modorney wrote:... At intersections, where cables cross, one wire is on top, and the other is below. The "below" cable car releases its grip and rolls through the intersection. They are sloped, and gravity works every time. ...
While gravity is a key ingredient in many situations, inertia is the primary ingredient when cables cross. I find it fascinating to watch the "below" cable car release the cable at just the right instant and then coast through the intersection to the pickup on the far side. These intersections are pretty flat so gravity is a minor point here.
As an outsider from Boston, I find the logistics fascinating. The switching, coasting, changing ends, for a California car to get to-and-from the car barn is genius engineering. To me, the cable cars are more fascinating to watch than to ride.
On a recent trip to SF, I watched the following at the turnaround at Bay and Taylor: For whatever reason, two cars switched positions for the return trip to Market Street. In other words, the 2nd car in was to be the first car out. There's a crossover about 200 feet from the turntable. When I saw the 2nd car take the crossover (under gravity), I wondered how this was going to be accomplished as the cars are single-ended. The car coasted down the slight incline, through the pick-up point, then coasted up a smaller incline to the turntable. On the turntable, the car was rotated 180 degrees (manually) and then coasted back down the small incline back to the pick-up point. A fascinating piece of engineering and execution.
Here are four questions I hope locals (or anyone) can answer:
(A) The wait at Hyde/Beach sometimes exceeded an hour during my recent visit. Even with three or four cars waiting in line, they only leave once every 12 minutes or so. In other words, there appears to be adequate rolling stock (and idle employees) for shorter headways. (Tourists: It's only a six minute walk to the Bay/Taylor cable car with a far shorter wait)
(B) Are the cable cars profitable? Five bucks for two-mile ride on public transportation is probably one of the highest in the nation. (I'm not bitching about the cost, I'm just asking if the cars pay for themselves)
(C) Below is a photograph of a cable car diverging switch (On Jackson between Powell and Mason). I understand the slots for the track and the cable. What are those two "extra" slots that are about three feet long and jut out where the cable slot crosses a running rail?
(D) Here's a photograph taken at Mason and Jackson looking east towards Powell. Note that the left-most track (the Mason track) has a slight "jog" in it before turning down Mason Street. If you look closely, you will notice a similar jog in the same track at Powell Street (Look under the standees on the oncoming car). I think I have figured out their purpose, but I want to hear from other if they know why the tracks jog.
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