Monday, July 13, 2009

The Big Birney

What is a Birney you ask ?

The prototype (the small cars in the foreground)

A Birney is a single truck streetcar, other than the PCC car of a few years later, the Birney is really the only other truly "standard" US design for a streetcar. Designed to be a lightweight, low density car, it was utilized in literally hundreds of places across the US and other countries as street railways and interurbans looked for cheap solutions to providing service on lines with mininal passenger traffic.

I'm building a model of a Birney streetcar, based on the double door design as used by the Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric. One of the more unique features of the car is that it's built to 1:6 scale, or 2 inches equals 1 scale foot. There is some backstory to the reasoning for this.....

When I was a little boy (7-8-9 years old), like many young boys of the time (late '60s) I had a standard GI Joe toy soldier. The GI Joe of the day was a 12" tall doll (Sorry, no other word is truly appropriate). I was one of the luckier kids, I had a fair number of appropriately scaled accessories, the full size jeep amongst them. At the time, my father had an extensive HO scale model railroad, and I wanted a train that my GI Joe could fit into. Even at that age, I realized we're talking something pretty big and basically impractical, but the idea never really left my head.

A little more than a year ago, I was playing around with the dimensions of a Birney car and realized that, while still big, it wasn't an impossible idea to match a Birney model and the now 40 odd year old GI Joe idea. I made a consious effort to build this in a way that literally anyone could do, ie, no special tools, nothing that can't be found in a standard hobby shop or most craft stores. The majority of the car is built with sheet styrene.

The original layout, the car side is roughly 5 feet long

GI Joe himself, posed in the door openings.
All 12 inches tall (6 scale feet)

The basic body mocked up

Siding applied, windows in place,
platforms taking shape.

Major step towards completion, the truck is coming together.

Progress as of June 2009, time to start thinking about a roof and interior

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