Connecting New Orleans to Florida via the Gulf Wind
Combined Piedmont Limited /Pan-American/Gulf Wind train backing into Union Passenger Terminal, 1964 (photographer unknown)
From 1949 to 1971, the Louisville and Nashville operated passenger service from New Orleans to Jacksonville, Florida, via their Gulf Wind train. While the service sounded like a classic “name train,” it was actually the combination of several trains approaching New Orleans from points north.
Louisville and Nashville passenger service
Postcard of the Louisville and Nashville’s Pan-American, from the 1920s.
L&N operated from 1850 to 1982. The railroad operated freight service from the 1880s. L&N built a passenger terminal in New Orleans in 1902. So, that station stood where at the foot of Canal Street. The Aquarium of the Americas presently occupies the space.
L&N provided passenger service from New Orleans to Cincinnati, New York City, and Jacksonville, FL, while the Crescent Limited and the Piedmont Limited ran to New York.
New Orleans – Florida Express
L&N operated service to Jacksonville via the New Orleans-Florida Express, from 1925 to 1949. The railroad used “heavyweight” equipment for this train. The train offered overnight sleeper service. The trip lasted about eighteen hours. In the 1940s, railroads replaced older equipment on busy/popular trains. They substituted “streamlined” cars for the heaver steel ones. Therefore, to modernize, L&N upgraded their New Orleans to Florida service. L&N also operated the New Orleans-Florida Limited, as day service from Jacksonville, west to New Orleans. They discontinued this service in 1949.
SCL E-8 of the type used on the Gulf Wind
L&N re-branded the New Orleans-Florida Express in 1949. So, they gave the train the name, Gulf Wind. The new train operated “streamliner” cars. The new service offered modern dining cars, