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.
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.
The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.
The Humming Bird
“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.
Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.
Blue Humming Bird
The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.
When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.
While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.
New Orleans Stations
Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947
Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.
End of an era
L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.
NORTA 2007 is a 2000-series Von Dullen arch roof streetcar.
NORTA 2007 on the Riverfront
A Von Dullen streetcar, NORTA 2007, operating on the Riverfront line, 10-June-2019. Photo by/courtesy of Michelle Callahan. While the 400-series streetcars, built in 1997, operated on Riverfront, after the line’s expansion, the 2000-series operating on Canal Street often turned left as they reached the river. They ran on Riverfront, from Canal to the French Market. So, it was often possible to catch a streetcar at the Old US Mint and ride it all the way to the Cemeteries Terminal, at Canal Street and City Park Avenue.
NORTA designed the 400-series Riverfront streetcars to be as close to the vintage-1923 arch roofs as possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act required accessible operation on Riverfront. So, NORTA retired the streetcars running on the line since 1988. They built new arch roofs that included wheelchair lifts on either side of the cars. The stops along Riverfront allowed wheelchair users to come right up to the side. The operator stops, lowers the lift, secures the passenger, and off they go.
While the 400s are not air-conditioned, the 2000s are. That’s why they have the faux monitor deck on top. The design is that of an arch roof. The aesthetics are challenged, though. The air-conditioning unit, as well as the electronics package sit on the car’s roof. They make for unsightly bumps. So, Von Dullen modified the design. When you’re inside a 2000, it’s clear you’re in an arch roof. From the outside, the faux deck masks the modern stuff.
Along the riverfront
In this wonderful photo, NORTA 2007 passes in front of the Jackson Brewing Company’s former facility, at Decatur and St. Peter Streets. The area along the river, from Canal Street to the Governor Nicholls Street Wharf, was converted into a pedestrian walk in the 1980s. This was expanded to add Woldenburg Park in the 1990s. The Riverfront streetcar line uses the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad right-of-way to transport passengers from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to the French Market.
Krauss warehouse building on Iberville Street supported the store.
Krauss warehouse building
The Krauss Company used this seven-story building at 201 N. Front Street (Front and Iberville) as warehouse space in the 1930s to the 1960s. The store, located at 1201 Canal, was only in the block between Canal and Iberville at the time. The building was originally part of the Louisiana Sugar Exchange complex, until that business closed in the 1930s. The photo is undated, but the Frank Studios woody at the bottom right places it in the early 1950s.
The Louisiana Sugar Exchange stood on Iberville and Front Streets from 1883ish until the early 1930s. The seven-story warehouse stood next to a ten-story “filter house.” Sugar syrup required filtration to remove impurities. Large plants use gravity to filter the product. Once the syrup was filtered, the plants processed it. They barreled the product as molasses, storing it in the warehouse. Molasses was easy to ship.
By the 1930s, sugar producers moved away from downtown New Orleans. They built larger processing facilities up or down the river. The filter house and warehouse stood unused.
Leon Heymann and Krauss
Krauss Department Store opened on Canal Street in 1903. The company expanded from the original two stories in 1911, adding a five-story extension. Leon Heymann, President of the Krauss company (and brother-in-law to the original four Krauss brothers) eventually acquired the entire 1201 block of Canal Street, back to Iberville. He then acquired the block behind the store, from Iberville to Bienville Streets. While he planned a service/warehouse building for that second block, World War II slowed that down. The second building didn’t happen until 1952. So, the warehouse space down by the river was an important part of the business.
Into the 1960s
The Krauss Company sold the 201 N. Front building after the completion of the service building behind the store. The 201 N. front building changed hands a few times in the 1960s and 1970s. Folks may remember the building as the location of “Victoria Station,” a train-themed restaurant where diners ate in railcars (as well as in the building).
The old warehouse building now houses the One11 Hotel, and its Batture Bistro and Bar.
This photo is via HNOC. Tip of the hat to Mike Scott for his 2020 article about the building in Da Paper.
USS Cayuga participated in Farragut’s attack on Forts Jackson and St. Phillip.
An Unadilla-class gunboat, Cayuga was launched on 10-Oct-1861, at Portland, CT. After final fitting-out at the New York Navy Yard, she was commissioned on 21-Feb-1862. Upon commissioning, the Navy ordered Cayuga to Ship Island. The gunboat joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Flag-Officer (later Rear Admiral) David Farragut commanded that squadron. Cayuga was one of nine Unadilla-class gunboats in the squadron. After the rebel army abandoned New Orleans to Farragut and Butler, Cayuga remained in the squadron, moving north to support operations as Union forces secured the Southern portion of the Mississippi River.
Farragut’s nine Unadilla-class gunboats engaged rebel boats along the river at Forts Jackson and St. Phillip. They were:
The rebel defenders extended chains across the river, from one fort to the other. On 20-April-1862, Farragut ordered three of the Unadillas up the river to clear those chains. They opened a passage on the west side of the river. Farragut moved the rest of his squadron, including Cayuga, up through this opening.
While Porter’s mortar-vessels pounded the forts, Cayuga and the other gunboats blasted a path for the larger ships in the squadron. Cayuga and the other five gunboats that cleared the forts anchored in the river at New Orleans. Their firepower compelled the surrender of the city. So, the gunboats threatened New Orleans with flooding. Their guns could take aim at the city’s levee system. City leaders knew the impact crevasses would have.
Captain Theodorus Bailey held command of Colorado, 19, as part of the West Gulf Blockade Squadron. Bailey and Colorado enjoyed success off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts in the early months of 1862. He was, however, unable to bring Colorado up the river. While Colorado was a significant asset, the frigate’s draft was too deep. So, Farragut transferred Bailey from Colorado to Cayuga for the attack. Bailey commanded a division of three gunboats. He successfully brought Cayuga into the Port of New Orleans. On 25-April-1862, Farragut ordered Bailey to enter the city. He and Lieutenant George Perkins, USN, went to City Hall, where their surrender demands were rebuffed.
This image appeared in Battles and leaders of the Civil War : being for the most part contributions by Union and Confederate officers, Volume 2, 1887.