Vienna Cars

History Of The Vienna N1 Class Cars—Part 2 - Article by Chuck Bencik (appeared in the October, 2007 Trolley Lines newsletter)

Editors Note: This is a continuation of Chuck’s article from the July newsletter. Part 1 can be found here...

ELIN Connector
The ELIN Connector

Equipment on most of the N1s was standardized in 1966. Cars 2879 and 2880 received permanent roof resistors, for low speed operation and snow plowing – the roof being the only place where they could be installed. A third N1, No. 2878, was modified for operation with two herbicide tank cars with a chemical agitator. Car 2880 received the ELIN 10-pole receptacle with a pre-resistor. This receptacle allowed electrical control of the special track maintenance cars. The City Railway modernized its usable hopper cars with the ELIN receptacle. In 1977, car No. 2880 was designated an “NH” or service car, and became the first of sixteen N1 cars reassigned the NH number.

Vienna Car 6984

On October 30, 1981, San Diego's three N1 cars were redesignated NH 6888, NH 6890, and NH 6891. One of them, NH 6891, has the ELIN receptacle, a feature not found on all the NH service cars. Some cars, like NH 6888, were painted yellow, the remainder stayed red. The red cars with a fast-acting brake valve, for service with trailer cars, rendered those cars not suitable for passenger service. These special brake-quipped cars received a yellow stripe painted under their number – San Diego's NH 6888 and NH 6890 being among them. SDERA's three NH cars were retired September 13, 1981. The remainder of Vienna's N1 passenger cars were retired by July 1, 1983.

  Vienna Car 7004

In 1992, Senator Jim Mills, who was then chairman of MTDB, had the idea for some pleasant, interesting European cars to run in downtown San Diego. He contacted Gehrhardt Schroeder, one of the officials of Siemens. After checking around, Schroeder found three cars at the Mariazell Museum in Austria. They were willing to give San Diego's MTDB three N1 cars, provided that (1) they would be operated, and (2) Mariazell Museum would be credited as the donating institution.

Brad Saunders of Starboard Properties took care of the costs of shipping, and in Fall of 1992, the cars were transported on rail cars to Bremerhaven, loaded aboard the ship Canada Express, and delivered to San Diego. The intent had been to have two cars run in tandem in the downtown triangle, with Austrian markings and advertisements. The third car was be used for spare parts. However, when the cars were landed, and placed on the tracks, they derailed on their way to the depot. All ideas for solving this problem of “railability” were exhausted: the modifications needed were far more extensive and costly than originally planned, and, besides, there was the matter of boarding features for the handicapped. As the discretionary funds assigned evaporated – MTDB needed all it could for the expansion of the San Diego Trolley system – the euphoria also evaporated. The cars were relegated to a siding at the 12th and Imperial trolley yard, and covered in green tarpaulins and became known as “The Green Mummies.”

Vienna Car 1409

This state continued until about 2003 when the prospect of additional MTDB/MTS rolling stock for the projected Green Line raised its head. All track space in the trolley yard was at a premium. Was SDERA able, and willing, to take over the three orphaned Vienna cars? The legal issue centered on whether SDERA could take custody, given the assumed original terms of transfer and title. Finally, the issues were resolved, and on August 6, 2005, C & D Towing moved the cars to the north end of the National City Historic Depot property, together with a collection of parts removed, principally pantograph parts. The badly corroded roofs were later scraped, sanded, cleaned and repainted.

Prospects for their future restoration to operating condition are bright, with the many initiatives of our President, Dave Slater. If SDERA can assemble the funds for their restoration, obtain missing parts from Austria, locate the SGP plans, manuals, and documentation, and – who knows – obtain the support of certain prominent Californians of Austrian extraction, the future looks bright: bright RED, WHITE and YELLOW!