A guest blogger for History Colorado, Brian Cooke has worked as a writer and editor for more than twenty years. His past volunteer work has included leading night tours on Alcatraz and answering questions at Deadman Lookout Tower near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. Brian currently writes for a market research firm and for the US Forest Service. He also writes blogs for Visit Fort Collins.
While lots of cities had electric-powered streetcars, trolleys, and trams during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, relatively few had Birneys.
Birneys were the Volkswagen Beetles of the streetcar world: They were small, light, mass-produced, and relatively affordable. About six thousand of them were built from 1915 until 1930. Today only a handful of Birneys are left in the world, and perhaps a dozen of them are still being operated as rail lines.
Fort Collins’s Birney Car 21 is one of them, and it turns a century old this year. Its full name is Fort Collins Municipal Railway’s Birney Car 21, but people also call it “Car 21” or just “Birney.”
The decision to landmark our house in Fort Collins’ historic Old Town neighborhood didn’t come easily. It was about six years ago: My wife and I had recently moved to Colorado from an apartment on a busy street in San Francisco, and we were looking forward to owning our first house together—with as few complications as possible.