San Francisco’s charming cable cars are turning 150 years old this year. To commemorate the city’s iconic symbol, public transit kicked off a six-month celebration this week — starting with Mayor London Breed riding the oldest car in the fleet on Tuesday.
Breed hopped on board Municipal Railway’s oldest surviving cable car, first built in 1883, for a nostalgic ride along California Street. ‘Big 19’ once ran in the original line of Andrew Hallidie, who is hailed as the father of the city’s cable car system.
‘Big 19” will be put into regular service every Saturday on the California Street line later this summer. Car 41, which retains original 1907 paint and details, will also be operating on original Hyde Street trackage if SFMTA successfully completes its restoration this year.
Historical re-enactors will also breathe Hallidie’s first cable car run to life on Aug. 2: the exact 150th anniversary date of the rail system.
But that’s just the beginning of the celebration. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and its nonprofit preservation partner, Market Street Railway, have teamed up with a dozen community organizations to stage an array of special events this summer and winter, in an effort to boost cable car ridership.
“San Francisco is famous for creating wonderful civic events, and what could be more wonderful than celebrating 150 years of cable cars,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA director of transportation. “SFMTA owns and operates the cable cars as part of Muni, but really, they belong to everyone, and we invite people from around the world, around the Bay, and around the block, to enjoy our iconic cable cars.”
“You cannot imagine San Francisco without our iconic cable cars. In celebration of the 150th anniversary, we invite everyone to ride our wonderful cable cars to experience the magic of San Francisco.”Mayor London Breed
For the first time ever, the public will have the opportunity to tour the Muni shop, where cable cars are built and rebuilt. History buffs can join in on historical-themed walk and ride tours of the neighborhoods served by the cable car lines, and even “ghost” cable cars from disappeared lines will make a special appearance.
SFMTA is also encouraging residents to hop on board by buying all-day, all-Muni passes for $13, granting access to cable cars, F-line historic streetcars, Muni trains, and buses. From July 1 until the end of 2023, a special $5 all-day pass will allow riders to hop on and off the California cable car line, enabling them to discover the vibrant neighborhoods along its route.
“For the last 150 years, residents and visitors have enjoyed the incredible experience of riding our cable cars through our neighborhoods to experience stunning Bay views that are famous all over the world,” Breed said. “You cannot imagine San Francisco without our iconic cable cars. In celebration of the 150th anniversary, we invite everyone to ride our wonderful cable cars to experience the magic of San Francisco.”
Other attractions include public tours of Muni’s carpentry shop, a free phone app combining cable car rides with walking tours, and a historic cable car photo exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library.