Video: San Francisco Tram Ride in 1905

See it here.

This is a wonderful, 7-minute film of a tram ride down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905 before the 1906 earthquake and fires wiped most of it out. Shows the chaos of traffic, absence of traffic lights, kids playing in the street and lots of other interesting things.

I like how people and vehicles just weaved in and around each other. Nowadays, it seems people are afraid to get within 10 feet of each other.

Wow, that’s cool as hell. I sent the link to a friend in SF who I’m sure will appreciate it. Thanks!

Looks like it’s a cable car – at least I think that’s a cable slot. Market Street seems so much wider with so little traffic on it. Didn’t know they had synthesizers in 1905, though.

I don’t think it’s a cable care. At least, I don’t see the overhead cables, for the one the camera is mounted on or the oncoming ones.

Fascinating that these people were in ignorant bliss of the following year’s upheaval. I wonder how many of them survived it. And to what age the children runing around lived.

Cable cars are pulled along by an underground cable. There’s a gripper that extends down through the slot in the street.

Cool video though!

Gotta wonder how many people died back then in traffic accidents.

Very neat. Did you notice how many of the pedestrians turned around to stare curiously at the camera? It was probably a huge boxy thing that most of them had never seen before. And the ladies’ hats!

That’s definitely a cable car. You can tell by the oncoming cable cars on the parallel tracks. They look just like the cable cars still in use.

What’s odd to me is…okay, even if the earthquake and fire hadn’t destroyed so much of the city the following year, from 2009, I don’t think it would have looked any more different than it does today. San Francisco was rebuilt on the same street pattern it had before the earthquake, and the building the cable car is headed to, the ferry building, is still standing. For some reason I expected to think “Wow, to think of what we lost in that disaster!” but I think the ravages of time would have had the same effect. (At least on the physical appearance of the city. I’m a native San Franciscan and know full well the psychological effect it had. People are still shaken up about it, over a hundred years later.)

Market Street hasn’t changed much except that the cable cars have been replaced with buses. Cable cars are now only on steep hills so the tourists think its a roller coaster and will pay whatever the outrageous charge is.

That video was taken from the Internet Archive, where you can download a 14-minute version, without the crappy background music, in proper MPEG-2 (DVD) video.

The same video, and a bunch of others equally interesting, can be found on the Library of Congress American Memory website.

Before and After the Great Earthquake and Fire: Early Films of San Francisco, 1897-1916

You’re using a different definition of cable car than I am. You seem to mean an electric trolley that takes up power from an overhead wire. Actually, I did see at least one trolley crossing the street that looked like it had an electric pickup on top, but it was retracted.

I meant cable car in the sense of the remaining cable car system in San Francisco. The cable cars are propelled by a moving cable running just under the pavement. A grip extends from the car through a slot in the pavement to grab onto the cable.

There is a reference to the 1905 film and the Market Street cable cars here. The San Francisco Cable Car museum has a page on the 1883 Market Street Cable Railway.

I should have known that about the cable cars, especially since I’ve actually ridden them in San Francisco. But it’s been almost 16 years since I was last there, and I think I must be confusing them with some of those electric-type buses you see in some places, like Beijing, where there’s an overhead electric wire they run along.

As a one-time tourist to San Francisco I assure you I know the difference between a roller coaster and a cable car.

I rode the cable car (the fare was a couple of bucks IIRC, well within the overall budget of the trip) because it was going in the direction we wanted to go and it was part of the experience of visiting the city, an experience you can’t replicate many other places.

I have no doubt they charge the tourists here in Boston to go inside the Bull and Finch pub (aka Cheers) but it is no skin off my nose if they go…for many people it is part of the experience of visiting the city, one they can’t replicate other places.

I wouldn’t even make fun of you if you decided you had to visit that tourist trap.

They have buses like that in San Francisco, too.

IIRC, there are quite a few SF residents who ride cable cars to get where they’re going; it’s not just for tourists.

Now, Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s a tourist trap…