Cable Car
From digging gold to moving people

It was during the Gold Rush when the city of San Francisco began rapidly transforming into its current form. More than 40,000 people from not only different parts of the US, but from around the world, swarmed into a village that had a population of only 800. Among them was the inventor of the Cable Car, Andrew Hallidie.

He was only 16 years old then and it was his father, Andrew Smith who made a decision to set out on an adventure from Liverpool, UK to California. Being an engineer and an inventor, he had a patent for producing wire ropes. He envisioned to invest his assets he had earned to California and set out for the new world with his son who worked at machinery in daytime and study at night.

However, the father was soon disappointed with the scene of gold mines in California and went back home next year. On the other hand, his son, Andrew Hallidie remained in California seeking gold in different camps around the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains for a few years, but wasn't successful. The work condition under harsh climate was so hard. Not only that, he encountered accidents and mountain fires, and was attacked by bandits at times. It was a life risking days.

Incidentally, among many of those who came to California in the gold rush wave was a Japanese sailor; that was John Manjiro. After being drifted away from the coast of Japan, he landed on a deserted island. He was saved by an American whaling ship and was invited to Massachusetts by the captain Whitfield to study navigation and land surveying. After eight years since he left home, Manjiro decided to set out for journey back to Japan and came to gold mountains in California to earn the travel expense. With about $600 he earned in 70 days, he crossed to Hawaii and finally arrived to Ryukyu (Okinawa) by the ship for Shanghai.

Being stalemated in finding gold, Andrew Hallidie sought to find other way to make his living. First, he became a blacksmith and repaired tools and ammunitions, and later worked on construction of bridges and aqueducts. In 1856, came the turning point. He developed a device, which carries minerals, using wire ropes. He went to San Francisco to but large amount of wire and made the first wire ropes in California. The technology inherited from his father finally came into flower in the new world.

After that, he moved to San Francisco and succeeded in wire rope production and bridge construction and in 1871, he announced the proposal of the Street Car Construction, which gave him legacy even after he passed away. In those days, they used 4 or 5 horses with free use of whip to pull wagons in the steep slopes of San Francisco. Many times, horses fell and people around them were caught in accidents. The purpose of Hallidie's proposal is to ameliorate this situation by replacing horses with cable cars pulled by wire ropes.

People's reaction was suspicious. He couldn't find sponsors and time quickly went by. Hallidie decided to spend all he had to this plan and persuaded three of his friends for investment. It still wasn't enough and he had to loan money from bank with 10% interest. The construction began finally, but he and his team daily encountered unexpected problems. They spent days and nights till August 1st, 1873; after this day all rights would expire and everything would be lost.

The final moment of success or failure had arrived. At five o'clock in the morning, a small group of people gathered at the crossing of Clay Street and Jones Street. "All aboard!" Hallidie ordered. As the steering lever, called "the grip" was pulled, the cable car began descending the hill. The bottom was reached in safety and Hallidie and his friends exchanged a round of hand shaking. The town was still asleep. I wonder if Hallidie ever imagined people from all over the world will come to take a ride on his invention in the future.