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Monday, November 24, 2008

Birney Project ~ Fabricating the Seats

Despite the Bullant motor/drive mechanisms tiny size, it's still huge inside the Birneys interior, taking an unfortunate toll on the models see-through quality as seen in the prototype photo. There are a couple of options as to how to hide the motor. One common practice is to use frosted glass in the windows. But I'm going to keep the glass clear and try to distract the viewers attention from the motor by surrounding it with interesting details. Lots of colorful passengers looking out the windows will hopefully help the black motor disappear into the shadows.

First off, I measured the motor to determine how much of the interior its going to eat up. Birneys came in different sizes and configurations, but generally they were 8' wide with 36" seats and a 24" isle. As you can see in the blueprint I drew, the motor takes up the whole isle and half the seats. But thats all right. There is enough seat left to seat passengers on, thus distracting from the motor!

I'm going to make the seats from brass stock. Styrene would be a lot easier and faster to work with, but brass will add heft to the model, helping with performance. I started with a 1/4" x .032" brass bar. I lightly filed the sharp corners to round them a bit, to make the seat back appear plush.

NorthWest Short Lines press bending break "The Bender" is used to bend the brass. This works quiet well, especially when used correctly! I made most of the seats the hard way until I realized I was doing it wrong. Note to self: review instructions.

The bend should be less than 90 degrees, to give the seat that reclining look.

Then cut the seat from the brass stock. I didn't bother rounding the seat cushion, it'll never be seen. Repeat above steps until enough seats are made.

The front seats and back seats are clear of the motor, so I built them full size. This should help rap details around the motor. I fabricated the motorman's seats from more brass bar and tube stock. These seats I left pretty rough. I didn't want to fuss with detail that will never be seen. Notice also that in the second window you can see a screw protruding from the floor about where the motorman's chair is going to be. Also, the motor bolsters (also seen through the windows, they have the number "20" embossed on them) also protrude from the floor. These are a problem. I'm going to have to work the seats around these. Yessir! Gonna have to work around these!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Birney Project ~ Darn It All To Heck!!!

The close proximity of the two trolley pole mounting holes are causing the trolley pole bases to interfere with each other. As usual, I found this out the hard way.

So I found these poles where the base is facing the opposite direction! Perfect! Problem solved.

Whoops! Somethin' wrong here. These poles were designed for PCC cars and I think that the roof of PCCs curve down where the poles attach, angling the pole. So the upward angle of the base (which would be level on a PCC) prevents the pole from laying flat on the Birney car. It can’t reach the hook! Dang it! So it’s back to finding a suitable pole. This can’t continue for too long because poles are expensive!!! (I can’t return these poles because I had to trim the bushings to fit the Birney.). These setbacks are really blowing my modeling budget. Dang it! Yessir! Dang it all the heck!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Birney's In The Movies!

It's Birney mania I tells ya! Birney trolleys are now showing up in a theater near you!

Changeling, Directed by Clint Eastwood, with Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, out in theaters now, features Birney trolleys throughout the movie!

I hope I don't spoil it for you but, the trolley is actually a replica riding on rubber tires! The same technique was used on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that also featured Pacific Electric streetcars. in early Los Angeles.

Here is a rubber tired Roger Rabbit trolley parked on the side of the road waiting for its close-up.

Rubber tires because tracks are long gone from the streets of LA. Todays trolleys run on separate right-of-ways. So production crews have to lay "track" for the movies. Bill Volkmer photos.

The Changeling production crew built their Birney based on the design of an authentic surviving Pacific Electric birney car #331 and sister car #332, now residing at the Orange Empire Trolley Museum in Perris, California.   I'm afraid I didn't have my facts straight dear followers. My sincerest apologies. The car used in the shoot is in fact an actual Birney! According to John Smatlak's report at
The Birney car wasn't from OERM, but rather "Omaha Lincoln & Beatrice #4, (Brill 1926, order #21021, info from Frank Hicks). It's on rubber tires for filming of The Changeling at the San Bernardino depot (seen in the background) and at other locales. OERM loaned seats and other interior furnishings for the car, along with the complete mainline steam train mentioned previously."

During location shooting in Pasadena, local resident David Johnson was on hand to take these videos of the “trolley” providing “background” for a shot.

With the movies fantastic period costumes and authentic automobiles, and with a little Hollywood movie magic, one could escape reality for a couple hours and enjoy a nostalgic trolley ride through 1920s Los Angeles on a Birney car. Yessir! A nostalgic ride on a Birney car!


Monday, November 03, 2008

Birney Project ~ Darn it!

With the motor installed, the next step is to get it hooked-up electrisicle wise. That means installing the new trolley poles.

The insulating bushings that came with the poles are too big for the existing holes in the Birney. So I had to drill them out so the bushings would fit. Easy enough.

Then I popped in the poles and wouldn't you know it... the trolley pole bases are too long! They are overlapping each other! Darn it! Ah- Dang it! I had no way of knowing beforehand. Aw shoot! And I drilled out the mounting holes! Oh phooie! Now I have to order different poles! Dang it man, how long is that gonna take?! Darn it! Darn it! Darn it!

Yessir! Darn it!