Cable Cars extensive guide to Berkeley and San Francisco area, plus inspiring articles about trips around the world

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The secret to an empty cable car is:  9 a.m. on the California line at Embarcadero.

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Before these beloved objects were developed by Andrew Hallidie in 1873, horses had to pull cars up the city’s steep hills.  Now, 26 “single-enders” operate on the two Powell Street routes and 12 “double-enders” operate on California Street.  (Single-ended cable cars have controls only at one end and need to use a turntable at the end of the line to reverse direction.  Double-ended cars have controls at both ends and need only a crossover track to turn back.)  Catch the Powell-Hyde line at the turnaround located at the base of Powell Street (at Market Street) and ride it up and over the hills all the way to Aquatic Park.  This line goes down the steepest hill and affords the most breathtaking views.  The Powell-Mason line ends at Bay Street at Fisherman’s Wharf.  The less-used California Street line begins at Market Street and runs along California Street, passes Chinatown and then climbs over Nob Hill, ending at Van Ness Avenue.  (The world’s oldest operating cable car--No.19--started service in 1883  It was recently restored and put back to work on the California line.)  Riders can also board at designated stops along the routes.  It is interesting to note that the late, great Maya Angelou was San Francisco's first African American female cable car conductor. 

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