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nolahistoryguy, Author at Edward Branley - The NOLA History Guy
New Orleans Public Belt – NOPB Roundhouse #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt – NOPB Roundhouse #TrainThursday

The last remaining roundhouse in New Orleans stands on Tchoupitoulas Street.
NOTE: this post is an update of one from 2018.

nopb roundhouse

Unidentified man stands next to NOPB locomotive #22

NOPB Roundhouse on the riverfront

Franck Studios photo of a Baldwin 0-6-0 switcher. NOPB received the engine new in Jan. 1921. It bore construction number 54415 from Baldwin, and its NOPB road number was 22. The engine was retired May 1957. The photo shows the engine coming off the turntable and entering roundhouse stall 5.

NOPB operations

new orleans public belt 1941

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 – Baldwin 0-6-0 switcher at the Tchoupitoulas terminal (courtesy NOPB)

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is a “short line” railroad. It operates along the Mississippi River in Metro New Orleans. The city created NOPB in 1908. They fixed the issue of railroad congestion along the riverfront. The Class I railroad wanted their own tracks and terminals along the wharves and warehouses. So, the city created a Class III railroad, the NOPB, to connect them.

A state agency manages the NOPB. It is the Public Belt Railroad Commission. The commission also maintains the Huey P. Long Bridge, since it services both railroad and automobile traffic.

The following railroads travel over NOPB tracks:

  • BNSF Railway
  • CSX Transportation
  • Canadian National/Illinois Central
  • Kansas City Southern
  • Norfolk Southern
  • Union Pacific
  • Amtrak

Engine Terminal

nopb roundhouse

Google Earth image of the NOPB Tchoupitoulas terminal.

NOPB services its engines at the roundhouse on Tchoupitoulas. While turntable/roundhouse facilities were common prior to World War II, they became less common as diesel locomotives entered wider service. Diesel locomotives operate easily in either direction. Steam locomotives have a clear “front” and “back.” Turntables enabled the service facility to easily reverse the direction of the steam equipment. For diesels, crews just engaged the engines in reverse.
The image above is a Google Earth shot of the Tchoupitoulas facility today. Engines enter the facility from a siding track connected to the riverfront “main line.” The turntable directs equipment onto seven sidings. Depending on what’s required, an engine may simply park outside the roundhouse, or enter the stall. The tracks to the left of the circle appear to be a separate building for heavy maintenance tasks.

Dating the Photo

The photo was commissioned by the NOPB. So, it is part of the Franck Studios archive at the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC). HNOC dates the photo 29-October-1941, but there are dozens of photos with that date. It’s possible they were all processed by Franck Studios then. Therefore, it’s not clear just when the picture was taken. Since the engine was in service until 1957, it’s possible that the photo is indeed from 1941.

Mystery Man

We haven’t been able to identify the man in the white suite in the photo. Given that he’s dressed in a white suit, it’s more likely he is either a NOPB commissioner or a city or state official. We’ve contacted NOPB in the hopes they know who he is.

 

Integration of New Orleans Catholic Schools

Integration of New Orleans Catholic Schools

Archbishop Rummel supervised Catholic School integration. (NOTE: originally posted in 2015)

Catholic School integration. Protest held on June, 17, 1960, at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Segregationist Catholics protest, at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, June 17, 1960. (T-P photo)

Catholic School Integration, 1960

Joseph Francis Rummel (1876-1964) was Archbishop of New Orleans from 1935 until his death on 8-November-1964. He shepherded the Church in New Orleans through the turbulent years of school integration and the Civil Rights Movement. Rummel integrated Notre Dame Seminary by allowing two black men to study for the priesthood there in 1948, and allowed the Josephite Fathers to open St. Augustine High School, dedicated to educating young black men, in 1951. He ordered desegregation in all Catholic churches in the archdiocese in 1953. In 1960, he tackled the issue of segregated parish elementary schools.

Rummel didn’t even have a firm plan on how to implement desegregation in 1960. Still, white Catholics were incensed at even the mention of integrating schools. He ignored these protests and moved forward, announcing a desegregation plan for the Fall of 1962.

catholic school integration. White Catholics protesting the integration of St. Rose de Lima on September 4, 1962 (T-P photo)

White Catholics protesting the integration of St. Rose de Lima on September 4, 1962 (T-P photo)

The segregationists were out in force in September of 1962, at multiple schools. The folks at St. Rose de Lima weren’t as informed about what was going on with the Archdiocese. The sign in the background says “Go back North Big John”. That’s problematic for two reasons: First, Rummel’s first name was Joseph, and second, he was Bishop of Omaha prior to coming to New Orleans, and had been here for twenty-seven years at that time.

White Flight

While the policy of the Archdiocese clearly prohibits segregation, “white flight” to the suburbs ensured that most of the schools administered by the Archdiocese to this day are still segregated.

Because of his long tenure, Archbishop Rummel made a major impact on the city. Remind me to tell you the story about how the school that bears his name was almost run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart sometime. Seriously.

