Bywater Streetcar Complications #TrainThursday

Bywater Streetcar Complications #TrainThursday

Bywater streetcar complications involve the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

bywater streetcar

NOPSI 1005, ca. 1935. Franck Studios via HNOC

St. Claude Line Bywater streetcars

NOPSI 1005, running on the St. Claude Avenue line, approximately 1935 (Franck Studios photo via HNOC). The car is heading outbound from N. Rampart Street. The 1000-series were the pinnacle of engineering development for the arch roof streetcars. The 1000s kept the original Perley A. Thomas design, with additions under the carriage. While the 400, 800, and 900s operated with two motors, the 1000s had four, one for each set of wheels.

Railroad versus Streetcar

bywater streetcar

Norfolk Southern train crossing the Industrial Canal, 13-Dec-2019, via Commons user Bl20gh114

St. Claude Avenue and Press Street, in the Upper Ninth Ward, is one of the few locations where streetcars and railroad equipment meet at grade. While the railroads own the Riverfront, the streetcar line operates in parallel to the New Orleans Public Belt RR tracks. The “Back Belt,” originally constructed for the NO&NE and Frisco by the New Orleans Terminal Company, includes a number of automobile underpasses. Once the Back Belt hits Orleans Parish, there are no grade crossings until Slidell.

After the consolidation of passenger rail into Union Passenger Terminal, those trains operated away from automobiles. The tracks run more-or-less parallel to the Pontchartrain Expressway. They merge into the Back Belt just past Greenwood Cemetery.

bywater streetcar

NOPSI 1371, a trackless trolley, inbound over the Industrial Canal at St. Claude Avenue, approaching Press Street, ca. 1950. City photo.

So, the most significant point of contention between railroad and streetcar was St. Claude and Press. NO&NE/Southern connected to the Public Belt from their Gentilly yard via tracks at Press Street. NOPSI streetcars crossed the train tracks there with few problems for decades. The overhead catenary presented no issues for the railroad. This continued after NOPSI discontinued the 1000-series streetcars in 1949. They scrapped those beauties, replacing them with trackless trolleys. The electric buses received power through the catenary, like the streetcars. They ran across Press, across the Industrial Canal, all the way down to the sugar refinery.NOPSI converted St. Claude from trackless trolleys to diesel buses in 1964. They cut down the overhead wires.

Modern complications

bywater streetcar

TTGX “tri-level” auto carrier, on the Norfolk Southern Back Belt, 22-Sep-2022.

While streetcars never left New Orleans, NOPSI reduced operations down to the St. Charles line in 1964. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority expanded streetcar service, introducing the Riverfront line in 1988. The success of Riverfront led to returning streetcars to the Canal line in 2004. Economic stimulus money from the federal government offered an opportunity to further expand streetcars in 2010. NORTA constructed a partial return of the St. Claude line. The line operates from Canal Street, along N. Rampart, then St. Claude, to Elysian Fields.

The line stops at Elysian Fields because NORTA and Norfolk Southern can’t come to terms on running the overhead wires over Press and St. Claude. Since the overhead departed almost sixty years ago, it’s on NORTA to change the status quo. The railroad argues that modern rolling stock, such as tri-level auto carriers, are too high for streetcar wires. NORTA disputes this, and they’re right. Still, Norfolk Southern continues to oppose restoring a grade crossing at this intersection.

 

 

Trombonist Santo Pecora

Trombonist Santo Pecora

“Mr. Tailgate,” Trombonist Santo Pecora, was a mainstay in the NOLA Jazz scene.

trombonist santo pecora

Trombonist Santo Pecora

Born Santo Joseph Pecoraro, trombonist Santo Pecora played with a number of bands in the 1920s. He changed his last name because his cousin, also Santo Pecoraro, was already playing professionally as a drummer. The two occasionally played together, in large ensemble gigs.

Santo, born March 21, 1902 in New Orleans, played in orchestras for silent movies in the early  1920s. He joined the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in Chicago, in 1925. Pecora’s discography began at this time, recording with the NORK. He also recorded with Jelly Roll Morton, the Wingy Manone Orchestra, Wynn’s Creole Jazz Band, and The Orleanians.

By the 1930s, Santo was a regular in the Chicago scene. He toured with Sharkey Bonano, then later moved to Los Angeles, touring with Wingy Manone. While playing with Manone, he also did studio work for the movie studios.

Mr. Tailgate

Trombonist Santo Pecora’s early career in New Orleans was typical of many jazz musicians. He earned the nickname, “Mr. Tailgate,” because he played daytime gigs off the back of a horse-drawn wagon. Jazz Bands usually played night gigs, at places like fraternal/masonic halls, dance clubs, even baseball parks. To promote those gigs, the bands would ride around town on a wagon. They would play, promote the paid gig that evening, and busk for tips.

