Cable car bell ringing champ wins one for mom


Six-time cable car bell-ringer champion Byron Cobb regained his title at the 54th Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest on Thursday during a sunny afternoon in San Francisco’s Union Square.

Cobb, who won his seventh title and was in tears, said he did it for his mom who passed away a month ago, He said this win meant more to him than the other six titles he previously won:

“This is better than the first. This one means more to me than any other one that I won. This is one is for my mom.”

Cobb has worked in the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Cable Car Division for 28 years. He previously won his titles in 1995, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2015. Cobb is a gripman on the cable car.

He told SFBay his performance on Thursday included a little bit of a “rap beat,” reggae and samba.

Leonard Oats, also a cable car gripman, was the champion last year, but had to settle for second place this year behind Cobb.

Cable car conductor and gripman Singh Balraj Rai took third place at this year’s competition.

Oats said that he will need to practice more if he wants to regain the title back year.

The winningest cable car bell-ringer champion, Carl Payne, who has the won the event 10 times, gave some friendly advice to operators before the competition began:

“Drink a lot the night before.”

Payne added:

“It’s all in the wrist.”

Amateurs were also given a shot to show off their cable car bell ringing skills. The San Francisco Examiner reporter and columnist Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, jazz singer Amanda King KMEL’s G BiZ, and students from the Access SFUSD Arc program took part in the amateur competition.

Students from the Arc program took home first place.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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