Denver Zephyr and Minor League Baseball #TrainThursday

Denver Zephyr and Minor League Baseball #TrainThursday

The Denver Zephyr

denver zephyr

Promotional photo for the Denver Zephyr

The Denver Zephyr – Chicago to Denver

The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad operated streamlined passenger rail service from Chicago to Denver, from 1936 to 1973.

denver zephyr

Denver Zephyr poster

The Route of the Denver Zephyr:


  • Chicago
  • Omaha
  • Lincoln
  • Denver


  • Denver
  • Lincoln
  • Omaha
  • Chicago


denver zephyr

Denver Zephyr poster

The Zephyr consist included coaches, dining cars, Pullmans, and observation cars. The original Budd trainsets operated until 1956. They were then reassigned to Burlington subsidiaries, running from Denver to Dallas-Fort Worth. Burlington took delivery of new Budd trainsets that included VistaDome cars. The DZ operated a VistaDome car as a coffee shop called the ChuckWagon. This second incarnation of the DZ began operation in October, 1956. The train’s route was also extended, past Denver, to Colorado Springs.

Amtrak Service

Amtrak took over passenger service in the US in 1971. The company operated the DZ daily, from Chicago to Denver. The Denver Zephyr service was discontinued in 1973.

Zephyrs Baseball

denver zephyr

Kansas City Blues logo

In 1901, the Kansas City Blues moved to Washington, DC, to become the Washington Senators. Kansas City immediately formed a new team, under the Blues banner. That AAA-league team stayed in the city until 1955. The Philadelphia A’s re-located to KC that year, so the minor league club needed a new home. They found one in Denver. The team took the name “Bears,” playing in the American Association through the 1962 season. For the 1963 season, the team moved to the Pacific Coast league.

denver zephyr

Denver Bears logo

In 1985, the team changed its name to the Denver Zephyrs, an homage to the streamliner train. The team kept that name until 1993.

denver zephyr

Denver Zephyrs logo

Major League Baseball awarded Denver a franchise in The Show that year. When the Colorado Rockies came to town, the AAA club had to move, again. This time it was to New Orleans.

Roller Coaster to Ball Club

denver zephyr

The “Zephyr” Roller Coaster, on a t-shirt from New Orleans Public Service

A minor league ball team usually changed names when it moved. The Zephyrs were able to keep their name in New Orleans, though. The city’s long-time amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach, was the connection. Pontchartrain Beach’s signature roller coaster was the “Zephyr.” When the Denver team came to town, the name connected with the locals. The entrance to the Zephyr roller coaster even looked like a streamliner train! It made sense to keep the Denver logo.

denver zephyr

New Orleans Zephyrs logo

The team did just that, until this year. Now, the New Orleans AAA team is the New Orleans Babycakes.

Terminal Station on Canal Street fades into history – April 16, 1954

Terminal Station on Canal Street fades into history – April 16, 1954

Terminal Station fades into history

terminal station

The Southerner was the last train to leave Terminal Station on Canal Street. (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)

Terminal Station on Canal Street

Tulane’s Louisiana Resource Collection shared some important photos in Louisiana railroad history for April 16. The first photo is of Southern Railroad’s Train #48, better known as “The Southerner.” The Southerner was a “limited” train that ran from New Orleans to New York City. The train began operation in 1941, using EMD E6 engines and brand=new, corrugated-sided cars from Pullman-Standard.

The photo above shows the last Southerner leaving Terminal Station, on April 16, 1954. The Illinois Central and Kansas City Southern railroads had already moved their operations to Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola. When The Southerner departed on April 16th, Southern Railroad’s inbound trains were re-routed to their new home on Loyola Avenue.

terminal station

The Southerner, on its way to New York (Wikimedia Commons)

Terminal Station was built on Canal Street in 1908. It serviced the Southern and Gulf, Mobile and Ohio railroads. So, in the black-and-white photo above, the photographer stands on the Basin Street neutral ground, behind the stations’s platforms. Krauss Department Store is visible on the right.

