Talk:Cable car (railway)

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The article needs more images of cable car operations outside of San Francisco.

First Comments (2004)[edit]

Article read:

Cable cars take many different forms, the only attribute in common is the cable that pulls the vehicles.

I disagree with that. There are at least two, different, but quite specific, definitions of "cable car". One is a cabin suspended along a cable in the sky, pulled by that cable. The other is a light rail system using a cable in the road to pull the light rail cars along. Rather than saying that, the article should differentiate the two different senses of this word. -- SJK

Two questions:

  • the article lists Saint Paul, MN as having a cable car. I am in Saint Paul. Where is the cable car?
It doesn't exist anymore, see for details (btw, I live in Minneapolis) dml
  • In San Francisco, I believe there are intersections where cable cars move on both intersecting streets. Given that the cars grip the cable, how does that work? AxelBoldt
The car degrips the cable to crossover, presumably rolling downhill on track, before regripping dml
Actually, moving with its own momentum. I doubt you'd want to do this with a down-hill track, as that means it's going up-hill on the return trip. Aliter 14:57, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I live in Sydney and I've been to Melbourne and I've never seen cable cars in either... except if you count roller coasters. Where are they? And where did the original author get this amazingly accurate list? -- Tim

Except for the San Francisco lines, all the cable car services have been terminated. Nl:Kabeltram (rails) Aliter 14:57, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

A Cable Car on rails is not a vertical mover. Eg. one of the most succesful networks was Chicago. A cable car can go nearly anywhere, as long as there's a cable to pull. That's quite different from the possibilities of the funicular, and it's the latter that should be categorized vertical transport system. Aliter 14:57, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Should San Francisco be in the 'previous' list? I believe some of its lines have indeed ceased, but the list title stresses cities, rather than lines.

Agreed; removed. Gwimpey 22:56, Dec 14, 2004 (UTC)

We probably should add a bit more of the mechanics, as for Axel Boldt's question above.Aliter 19:06, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I added both Kansas City and Denver to the list of cities previously having cable cars. Both cities switched to trolleys that were later also abandoned in favor of buses. Gwimpey 22:56, Dec 14, 2004 (UTC)

San Francisco isn't the only city using cable cars! Wellington, New Zealand runs a line between the central city and the university area. I've amended the article to accommodate this. Grutness|hello? Grutness.jpg

Nothing personal, but the Wellington line is a funicular, of which there are quite a few in the world (including ones that have stations). Only SF has a Halladie cable car, which were once quite common. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 04:04, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)

OK - if that's the case it shouldn't be here... but perhaps there needs to be some explanation of the exact differences between the two. ISTR that Wellingon's is driven by a "wheelhouse" and the cars grip onto the moving cable, which is pretty much what it gives as a definition here. Meanwhile the cable cars listed for Dunedin were IIRC run by individual motors like trams, but on a cable (contrary to the definitions here). I'm now thoroughly confused as to which is which. Grutness|hello? Grutness.jpg 05:30, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I explained cable car vs. funicular in some more detail. See if you think it needs more. It might not matter as much, but there were many Halladie systems at one time, as well as many funiculars (and still quite a few of the latter). Some funiculars look pretty much like street railways while others (inclines) are virtually tandem elevators where the car is balanced by another car instead of a counterweight and are not quite vertical. I'm going to look into Dunedin to see if I can find a technical explanation of how a cable car could have a motor. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 06:30, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)
According to a couple of web sites I have found, and , the original Wellington Cable Car was a rather strange hybrid of a cable car and a funicular. There were two seperate cables involved. One was a continuous loop haulage cable which the cars gripped using a cable car gripper. The other was a balance cable permanently attached to the cars over an undriven pulley at the top of the line. The descending car gripped the haulage cable and was pulled downhill, in turn pulling the ascending car (which remained ungripped) uphill by the balance cable. However the first reference also implies that the haulage cable was stopped and started, perhaps just to save energy moving it when both cars were stationary. It seems a weird system that combines the disadvantages of both systems, but it explains the name of the cable car. However all of that was replaced by what sounds like an off the shelf Swiss funicular in 1979, so if Wellington belongs in this article, it is in the cities previously section. I'll amend article accordingly. -- Chris j wood 13:49, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Another thought. As NZ obviously seems to delight in strange hybrids, perhaps the Dunedin system referred to could have been similar, retaining the balance cable but with the haulage cable component replaced with motorised cars. I think at least one of Lisbon's street running funiculars works on this principle. -- Chris j wood 13:49, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I changed the title of this to conform to the style that articles should be titled to what they describe. There is no public or industry nomenclature of a "cable car on rails" (i.e., no one call it that), and the name is a little awkward. It sounds like a rock group, like Death Cab for Cutie. I will fix the redirects. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 03:43, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Good move. -- Chris j wood 12:03, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Recent updates by Cecropia[edit]

