Cable cars in San Francisco

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC took a trip on a San Francisco cable car. That was the most fun you can have outside a book!

We’ve also ventured onto buses and trams and various other forms of transport. You know what? Everyone chats to everyone in San Francisco.

My impressions? Public transport reveals San Francisco as a friendly city full of cheerful, or if not cheerful then vociferously expressive, people.

Even the gripman on the cable car had a big smile for the TC. Check out the photograph below. Gripmen are a fascinating breed.

Travel tip

Not only do the Americans drive on the wrong side of the road, their light switches are all wrong too: Push up to switch on the light. (This is an especially useful tip when it’s dark. And after all, that’s usually when you’re trying to turn on the light.)

Another tip: City blocks in San Francisco are long. Don’t try to walk too many of them.

Recommended restaurant

Zazie, a French bistro in Cole Valley. The food is divine. The TC had braised steak Marseillaise. It was so tender it fell apart at the touch of a fork.

The book I’m in

Managing Writers, A Real World Guide to Managing Technical Documentation, by Richard L. Hamilton.

A very well organised book with plenty of information for a bookworm to get his teeth into.

The photos

Me on the Powell & Mason Streets cable car:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Did you think “cable car” meant a car that hangs from an overhead cable? The TC did, bless her cotton socks. So she was surprised to see something that looks more like an ornate tram:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

The cable runs underground. It’s a set of steel strands wrapped around a rope core. The cable moves at a speed of about 15km per hour. The car grabs onto the cable and is pulled along the track. When it reaches the end of the track, the car runs onto a turntable:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Now people have to turn it around by hand so that it can go in the other direction:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

The star of the show is the gripman. This is a highly skilled and physically superior being. The competition to become a gripman is strong and the training is harsh. This bookworm has read somewhere that only 30 percent of trainees pass the course. Undaunted to find herself in such illustrious company, the TC smiled at our gripman. Just look at the smile she got in response:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Behind the gripman you can see the impressive array of levers he has to manipulate. He is the dude who makes the car grab or release the cable. He also has to judge the gaps across intersections, where the cable does not run. And he has to watch out for unaware motorists and pedestrians and other mere mortals who don’t know just how out-of-control a cable car can be.

Here’s a closer look at the levers and handles:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Want to go for a ride on a San Francisco cable car? Try these videos:

Here’s the gripman dude in action:

Do you have a head for heights? Here’s a very short video of the cable car starting at the top of a steep hill:

The trams in SF are special too. Some of them are heritage models, and some are even imported from other cities around the world. Here’s a golden oldie from Milan, that we spotted in Market Street:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Even the buses in SF have something to say for themselves. Many of them are powered by overhead cables. This can get a bit ugly at intersections:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

But hey, it means the buses can have “Zero Emissions Vehicle” proudly emblazoned on their sides:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Bus seats are roomy, unlike in Sydney where the TC can be heard to complain that other passengers sit on her rather than next to her. This worm is feeling magnanimous today, so here’s another tip. (This is the third one in a single blog post. Feel privileged!) To request a stop, you pull the cable that runs along above the windows. It’s not an emergency cord.

That’s all for today dudes.


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m honored that your TC has chosen to have you spend time in my book, Managing Writers. I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I enjoyed writing the book.

    Best Regards,
    Richard Hamilton

  2. Hallo Richard,

    Hey author dude, I am totally honoured that you dropped by. I’m very comfortable in your book. When the TC has finished reading it, I suspect that she’ll have something to say about it too. She usually does.

    The TC fancies herself as a bit of a writer too, you know. Sometimes I have to reign her in when she gets somewhat wordy. So this worm has his own take on “Managing Writers in the Real World” 😉

    Seeya in a book sometime

  3. Tsk, tsk, Wordsworm. You need to hang out in the dictionary again. Try moving between these pages: rain, reign, and rein… then revisit your comment to the esteemed Mr Richard. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt — it can’t be easy typing blog entries and comments and making sure there are no typos when your hands are perpetually stuck down.

  4. Tee hee, you got me there Rhonda. I’ll ask the TC to drop me into a dictionary for a while.

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