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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!


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