3 comments on “How Are Things on the West Coast? (Part 4)

  1. The cable cars are propelled via long cables that run in a loop underground. They’re held up and apart by series of wheels and are ultimately turned by huge engines in the cable car barn about 1/2 way up the hill. The car has a grabber, called a ‘grip’ that sticks into a slot in the street and loops under the cable. When the operator wants to go, he compresses a handle on this grip which lifts up the cable and presses another piece of metal against it, effectively grabbing hold of it. The car moves. When they want to stop, they release this grip and set a separate brake which grabs hold of the slot and locks the car in place. The grip and brake are separate controls operated by different men who communicate via the bell in the cable car. There is a special code which says “I am releasing the brake – you should engage the grip” and vice versa. The whole system is quite old (by American standards) and is the only mobile entry on the National Historic Register. There used to be many more of these and prior to their invention (by a Scot if I recall) the hills were undeveloped. If you get another chance to visit, ride the Powell line again and ask to be dropped off at the cable car barn. There’s no fee for stopping. Be sure to watch the video that shows how the car is controlled and how street markings prompt the operators to take certain actions at certain places. And see the engines, they’re really something.

  2. It’s so cool to read about my home through the eyes of visitors. Thanks! And yeah, Presidio is an awful movie, but the city scenes are great.

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