The Pelican

terminal station

“The Pelican” backing into Union Passenger Terminal, April 16, 1954 (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)

The first Southern Railroad train to enter Union Passenger Terminal was “The Pelican.” The Pelican also ran from New Orleans to NYC, but its consist was an luxury affair. It used sleeper cars owned by Pullman-Standard. There were no coach cars.  The tracks coming into UPT include a “wye” track. While the incoming trains came in engine-first, they turned around on the wye. Then the engines backed into the platforms.

Terminal Station

The Pelican at Union Passenger Terminal, April 16, 1954 (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)

The Mayor of New Orleans in the 1950s was deLessepps Story Morrison. He was one of the biggest proponents of a single train station for the city. New Orleans had five stations around the city. Union Passenger Terminal remains in use by Amtrak and the Greyhound Bus company today.

Krauss and Trains – Union Passenger Terminal New Orleans

Krauss and Trains – Union Passenger Terminal New Orleans

Krauss and the Union Passenger Terminal New Orleans

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.


Train Thursday – Trains from Milneburg to Faubourg Marigny

Train Thursday – Trains from Milneburg to Faubourg Marigny

Marigny Sully1836 Train Thursday

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 – Re-dedicating Amtrak’s City of New Orleans

Train Thursday is cross-posted to Canal Streetcar (dot com)

train thursday

Dedication of the Amtrak City of New Orleans, 1981 (photo courtesy John Sita)

Train Thursday

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 Route

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.

A Plan Book for the Spanish Fort Amusement Area, 1911

Spanish Fort

Plan Book of Spanish Fort, New Orleans, drawn in 1911.

This is a “plan book” from 1911 of the area around Spanish Fort, at Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. I got the illustration from the New Orleans Notarial Archives website, where it’s one of a number of sample plan books they’ve got up. A trip down to the Archives office and a look at the original would give us the full story. Therefore, naturally, I’ll have to do just that!

A Plan Book for Spanish Fort

Plan Books were part of the official record for real estate transfers prior to color photography. They’re the equivalent of the form an appraiser would do now to describe a property. When the property in question was a residence or commercial building, the plan book would include detailed architectural drawings of the building, along with a layout of the block surrounding it. In this case, the plan book is for the sale of Fort St. John and the surrounding land. A view of the overall area, rather than a detailed drawing of the ruined fort was more in order.

The amusement area at Spanish Fort is part of the latest episode of the NOLA History Guy Podcast. The area was initially accessible by steam train, and you can see the station, just above the top left corner of “Spanish Fort Park”. That building was still in place at the time of this drawing, but electric streetcars replaced the train line by 1911. The streetcars ran from West End, down what is now Robert E. Lee Boulevard, and ended on a pier extending out into the lake. The dashed line running into the lake marks the streetcar tracks.

Waning Days

While Spanish Fort was called the “Coney Island of the South”, it was past its heyday in 1911. It held on going into the 1920s. Pontchartrain Beach started there, in the 1920s, but moved to Milneburg, at the end of Elysian Fields Avenue. After that, Spanish Fort was never a big amusement destination.

Screenshot from 2016-07-31 20-26-32

The Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans maintains the Notarial Archives office for the Parish. On a day-to-day basis, the Notarial Archives is where title insurance companies send researchers to verify that someone who claims title to a piece of property in the Parish actually has the right to make that claim. Since these companies sell a home buyer insurance guaranteeing that someone won’t come along and claim they really own the property after the buyer(s) have paid for it, they want to be sure they get it right. In addition to all the records of real estate transfers and other civil legal documents, the Notarial Archives has all the old Plan Books. These Plan Books range from simple drawings to masterpieces of architectural drawing.

Contact info

The Research Center is located on Poydras Street, not far from the Superdome:

1340 Poydras Street
Suite 360
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112
(504) 407-0106
Fax (504) 680-9607

Monday – Friday 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM