Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Where Little Cable Cars ... (2)

But First, Two Apologies
October is a busy month with six meetings to prepare and deliver. That was just about OK until fbb was asked to take a funeral for a former church colleague on the Isle of Wight. This fits in with a pre-planned visit to No 1 Son and family at Wantage for the coming weekend BUT takes fbb away from his leather-topped office desk ...
... groaning with all the latest technology. OK - the dining table and a laptop! 

Next door's ferocious slavering guard dog plus next door's ferocious slavering redoubtable Denise will be protecting the property as usual but with no help from the late Jacko.
But, as a result, blogs may be reduced in length or retimed (just like many of today's trains!)

Then there is fbb's Sheffield map faux pas! Oh the shame of it! Due to a brain failure (these are becoming more regular since that nice Mr Baldwin became our Prime Minister a few weeks ago!??) the extract was wrongly labelled and fbb was duly reprimanded by a comment writer.
Here is the offending article.
Of course, everybody knows that the 218 runs via Psalter Lane, as shown correctly on the map, and it DOESN'T run via Highfield..
The PINKish line is, obviously, the 86 to Lowedges ...
... which DOES run via Highfield. The offending map has been corrected ...
... and the blogged text revised retrospectively - and before copies go to the perpetrators of the "official" version!!

Back to San Francisco!
The cable cars exist because the hill were so steep that wheel on rail vehicles would simply not have enough grip - rope haulage was the only possibility.
Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890,[7] only three remain (one of which combines parts of two earlier lines): two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf, and a third route along California Street. While the cable cars are used to a certain extent by commuters, the vast majority of their 7 million annual passengers are tourists, and as a result, the wait to get on can often reach two hours or more.

All three routes start just off Market Street. California Street line cars are double ended so do not need to turn round. They load up close to the Ferry Building.
The route involves a long climb but is less severe than the other two. It is the ride that is the experience as there is little of scenic beauty along the way. The far terminus is also rather underwhelming ...
... being at Van Ness Street, but further north than the end of the car-free zone.

The other two lines are more interesting. Firstly they have single ended cars which have to be turned at each terminus. Here we see the crowds queueing round the turntable (manually operated, of course) ...
... at the junction with Market Street.
Note the refreshing lack of "elf'n'safety" restrictions - you are allowed to fall off the open bench seats onto the road, should you so desire!

Both these routes climb a lot more steeple than the California Street line, as we shall see. But part way up the hill the two lines cross at right angles.
Which begs a worrying question. The cars are dragged along by a rope hidden in a conduit in the road. The driver operates a gripper (like a pair of pliers) ...
... below the car which grips the cable. The cable itself is made of steel, but with a rope central core so that the grippers can compress it and make a tight, erm, grip!
But then there is the vexatious question. How does it "ackle" when two wire rope cross. How can you avoid the gripper becoming totally entangulated? The cable runs continuously.

The answer is that the grip (vernacular for the driver the driver) who works the grip (pliers) has to release the grip (grip) on the cable and coast through the crossing and then re-grip (grip again) afterwards. The grip (driver) has to grip the grip lever and the brake lever and work the two together to make things run smoothly.
It is a skilled job! He is helped by the conductor who also has a brake to grip. There are three braking systems. One grips the wheels, one grips the track and one (for real emergencies) stabs a spike into the conduit. The spike has to be removed by a welder, so is rarely used!

Anyway, it is the two Powell routes that have the most spectacular hills.
Careful photography makes it look as if the cars are about to plunge down a cliff ...
However you look at it, the lines are steep!
A quick look at the depot.
Cars enter the depot by climbing Jackson Street and setting back  under the control of gravity ...
... and exit the depot, again by gravity, on to Washington Street.
Below the depot itself, you will now find a Cable Car Museum.
Also in this building are the units driving the cables.
A fascinating system and now part of San Francisco's history, heritage and daily experience. The little cable cars are very much a tourist "thing"; but back on Market Street (soon to get rid of cars etc.) there is another example of the city's transport history.

 Next Street Car blog : Thursday 24th October 

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