Musings on the Cable Car Museum

A mere half block from my apartment, it is a mystery why I hadn’t visited the Cable Car Museum sooner. And it’s free!

I walked over in the afternoon, catching another great foggy view of Alcatraz. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing so much water on a daily basis. It’s always throwing me off. Even when I lived in Tokyo, the ocean wasn’t something I saw too often.

I’ll admit, I haven’t ridden a cable car yet. It’s on my list to do, but the fact is that I live right by most of the lines. I walk by 3 of the 4 lines almost daily, so I guess I haven’t found a situation where I’d need to use them.

The museum was full of awesome, well-written information. I actually understand how the cable cars work now! Check out the photo gallery below for a graph, but essentially, the cable cars have a claw grip that grabs onto a constantly moving wire. If the cable car is fully clamped onto the wire, it moves at it’s maximum speed of 9.5 mph. When the car needs to slow down, the cable car loosens it’s grip on the wire. Genius!

Like many cities, San Francisco had horse-drawn cars. But with horses come other problems, like tons of manure. Interestingly, my neighborhood now has a variety of dog and human…. on the street. Some things never change.

One of the starts to the cable car was the invention of the wire system–this is the same system used today. I was reading a biography of the guy who invented it, and surprisingly he initially came to San Francisco as a gold surveyor. Through working around mines and other engineers, he learned a lot about the business, the tools, and more importantly, what could be improved. In failing to find gold and strike it rich, this guy gained the knowledge that would turn into his idea for the cable system. Coupled with his engineering skills, he created a new kind of wire that could handle a cable car.

Ever since my successful dabble with entrepreneurism (see my website here!) all my ideas about being a business man/woman have gone out the window. The stereotype in my head was more like a nightclub advertiser, stuffing handouts and business cards into unwilling hands. In my head, to be a business woman, I would have to act in ways unnatural to me. To be clear, this is what I thought would have to do, not what I think of all other business people. In starting my website, I found a voice for myself as a writing coach, and as a counselor to students and families.

Now, I see that my two years in admissions and four years as a student at Carnegie Mellon may not have led me to a “gold mine” of a concrete, guaranteed career plan. At the same time, I have soaked up valuable information like a sponge. Information that actually has a dollar value. It’s weird to think of a brain like that, but I’m starting to see that this may be the key ingredient to entrepreneurism. More so than a pocket full of flashy business cards.

As I think about what kind of career(s) I want to have, I keep finding little stories like this everywhere I look. Man goes hunting for gold, ends up earning it through quirky cable cars which long after his death come to represent the very city he moved to in search of gold!

On top of inspiring stories and history, I found gems in articles and photographs. Of course, seeing the inner workings of the cable system was really cool as well. Whoever designed the museum did a great job of making such an mechanical warehouse appear accessible enough for the casual tourist. I definitely recommend it!

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