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San Francisco's Historic Cable Cars Upgrade to LED Lights


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Since 1873, the best lighting the historic San Francisco Municipal Cable Cars had was dim incandescent headlights that did not do anything for illumination. They were merely bright enough to serve as an indicator that a cable car was coming. After over 140 years, that finally changed with their upgrade to LED light bulbs from LEDtronics.

Arne Hansen, Supervisor of Maintenance at the San Francisco Municipal Cable Car Barn, said the first comment he got from an operator was “What a neat idea!” With the installation of the LED headlights, the visibility has gone up tremendously.

A19 style LED light bulbs were also installed inside the passenger cabins. Those lights, along with the PAR46 LED headlights, are saving them money on energy as well as maintenance—especially in the wintertime, when the lights are left on much longer.

“The biggest issue was the light on cold, wet, dark nights,” said Hansen. “We would change the batteries in the cars maybe 10 or 12 road calls in a night. We got these better batteries now that last much longer, but still, with the GPS system and the cameras, they were taking a drain on the batteries.”

The old incandescent lights would quickly burn out, break from the constant vibrations, and cause the batteries to drain much faster. Since switching to LEDtronics LEDs, those issues are a thing of the past. Hansen said they ordered LED lights for the entire fleet, and they are all working without any problems.

Between those advantages and the increased visibility, “All the operators give it a thumbs-up, they all approved it, they all loved it,” Hansen said. “The project was a complete success.”

Hansen said he has been working with the Cable Car Barn for over 30 years, and he considers it an ideal place to work. “The operators here are all happy going to work, because they have people that want to ride their cars and they're on vacation,” he said. “It's a good place to work, being it's the only national moving historical monument in the world.”

The San Francisco Municipal Cable Car Barn is a popular spot for tourists in the city. Hansen said the museum is packed all day, and they are always welcoming to visitors.

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