The last remaining roundhouse in New Orleans stands on Tchoupitoulas Street.
NOTE: this post is an update of one from 2018.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Leon Trice photo of the station from the 1930s.
Like other railroad-related locations, the L&A Terminal is an ongoing research project.
Lake Vista subdivision opened in 1938.
The Lake Vista subdivision on the Lakefront
Photo of a relief map of the proposed Lake Vista Subdivision on the New Orleans Lakefront. Caption from the WPA record:
New Orleans, 1936: “The Lakefront Development, carried on by the WPA under Levee Board sponsorship, will look like this map-relief model when completed.” Shows man looking over a diorama of the Lake Vista neighborhood.
Lake Vista was the first residential development opened on land reclaimed from Lake Pontchartrain. The subdivision encompasses the area from Marconi Drive (west), Lakeshore Drive (north), Beauregard Avenue/Bayou St. John (east), and Allen Toussaint Boulevard (south). The US Coast Guard station stood at the bayou and the lake.
Eventually, land reclamation on the Lakefront spawned five subdivisions:
- West Lakeshore
- East Lakeshore
- Lake Vista
- Lake Terrace
- Lake Oaks
Lake Vista is sort-of towards the middle of this group, with its border along the bayou. The Orleans Levee Board developed Lake Vista first, mainly because the other sections were already in use. West Lakeshore became Lagarde Army Hospital. The US Navy built Naval Hospital New Orleans in East Lakeshore. Pontchartrain Beach occupied a significant portion of Lake Terrace at this time (the Milneburg location didn’t open until 1940).
Lake Terrace extended to the London Avenue Canal. The other side of the canal to Elysian Fields Avenue became Naval Air Station New Orleans. What would become Lake Oaks was home to Army barracks and other facilities. So, that left Lake Vista uncommitted.
The basic design of the neighborhood was spoke-and-hub.. The residential streets each started on one of the edges. They moved toward the parcel’s center. That center became the hub. One Street, Spanish Fort Boulevard, was planned as a two-lane street separated by a neutral ground. All the spoke streets converged on a circular road. Inside the circle was reserved for churches, schools, and a retail development. The main tenant of that middle section became St. Pius X Church and School (Catholic).
Times-Picayune, September 17, 1938
The Levee District invited New Orleans to inspect Lake Vista on its opening weekend, 17-18 September, 1938. They published a full-page ad with lots of information on the neighborhood. “15 minutes from the heart of the city. Come!” The ad touts the perks of buying in a brand new development: no survey fees, etc., since twenty years before opening, it was part of the lake.
Still there more
While Lake Vista has evolved over its 85-year lifetime, a number of homes built in the 1940s remain.
A 1943 Willys MB jeep at the National World War II Museum has a 75mm recoilless rifle.
1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle. Edward Branley photo.
The Freedom Pavillion
On our recent trip to the National World War II Museum, we walked through The United States Freedom Pavillion. My firstborn, LT Branley, USN (Ret), wanted to see the various airplanes hanging above us. As we walked in, something else caught my eye, a jeep. Jeeps are pretty common, but this particular one caught my eye. It has a rocket launcher mounted in the back seat. The configuration reminded me of the old television show, “The Rat Patrol.” In the show, set during the North Africa campaign, the jeeps the “patrol” used had machine guns mounted in the back seats. I always thought this was a Hollywood thing. That’s why my eyes turned when I saw this rocket mounted on a jeep.
1943 Willys MB Jeep
1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle. Edward Branley photo.
While “The Rat Patrol” was fiction (it was based on a British SAS unit in North Africa), the Willys MB is authentic. Here’s the Museum’s description of the jeep:
Finally, a 1943 Willys MB is on exhibit in The United States Freedom Pavilion, The Boeing Center. This jeep, like other vehicles in the pavilion, runs; and it is moved on a regular basis to accommodate Museum events. This jeep is marked to represent the 155th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion with the 17th Airborne Division during Operation Varsity. This unit received two 75mm recoilless rifles for use in that operation. This type of weapon was just being deployed at the end of the war and proved very useful in anti-tank operations. In addition to the recoilless rifle, the jeep features a wire cutter commonly found in the European theater and a limited collection of other accessories. The jeep has appropriate unit markings. The W number is painted in white, as is typically observed after a vehicle has spent time with a unit.
(from the article, “Shop Talk: Three Jeeps” on the museum’s website)
So, the MB jeep sports a 75mm recoilless rifle. In addition to the memories of the television show, the tube-like gun on the back reminded me of the Cold War board wargames we played in the 1980s. A common weapons system of that time was the BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missile. It was interesting to see the evolution of vehicular weapons systems.
