Volunteer with SDERA

Preserving the past and sharing it with others is an important part of the San Diego Electric Railway Association and the National City Depot Museum. Through the efforts of our volunteers, we are making progress but there is still so much to do.

How can you help as a volunteer? Here are several areas that we need your energy, time, and talents:


A museum needs knowledable docents to tell the story. In our case, the story is of how the coming of the railroad helped National City become what it is today. We also have the story of streetcars and the general history of rails in San Diego. Our docents have access to materials to learn about these stories so they can, in turn, share it with our visitors.

Our Depot is open Saturdays an Sundays and we have split the time commitment down to 4 hours each day - 3 hours while we are open and opening or closing duties. Some of our docents will take a full day shift or find a single shift once a month is all their schedule allows. The Depot also hosts occasional field trips and need docents during the week and always needs staff to assist. We prefer to have more than one docent at the Depot to make sure we can spend the right amount of time with our visitors. Often, there is a "3-Railer" around to run the model trains - though we need more of those as well!

If you are interested, contact our Docent Coordinator at and we can have you work with one of our current docents to "learn the ropes."

Talents, Hobbies, Trades

There is always something to do around a museum and with vintage items, there is usually few parts to buy. Some of the items in our collection are scratch-built like the VW Streetcar-On-Wheels. Others, like Car 54, are more than a hundred years old. Anything done on these items needs a careful, loving touch.

We have several projects that NEED someone with very specific skills. Here are a few examples:

  • Class 1 Streetcar Restorations - We have our newest residents that need TLC and some serious woodwork. These were previously part of a home and need stabilization and restoration.
  • Car 61/62 Display - We are preparing to create an exhibit element from pieces of a two very old streetcars. Volunteers are needed with work working skills to help recreate some damaged pieces.
  • Birney Car 336 (former Old Spaghetti Factory streetcar) - This 1916 car was modified to open it up for use in the restaurant but now that it is part of our collection, this car NEEDS windows! We have a template for a window and just need someone with the skills to reprooduce enough windows to keep the weather out of this wooden car.
  • Car 6891 from Vienna - This cousin to our San Diego Trolley car is in need of some TLC from buffing the oxide from the paint to general restoration and care.
  • Car 359 PCC - Retired in 1982 from San Francisco's MUNI, this car is a great example of the PCC-style cars from the 1940's. It needs metal-work, electrical, paint, and upholstery.

Grant Writing

As a fairly small non-profit, we know we can't rely on membership dues or generous donations for some of our larger projects. Grant income is critical to the growth of museums. We are looking submit proposals for several projects in the next budget cycle and need an experienced writer.


This is like everything we do; there are new things to be done and other things to just maintain.

Historical Research

A vast number of historical documents and photographs require scanning, cataloging, and filing. Specialists and workers needed here. We use Omeka for our Collection Management so any experience with this would be great!

Marketing and Media

Visitors will only come if they know about our Museum.


Projects require leadership to succeed. Our Executive team and Board of Directors is part of the leadership of this organization but we also need leadership for each of our key projects.

If you are interested or know someone that would like to put their skills to a good use and help preserve history, contact us at or call the Depot at 619-474-4400.