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San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Learn More About the Famous Cable Cars of San Francisco

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is the perfect way to learn more about the famous cable cars throughout the city. At this museum, you will discover their history, photos and some of the historic cars.

You will also get the chance to watch the cable wheels in action as they pull the cars around the city. This museum in SF doubles as a barn for the the cars at night too.

FAST FACT: Which lines carried the first SF passengers? The line on California Street opened in 1873. It took passengers up the steep hills to the Nob Hill neighborhood. At the time, these hills took a toll on the horses and carriages that tried to use them.

san francisco cable car museum

There are two levels to the museum. The top floor is where you will find out about their history.

cable car museum history

Here you will learn more about all of the original companies. At one time, as you can see from the pictures, there were eight companies running these up and down the steep SF hills.

On this floor, you will also learn more about how the 1906 Earthquake and Fire impacted all of these lines. It walks you through the damage to the lines and what needed to be done to get them up and running again.

historic cable car parts

All around the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, you will find out more about the specific parts and the tools used to maintain them. You can also check out the three historic cars on display.

san francsico cable car museum

My favorite part of this museum is seeing the live cables in action. This is a look into the Sheave Room that powers cables from the second floor.

There are currently three SF car routes. They are run by four sets of cables.

The four cables are Hyde, California, Mason and Powell. Both the Hyde/Powell and the Mason/Powell cars use the Powell cable. They then transfer to their own cables.

powell cable car line

Here is a closer look at the Powell Street wheel. This is the live wheel pulling both the Hyde/Powell and the Mason/Powell cars around the city.

You can also get an eye level view of the working Sheave Room from the basement. They have several windowed viewing areas for you to take a closer look.

san francisco cable car barn

Even though this isn't part of the official San Francisco Cable Car Museum, I also like to watch them leave the barn. It is in the back part of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum.

To get here, head outside and walk up Washington Street. You will see this doorway about half way up the block.

I like to stand across the street to get a better view of them entering and exiting. They don't enter and exit often, but it's always fun to check and see if you can catch one.

Visiting Information

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is free and open every day.

  • April 1 - September 30: 10am to 6pm
  • October 1 - March 31: 10am to 5pm
  • Closed on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

cable car museum map

The museum is at 1201 Mason Street. This is the star on the map above at the corner of Washington and Mason Streets.

A visit to the San Francisco Cable Car Museum takes about an hour to an hour and a half.

How to Get Here

The best way to get here is to take the Mason/Powell or the Hyde/Powell lines. Both stop right out front of the museum.

Cable Cars

california cable carDo you want to learn even more about these historic cars? Discover more details on the three working lines, some tips for riding the cable cars and some great pictures of all three of them in action.

Learn More: Cable Cars

Russian Hill and Nob Hill Attractions

Nob Hill AttractionsThe San Francisco Cable Car Museum is in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood. This neighborhood has strong ties to these popular cars. Find out more about its relationship with the infamous cable cars and other popular things to see and do here.

Learn More: Russian Hill & Nob Hill


chinatown san franciscoRight down the hill from the museum is Chinatown. This is a popular neighborhood for those visiting San Francisco. It's a thriving neighborhood with plenty of shops, restaurants and other activities. Find out more about the best things to see and do in San Francisco's Chinatown District.

Learn More: Chinatown

Save Money on San Francisco Attractions

san francisco city passAre you looking for some ways to save a little on your San Francisco vacation? If so, then you should check out the three top San Francisco Attraction Passes. All three can save you a considerable amount of money on key tourist stops. Compare and contrast the three passes to figure out which one is right for you!

Learn More: Discounts on Top Attractions

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