The Piranesian Fantasyland That Runs S.F.'s Mobile Monument

Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley tour the "otherwise nondescript brick building" on San Francisco's Mason Street that houses the machines running the "Endless Wire Ropeway" that hums beneath the city's streets and pulls its famous cable cars.

The brick building at 1201 Mason Street houses the "surprisingly fantastic" San Francisco Cable Car Museum. Inside the museum, in addition to historic photographs and display cases filled with mechanical devices, one finds "a cavernous and open interior that stands all but gutted to make space for these vast winding wheels [that pull the cables] and the electric motors that drive them."

"However," say Manaugh and Twilley, "it's not until you descend into an underground viewing area to see the the spinning 'sheaves' that bring each of the four cable lines back into the building from their channels beneath the streets that the immense strangeness of the cable car system really becomes apparent."

"The fact that something so familiar and over-photographed -- in an era dominated by notions of urban software, immaterial metaphors of 'the cloud,' and the very idea of 'smart cities' -- actually operates by way of shadowy, clockwork mechanical systems so exhilaratingly titanic, analogue, and, frankly, bizarre was an astonishing thing to learn."

The best part? The museum, and its "Herculean wheels," are free and open to the public daily.

Full Story: The Giant Underground Machinery That Runs San Francisco's Famous Cable Cars

Comments

Build Your Own Paper Block City

Urban Fold is an all-inclusive kit that allows anyone to build the city of their dreams with a few simple folds.
$24.95
building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
$25
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."
$19.95
Women's t-shirt with map of Los Angeles

City T-Shirts for the ladies!

Women's Supersoft CityFabric© Fashion Fit Tees. Now available in six different cities.
$24.00