1942 Ford GPW in the North Africa Exhibit. Thomas Czekanski photo, Courtesy of The National WWII Museum.
In the North Africa exhibit of the Road to Berlin Gallery, another jeep caught my eye. The display contains a 1942 Ford GPW painted and weathered to look like it had been at Kasserine Pass. Back when I taught American History at Redeemer High School in Gentilly, I used to show the movie, “The Big Red One.” That movie features the battle at the pass. What impressed me about this jeep was the weathering. This jeep’s weathering includes mud spatters as if it traveled a lot of desert miles. No machine gun mounted in the back, just a hard-working vehicle. The National WWII Museum are masters in creating the “immersive experience.”
A National WWII Museum visit is a NOLA must!
Diorama featuring a C-4 Waco glider at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Edward Branley photo.
National WWII Museum Visit
My Firstborn, who spent ten years as a submariner, always wants to go to make a National WWII Museum visit when he comes home (he lives in the DMV, working for the Strategic Capabilities Office these days). We gladly oblige him, as the museum is a fun way to spend the day. He walks like he’s still on a boat and needs coffee badly, so we let him go ahead. When it’s three or four of us, it’s everyone for themselves, and we text to get back together. Being a naval officer, he usually spends most of his time in the Road To Tokyo exhibit. Being an NJROTC cadet who was often chewed out by Master Chief Brennan at Brother Martin High School, I share his interest in the Navy exhibits.
So, this trip, I was surprised when my O-3 said, let’s start with the original D-Day exhibits in the Louisiana Pavillion. The museum evolved from Ambrose’s original D-Day focus to all of the war. In that first summer of 2000, though, Overlord dominated. There’s one diorama in particular that I like to stop at for a while. The scene features a CG-4 Waco glider. The glider crashed into a stone wall in the woods behind and to the west of the Normandy beaches. The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions dropped into that area. They advanced, securing bridges and causeways connecting the beaches to the hedgerow country. While this particular Waco endured a hard landing (one wing is shown broken off), the jeep inside remains intact. Glider Infantry pushed the vehicle out, then drove off to connect with the rest of their unit.
It’s the stillness of the scene that gets me every time. It’s quiet, maybe this was one of the first gliders to land. The drops were a mess in those early hours of 6-June-1944. Someone’s managed to open the cargo hold. Hopefully the pilots survived. Crickets remind you that this is forest country. The display features no strong special effects, just the night sounds. The All-American and Screaming Eagles started their European campaign there.
Stuffed Bingle hit his stride in the early 1950s.
Santa and Mr. Bingle on the front of Maison Blanche, 901 Canal Street, in 1952. Stuffed Bingles were sold on the Third Floor. (Franck Studios photo courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection)
Jingle Jangle Jingle!
The story of Mr. Bingle is Chapter 3 of my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, from Emile Alline’s preliminary doodles to the puppets, to the Big Bingle that rules Celebration in the Oaks at City Park. That story is now seventy-five years old and going strong.
Mr. Bingle was one of those marketing ideas that was a winner from the beginning. It did take some time to make that happen, though. Alline’s imagination became doodles, then sketches to pitch management. Then the ad department took over, and the little snow elf was in the corners of ads every December.
Stuffed Bingle Prototype
After Mr. Bingle took over the full-page ads, The little guy needed a three-dimensional presence. Alline ordered a fifteen-inch Bingle doll.The doll helped ad development, since he could be posed and photographed with merchandise from the store.
That prototype evolved into the puppets. Oscar Isentrout connected Alline with a German puppet-maker. They copied the prototype doll, creating two Bingle puppets. One puppet stayed at the store. Oscar went around town with the other puppet, doing shows at the branch stores. Oscar performed the voice of the Bingle puppet for those shows, along with the wonderful WDSU-TV commercials.
Bingles for Everyone
Stuffed Bingle in an ad for Maison Blanche in the Times-Picayune, 19-December-1949.
By 1949, the success of print advertising and Oscar’s puppet shows created a demand for Bingles for the kids. The prototype inspired a lasting product:
in big 16″ size
He’s in softest rayon Plush and an exact reproduction of the jolly Mir. Bingle seen in MB’s famous Puppet Show. tots adore him.
In addition to the 16″ Bingle, MB offered him in 11″ for 1.98 and 20″ for 4.98.
To encourage continued sales, MB began branding the Bingles with the year on his foot. Now, families bought Bingles for newborns, etc. As Stuffed Bingles grew in popularity, the dolls spread out to other chains owned by Mercantile Stores. That holding company owned Maison Blanche, along with a dozen other stores. I was totally mind-blown in 1996, when on a business trip to Fargo, ND. As I walked through West Acres Mall (home of the Roger Maris Museum), I stepped into DeLendrecie’s Department Store. There was Mr. Bingle! But of course, a snow elf in snowy North Dakota!