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Friday, March 13, 2009

SDERy Birney #301... Survives!

Figure the odds! What are the chances that the prototype of my modeling project, the prototype from some 90 years ago, turns up... not missing?!?! I'm three quarters of the way into modeling San Diego Electric Railway #301 when not only does a historic San Diego birney car show up, but its the actual SDERy #301 birney car! I mean really, figure the odds!

This photo of #301 was the best portrait of a SDERy birney car I have ever come across. So I purchased it from Don's Depot Railroad Photos soon after I had won a basketcase Ken Kidder HO scale birney model from eBay, to use as a guide for rebuilding the model into a San Diego car. So by that measure, I began modeling #301 only because I had a good picture of it!

San Diego Electric ordered the 301 and another 24 sister cars in 1920. And adding another 10 birney cars to the roster in 1922. But the birney cars, it turns out, were not a favorite with the passengers, so the 301 was sold after only 3 years of service.

Joe Testagrose photo

According to Sacramento Northern On-Line, The Sacramento Northern bought SDERy #301, 304, 309, and 311, becoming SNRR 62-65. And later bought SDERy 306 thru 308 becoming SNRR 66-68. These cars enjoyed a long career on the Sacramento Northern until that railroad called it quits in 1947.

SNRR #62 (ex SDERy #301) had the sad honors of making the very last run of the Sacramento Northern. Most of the cars were either scrapped or dimantled to be used as chicken coops or other structures. But! The Bay Area Electric Railway Association scraped together $250 to buy # 62, the only SN Birney to survive intact. Ol' #62 was stored in various shops around the bay area, occasionally run on excursions, before finally being moved to a museum at Rio Vista Junction in 1964, where it was restored and repainted in 1973 in SNRRs green paint scheme. It is now believed that this car never wore those colors. It may have wore its San Diego colors for a while before being repainted in SNRR white with blue trim.

Here is ex SDERy #301 today, fully restored and making regular runs at the Western Railway Museum near Sacramento and San Fransisco. Frank Hicks photo.

I think I'll have to arrange a little excursion soon to go visit the ol' ex San Diegan. Yessir! A little excursion!



  1. Hi Dan D,

    It is completely worth you time to make it out to the Western Railway Museum. The museum has a lot of equipment, is really cool and totally in the middle of nowhere. I'm in the Bay Area, relatively nearby, but it's a trek to get over there.

    They actually have a section of the the old Sacramento Northern main line electrified and running.


  2. Knowing the kind of careful work the WRM does in their restorations, they may well have stripped down the paint layer by layer--and might be able to give you some idea what the underyling "mission yellow" was.

  3. Yessir! We set aside a weekend in May to head up that way and see the museum, Dan. And I will most definitely have to ask about Mission Yellow, that was a fantastic idea "Bus", thank you!