Archbishop Rummel is one of the Legendary Locals of New Orleans.

Bernardo de Galvez and Spanish West Florida

Bernardo de Galvez and Spanish West Florida

The fifth Spanish governor of New Orleans was Bernardo de Galvez.

Bernardo de Galvez, American Ally

Portrait of Bernardo Galvez, fifth Spanish governor of Louisiana. Artist Andres Molinary created this copy of an original portrait in 1917. The painting depicts Galvez as Viceroy of New Spain, in 1785. In 1777, as an army Colonel, Galvez became the governor of Louisiana. Since the French ceded what later became the “Louisiana Purchase” to Spain in 1762, the Spanish governors in New Orleans technically controlled the entire territory. Practically, that meant New Orleans and South Louisiana.

West Florida

Derby’s post about a section of a 1766 map of West Florida showing the Isle d’Orleans just below it caused a bit of confusion. Claims to Louisiana, going back to de la Salle, relate to land to the west of the Mississippi River. Various treaties not related to the Louisiana territory of New France established the boundaries to the east. The Southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia embroiled Spain and Britain in a number of disputes. The main issue was African enslavement. Indigenous tribes in Florida did not recognize the enslaved status of Africans and their descendants. The enslaved ran from plantations in Georgia and lived amongst the indigenous in Florida. This enraged the slavers of Georgia. These disputes extended west, beyond the Georgia colony. Debate over who owned the land from the Perdido River (near Pensacola) to the Mississippi River continued until well past the War of 1812.

American Revolution

Bernardo de Galvez

Galvez in 1777

Galvez immediately moved to secure the Gulf Coast for Spain as the Americans rebelled against Britain. Spain formally declared war on Britain in 1779. Galvez captured British positions from Baton Rouge to Pensacola. So, for all intents and purposes, “Florida” extended to the east bank of the Mississippi River. King Charles III appointed Galvez Viceroy of New Spain in 1783. Esteban Miro replaced him in New Orleans, becoming governor of both Louisiana and Florida. As far as Spain was concerned, they controlled the entire Gulf Coast by the end of the American Revolution.

American involvement

The new United States government desired access to the Gulf of Mexico. the Louisiana Purchase accomplished that, but West Florida remained problematic. From Wikipedia:

The the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800, Spain agreed to return Louisiana to France; however, the location of the boundary between Louisiana and West Florida was not explicitly specified. After France sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, another boundary dispute erupted. The United States laid claim to the territory from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River, which the Americans believed had been a part of the old province of Louisiana when the French agreed to cede it to Spain in 1762. The Spanish insisted that they had administered that portion as the province of West Florida and that it was not part of the territory restored to France by Charles IV in 1802,[13][14] as France had never given West Florida to Spain, among a list of other reasons.

So, West Florida remained disputed until 1821, when Spain ceded all of the Florida territory, including West Florida, to the United States. That settled the issue, and the state boundaries of Louisiana were formally adjusted to include the “Florida Parishes” north of Lake Pontchartrain.

Galvez and New Orleans

bernardo de galvez

Equestrian statue of Galvez, Spanish Plaza New Orleas. Photo by Demcy Dias.

Bernardo didn’t waste time in New Orleans with respect to forging ties with the Creole-French population. Also from Wikipedia:

In November 1777, Gálvez married Marie Félicité de Saint-Maxent d’Estrehan, the Creole daughter of the French-born Gilbert Antoine de Saint-Maxent and the Creole Elizabeth La Roche, and young widow of Jean Baptiste Honoré d’Estrehan, the son of a high ranking French colonial official. This marriage to the daughter of a Frenchman[19][20] won Gálvez the favor of the local Creole population. They had three children, Miguel, Matilde, and Guadalupe.

So, he married into the La Roche and d’Estrehan families. His victories against the British immortalized him along the Gulf Coast. New Orleans named a street for him, as well as his wife (Felicity Street). Galveston was named in his honor, and cities from there to Mobile along the Gulf Coast included him in their Spanish memorials.

Lenten Fridays at West End

Lenten Fridays at West End

New Orleans flocked to the West End on Lenten Fridays.

lenten fridays

Chic Sale’s, Fitzgerald’s, and Bruning’s in the background. Jeanette Boutall Woest watercolor, 1973.

Lenten Fridays tradition

Prior destruction of the “West End Restaurant Area” by hurricanes and the Corp of Engineers, going out to dinner at West End was a longtime tradition. Some of the busiest days of the year were Fridays during the church season of Lent. Ah, Lent, that time when Catholics reflected on the forty days Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public ministry. Lent is the reason for Carnival in the first place. Fat Tuesday is the big blow-out before the fasting and abstinence began.

 

Let’s face it, unless you have seafood allergies, abstaining from meat on five or six Fridays in late Winter/early Spring isn’t all that much of a sacrifice. Gumbo, fish frys at the parish church, and seafood po-boys all serve as wonderful coping mechanisms. Even cheese pizza in the school cafeteria isn’t such a bad deal.