Playing on a wagon presented a complication for the trombonist. While the other musicians could stand on either side of a wagon, the trombone stuck out too far. It could hit someone/something, and injure them. Worse yet, from the musician’s perspective, the trombone could be damaged. So, they lowered the wagon’s tailgate. The trombonist sat, legs dangling off the back. Santo joined these bands to pick up tips.

Later career

Pecora returned to New Orleans with Sharkey Bonano’s band in the after World War II. He played regular gigs in local clubs and the riverboats through the 1950s, leading a couple of bands into the 1960s. He then stepped back from full-time work in the 1970s. He passed on May 29, 1984.


 

Shushan’s Monuments

Shushan’s Monuments

Abraham Shushan’s monuments marked Lakefront milestones.

shushan's monuments

New Basin Canal Lock monument, 1930

Shushan’s Monuments

Two 1930 photos of lakefront monuments. The late 1920s were a time of major improvements to the lakefront. Lake Pontchartrain seawall improved flood protection. So, the Levee Board* erected monuments to the “New Basin Canal Lock” and the “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall.” Board president Abraham “Abe” Shushan supervised their placement.

Seawall

sushan's monuments

Abe Shushan inspects the seawall monument, 1930

The “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall” was the finishing touch of a years-long series of land reclamation projects along the Orleans Parish lakefront. In 1915, the south shore of the lake went right up to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard). The Levee Board planned to drain the swampy ground and create new subdivisions. By 1930, the reclamation projects were completed.

The Levee Board built the finishing touch in 1929. Along with the stepped, concrete wall, they created Lakeshore Drive for access to recreational areas along the lakefront. Previous generations traveled out to the lakefront resorts at West End, Spanish Fort, and Milneburg via train/streetcar. With the completion of Lakeshore Drive, driving along the lake became a pleasant experience.

The monuments

Both of Shushan’s monuments contain the same text, with the name as the only change:

Constructed During the Administration of
HUEY P. LONG, Governor
by the
Board of Levee Commissioners
of the
Orleans Levee District
1930

The stones then list the members of the board and the various people who worked the projects. While John Riess built the lock, Orleans Dredging Company built the seawall.

Vanished

Shushan’s Monuments display Abe’s name, as president of the board. Shushan is seen in the seawall photo, inspecting the massive tablet. Abe got his start in his family’s business, Shushan Brothers. Shushan Brothers sold dry goods wholesale. Additionally, they operated retail toy stores. Abe left the business founded by his father and uncle, entering government as a strong supporter of Huey P. Long. He moved up in the Long organization. They arranged his appointment to the Levee Board.. Accordingly, the board named New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NOL) for Shushan. In 1935, the government indicted and tried him for tax fraud. Furthermore, they charged him with money laundering. While Shushan was acquitted, the Longs cut him loose. Although he was cleared, the trial exposed massive corruption. So, his name was removed from just about everything it was visible on, including these monuments.

 

 

Railroad Enticements

Railroad Enticements

Railroad enticements in 1924 included Asheville, NC and Cincinnati.

railroad enticements

Railroad enticements

A few ads from the Times-Picayune, 13-August-1924. These railroad enticements appealed to New Orleanians wrestling with the dog days of summer. The Louisville and Nashville advertised sleeper service to Asheville, NC, and the Southern Railway System ran trains to Cincinnati. The L&N trains departed New Orleans from their depot at Canal Street by the river. Southern Railway trains operated from Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets. Both railroads (as well as most of the others) maintained ticket offices on the ground floor of the St. Charles Hotel. The photo is of the L&N’s “Pan American” train, which ran from New Orleans to Cincinnati.

Asheville

railroad enticements

“The temperature at this famous vacation land is delightfully cool and invigorating. Get some mountain air into your lungs, and come back to the South benefited by your vacation.”

L&N offered sleeper car service from New Orleans to Asheville. The trains left New Orleans at 8:30am, arriving the next morning.

Rising Rates

railroad enticements

“Are Railroad Rates Too High?” – L&N addressed the concerns of the various businesses they serviced. The railroads moved goods across the country in the 1920s. The dominance of trucking and the Interstate highway system did not come until the 1950s. “Cold facts and not wild fancies are shown by the figures here presented.”

Southern Railway

railroad enticements

While the L&N’s railroad enticements were to the cool mountain air, Southern advertised service to the cities. Two drains daily in 1924, leaving New Orleans at 8:30am and 8:10pm. The day train reached Birmingham, AL, by 6:55pm that evening, and Cincinnati at 9:30am the next morning. The evening train reached Birmingham for breakfast, terminating at Cincinnati at 8:55pm.

Unlike the Pan American’s all-sleeper service on the L&N, Southern Railway offered service via Pullman Sleeping Cars and standard coaches. That enabled the railroad to offer comfort as well as economy fares. Trains included dining cars.

