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:
Canadian National/Illinois Central
Kansas City Southern
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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
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 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.
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.
We’re talking about the Krewe of Proteus, a Lundi Gras tradition.
Mobilius in Mobili photo
Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus.
Happy Lundi Gras! The Krewe of Proteus first rolled the streets of New Orleans in 1882. While they’re not the oldest Carnival organization, they’re the oldest that still parades. Here’s the video of the history of Proteus:
Of the three krewes that withdrew from parading in 1992 (Comus, Momus, and Proteus), the Krewe of Proteus returned to the streets in 2000. As we discuss in the pod, Proteus had stronger reasons to return to public view. While the other two krewes hold seniority, Proteus held visibility. Momus paraded on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. That spot now belongs to the Knights of Babylon. Babylon traditionally paraded on Wednesday, and moved up in the pecking order. Or did they? After all, Thursday night now belongs to the Krewe of Muses, one of the super-krewes.
Comus paraded on Mardi Gras night. When they began in 1857, the Mystick Krewe were the only parade in town. Over a century, however, other krewes out-shone the oldest organization. By the 1980s, the Comus parade was essentially glorified transportation to their ball. Worn out from a day of marching clubs, Zulu, Rex, and the truck floats, the majority of Uptown carnival-goers gave up before dusk.
The Comus ball, held for decades on one side of the Municipal Auditorium on Mardi Gras, is still the Big Deal in “society” circles. Even Rex defers to Comus by leaving his own ball and closing out the season with Comus. So, the members of the Mystick Krewe didn’t lose much sleep over not returning to parading. That’s ironic, of course, since they eventually did prevail in court over the city.
Proteus, on the other hand, had the most prominent position of the three. Even before “Lundi Gras” was an event in itself, they embraced the anticipation and excitement of the evening, leading into the big day.
The New Orleans Public Belt runs along the riverfront.
Streetcars and trains along the Riverfront
Infrogmation photo (2013) of three New Orleans Public Belt (NOPB) locomotives passing the Ursuline Street station for the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA). From right to left: NOPB 3001, an EMD GP40, NOPB 3003, a GP40-2, and NOPB 2008, a Motive Power Industries (MPI) 1500D. All three locomotives bear the red NOPB livery used at that time.
New Orleans Public Belt
The City of New Orleans created the NOPB in 1908. From the railroad’s Wikipedia entry:
The impetus for the NOPB came at the start of the 20th century era when multiple railroads terminating locally created both congestion at the Port of New Orleans and safety problems on city streets. The railroad began operation in 1908 with the intention of giving the major railroads “uniform and impartial” access to the port.
So, the NOPB regularly operates along the riverfront. Additionally, the NOPB “owns” the Huey P. Long bridge, which connects about one-third of the nation’s east-west railroad traffic. From the Industrial Canal to Jefferson, Louisiana, NOPB horns can be heard.
Portion of the route map for NORTA’s UPT-Riverfront line.
While there are no streetcars in this photo, the Ursuline Station is a stop on the NORTA UPT-Riverfront line, Route 49. It’s the second-to-last stop as the outbound streetcars approach the French Market terminal. Hopping off the Von Dullen and 400-series arch roofs at Ursuline puts the rider at Latrobe Park. This snippet of NORTA’s map for Route 49 shows the various railroad tracks in this part of the port. While the first incarnation of the Riverfront line operated on “standard gauge” tracks, the line switched to “streetcar gauge” in 1997.
Red to Blue
NOPB locos in blue livery passing Jackson Square, February 2023. Mussi Katz photo.
NOPB adopted a blue livery for their locomotive fleet in 2019. The blue paint scheme distinguishes them from the streetcars on Route 49. The locomotives use horns, where the streetcar operators clang the traditional trolley bell.
New Orleans King Cakes date back centuries, with exciting times ahead.
King Cake from Adrian’s Bakery in Gentilly
New Orleans King Cakes
From Twelfth Night to the start of parades, the public face of Carnival is the King Cake. Let’s run down some of the background on this wonderful tradition. Note that this is background, history. Your preferred modern king cake is up to you!
Here’s the YouTube version of the pod. As we’ve mentioned previously, I record the pod using Zoom. It’s wonderful, because Zoom generates audio and video. I like to think the audio version of the pod is more fun, but what the heck.
The Clay Monument. On 31-December-1869, the Twelfth Night Revelers invited New Orleans to see them pass by the Clay Monument on January 6, 1870. As mentioned in the pod, we’re going to have to do a full episode on the monument’s history. The reason TNR used this landmark as a gathering point was its size. The original monument dominated the three-way corner of Canal, Royal, and St. Charles Streets. Can you imagine this beast of a monument in the middle of modern Canal Street? Perfect place to tell the city, “come see us.” This is a Theodore Lilienthal photo.
Restaurant Antoine: New Orleans’ oldest restaurant, on St. Louis Street, between Royal and Bourbon. Several of the dining rooms at the restaurant are named after Carnival organizations. This is the Twelfth Night Revelers room.
King Cake Hub, located at Zony Mash Brewery, 1464 S. Broad, is a great option for one-stop king cake shopping. You’re looking to have a king cake tasting at the house, or at work? No better way to get a sampling of different styles than here.
CORRECTION: I said North Broad for the location of King Cake Hub at Zony Mash when it should be SOUTH Broad!