Building a landmark. Nearly 135 years after first rolling up Clay Street, San Francisco's famous cable cars are still using an elegant, yet antiquated system of understreet cables and two types of unpowered cars to move delighted tourists and patient locals across the city every day. But most riders don't realize that five specialized craftsmen in a shop in an industrial part of town make up the the last cable car factory in the world, still building cars by hand, from plans reverse-engineered from a car disassembled in 1982. [via]
posted by toxic (13 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
welcome to the future, where we will be reverse-engineering 747s etc.
posted by panamax at 12:20 PM on February 25, 2008

You know it never occurred to me that that's what the "cable" in cable cars meant? Very, very cool, thank you!
posted by Skorgu at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2008

Q: Does the cable car go up the hill, or down the hill?

A: It goes ding-ding, ding-ding!

/old SF joke
posted by fandango_matt at 1:00 PM on February 25, 2008

Skorgu, I had no idea either.. I wasn't really expecting the cars to be unpowered, but I guess I never really put too much thought into wondering how they moved around. I just knew that they did.
posted by Venadium at 1:44 PM on February 25, 2008

posted by Eideteker at 2:00 PM on February 25, 2008

Fascinating, thanks!
posted by digaman at 2:32 PM on February 25, 2008

posted by LobsterMitten at 3:09 PM on February 25, 2008

As a kid, I used to love standing astride the slot and watching the cable cruising by underneath. The thing I loved the most was that "Whoa we're going down a steeeeeep hill!" thing for a moment, before the cable actually slowed the car down. The last time I was in SF though, the tourists were so thick there was no point even trying to get on one. Yes, they were just transportation, once.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:16 PM on February 25, 2008

Absolutely amazing, they were my favorite part of my trip to San Francisco.

More cities should have cable cars.
posted by davros42 at 3:45 PM on February 25, 2008

Charming, but dangerous!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:09 PM on February 25, 2008

The last time I was in SF though, the tourists were so thick there was no point even trying to get on one. Yes, they were just transportation, once.

I don't know why tourists pack Powell and Market and stand in lines like they're at Disneyland. You can catch the line anywhere along the way. Or better yet, ride the California line which is incredible and is rarely packed.

I briefly commuted on the California line when I lived near Polk and California. Its super expensive on a tourist fare but they're included as part of the Muni Fast Pass so, yes, they are used by commuters - just not at Powell and Market.
posted by vacapinta at 5:31 PM on February 25, 2008

Ah the cable cars. When I lived on Hyde and California, I used to commute downtown on the California line. When I would stop to think about, it, I was pretty amazed that I got to work the same way people 100 years ago did and it was a little breath taking.
posted by subaruwrx at 7:14 PM on February 25, 2008

i'd avoided the cable cars for years, thinking they were tourist traps. but they really are delightful, and now i take 'em whenever i can. of course yeah - having a muni pass makes it affordable. you have to be prepared to have your photo taken if you ride one though. people on every corner, snapshotting.

the line everyone stands in line to catch - at the powell turnaround - is difficult to board anywhere along the route because if there's a line waiting at either end, it just gets too crowded and the operators won't let more people onboard. but the california line is awesome. working downtown last year, the california cable car line actually got me home faster than the regular 1-california busline.

and the cable-car museum is really fun, and free! it's awesome to see the giant wheels turning the cables. i highly recommend a visit, if yr in town.
posted by lapolla at 12:44 AM on February 26, 2008

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