Click for slideshow

After nearly seven decades, the two streetcars that once formed the backbone of a classic roadside diner north of Buellton are back on the move.

The cars, which were initially brought to the patch of land just off Highway 101 about a mile and half north of Buellton in the 1940s, were purchased by retired contractor Tom Pierze, who has begun the process of moving them to Morro Bay. Pierze plans to restore the vehicles and use them as part of a new diner there.

“I was driving by and I saw this thing out here, and I just thought, ‘That’s me,’” said Pierze, who added that he is a big fan of the Food Network series “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and is looking forward to putting the cars back to use. The relocation will officially conclude a unique piece of history for both Buellton and classic roadside restaurants.

One of the cars was built in 1901 and the other in 1911 and they were originally used for public transit in Los Angeles. The cars were eventually brought to the Buellton area, and Ed Mullen used them as bookends for his new highway diner, which opened in 1945. The expansion of Highway 101 relegated the diner to a side street with no main exit from the highway and, with business no longer booming, it was closed for good in 1958. It has remained on the same lot since.

The old diner’s fate became a hot topic in recent years when the land on which it sits was re-zoned for residential use. The current land owners, Frank and Anke-Ev Haas, had been working to restore the diner on their own, but gave up on those efforts when it became clear the former eatery was going to have to either be moved or demolished. Fearing the latter, they had been trying to sell the building and its streetcars for the past three years, even offering to donate the structure to the city of Buellton, an offer the city never took them up on.

“We’re really glad that they’re not being destroyed, but we’re sad that they’re being moved out of the Buellton area,” Anke-Ev Haas said of the streetcars. “Buellton was not interested.”

Pierze, who lives in Cayucos, happened to be driving by one day and noticed the unusual streetcar building along the side of the road. With his interest piqued, he pulled over to check the place out. It was then that he saw the “For sale” sign. It didn’t take long for him to hammer out the details and purchase the building and cars for $15,000.

He began breaking the structure down for transport about a week ago and started moving the pieces up to Morro Bay on Monday. He will stage them on a lot he purchased in Morro Bay off of Highway 41 and Main Street – which was formerly home to a Shell Station – until he gets the proper permits, but he said he would like to have the new diner up and running by the time school starts in August.

Although much of the interior of the cars will be restored and re-painted, Pierze will keep much of the original framework and appliances – including refrigerators, lamps and other relics from the streetcars’ early 1900s-era origins.

Pierze, who worked as a contractor for nearly three decades in Utah and has also done several renovation projects in southern California, said he has no doubts the cars will soon be looking good as new.

“The insides are pretty nice,” he said. “They won’t need too much work to look fresh again.”

willis@syvjournal.com