These are a great improvement on what went before. I have made a few further changes, explanation here:

  • One of the problems over the life of this article has been contributors failing to understand the difference between a cable car and a funicular, and adding random funiculars (of which there are hundreds still operating around the world) to the list part of the article. To try and avoid this, I added the section comparing the cable car wrt the funicular at the front of the article. This rewrite has moved that way back, which is much better from a stylistic/readership pov, but risks getting back into the 'I'll add my favorite funicular' syndrome. So I have added a little more detail to the lead para to try and minimise this.
  • I've also removed the speed statement from the lead para, as it seemed a bit out of place there. I've replaced it in a more example form in the operation section; and I'll make sure it goes into the San Francisco cable car system article if it isn't already there.
  • I've removed the detail on which cable car routes are still in operation in San Francisco. The San Francisco cable car system has an article of its own, which covers this and is linked in an earlier paragraph in the same section, so this seemed a little too detailed for the summary here.
  • Under 'cities currently operating', I've removed the picture of the Wellington Cable Car, as this is a funicular not a cable car. This is in fact pointed out in the 'compared to/funicular' section earlier. There may be a case to re-insert the image there as a 'this is NOT a cable car' example, but that may be too confusing.
  • I've reworded the comparison to funiculars; hopefully improved and pointed out true status of Wellington Cable Car.
  • I've added a section on cable traction in subways.

-- Chris j wood 13:03, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)

  • Also under 'cities currently operating', the text now reads 'San Francisco ... is now the only city in the world which has more than one cable car route in permanent operation' which kind of implies there is somewhere else with only one cable car route in permanent operation. This differs from what the article previously said, perhaps because of an earlier erroneous re-addition of Wellington. I havn't changed this, but I rather suspect that there are no other cable car systems in permanent operation.


