January 17, 2013 - Cable Car Day

Does your town have an endless wire ropeway?

Well, nobody's town calls their mass transit by this name (darn!), but the inventor of the cable car first called his invention an endless wire ropeway!

When people say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” they mean that people see a need and create a new device to meet that need. And when Andrew Smith Hallide saw a horrible accident on the hills of San Francisco—a horse working with a team of horses to pull a streetcar lost its footing on the steep roadway, and fell, resulting in its own death and the death of several other horses!—Hallide knew there had to be another way to take people from here to there over those steep hills! A way that didn't endanger horses.

And his idea involved a sort of rope made of wire.

That's what the cable in a cable car is, after all. Ropes are made by many, many fibers twisted or braided together to make a strong cord, and cables are very similar except, instead of fibers twisted/braided together, cables are made up of twisted/braided metal wires.

So I love the name “endless wire ropeway”—although I have to admit that a 5-syllable name isn't as handy as a shorter name.

If you're wondering why today, of all days, is Cable Car Day, this marks the anniversary of Hallide's first cable car railway patent, in 1871. That's 142 years of clang-clang-clang history!

Take a virtual ride on a cable car here

This video shows how wire rope cables are made, and this one shows how normal fiber ropes are made. 

Also on this date:

Benjamin Franklin's birthday

Anniversary of the Pope moving back to Rome

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