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Backcountry Explorers Old Timer Tales
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The Hallidie Ropeway consists of a single endless moving wire rope or cable passing around horizontal grip pulleys at each end of the tramway and is supported at intervals by towers using vertical pulleys or sheaves. To this endless ropeway aerial ore cars are secured and as the rope travels it moves the cars and their ore with it. The weight of the loaded ore cars and gravity move the ropeway down hill were the cars are emptied of their ore at the bottom. The empty cars are moved back up hill on the ropeway by the heavier ore filled cars going down hill. In this way there is no need for any type of propulsion or than gravity.
The Hallidie Tramway was invented by Andrew Smith Hallidie. Hallidie was born in London in 1836. His father, also Andrew Smith, was a black smith and inventor in Scotland and held several patents for making metal wire ropes from 1835 thru1849. The younger Smith later adopted the surname Hallidie in honor of his Uncle and Godfather, Sir Andrew Hallidie.
Both father and son came to California to work the gold mines. After no luck prospecting, Hallidie’s father returned home while Hallidie stayed and became a blacksmith. He noticed that the manila hemp rope being used to haul heavy ore buckets up from the mines wore out quickly do to weather and wear. He developed woven iron rope or cable that weighed less than hemp, didn’t absorb water, and were much stronger and lasted years instead of months. It was Hallidies wire rope that was the basis for his aerial ore cars that he later developed around 1867. Hundreds of Hallidie bridges and tramways were built around the world for the next thirty years.
In 1871 Hallidie completed plans to move street cars on rails propelled by underground cables. Hallidie had watched a horse drawn trolley and felt sorry for the horses struggling up the wet cobble stoned hill as they slipped and were dragged to their death. On August 1, 1873 a top Knob hill, Hallidie along with friends and associates, jumped on board San Fransico’s first cable car and rode down Clay Street from Jones Street to Kearny Street. Hallidie’s cable car invention was a success and repeated in several other cities. Hallidie became a wealthy and prominent citizen of San Fransisco until his death in 1900.