Though I don't mind the details of every line being treated in separate articles, which was actually why I made every line a link, the details I did mention in this article gave a development of the cable car. If most people prefer a list of "In <year> the <technique> was introduced by the <line> to make <feature> possible.", that's OK with me. But don't move out the development details entirely, as that returns us to the "Some bloke in San Francisco one day thought up the Cable Car as it runs today", which I wanted to refute. Aliter 00:12, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I don't think I can be other than blunt here. Until a few days ago this article was very ragged around the edges, and I include my contributions in that analysis. Then Cecropia put a lot of effort into editing the article, produced an article that IMHO told a really good story about cable cars. With a few reservations (which you can read about above) I thought this a major improvement. My first reaction on seeing your rewrite, which came only a few hours later and positively demolished most of his changes, was devastating. I got the distinct impression you hadn't read the discussion above that explained why a lot of the article was as it was. However on reading further I realised you had some good points to make, about the continued development and about some modern people mover use of cable car technology (I confess that until I researched these, I'd assumed these were all horizontal funiculars). However I'm still firmly convinced that your changes, whilst improving the article from a pov of versimilitude and breadth, have made it much less accessible/readable; it may tell a more correct story now but it isn't necessarily a better story. What I'm now trying to do is produce an article that is as user-friendly as it was prior to your changes, but incorporating your good factual corrections. The changes are still in progress; I hope that by the time I've finished you won't think that I've returned the article to "Some bloke in San Francisco one day thought up the Cable Car as it runs today"; one of my main aims in creating the article San Francisco cable car system was to offload most of the SF specific stuff from the general article. -- Chris j wood 01:38, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I have no problem with blunt. It has that it's your opinion, and it also happens to be mine. I knew that in the process I was reversing several changes that improved the look of the article, but in my opinion hid information. I probably overdid it a bit, but for a mostly historical topic the article drifts remarkably fast, so I saw no better solution than to make as much explicite as I could recall. (I think Denver used to have a spare cable running through the vault, and there was a system that had powered cars, but I can't recall the details.) I just hoped that if I pulled it all together into a historical development, we would afterwards be able to improve the readability again without losing that part. If you say your edits will do that, then they're fine with me. (Horizontal movers with cable car technology were added just after I changed the article. They were a surprise for me too.) Aliter 16:52, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I am the "guilty" party who inserted the small parts about the automated cable cars-people movers in this and other related articles, such as the one on the town of Laon. Right after doing so I wondered if I sould not have mentioned that there is another big manufacturer, Doppelmayr, in addition to Poma-Otis, even if Doppelmayr has only three installations (and Doppelmayr does much more business with its funiculars and ski lifts than with its true cable cars)because this way it would have seemed less likely that this might be an ad for Poma-Otis. But before I could change anything these artciles went thoough massive restructurings! I think I will wait till the dust settles before I do any form of change. --AlainV 00:11, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Incidentally, I wonder if you could cite some sources for your down-playing of Andrew Smith Hallidie in favour of Benjamin Brooks and William Eppelsheimer. I know that says something similar, but the cable car museum (both from memory of visting it, and from its web site) is fairly unequivocal that Hallidie was 'the inventor of the cable car'. -- Chris j wood 02:01, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Well, I've thought about this a bit. It would certainly have been better if Aliter had discussed this a bit, before tearing apart an article I worked on for hours after the prior article had lain fallow for some time, but I would like to address the substantive issues:
Aliter's article is interesting and useful, but in replacing the previous article he (assume) deleted much that was useful and accessible to the ordinary reader, especially the economic and social implications of the rise and fall of the cable car. The substitution, IMO, rather muddies the differences between systems of different concept and application, which happen to use cables as a means of propulsion. The Brooklyn Bridge cable railway was not the same as a street railway cable car which was not the same as the West Side Patent. Removal of the fact that the line was rebuilt and effectively became the beginning of the Manhattan Elevated system is an unfortunate omission.
