Henry Casebolt, another pioneer of urban transportation, operated horsecar lines in the City throughout the 1860s. In1876 Casebolt turned to cable cars to replace unprofitable horsecar lines.

Much of the Sutter Street Railroad was similar to the Clay Street system, with little innovation in the way of materials used or design. The one significant difference however, and Casebolt’s main contribution to cable railways, was a grip that grabbed the cable from the side, instead of below, while gripmen employed a lever to set the car in motion, rather than the hollow screw device patented by Hallidie for his Clay Street Railroad.

The Sutter Street Railroad, unlike the Clay Street line, ran over fairly level ground, and its steepest point had only a 4% grade. Converting the old horsecar line to cable was completed in 1876 and the line officially opened on January 27, 1877. Its cable cars ran on Sutter from Market Street west to Larkin Street. The cable line proved a tremendous success over its previous horsecar system, increasing its ridership by 962,000 in the first year of operation. In late 1878, the company opened a new crosstown line, which ran from the powerhouse, situated at Larkin and Bush Streets, south on Larkin to Hayes Street. The firm also extended the main line on Sutter Street further westward to Central [Presidio] Avenue in the Western Addition, which at that time was sparsely populated.

Casebolt sold out his company to a local real estate broker, Robert F. Morrow, in 1883. Morrow promptly began another extension of the line, on Larkin south across Market and down 9th Street to Mission. Morrow also abandoned the 1879 powerhouse at Sutter and Presidio Streets, in favor of consolidating all lines into a single powerhouse at Sutter and Polk.

The Sutter Street Railroad became the Sutter Street Railway in 1887, and the same year the company further extended the Larkin Street line south to Brannan. In 1888, the crosstown line pushed further from Polk Street to Pacific Avenue and west on Pacific to Fillmore Street. An overhaul of its whole system in 1890-91 saw an extension of the Pacific Avenue line west from Fillmore to Divisadero, giving the company a total of six miles of track, along with a mile of horsecar track that connected the Sutter Street line at Market with the Ferry Building.

The Sutter Street Railway operated until 1902, when it merged with United Railways of San Francisco, along with two electric streetcar companies and the Market Street Railway. Industrialists from the East Coast controlled this new conglomeration of transport in San Francisco until the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, when most of its cars, cables, and powerhouse were destroyed.

Cable Car