Podcast – Cemeteries Terminal on Canal Street

The Cemeteries Terminal

Cemeteries Terminal

Bus Shelter for the Esplanade line, on Canal Boulevard.

The Cemeteries Terminal at the Foot of Canal

Cemeteries Terminal

NORTA 2003, outbound, pauses before the Cemeteries Terminal, to let NORTA 2019 leave.

The Cemeteries Terminal expansion project begins just over a week from now. Let’s explore the history of Canal’s end of the line.

1861 to 1894 – Mule-Drawn Streetcars

Canal Street at St. Charles Avenue (left) and Royal Street (right), 1865 (Blessing photo)

The Canal Streetcar line opened in June of 1861. It ran from St. Charles Avenue and Canal, originally to the New Orleans City Railroad Company barn on Canal at N. White. In August, 1861, the line was extended to the cemeteries.

1901 to 1925 – Belt Service

riding the belt

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

Ridin’ the Belt – The Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue lines operated as belt service from 1901 to 1925. Check out our podcast on belt operation. In addition to Canal/Esplanade, St. Charles and Tulane also operated as a belt.

1925 to 1951

cemeteries terminal

Canal and City Park Avenue, before the left-turn tracks were ripped up, 1951.

Belt service on Canal/Esplanade was discontinued in 1925. The right-turn tracks were ripped up, but the left-turn remained, so streetcars on the West End line could head out to the lakefront.

1951 to 1964

Cemeteries Terminal

Cemeteries Terminal, 1963 (Courtesy Streetcar Mike)

Cemeteries Terminal

Cemeteries Terminal, 1951 (Franck Studios for NOPSI)

When the West End line converted to buses in 1948, the left-turn tracks on Canal Street were no longer needed. NOPSI and the city built a two-track terminal at the foot of Canal, then ripped up the turn tracks. In 1964, all the streetcar tracks on Canal Street were ripped up, after the last run of the Canal line.

2004 to Present

NOLA.com article on the Cemeteries Terminal expansion by Beau Evans.

NORTA announcement on the project.

cemeteries terminal

Current bus terminal on Canal Boulevard.

Canal Boulevard at present has three bus-turn lanes in the first block.

Cemeteries Terminal

Plan for extending Canal Street line into Canal Blvd. (NORTA drawing, photo courtesy Beau Evans, NOLA.com)

The plan for the Cemeteries Terminal expansion. The streetcar will turn right from Canal, loop around on Canal Boulevard, then return to Canal Street.

Cemeteries Terminal

The Bulldog, a pub on Canal Blvd, directly across from the bus terminal.

One of the businesses near the construction is The Bulldog, a Canal Street watering hole.

Buy Edward’s Book!

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line (Arcadia’s Images of America Series)

cemeteries terminal

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.

New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.

Cemeteries Terminal on the Canal Street Line #StreetcarSaturday

Cemeteries Terminal on the Canal Street Line #StreetcarSaturday

The Cemeteries Terminal

cemeteries terminal

Two NORTA 2000-series “Von Dullen” streetcars at the Cemeteries

The Cemeteries Terminal – End of the line

If you ride the Canal Street line from its beginning at the foot of Canal Street, you come to the Cemeteries Terminal, 4.3 miles later. The New Orleans City Railroad Company began operations on the Canal Street line on June 15, 1861. The original route as from the foot of Canal Street to the company’s barn, at Canal and N. White Streets. By August 24, 1861, however, the company extended the line to Bayou Metairie. This is now the intersection of Canal Street and City Park Avenue. The reason for the fast expansion was that people wanted to get up to the Cemeteries located in the neighborhood. Cypress Grove Cemetery, St. Patrick Cemetery, and several Jewish cemeteries were already in what is now the Mid-City area. So, the end of the Canal Street line became the “cemeteries.”

Growth of Mid-City New Orleans

The Mid-City neighborhood grew out from the French Quarter and Faubourg Treme. Light industry and other businesses set themselves up along the New Basin Canal. Folks working in those businesses took the Canal Streetcar to work. Eventually, they bought lots in Mid-City and built houses. By the 1900s, the Sicilians expanded into Mid-City to the point that the archdiocese granted the community permission to form a new parish. St. Anthony of Padua became Mid-City’s parish in 1915. All the while, people from many communities regularly took the streetcar up to the cemeteries.