However, we can live happily ever after, or at least until the next revision. I believe this should be broken out into two articles (Wikipedia has the space, trust me), the current one as Development of Cable Railways, the other Cable Car (railway) or maybe more appropriately Cable Car (street railway). Not everything can or should be folded into a "this is the definitive article that all other terms must redirect to" as we have had with Tram.
I am not compulsive about the exact names of the respective articles, just the concept of not throwing out useful and interesting material. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 03:39, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I did wonder about this. As it was presented before Aliter's changes, the article was really about cable streetcars or cable trams, and the only reference to cable propulsion on railways came in the sections on comparisons with other systems; although the article title and the Cable car dab article tended to imply a broader coverage. Aliter somewhat changed the emphasis, bringing railways and people movers into the fold; although even after those changes the lead para still insisted on the vehicles being streetcars or trams which rather contradicted the rest of the article. I removed broadened the lead para to any rail-mounted vehicle; if I understand you (Cecropia) correctly, you are suggesting instead narrowing the article (back) to street running systems only, and having a seperate article on the more general topic of anything using rails, a cable and a detatchable grip.
I'm somewhat uncertain about such a split. I think to a certain extent it depends on how closely these railway and people mover systems relate in a developmental sense to the street running cable cars. And that is difficult to know because info on how they work(ed) seems hard to come by; what exactly does a cable operated people mover's grip look like?; how did the collar mechaninsm of the West Side Patent work?; etc. If you feel like going ahead with such a split, I don't have any objection. It may be worth having the general article about cable hauled rail systems in general, subsuming funiculars as well, and having the current funicular article as a sub-article much as this article would become.
I think your reservations on the loss of the social and economic history are more easily dealt with; we just merge it back alongside the more technical stuff Aliter added. I will continue working on this (probably slowly as I'm about to go out for the day); I don't think this will conflict with any split you may do. -- Chris j wood 10:57, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Regarding the nonn-technical details - Most of them were still there in the modified article, just not collected in a single spot. Some may have been replaced by a fact refuting their claim, though.
Regarding the line details - I dropped some details about the lines from the article and left out many more, but I hope those, being more relevant to the individual lines than to the topic of Cable Cars, will create many pages on specific Cable Car lines.
Regarding the sources - I don't recall; they were quite some time ago. But it's quite easy to compare the historical line with the current lines. The current grips are a later design. The California cars were a later design, let-go curves and pull-curves were later additions. The slot-brake was a later invention. What's left is mostly the concepts of detachable cars and the grip. The former existed in New York, though I admit that I have never seen Hallidie's 1867 patent, and have only assumed it was about furnicular-style. This would leave the grip. That is indeed an immense improvement over the earlier collar and claws system, and it is enough to make Hallidie a leader in his field, just not a hero.
Mind you, what I see in Hallidie's biographies is a liar and meddler, who thought himself superior to others, and whose success stemmed from his fathers invention of steel cable. That would be just the person to take over the franchise and the design, lie about his first run after he himself ran out of time, and finally patent the technology he had taken over. But I did not write that in the article; all I wrote there is that it's unknown how much of the earlier design was used. I expect the museum is unintentionally prejudiced, being in the city itself, but if they have the notes of Brooke, of course, we should adapt the article accordingly. As you mentioned the cable guy I looked him up as well; he has a newspaper article on Brooks, which refers to Brooke as the true inventor. Maybe that would give more information.
There was a suggestion that I could have discussed the changes first. That is true; it is unfortunate that I choose to do as those that went before me. Aliter 16:52, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

