The San Diego Electric Railway was part of a network of public utility, real estate and transportation companies controlled by one of the great builders of San Diego, John D. Spreckels (of Spreckels Sugar fame). Like most American transit systems in the 1930s, they found their ridership declining due to the popularity of the private automobile, the spread of the suburbs beyond the areas served by the system, and the effects of the national depression. In 1937 they purchased 28 of these modern PCC-type streetcars (numbers 501-528) in an attempt to lure back riders.
These two cars and their sisters served San Diego only until 1949, when all of the City's remaining streetcar lines were replaced with buses. San Diego began construction of a new Light Rail system in 1981, and today operates a large, and very successful, rail transit system known as the San Diego Trolley.
Following the end of streetcar service, 20 of San Diego’s PCCs were resold to El Paso, Texas. The remaining 8 cars languished in storage until 1957 when they were sold to an equipment dealer. Car 508 was purchased by the Museum in 1958 and became the first streetcar to arrive at the Museum site in Perris, California, arriving February 28, 1958. It was maintained in operating condition into the 1990s, and currently awaits restoration so that it can be returned to service.
Car 528 was purchased by the Railway Historical Society of San Diego in 1957. It was displayed at the county fairgrounds in Del Mar until 1977, in which year it was donated to the Museum. The current white paint scheme was applied at the fairgrounds and will eventually be replaced by the original San Diego PCC colors.