Featured Locomotive for April 2011

The Tram

This month we shall get right away from locomotives and talk about their small cousin, the Tram. The earliest trams were horse drawn, electric traction soon took over. However, all the will in the world will not get a tram to climb a 10% slope or greater. To get around this problem the cable car was invented. The sole surviving operating example is in San Francisco, USA.

The Cable Car

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The first was the Clay Street Hill Railroad, which opened 2nd August 1873 & commenced full service 1st September. It was a huge financial success and the promoter, Andrew S. Hallidie, became a wealthy man, enforcing his patents onto other operators.

Our example is the Powell & Mason Sts. No22, shown here completely out of context for an urban transport system, Market Street opened in 1883, operated by Southern Pacific Railroad. They were the largest operators and a cable car left the terminus every 15 seconds - Wish - Wish.

Electric traction took over but not on San Francisco's hilly roads - 1906 earthquake destroyed powerhouse and buildings along with 117 cable cars. In 1982 the system was shut down for major repairs' the present system has operated since 1984, to the delight of locals and the tens of thousands of tourists who have ridden them - the writer included. The Powell-Mason Line (#59) terminus is 2 blocks from the famous Fisherman's Wharf. The Power House is open to the public - it operates six cables at 9.5mph (15.3kph) driven by 510hp (380kw) electric motors. The cable is 1.25 inch in diameter (3.175cm) multi strand. The gauge of the track is 3ft 6inc (1067mm). Sydney had a cable car system - Miller Street & Falcon Street, North Sydney.

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