My compliments for Chris' syncretic skills, which created a superior article. Through the contributions of all of us, we've taken the article well beyond this version of just 15 days ago. Aliter 15:58, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)

When bad things happen to nice cable cars[edit]

Since SF-style cable cars still exist today, what happens when they come to minor grief is more than an academic question. I'm referring to cases like hitting a dead spot (i.e., stopped at a location where it is impossible to pick up the cable) or derailment.

In the latter case, I actually saw a derailment, at the turntable at the end of the Powell-Hyde Line. This took place in 1982, before it was all rebuilt. I couldn't get clear as to the cause, I thinkit was a slight misaligment of the turntable with the track stub, aggrevated by the poor condition of everything. I do recall a nearby German tourist commenting something about the "stupid incompetent Americans" as though he were watching a badly designed carnival ride. (His comment was in German, but my wife translated for me). In that case, all that was needed was to lever the car back onto the tracks.

Now I assume that we simply get out and push if you're on a dead spot, but remembering the steepness of the hills, that seems like that could cause too much excitement (as it were) if the pushing was done at the intersection of California and Powell if the cable weren't picked up smoothly. Anyone know what current protocol is? I think it would be worth mentioning in the article. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 20:00, 6 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I was on a waterfront bound Powell & Hyde car a couple of years back when we stalled at the crossing at Jackson and Mason. We sat there for five or so minutes and then a large tow-truck with a metal plate welded to its front arrived and proceded to push us uphill, still with a passenger load onboard. After a few yards we picked up the cable and continued. The gripman said 'the cable had gone down' which at the time I interpreted as meaning it had stopped, but the location and us picking up the cable after a short push makes me wonder if this wasn't actually a case of us ending up on a dead spot.
I noticed afterwards several large Muni tow trucks, and smaller pickup trucks, with similar 'push panels' welded to their front, so I'm guessing pushing cable cars in this way is a common procedure. I also saw one of the smaller trucks being used to shunt cars at Taylor and Bay terminus, which has a uncabled crossover and siding as well as the turntable. -- Chris j wood 14:00, 7 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Cable gone down isn't that the cable had stopped, but that at that pointin the road the distance of the cable below the road (and hence below the grip) was too low to reach. The cable will be highest (ie nearest the road) at the pulleys but between them it sags and at the change between incline and flat the distance is greater. If the grip is already on then the cable will stay up but if the driver releases at the wrong point it will then be too low to catch again. --Vamp:Willow 15:30, 7 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Except that in the October 2004 entry in Val Lupiz's 'Tales from the Grip' (, he describes a situation where the cable clearly had stopped with the words This can mean only one thing - the rope is down. As Val is a working gripman as well as an acknowledged writer about the San Francisco cable cars, then the words the cable is down from my gripman (and he may well have said rope rather than cable) is at best ambiguous. Don't get me wrong; I think it probably was as you describe but I also suspect the gripman may well have been well have been being a bit defensive about his part in the circumstances. -- Chris j wood 17:48, 7 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I know little about gripmen parlance, but I expect at the crossing of California and Powell, one of the cables has to "go down" under the other. The gripman at the lower cable has to release the grip, NOT TOUCH HIS BRAKES for several yards, and grip the cable again. If he eg. elects to not mow down a pedestrian that should have passed behind him, the car is dead on the street. A line crossing is level, so there's no way the car can coast to a point with cable. (I seem to recall a system with a second grip in the rear, that might lessen the problem, but I can't recall whether it's a historical line, or one of those new people movers. I wonder if that would work on the SF lines.) Aliter 17:22, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Great Orme Tramway[edit]

I have added this cable tramway, despite the fact that it isn't in a city, as I think it is significant.--John 11:18, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

Removed from article: Memphis[edit]

  • Memphis, Tennessee has included a return to this once popular form of transportation as part of its redesign of Downtown Memphis. Memphis has two versions that are currently in service; one that runs from the Irish "Pinch" district to the south end near the world famous "Arcade" restaurant and Ernestine and Hazel's Juke Joint. The second version makes a loop, sharing the first's tracks and adding a trip down Riverside Drive as well. The plan for the future will connect Downtown to the FedEx area near the airport.

I can find no reference to this in a web search. Susvolans 18:07, 22 November 2005 (UTC)

Hey, no need to look elsewhere: 16:47, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

There's no information anywhere (not even Wikipedia itself!) that Memphis has anything other than electric streetcars or buses - neither of which are cable cars. I've removed that claim. Kesmet 21:15, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

Merger with Tram[edit]

This article and Tram have been tagged for merger. Obviously since a cable car is a kind of tram that would mean merging this article to Tram.(It is noted below that not all cable cars are trams. Note also that not all trams are cable cars. So they'd both have to be merged under a different title. All the more reason not to merge.) The problem (other) is that this article is about 15 kilobytes & Tram is about 32 kilobytes. If they were merged, either some heavy trimming would have to be done or we'd produce a huge article. I therefore oppose any merger. Jimp 17:52, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

