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United Railroads, 1905-1907

Built 1890 by Ferries & Cliff House Railway

The fiery red of this cable car is a reminder that Powell Street cable cars were painted this way on the day they went up in flames. It was April 18, 1906, when San Francisco was changed forever by the most devastating earthquake-fire combination in American history.

Cable Car 25 at Car Barn

Rick Laubscher photo

San Francisco’s transit service had been further consolidated in 1902 with the rise of United Railroads, which acquired the Market Street Railway of 1893 and other operations. This Chicago-based utility became known for its corrupt operation, helping create a public backlash that led to the opening of the competing city-owned Municipal Railway in 1912. In its operations, United Railroads abandoned the color-coding of individual lines. By 1905, it had repainted all its Powell cable cars red with gray roofs, as modeled today by cable car No. 25.

The great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed virtually the entire Powell Street cable car fleet. To replace the Powell Street fleet, United Railroads used cable cars, including this one, that had been working the Sacramento-Clay line and were stored outside the fire zone.

By about 1909, the transferred red cable cars were repainted green, modeled on Powell cable car No. 13.

The distinctive livery of cable car No. 25 was recreated with help from our non-profit group, which serves as Muni’s preservation partner.

1946-early 1960s

Full cable car roster »