 

 

Pontchartrain Beach 1934

Pontchartrain Beach 1934

Harry Batt, Jr., promoted Pontchartrain Beach 1934 in the local paper.

pontchartrain beach

Pontchartrain Beach 1934

pontchartrain beach 1934

A full-page advertisement in the Times-Picayune, 1-July-1934, offered readers prizes at Pontchartrain Beach 1934. Participating stores included White Bros. jewelers, Cary and Helwick Hardware, Oliver H. Van Horn, Arrow Family Outfitters, and The Pants Store.

Pontchartrain Beach on the Bayou

Pontchartrain Beach 1934

Entrance to Pontchartrain Beach, when it was located along Bayou St. John.

Harry Batt, Jr., opened Pontchartrain Beach in 1929. He placed his amusement park on the east side of Bayou St. John at the lake. The Spanish Fort amusement area occupied the west side of the bayou for decades. Those attractions declined in the 1920s. So, Batt leased the land on the other side and opened a new attraction. Additionally, Batt’s experience selling ice to Spanish Fort attractions gave him knowledge of the area. He promoted the park with ads in the daily newspapers.

Co-op advertising

The concept of “co-operative” advertising benefits small businesses. On their own, a business may not be able to afford a full-page ad. So, if they pooled their funds with other businesses, the all received better visibility. Notice that the advertisers here don’t really overlap in terms of products. The most common co-op ads were from a manufacturer, who then listed the stores selling their products. Here, Pontchartrain Beach worked with stores to offer prizes for events and contests at the amusement park.

Getting to the Beach

pontchartrain beach 1934

ad for New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated, 1-June-1934

The route to Pontchartrain Beach at this time was the Spanish Fort streetcar line. Initially, folks traveled to the Bayou via rail service. When electric streetcars came on the scene in the 1890s, the amusement area at Spanish Fort was in decline.

That changed in 1911. New Orleans Railway and Light Company, NOPSI’s predecessor, offered electric streetcar service back to the bayou. The line followed the route of the West End line. When it reached Adams Street in Lakeview (now Allen Toussaint Blvd.), the line turned right, ending at the Bayou. When Batt opened his park, all folks had to do was cross the bridge and go ride the rides.

Milneburg

lake pontchartrain 1934

Pontchartrain Beach moved from the bayou to Milneburg in 1939. That’s another story, but Batt continued to promote the park regularly in the newspaper. For more history on Da Beach and Lake Pontchartrain, check out Catherine Campanella’s books on the subject.

Bridge Administration Building, Jefferson #TrainThursday

The Huey P. Long Bridge Administration Building, on the east bank.

bridge administration building

Bridge Administration Building

The State of Louisiana built the Huey P. Long Bridge in 1934-35. They included a Bridge Administration Building in the project. So, they located the building on the East Bank side. It stood in what is now Elmwood, Louisiana. From the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) survey summary:

Significance: The Huey P. Long Bridge, Administration was built as part of the Huey P. Long Bridge project and designated as Contract No. 10. It was built to house the administrative offices of the Louisiana Highway and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission. Also the control room for the bridge operations. The simple Modern/Beaux-Arts style building was designed by renowned Lousiana Architects; Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth of New Orleans who also designed the new nationally significant 1932 Modern/Beaux-Arts style Louisiana State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

bridge administration building

Building floor plan

HAER surveys, along with Historic American Building Surveys (HABS) are done by the Department of the Interior to preserve detailed records of historic structures which may end up demolished at some point. For example, there’s a HABS survey of old Canal Station (now the location of the A. Phillip Randolph bus facility, operated by NORTA) at Canal and N. White Streets in Mid-City. While the best result for these buildings would be preservation, at least we have these records.

Crossing the river

bridge administration building

Plaque marking the construction of the Huey.

The Huey P. Long Bridge provided New Orleans with its first overhead river crossing, Prior to its opening, people and goods crossed via ferries. A number of companies operated passenger ferries. Morgan Steamship (Southern Pacific Railroad) operated a ferry in the Marigny. It moved railcars from Esplanade Avenue to Algiers. From there, trains traveled to Houston and points West. SP later constructed ferry landings in Jefferson and Avondale. They used that crossing until the Huey opened.

Control room?

bridge administration building

Phone box used by the Huey P. Long Bridge staff in the Bridge Administration Building

The building housed the Louisiana Highway Commision and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad.  Additionally, it included a “control room” for the bridge. The Public Belt staff monitored railroad traffic on the approaches. Automobile traffic was secondary to rail for decades. (Anyone driving the original auto lanes on the Huey appreciates this.) The control room maintained communications with the switch towers. Supervisors manned the control room. Phones routed through the switchboard room.

Bridge Administration Building

Switchboard room

Fate of the building

NPS published this HAER in 1968. The Public Belt demolished it after the survey. Additionally, a self-storage facility now stands on the site.