Restaurants

lenten fridays

Bruning’s from Club My-oh-My by Jeanette Boutall Woest, 1966.

And then there was dining out. While so many restaurants in town offer seafood (even chop houses have “surf-n-turf” items on the menu), going out to the Lakefront in the Spring was fun. The heat didn’t wack you over the head yet, so sitting out on a patio made for a lovely evening. The image above from the porch of Club My-Oh-My illustrates the vibe. Have a cocktail and look out over the lake. Maybe even walk over to Bruning’s Restaurant as you gaze at the restaurant and contemplate your plans.

lenten fridays

Bruning’s in the 1960s by Jeanette Boutall Woest

Bruning’s was my dad’s favorite of the East End restaurants. East End of West End? That’s so New Orleans, isn’t it? The line separating Orleans and Jefferson Parishes isn’t specifically the 17th Street Canal. The line cuts off the edge of West End, making it the “East End” of Jefferson Parish. This was a real thing–if you had a medical emergency at Bruning’s or Fitzgeralds, you had to call JPSO, not NOPD.

Back to Bruning’s. Known for their Stuffed Flounder, the restaurant also offered a full range of seafood, along with spaghetti and meatballs for the kids.

lenten fridays

Fitzgerald’s – Interior view of a curved wood bar and three bartenders standing behind it. (Franck Studios photo)

Fitzgerald’s was my late father-in-law’s pick for West End dining. Both were packed on Lenten Fridays.

Maggie and Smitty’s

lenten fridays

Maggie and Smitty’s Crabnett. Terry Marks Painting.

While I didn’t mind my dad or father-in-law picking up the check for taking us out to eat, the budget of a UNO Education major didn’t support such adventures on my own. That’s OK, we had Maggie and Smitty’s. The legendary Tom Fitzmorris nailed the vibe of the place:

 Maggie & Smitty’s was the most informal and cheapest of all the restaurants at West End. Although some of this can be discounted because of the low prices, a sizeable number of customers were of the opinion that Maggie & Smitty’s had some of the best fried seafood, and certainly the best boiled. They usually served boiled seafood hot—not a common practice in West End or anywhere else in town.

And the cats! Maggie and Smitty’s, offering primarily outdoor seating, was the headquarters of the West End Squad. Those were some badass cats!

lenten fridays

Exterior of Maggie and Smitty’s Crabnett. John DeMajo photo.

“Maggie” was Maggie Hermard, and “Smitty” was her sister, Elaine. Along with their brother, Lloyd, they opened the restaurant in 1956. It became “Maggie’s” in the 1980s, after Smitty passed away. By the time the building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the restaurant was closed. Ah, but the memories!

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal #TrainThursday

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal #TrainThursday

Trains for Kansas City Southern operated from the L&A Terminal South Rampart Street.

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal

Franck Studios image of the Louisiana and Arkansas passenger terminal. The terminal stood at 705 S. Rampart, corner of Girod. It opened in 1923. Kansas City Southern took over the terminal in 1939. So, while this Alexander Allison photo is undated, it’s likely from 1940-41. What’s particularly interesting is the sign on the front. Earlier photos of the terminal don’t show the sign. The station was small, with only two tracks leading up to it. L&A operated a yard up from the station at (now) Norman C. Francis Parkway. Trains used a wye to turn around and back into the station. So, once passengers got off, trains ran up to the yard. Crews cleaned the cars and serviced the road locomotives. Switchers staged the next train on the station tracks.

 

Traffic to the terminal grew in 1928, as L&A acquired the Louisiana Navigation and Railway Company. That railroad operated from New Orleans to Shreveport. L&A inaugurated an overnight train, The Hustler, from New Orleans to Shreveport, in 1932. L&A investors started purchasing KCS in 1937. They gained control of the railroad in 1939. KCS absorbed L&A, but the subsidiary railroad remained on the books until 1992.

The Southern Belle

louisiana and arkansas terminal

1940s brochure for the Southern Belle train.

With the acquisition of L&A (although arguably it was the other way around), KCS inaugurated the Southern Belle in 1940. This “name train” ran from New Orleans to Kansas City. The Southern Belle, along with other KCS trains, operated from the L&A terminal until 1954, when all passenger operations in New Orleans moved to Union Passenger Terminal.

The corner store

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal

Corner store at the L&A/KCS Terminal, 1930s

I’m particularly interested in the store on the corner. It stood right on the corner of S. Rampart and Girod. While the earlier Trice photo shows the store Coca-Cola branded signage, the later Allison photo shows an awning. Since the store has an external, outside entrance, it likely serviced the neighborhood. This part of S. Rampart Street, just before the turning basin of the New Canal, contained a number of Jazz nightclubs and saloons. It’s hard to make out details on this image. So, we’ll be looking for better resolution and other photos.

louisiana and arkansas terminal

Leon Trice photo of the station from the 1930s.

Like other railroad-related locations, the L&A Terminal is an ongoing research project.