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Best Local Tourist Trap Locals Should See San Francisco 2000 - San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Can you imagine the palpitations the Board of Supervisors would go through if somebody proposed the idea of a cable car in this day and age?

"How many people would fit on this contraption?" About 50.

"How will they be seated?" Some in the cabin, but many will hold on to poles while going up steep hills, inches away from street traffic.

"What is their maximum speed?" Nine and a half miles per hour.

"On rainy days, how will these 'cable cars' stop on those slick metal rails?" We'll dump sand on 'em.

"What's powering these things?" An interconnected array of nine miles of thick cables running underneath the entire northeast sector of San Francisco. Oh, and those cables wear out quick, so we'll need lotsa money to replace them regularly.

"Who drives them?" Burly, muscular folks who constantly risk slicing the cables at the corner of Powell and California, and whose option in case of an emergency is to hit a brake that stops the car cold and might throw passengers directly into traffic.

"They'll have fare collection machines, right?" Um, no. There'll be another person walking around collecting fares, who'll have to work the rear brake as well.

"Where will they stop?" In the middle of the street, mainly -- some- times in the middle of intersections. We'll trust San Francisco drivers to stop.

Only a town like San Francisco could continue to support and endorse something so clumsy, so inefficient, so potentially dangerous -- and so magnificently romantic and beautiful -- as the cable car. Locals take the cars for granted as the picture-postcard representation of this town, though there's a sizable legion of folks who do use them as a practical Financial District commute. But think for a moment about how rare this transit creature is, how diligently backward it is in a place that's all about the future -- and then make a trip to the Cable Car Museum to notice the details. The museum is first and foremost the powerhouse where all the cables meet, as well as the garage in which the cars are repaired. But it also offers a wealth of memorabilia, including the first cable car, news articles, and information on the levers and other mechanical gewgaws the vehicles use. Most stunning, however, is watching the massive 510-horsepower engines turn the wheels that move the cables; hop down to the basement, and you can see the smaller wheels keep the latticework going. And did we mention all of this is available at an admission fee of precisely zero dollars? It's a great place to remember the romance of the cable car, to hop onto one just outside the doors -- and to be reminded, if you're driving, to friggin' stop when the cable car does, OK?

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