Krauss and the Union Passenger Terminal New Orleans
Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans, 2016
The Union Passenger Terminal
The Union Passenger Terminal (UPT) is New Orleans’ train station. Constructed in 1952, it replaced five passenger terminals located at various points in the city. UPT has a direct connection to Krauss Department Store, in that one of the stations it replaced was Terminal Station, located at Canal and Basin Streets. Terminal Station was right next to Krauss from 1908 to 1954. When UPT was completed, the city demolished Terminal Station. Canal Street shoppers never fully realized just how big Krauss Department Store was, because Terminal Station obscured the store’s depth.
Terminal Station was still nine years away when Leon Fellman bought the buildings in the 1200 block of Canal Street in 1899, and five years away when Krauss opened in 1903. The station had a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the store for all those years. You forgot something for your trip to New Orleans, and there was this department store with absolutely everything right next door when you got off the train! The concierges and staffs at the downtown hotels also knew this, and regularly steered guests to Krauss for those last-minute essentials and other purchases.
Visitors to the City
There is so much more to the story of UPT, and we’ll go more in-depth on that at some point. When the landscape of even a few blocks changes, like the area around Krauss after Terminal Station vanished, it’s important to make the connections. Krauss had the next-door neighbor connection to the Southern Railway and Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, both of which came into the station on Basin Street. Passengers coming to Canal Street from Union Station on Howard Avenue came to S. Rampart and Canal, just a block from Krauss. The buyers at Krauss knew this, and made sure the visitors saw enticing goods as they passed by.
A New Orleans Monorail just like Disney
Concept sketches of a monorail system for New Orleans, 1960
I came across the New Orleans Monorail Project back in 2004, when I was doing research for my Canal Streetcar book. The concept was to connect the Central Business District with Moisant International Airport (MSY – now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport). When Walt Disney debuted the Disneyland Monorail System in 1959, a number of cities investigated the feasibility of monorails in their backyards. The difference between fantasy and reality set in quickly, however, as studies showed the difficulty of building overhead rail in established neighborhoods. Disney didn’t have to contend with the numerous complications of urban mass transit. All Walt had to do was draw lines on a blueprint, and his people made magic.
City Hall Studies the idea
The monorail project never became reality, although City Hall commissioned a study, by a consulting engineer, Col. S. H. Bingham (ret), of New York. Like ambitious projects of this sort, no doubt the politicians weighed the obstacles and cost and decided it wasn’t feasible. In the long run, though, this was the sort of project that should have been taken on. Like the Louisiana Superdome project, ten years or so later, there are big payoffs. The Dome was paid off by the city’s hotel-motel tax. Had the mayor and council chosen, they could have found a way to finance a monorail that would likely still be in operation today.
Streetcars to the Airport
NORTA 2011, a Von Dullen streetcar, operating on Canal Street in Mid City
So, the city never connected the CBD and the airport via overhead rail. That didn’t stop the dreamers. When the Earhart Expressway was constructed, one of the plans was to continue the road further west. The existing expressway comes to an end at Hickory Street in Harahan. There were plans laid out to keep going, all the way to the airport. When the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) re-constructed the Canal streetcar line in 2003-2004, the notion of streetcars to the airport came up. Elmer Von Dullen, then-manager of NORTA’s Rail Department, designed the 2000-series streetcars used on Canal with a maximum speed of over 40mph. You’ll never see a streetcar on Canal go that fast! The idea was that the 2000-series would be able to handle the challenge of going out to the airport.
Alas, that project also never came to pass. Those of us who go to MSY regularly can still dream.
Sully illustration from 1836 of Faubourg Marigny
Marigny to Milneburg
From 1836, an illustration by G. W. Sully of the riverfront in Faubourg Marigny. You can see the station for the Pontchartrain Railroad on the left side of the illustration. The railroad was chartered in 1830, and began operations in 1831, so this was just five years into its existence. The purpose of the Pontchartrain Railroad was to connect the city, specifically, Faubourg Marigny, Faubourg Treme, and the French Quarter. Alexander Milne developed the area at what is now Elysian Fields Avenue and the lake into a port district, which became known as Milneburg. In addition to coming up the Mississippi River, much of the city’s ocean-going ship traffic came to New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico, through the Chef Menteur Pass or the Rigolets Pass, into Lake Pontchartrain. Once in the lake, the larger ships were unable to go down Bayou St. John and the Carondelet Canal. Milneburg made it easier for the ships, since all they had to do was dock on the lakefront.
New Orleans’ First Railroad
The only catch was that the city was five miles away! The solution was simple, though, build a railroad. The planning/discussions for the railroad began in 1828. The first train, pulled by horses, left the station on April 14, 1831. Steam locomotives took over for animal power in June of 1832. This connection was a major path for commerce and goods up to the Civil War. After the war, as rail service to New Orleans began to expand, the Pontchartrain Railroad was acquired by larger rail concerns.
