ASME-Landmark:Ferries & Cliffhouse Cable Railway Power House


The San Francisco cable car system is the last manually operated cable car system in the world—and the Ferries and Cliff House Railway Power House is still an essential part today.

The Ferries & Cliff House Cable Railway opened in 1887 as an amalgamation of the Powell Street Railway and the Park and Cliff House Railway. Its powerhouse at Washington and Mason used a complicated system of conduits and drives to operate both lines and was one of the most complicated cable-car systems to run from a single station. Designed and built by civil engineer Howard C. Holmes (1852-1921), the system was under construction for two years prior to its opening.

Andrew Hallidie, a wire rope manufacturer, devised the first operating cable car in the United States in 1873, which ran on Clay Street hill. By the 1890s, nearly two dozen cable lines had produced some six hundred cars and equipment, most of which were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. By then, the movement to replace cable car lines with electric streetcar lines was in full swing, and the United Railroads of San Francisco phased out most of its cable car lines. Only ten miles of the single-cable line have survived—including the Powell-Mason line, which remains an iconic part of San Francisco. See ASME website for more information