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Operating cable cars

I have seen many impressive electric traction layouts in books and mags, but I haven't seen any operating cable car layouts. For many years, Bachmann has made electric Powell St. models in HO scale. It is sad, though commercially understandable, that they are made to run on standard gauge HO track, even though the prototypes run on 3' 6" gauge track.

Yes, there were cable cars which ran on standard gauge, but they were much larger, and no such lines run today. Most of those lines running in San Francisco were electrified after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

The Bachmann model does suggest two options: 1) For HO scale models, re-gauge the Bachmann trucks for 12mm, TT gauge track; and 2) use the stock Bachmann trucks on S scale coachwork. Either approximation is really quite close.

San Francisco cars have been painted in a variety of schemes throughout the years, and in recent years the city has celebrated this by painting individual cars in representative colors. Although Bachmann makes thier model in three paint schemes, as any cable car fan knows, there are also different car configurations, even amongst Powell line cars. And then, there are my favorites, the double-ended Cal Cable cars. There's lots of room, for a lot of variety!
In my last post, I was talking about using electric models, to represent cars that were actually cable-drawn. There is a prototype for that. Back in the 1960s, actual San Francisco cable cars ran around Knott's Berry Farm, both within the park, and also in the parking lot.

In fact, there were two lines, which ran in different areas of the parking lot, in different years. Two rail, 3' 6" gauge track was laid in the pavement, and the cars ran on rechargeable batteries. The cable grip actually was the speed control, and a lever and foot pedal operated the track and wheel brakes, as always. No emergency slot brake, of course.

One thing- the cars were ex-California St. cars, in their original Cal Cable paint scheme. Not the single-ended Powell St. car, which Bachmann makes. However, it would not be difficult to bash two Bachmann cars, into a Cal St. type. Or, to scratchbuild the coachwork. It's a perfect excuse to build with wood, as that's what the real thing was built of. Plans and pictures of the cars are easy to come by.

Another thing- Knott's ran both regular length Cal St. cars, and the short Jones St. shuttle type. This is how I first learned about the second Cal Cable line, as well as the cutback of the Cal St. line. The cars still had their original routes painted in scrolls, on the front sills.
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