Cable Car Museum

Learn about the old-fashioned cable cars that have transported San Franciscans for generations as you tour around a historic powerhouse and working museum.

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is a tribute to the city’s iconic transportation system. Discover the fascinating heritage of one of the last manually operated cable car systems in the world as you explore museum exhibits that link the 19th century to today. Find out about the inventor of the cable car, as well as the system’s technology and rapid expansion throughout the decades. Explore the functioning powerhouse, which still drives three of the historic downtown lines.

Enter the spacious old powerhouse and begin your exploration of the historical exhibits. The museum was established in 1973 and encompasses a complex of heritage engine rooms and galleries. Stroll around several restored cable cars, including two restored cars from the 1870s.

Follow a timeline of San Francisco’s public transit history, beginning with the invention of the cable car and its installation in the city in 1873. Find out about the system’s expansion throughout the city, as well as its near demise before being resurrected by the dedicated Friends of the Cable Car Museum group. Peruse mechanical displays, photographs and historical artifacts that help to tell the story of San Francisco’s cable cars.

Check out the machinery that drives the cables from two lookout decks in the powerhouse’s upper floor. You can also descend below the Mason and Washington streets’ junction to see the expansive underground haulage cables. Stop by the museum’s gift shop to pick up cable-car souvenirs, memorabilia and history books.

Jump onboard one of the historic cable cars and go on an inexpensive and nostalgic tour around the city. You can ride one of two lines that connect Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf. A third route travels along California Street.

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is situated in the Washington-Mason Powerhouse and car barn on Nob Hill. It is open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. This attraction is free to visit; however, cable-car rides incur regular transit ticket costs.