Gustav Sutro also developed a plan for steam dummies and cable car lines, the Park & Cliff House Railway, that would run from downtown out to the Cliff House resort being built by his brother, mining magnate Adolph Sutro. He sold his interest in the project, while in the planning stage, to W.J. Adams, who had plans for a line traveling north-south over Nob Hill, which he planned to call the Powell Street Railway. The two proposed lines were merged into one, the Ferries & Cliff House Railway.

The Powell Street line opened in March 1888. Beginning at Powell and Market Streets, the line ran past Union Square in the shopping district, over Nob Hill and the mansions of the Nabobs, through the Italian district of North Beach, ending on the Wharf at Bay and Taylor Streets. The firm’s east-west route opened in April 1888, running on Washington and Jackson Streets to Central [Presidio] Avenue, where a steam line at the intersection of Central and Sacramento Street completed the route west to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths resort.

Both lines operated out of a powerhouse located at the corner of Washington and Mason Streets, along a complicated system of conduits and drives. Howard C. Holmes, who also worked on the O’Farrell-Jones-Hyde extension to the California Street line, designed the system, as well as the incorporation of the Clay-Sacramento route, formed out of the old Clay Street Hill Railroad, into the Ferries & Cliff House line in 1892.

After remodeling the Clay Street Hill line in 1891, cars rerouted from the original double lines on Clay to single tracks running west on Clay to Larkin, then over one block to Sacramento Street and west to Central Avenue. The line then ran east on Sacramento direct to the Ferry Building.

The Ferries & Cliff House line could not afford to operate as an independent firm, and therefore merged into the Market Street Railway in October 1893. After incorporation of the line, the Sacramento route expanded its line 1.9 miles along Lake Street and 6th Avenue to meet the proposed 1894 Midwinter Fair at Golden Gate Park. The McAllister Street powerhouse ran the cable for this extension, which opened in February 1894.

The Ferries & Cliff House Railway, with the other routes of the Market Street Railway, became part of the United Railroads of San Francisco in 1902. In 1904 the company closed the Sacramento line west of Walnut Street, turning that over to its electric trolleys. In 1906, the Earthquake and Fire destroyed both the Washington-Mason powerhouse and most of the cars on the line. The Powell-Mason line was restored in total on its original route, while the Washington-Jackson line ended at Steiner Street instead of Central Avenue, and the Clay-Sacramento terminus was cut back from 6th Avenue to Fillmore. The Clay-Sacramento line, constructed out of the old Clay Street Hill Railroad, shifted its route so that henceforth eastbound cars ran on Clay Street and returned westbound on Sacramento.

Cable Car