Oppose: Not all the systems described here are street railways (Glasgow subway, London & Blackwall) and they would lie very uncomfortably within Tram. User:Jimp's point about size is also very relevant. --Old Moonraker 18:01, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
OPPOSE: I find it hard to believe that anyone could make a serious suggestion to merge these two articles, unless of course they were 'just passing', knew nothing about either subject and didn't bother to read either article. The merge-proposer, who was anonymous, did not have the decency to give any reason why he thought the merge should take place. The main reasons for a merger would be: size – two smaller articles merged together, or a stub/small one into a larger one – or subject overlap – in which case, these two both need to be merged with 'railway' to create one huge mega-article. As has been discussed, neither criteria are satisfied here, and I cannot think of any other reasons why a merge would be appropriate. It's clearly not going to happen, so I would suggest the merge banners are removed 'soon' to stop wasting people's time.
PS - apologies for shouting -- I've seen a number of pointless merge requests in my time, and this has to be the most pointless yet -- EdJogg 12:03, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
I also oppose, since a cable car is a type of technology that has many differences from trams. I'm going to remove the tags. --NE2 17:03, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
Just to back up NE2 in removing the merge tag and add my OPPOSE to the others. An encyclopedia is not an exercise in "One Size Fits All." Cable railways are unique enough and of enough interest in and of themselves to merit a separate article. -- Cecropia 18:40, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

A proposal[edit]

I'm proposing a small re-organization of articles including this one at: Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Trains#Cable_railways:_a_proposal. I'd be grateful for your thoughts. Please post comment to Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Trains#Cable_railways:_a_proposal to keep the discussion in one place. Many thanks, —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gwernol (talkcontribs) 18:50, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Cities currently operating cable cars[edit]

I believe the line, "The only moving National Historic Landmark in the United States..." to be incorrect. The Wiki entry for San Francisco cable car system states, "The San Francisco cable cars are one of two moving National Historic Landmarks, along with Mystic Seaport Museum's steamship Sabino." Reference: Report on San Francisco's Cable Cars, San Francisco Beautiful May 2007 Dick Kimball (talk) 20:16, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

Laon Poma 2000[edit]

Sometime between late 2006 (when I last edited this article) and now, the Laon Poma 2000 link has migrated from 'Cities currently operating cable cars' to 'Cities previously operating cable cars'. When and why did this line close?. -- Starbois (talk) 13:31, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Digging further, it seems the Laon Poma 2000 is still operational, and indeed celebrated its 20th anniversary in February. So I guess the move was either accidental (the editor spotted the France subheading without realising the section it was in) or a bit of unspotted vandalism. I've moved it back, and added a reference to the info I found. -- Starbois (talk) 11:16, 2 April 2009 (UTC)


Given the previous discussion about Wellington having a funicular, surely it should be removed from Cities Previously Operating Cable Cars, as the system has not fundamentally changed. While it is a hybrid it either should be in here as a current system, or removed as it is considered a funicular. It cannot be a former system if it is still running with the same characteristics as it always has done. Libertyscott (talk) 14:47, 10 August 2009 (UTC)


How do the cable-cars go around corners/curves in the street? If there cable is adjusted with a guidance-wheel the clutch-thingy would damage the wheel or make the cable derail, right? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:02, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

Well you could try reading the article; or use the question to spur some further research. Try here. Or here. Moonraker12 (talk) 11:28, 15 December 2010 (UTC)
PS Comments on talk pages should be added to the bottom of the page, and signed.Moonraker12 (talk) 11:30, 15 December 2010 (UTC)
That second EL deserves to be added: thanks, Junior! --Old Moonraker (talk) 12:08, 15 December 2010 (UTC)


User:Goldensmith recently added the following:

  • Bangkok (1892–1968, Cause traffic jams
    Bangkok Tramways
  • Lopburi (1956–1964, Cause traffic jams)

However a brief web search suggests that neither city ever operated cable cars. See for example, and

What is more, the illustration included in the article and above is clearly of an electric car.

I have reverted the addition. If I've missed something, please re-add with cites showing these were cable cars. -- chris_j_wood (talk) 12:38, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

Cable car guy blacklisted?[edit]

Why is blacklisted as a link? Sammy D III (talk) 16:10, 27 August 2013 (UTC)

The names[edit]

It is all very well to mention the cities in which the cable car railways were located, but what about the actual names of the systems in the list of cable car systems? Peter Horn User talk 14:52, 7 September 2013 (UTC)