A volunteer and writer for History Colorado, Brian Cooke has a degree in journalism/science writing from Lehigh University. In his spare time, he works as a freelance environmental writer for the Forest Service and as an editor on National Park Service reports. He is currently seeking a master’s degree in natural resource stewardship and a certificate in conservation communications from Colorado State University. Brian’s website is http://briancooke.writersresidence.com/.
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.