The Original Terminal

cemeteries terminal

Cemeteries Terminal, 1964. (courtesy Mike Strauch, www.streetcarmike.com)

The end of the Canal Line was a two-track terminal until 1964. At various points, the streetcar tracks turned left and right onto City Park Avenue. The West End line went to the foot of Canal, then turned left, to continue to the lake. The Canal line ran as belt service with the Esplanade line, streetcars turned right onto City Park Avenue. The Canal line ran down City Park Avenue to Esplanade. They crossed the bayou at Esplanade Avenue, and continued down to N. Rampart Street. The Cemeteries Terminal was a busy place!

The Modern Terminal

Cemeteries Terminal

NORTA 2003, outbound, pauses before the Cemeteries Terminal, to let NORTA 2019 leave.

When the Canal line returned in 2004, so did the Cemeteries Terminal. Canal Street was one lane wider on either side, though. That meant there was only room for one track at the end of the line. When a streetcar leaves the terminal, it travels in the street for two blocks, before re-entering the neutral ground.

If there’s a streetcar in the terminal when a second car arrives, the new car pauses just before the switch that merges the tracks. The now-inbound car heads out, the outbound car pulls in. At busy times, two cars will enter the terminal. They’ll both leave at the same time. This usually happens on days when a big event happens downtown. A lot of folks take advantage of free parking around the cemeteries. They hop the streetcar and head to the river. Additionally, two cars double-up in the terminal when one of them gets way behind schedule.

Operations

Here’s a pair of 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars at Cemeteries. The now-lead car (which was the last one in) pulls out. By the time I finished recording this car, the one behind it pulled out as well!

Cemeteries Terminal

The modern Cemeteries Terminal

That left me standing in an empty terminal.

Buy Edward’s Book!

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line (Arcadia’s Images of America Series)

cemeteries terminal

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.

New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.

The “Last Streetcar” on Canal Street – May 31, 1964

The “Last Streetcar” on Canal Street – May 31, 1964

The Last Streetcar on Canal (for forty years)

last streetcar

NOPSI 972, coming out of the barn on Canal Street for the last time. (Courtesy Tulane LaRC)

Which “Last Streetcar?”

The last day of regular service on the old Canal line was May 30, 1964. There are a number of interpretations as to which run was the “last” streetcar. Irby Aucoin’s famous photo from the night before is arguably the last “revenue” run. This car, 972, the next morning, was the last streetcar on the two-track main on Canal. That wasn’t a “regular” run, however. NOPSI started cutting down the overhead wire right behind 972. There were slowdowns to the point where that last trip took hours instead of minutes. Still, that banner on the side was big news, as 972 switched off of the Canal main track. When the car turned onto the third track that makes the turn to St. Charles Avenue, Canal service was gone.

35 Remained

When 972 turned onto St. Charles that morning in 1964, plans that were long-made came to completion. NOPSI kept 35 of the arch roof streetcars of the 900-series for operations on the St. Charles line. They earned the nickname  “Charlie cars.” Some of the remaining 800- and 900-series cars were donated/sold to museums and private collectors. The rest were unceremoniously cut in half and scrapped. NOPSI had no interest in fighting with the so-called “streetcar activists” that appeared on the scene after the announcement that Canal would be discontinued. So, they cut down the wires, cut up the streetcars, and deployed a fleet of green, air-conditioned, modern Flixible buses.

NOPSI promised the people of Lakeview and Lakeshore “express” bus service that would enable them to get on a bus within blocks of their homes, then ride into the CBD in air-conditioning. No transfer at the foot of Canal Street, to ride a streetcar in sorry shape. No crowds bunched together in the heat, humidity, and rain of the spring and summer. Nothing the uptown folks could do or say would convince the people who actually used the Canal line at the time to change their minds.

Bus ridership changed dramatically during the forty years of no streetcars on Canal. When the red Von Dullen cars took to the street in 2004, people were ready for a ride from City Park Avenue into town. Air conditioning doesn’t hurt, either.

Learn more!

Check out my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series, or check out our podcast on “Riding the Belt.”

Podcast – Riding the Belt – Streetcar Belt Service in New Orleans

Podcast – Riding the Belt – Streetcar Belt Service in New Orleans

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 Service 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!

The New Orleans Monorail Project – 1959

The New Orleans Monorail Project – 1959

A New Orleans Monorail just like Disney

new orleans monorail

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

new orleans monorail

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.

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
E-mail: civilclerkresearchctr@orleanscdc.com

Hours:
Monday – Friday 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM