The Cable Car Museum in San Francisco is an often-overlooked stop in San Francisco. It's free to visit, doesn't take long and is a good place to learn more about the city's trademark method of transportation. It is housed in the old Ferries and Cliff House Railway Co. Building, which was built in 1887.
The museum isn't just a boring collection of static cable car artifacts and facts, either. Besides being a museum, it's the hub for all the machinery that keeps San Francisco's moving landmarks running.
Cable cars work by grabbing onto a constantly-moving cable that runs beneath the city streets. At the museum, you can see the machines that pull the cables and the system of pulleys that send them out into the city.
You can watch the cable-pulling machinery in action from an elevated gallery and then go downstairs to see that moving cable passing through a series of "sheaves" as it enters and leaves the building.
Other displays at the Cable Car Museum include antique cable cars and photographs taken during the system's reconstruction from 1982 to 1984.
You can also pick up a more interesting than usual souvenir at the Cable Car Museum, made from sections of cable car track and cable.
Cable Car Museum Review
We rate the Cable Car Museum 4 out of 5. It doesn't take long, but it's a fun way to find out a little bit more about what goes on under the streets and how the cable cars work.
You don't have to take my word for it. We polled about 150 of our readers to find out what they think about the Cable Car Museum. 61% of them say it's great or awesome and 24% give it the lowest rating.
In other online reviews, people give the museum high marks. In fact, it's one of the highest rated places to visit in San Francisco on Yelp. You can read reviews of it on Yelp for yourself.
People love the fact the admission is free and almost everyone ends up thinking it was more than they expected. The museum is especially interesting for history geeks, gearheads and engineers, but everyone finds something there to keep them interested. The only complaint they have is that it's noisy, something that can't be avoided if the cable cars are going to keep running.
If you really love those cable cars, you may enjoy these photos of San Francisco cable cars.
What You Need to Know About the Cable Car Museum
The museum is open every day except Easter, Thanksgiving1, December 25 and January 1, Admission is free. It will take you about half an hour to view the exhibits.
Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA
The best way to get to the Cable Car Museum is the most obvious - by riding a cable car. If you're on foot instead, you don't need a map, just follow the Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason cable car tracks.
Street parking is nearly non-existent near the Cable Car Museum, and the nearest public parking lots are in North Beach. The closest MUNI bus lines are the 1 and 30.
1 Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.