July 6, 2009
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In San Francisco, Local Construction is Way to Go for Cable Cars
When the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) needs to add a cable car to its world-renowned historic fleet, the system doesn’t ask outsiders to do the work. Employees of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees Muni, built the newest cable car on the line—Car 15, which entered service June 21—in-house, according to original blueprints.
The June 21 launch ceremonies coincided with the 25th anniversary of the line’s reopening after an extensive two-year restoration project. The newly constructed car, which will operate on the Powell-Mason Line, completed its certification run earlier in the month.
SFMTA artisans from the Woods Carpenter Shop, the Cable Machinery Support Shop, the Special Machine Shop, and the Running Repair Shop worked from the ground up to create Car 15. It features a bright yellow color scheme used on the Powell-Mason line from 1894 to 1902. That line, which opened in 1888, is the oldest transit line in America still operating on its original route with its original type of motive power.
The new cable car replaces one that entered service in 1894, operating on the old Sacramento-Clay line before the earthquake and fire of 1906 and on the Powell lines afterward. It was partially rebuilt in 1954 and retired earlier this decade.
This is the 15th San Francisco cable car built from scratch since 1962 and the first since 2001.
Construction took four years and cost $823,000 for materials and labor. The SFMTA Cable Car Rehabilitation program refurbishes and rebuilds San Francisco’s cable cars with funding from local, regional, and federal capital sources that cannot be used for Muni operations.
“San Francisco’s iconic cable cars are cherished throughout the world and bring many people back year after year to visit our city,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said at the event. “Those San Franciscans lucky enough to live or work near the cable car lines have arguably the best commute in the world.”