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Celebrating 150 Years of Cable Cars: Watermusic in the Track

October 19, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join historians and authors Mike Phipps and Don Holmgren in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the cable cars in San Francisco. Phipps and Holmgren illuminate Hallidie’s journey to California, his wire rope use in the gold mines, plans for the Clay St Hill cable car and subsequent involvement in the patents, and Pacific Cable Trust.

San Francisco’s Cable Cars are known and loved around the world, a unique and recognizable icon of the City by the Bay. They have climbed the City’s hills, halfway to the stars, since 1873, and are still going strong a century and half later. The present system is only a remnant of a once vast and even worldwide network of cable car lines. The story of San Francisco’s cable cars is a captivating one. They have had a spirited and wild history, in keeping with the place of their birth. Once part of the pioneering effort to make San Francisco a world class city, they have survived to the present day, not as a mere curio or relic, but as an active and much-loved part of the City’s transit system. A trove of historical photographs, maps, diagrams, and stories help bring their chronicle to life.

Mike Phipps is a native, fourth-generation San Franciscan and Board Member of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum. He is a graduate of both the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University History Departments. For thirty years he has taught California and United States History, as well as Western Civilization, at local secondary schools and colleges. As a Director of the Friends of the Cable Car Museum, he has given lectures and written historical articles for the museum. His article, Hallidie’s Folly: The Story of the Clay Street Hill Railroad Cable Cars, appeared in the Winter 2009 edition of The Argonaut.

Don Holmgren is a native San Franciscan and a product of the public school system and the California School of Mechanical Arts, where he majored in mechanical drawing. This was followed by training and apprenticeship programs at Enterprise Engine Company and American Can Company. He continued on with a ten-year stint as a mechanical design draftsman at the California Packing Company. His career was interrupted by two years in the US Army where he served as Artillery Surveyor. He eventually joined the Ortho Division of Chevron Chemical Company, retiring from there as Drafting Coordinator for their Richmond Facility. In addition to his activities with the Friends of the Cable Car Museum, Don has contributed to the writing of two books on San Francisco street railway history and authored an article for the Bay Area Railroad Association Journal.