Cable car (railway)

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A cable car or cable railway is a mass transit system using rail cars that are hauled by a continuously moving cable running at a constant speed. Individual cars stop and start by releasing and gripping this cable as required. Cable cars are distinct from funiculars, where the cars are permanently attached to the cable, and cable railways, which are similar to funiculars, but where the rail vehicles are attached and detached manually.



The first cable-operated railway was the London and Blackwall Railway, which opened in east London, England, in 1840. However the rope available at the time proved too susceptible to wear and the system was abandoned in favour of steam locomotives after eight years. Though there may have been earlier attempts to pull cars by endless ropes, the first cable car installation in operation was the West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway in New York, which ran from 1 July 1868 to 1870. The cable technology used in this elevated railway involved collar-equipped cables and claw-equipped cars, and proved cumbersome. The line was closed and rebuilt, and reopened with steam locomotives.

The first cable cars to use grips were those of the Clay Street Hill Railroad, which later became part of the San Francisco cable car system. This building of this line was promoted by Andrew Smith Hallidie with design work by William Eppelsheimer, and it was first tested in 1873. The success of these grips ensured that this line became the model for other cable car transit systems, and this model is often known as the Hallidie Cable Car.

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