There were 3 cable car lines in Cincinnati by 1887. The first was the 7.8 mile long Gilbert Avenue Cable and was completed in 1885, it was used until 1898 when it was converted to electric car operation. The second was the 8.5 mile long Mt. Auburn Cable Railway (1887-1902) and the third was the 8 mile long Vine Street Cable Railway (1887-1898). Cable cars were propelled by gripping a cable which moved through a tunnel or conduit beneath the surface of the street. The cable was endless, a great loop, which moved around large driving wheels powered by a stationary engine. It was guided around curves by an arrangement of pulleys or sheaves. The grip was a simple jaw like device on the car which could grasp the cable thru a slot in the street causing the car to move. When the jaw was open, the cable merely slid through and the car remained stationary. Cable car lines were used mainly on hills too steep for horse drawn street cars to go without great effort. Cable would greatly cut down on the transit time. A good cable would last 6 or 7 months. It came in reels containing 13,600' of cable 1 1/2" in diameter. They were spliced together.
Cable Car Routes
The first image looking north on Walnut Street shows the 3 types of streetcars being used in 1892. The Vine Street cable car is making the turn on the Walnut St. end of Government Square to return to Vine St. The Horse car is shown at the top, and an electric streetcar is in the foreground. The 2nd image is a photo of an actual postcard showing the Vine Street cable car crossing the Miami and Erie Canal over a two lane bridge. The 3rd image shows the huge coil of wire being hauled up Gilbert avenue in 1885 to be used on the Gilbert Avenue Cable Line. The 4th image show two attached cars of the Mt. Auburn Cable Railway. The wheel shown in the center of the first open car (called the grip car) would be turned to lower the grip that would grab the cable and pull car 13 along with the trailing closed car #30 (called the trailer car) along the roadway. The lever controls used to grip the cable were used on later cable cars.
The 1st image shows the first cable car to operate in Cincinnati (Walnut Hills Cable Road). Starting on July 17, 1885 this car was pulled to the bottom of the Gilbert Avenue Hill by horses, while still in motion, the horses were unhitched and a detachable grip was coupled to the bottom of the car. This was done in 20 to 30 seconds. At the top of the hill the process was reversed. This process was so expensive that plans were made to extend the northern part out to Woodburn Avenue, and the southern end to Broadway. The first run over the expanded line was made on Oct. 1, 1886. Another extension to the line made a loop downtown from Broadway to 6th St., to Walnut, to 5th St. and back to Broadway. The northern end went from Gilbert Ave. east on McMillan to Woodburn and out Woodburn to Hewitt to a turntable near Blair Road for the return trip. The 2nd image shows the view on Gilbert Ave. looking south toward the city in 1914. The last image shows the Walnut Hills Cable road grip car 133 and its trailer car 148 pausing for a picture at the northernmost end of the line at the Blair loop. As you can also see in this photo, the United States Mail was also carried by these lines.
The 1st image above shows the Mt. Auburn Cable Railway grip car 17 and its trailer traveling west on Rockdale Ave. near Burnet in Avondale in 1890. As you can see Rockdale Ave. had not been paved yet. The 2nd image is of the Vine Street Cable Railway car 258 at Vine and Molitor (University) in the winter of 1887-88. It shows the conductor, at left, and the gripman, on the right. The last image is car 302 on Middleton between Shiloh and Ludlow around 1888 again the conductor is on the left and the gripman is on the right.
Mt. Auburn Grip Car 21 Pulling Mt. Auburn Closed Trailer 14