Did you know that Andrew Smith Hallidie was born today in 1836? He was an inventor and engineer. When he was 16, Andrew came to California from England and worked at the gold mines. At the mines, the ropes used to haul heavy machinery wore out after only 75 days. Andrew designed a new material – wire rope. The replacement ropes lasted for two years. Later Andrew Hallidie also designed the world’s first cable car system in San Francisco. The system used a wire cable to move cable cars along tracks. When the car or trolley ‘grips’ the cable, it moves, when it lets go of the cable, it slows down and stops.
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When he was 16 he and he father travelled from England to the gold mines of California. They did not succeed at gold mining and his father returned to England, but Andrew stayed and worked as a miner, surveyor, and blacksmith.
Andrew Smith Hallidie also built many bridges in California.
Initially wire ropes were used mainly in mining operations. Later they were also used for situations where heavy loads needed to be lifted safely and reliably, such as in cable cars, cranes, and elevators. Today, wire cables are found in many other applications such as the connection between the controls of an airplane and the various control surfaces on the wing.
The San Francisco cable car system may have been the first cable car system in the world.
A cable car system has a wire cable that is constantly moving along a track. When the cable car needs to stop, it releases the cable. When it needs to move, it grasps the cable again.