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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Cable Cars

Cable Cars

GRHC - May 22nd, 2011

Like the streets of San Fransisco, Grand Rapids invested time and money towards using cable cars, along with all ready established horse drawn street cars, to climb the steep streets of the city. Eventually cable and horse drawn cars were replaced with their electric counterparts.    



Grand Rapids had horse-drawn streetcars as early as 1864, but did you know that the city also had cable cars, like those in San Francisco; they served the same purpose—to climb the steep hills.

The Valley City Street & Cable Railway Company was given a franchise in 1885 to construct a cable railway on Lyon Street, from Canal to Union, then on Union to Bridge St., now Michigan St., and down Michigan hill to Canal.

The first powerhouse built for the cable car system was at Lyon and Grand. An endless steel cable, operating on drums, furnished the power, which came from a steam plant located in the powerhouse. The cars on the Lyon Street line began operation on April 16, 1888.

The cable car system used a double-jaw side grip. The grip man stood in the center of the cable car and operated two levers: one for the brake and the other the grip to pull the car.

Later a central powerhouse was built at the SW corner of Lyon and Campau for new cable car lines that were added to serve the city. Eventually twenty-three cable cars were in use as well as fifteen passenger cars drawn by horses.

The company had invested over a million dollars in the construction of its cable and horse-car lines. The investment was a disastrous failure. In 1890 they merged with the Street Railway Company of Grand Rapids, and soon after electric cars replaced cables and horses.



Full Details

TitleCable Cars
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, radio, cable cars, Street Railway Company, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringMay 22nd, 2011

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