Trackless Trolleys, also known as “trolley buses”

trackless trolleys

NOPSI trackless trolley on the Magazine line at Audubon Park, 1941 (Franck Studios photo)

Trackless Trolleys

Electric buses, “trackless trolleys”, operated on several New Orleans transit lines over the years. In the 1920s, NORwy&Lt/NOPSI experimented with the buses. By 1930, trackless trolleys operated on major lines in the system.

Magazine Street

Magazine Street, like St. Charles Avenue, runs the length of what we usually call “Uptown”. While St. Charles Avenue presents elegant mansions, Magazine Street borders the two sides of “the tracks”. You know, when someone says, “she’s from the other side of the tracks”. So, in New Orleans, that could easily mean Magazine street. While the neighborhoods between Magazine and St. Charles contain more elegant houses, the other side was, well, the other side. The area between Magazine and the river holds docks, wharves, warehouses, and small shotgun houses.

The combination creates a dense area. Neighborhoods grew, usually as plantations fronting the river were subdivided and sold off by their owners. As each plantation became a residential neighborhood, open-air markets, shops, schools and churches appeared.

Uptown Transit

trackless trolleys

1883 Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, showing the corner of Magazine and Toledano.

These new neighborhoods required connections to the Central Business District (CBD). The New Orleans City Railroad Company established the Magazine Street line on June 8, 1861. Streetcars on the Magazine line ran from the Clay Statue (St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street), down Canal, turning right on Magazine. The mule-drawn “bobtail” streetcars traveled outbound on Magazine to Toledano.

At Toledano, NOCRR operated a car barn and stables. Streetcars turned around by going through the car barn. They then returned the same route. The company expanded the line in 1883, running Magazine all the way to Audubon Park. NOCRR electrified the line in 1895.

NOCRR operated single-truck streetcars on Magazine after electrification. They replaced the single-trucks initially with Brill double-trucks, then “Palace” cars. NOPSI phased out the “Palace cars” with arch roofs, until 1930.

Trolley buses

NOPSI converted the Magazine line to trackless trolley service on November 30, 1930. Therefore, trolley buses meant NOPSI only needed one employee per bus, the driver. The city required two-man operation of streetcars. So, NOPSI cut labor costs dramatically when a line converted from streetcars to buses, even electric ones.

NOPSI converted Magazine from electric buses to diesel ones in 1964.