Streetcar Belt Service

I was truly surprised when I mentioned “riding the belt” at my “Second Thursday” lecture for the Friends of the Cabildo earlier this month, and nobody knew the term. Now, I’m 58, and the St. Charles/Tulane belt service ended in 1950, but there have always been folks older than me who remember this.

Streetcar Belt ServiceĀ for Seven Cents

streetcar belt service

NOPSI 434 on the St. Charles Belt, 1947 (courtesy George Friedman)

Belt service was practical. The idea was for streetcars to run in a loop. Cars on one line would go in one direction, cars on the other line in the opposite direction. So, from 1900 to 1950, the St. Charles line went outbound. Starting at Canal and Rampart:

  • Inbound (towards the river) on Canal
  • Right turn onto St. Charles Avenue
  • Outbound (towards uptown) on St. Charles
  • Right turn onto S. Carrollton
  • Outbound (heading towards Mid-City) on S. Carrollton
  • Right turn on Tulane Avenue
  • Inbound (towards the CBD) on Tulane
  • Tulane to Elk Place
  • Elk Place to Canal
  • Back at Canal and Rampart

The cars whose roll boards said TULANE ran this in reverse, Elk to Tulane to S. Carrollton. Then, left turn onto St. Charles, inbound to Lee Circle. Curve around Lee Circle to Howard, then right turn on Carondelet (since St. Charles between Canal and Lee Circle is one way the other way). Left turn at Carondelet and Canal to Rampart.

streetcar belt service

NOPSI 817 on the Tulane Belt at the New Basin Canal Bridge (courtesy George Friedman)

Equipment on the St. Charles/Tulane belt was Brill double-trucks until 1915, then 400-series arch roof cars. In 1923, 800-900 series arch roofs also ran on these lines.

streetcar belt service

NOPSI 1182 trackless trolley at Canal Station (courtesy Streetcar Mike)

Belt service was discontinued in 1950, when the New Basin Canal was filled in, forcing changes in roads and traffic patterns. Tulane line converted to trackless trolleys in 1950. St. Charles was re-configured to its present-day route.

Canal/Esplanade Belts

streetcar belt service

“Palace” Car on a test run on the Esplanade Belt, 1911. (courtesy NOPL)

Riding the belt also was a thing on the downtown side of Canal, from 1903 to 1931. The Canal and Esplanade lines ran streetcar belt service as follows:

Canal

  • Outbound on Canal Street from N. Rampart
  • Canal Street to City Park Avenue
  • Right turn on City Park Avenue to the bayou bridge.
  • Cross the bayou, then inbound on Esplanade Avenue
  • Right turn from Esplanade onto N. Rampart
  • Left turn onto Canal Street from N. Rampart
  • Inbound on Canal to Liberty Place
  • Loop around Liberty Place
  • Outbound on Canal to N. Rampart

 

Esplanade

  • Inbound at Canal and N. Rampart to Liberty Place
  • Loop around Liberty Place
  • Outbound on Canal to N. Rampart
  • Right turn onto N. Rampart
  • Left turn onto Esplanade
  • Outbound on Esplanade to the bayou
  • Cross Bayou St. John to City Park Avenue
  • Right turn on City Park Avenue
  • City Park Avenue inbound to Canal Street
  • Left turn on Canal Street
  • Inbound on Canal to Rampart.

Equipment on the Canal/Esplanade belts was Brill double-trucks until 1915, then American Car Company “Palace” cars.

Streetcar belt service on Canal/Esplanade was discontinued in 1931. After the “beautification program” of 1930, The Esplanade line was converted to bus service.

Thanks to George Friedman and Streetcar Mike Strauch!