NOLA History Guy December offers images from the books.

nola history guy december

We’re featuring a couple of images from the books each day, running up to Christmas. To kick this off, here’s the first image (after the cover) in New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line. It’s a photo (photographer unidentified) of the corner of Canal and Rampart Streets in 1914. Three streetcars, all different types, dominate the scene.


NORwy&Lt 614 – a “Palace” streetcar manufactured by the American Car Company. The company built them for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The design appealed to New Orleans Railway and Light Company, who bought them for the city in 1905. The “Palace” cars earned their nickname because they were, compared to other streetcars, rolling palaces. Their wider bodies offered a smooth ride. The large monitor deck provided excellent airflow. These cars ran primarily on the Canal Street-Esplanade Avenue Belt lines, until Esplanade switched to buses in 1930. NOPSI discontinued their use in 1935. Here, 614 prepares to make the right-turn onto North Rampart Street. It will turn left at Esplanade, heading outbound.


NORwy&Lt 248 – a Ford, Bacon and Davis (FBD) single-truck streetcar operating here on the Paris Avenue line. Ford, Bacon, and Davis were a consulting engineering firm from New York City. The New Orleans City Railroad Company (predecessor to NORwy&Lt) hired them to consult on the future of electric street railways in the city. They made numerous recommendations, which included the design of the terminal at Canal Street and the river. While analyzing the city’s transit systems, FBD designed a single-truck streetcar suited for New Orleans. NOCRR purchased two hundred of these streetcars in 1894. They operated on all lines until replaced by larger-capacity double-truck cars. The smaller streetcars remained on back-of-town lines until NOPSI phased them out in favor of the arch roofs. The Paris Avenue line was one of those backatown lines, running all the way out to Mirabeau Avenue in Gentilly. A second FBD car waits on N. Rampart to turn onto Canal.

Arch Roof

While NORwy&Lt 419, here operating on the Jackson Avenue line, looks like the 900-series arch roofs we know from St. Charles Avenue and Riverfront, the 400-series streetcars were the originals. Mr. Perley A. Thomas created the arch roof design. His employer, Southern Car Compay, built them for the New Orleans system. When NORwy&Lt failed in 1923, it re-organized as New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI). NOPSI loved the design. They ordered the 800s, and then the 900s in 1923-24. The company phased out all other streetcars by 1935. The arch roofs ran exclusively from 1935 to 1964, with the exception of the single remaining FBD car, NOPSI 29.

Out to the Lakefront

The electric sign above the streetcars says “Transit To Spanish Fort and West End.” NORwy&Lt electrified the steam railroad service to the Lakefront resorts in 1911. Both the West End and Spanish Fort lines originated at Canal and Rampart. They traveled the West End route, with Spanish Fort turning right at Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Blvd.) Spanish Fort rolled down Adams to Bayou St. John.

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.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets.

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