Sail to Steam
Notice that, in this illustration, the vessels are all powered by sail. That would change dramatically, as larger ships were constructed with steam engines and side paddlewheels, to speed up the journey from New Orleans to Havana, and various ports in along the American coast and Europe. These heavier ships were unable to use the passes into Lake Pontchartrain. This cut back on the shipping traffic docking at Milneburg, and the railroad no longer transported the goods it once did. Like many port areas, Milneburg became more of a recreational area than commercial, and the railroad then began to carry more passengers than goods. In the 1830s, though, it was all about commerce.
Train Thursday is cross-posted to Canal Streetcar (dot com)
Dedication of the Amtrak City of New Orleans, 1981 (photo courtesy John Sita)
This week’s Train Thursday image is from 1981. Alan Boyd, President of Amtrak, Lieutenant Governor James Fitzmorris, and Mayor Ernest Morial preside over the return/re-dedication of the City of New Orleans train line. The train, provided service between Chicago and New Orleans. The Illinois Central RR started the service in 1947, as a daytime complement to the railroad’s Panama Limited train. The Panama Limited was an overnight service, and the City of New Orleans operated as a day service. The overnight train made fewer stops, but the daytime service stopped at many small towns along the route.
When Amtrak took over in 1971, the company initially operated the City of New Orleans on the daytime schedule, but shifted it to night service after six months. They re-named the train to the Panama Limited. Amtrak changed the name back to City of New Orleans in 1981. They wanted to cash in on the popularity of Arlo Guthrie’s version of the song about the train. The company retained the overnight schedule, in spite of the name change.
The City of New Orleans ran consistently from 1981 until Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. Amtrak cancelled service south of Memphis in the wake of the storm. As New Orleans recovered from Katrina, service was first restored as far south as Hammond Louisiana. On October 8, 2005, the City of New Orleans continued from Hammond, across the western side of Lake Pontchartrain, then into the city.
The current Amtrak timetable for the City of New Orleans has the train departing New Orleans daily at 1:45pm, arriving in Chicago at 9am the next morning. The return trip departs Chicago at 8:05am, returning to New Orleans the next day at 3:32pm. Amtrak’s route guide for the train provides more details about the journey.
Train Thursday is going to be a thing for the two websites, since New Orleans has been an important railroad hub for over 150 years.
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NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)
This weekend is the annual Tennessee Williams Festival, and tomorrow will be the festival’s “Stella” yelling contest, conjuring the spirit of “Streetcar Named Desire” in the streets of New Orleans. “Desire” was a metaphor to Williams, but the Desire streetcar line was real, and an important route, tying the Upper Ninth Ward to the rest of the city.
Signbox for a 900-series arch roof streetcar. “DESIRE” sign made for the box by Earl Hampton.
Tennessee Williams (courtesy of Hotel Monteleone)
Tennessee Williams, relaxing at the Hotel Monteleone, 1950s.
River – Lake – Uptown – Downtown by Dirty Coast
Buy this t-shirt from Dirty Coast and you’ll get oriented quickly.
Route of the Desire line, 1920-1923
Desire Line route, 1920-1923. Dark = outbound, Light = inbound
Route of the Desire line, 1923-1948
Desire Line route, 1920-1923. Dark = outbound, Light = inbound
“Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.”
722 Toulouse Street
When Tennessee Williams arrived in New Orleans in 1938, he took a room here, at 722 Toulouse Street. Now it’s the offices of the Historic New Orleans Collection. WGNO “News with a Twist” did a great spot on the house this week.
Royal Street in Faubourg Marigny, 1951 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
The streetcar tracks are gone in this 1951 photo of Royal Street in the Marigny, but it’s a good idea of what riders of the Desire line saw on their way into town.
Looking down N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
Looking up N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1946 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
Two views of the Upper Ninth Ward from 1946 and 1947. These shots of N. Tonti Street at Pauline are a good illustration of the houses and buildings in the neighborhood serviced by the Desire line.
NORTA 29, the last Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. (Edward Branley photo)
The first streetcars to run on the Desire line were single-truck Ford, Bacon, and Davis cars. NORTA 29 (ex-NOPSI 29) is the last FB&D streetcar.
NOPSI 888, running on the Desire Line, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
The 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars operated on the Desire line from 1923, until its discontinuance in 1948.
NOPSI Bus on Dauphine, 1954 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
The streetcar tracks were ripped up in 1948, and “A Bus Named Desire” took over bringing commuters to and from the Ninth Ward to Canal Street.
The Streetcars of New Orleans, by Hennick and Charlton, 1964 (amazon link)
The Streetcars of New Orleans by Hennick and Charlton – the authoritative reference on New Orleans streetcars to 1964
The Streetcars of New Orleans, 1964 – Present by Earl Hampton (amazon link)
Earl Hampton’s book, The Streetcars of New Orleans, 1964-Present, picks up where Hennick and Charlton leave off.
My book, New Orleans, The Canal Streetcar Line. Amazon Link | Signed Copies here.
Wakin’ Bakin’ on Banks Street in Mid City
The Historic New Orleans Collection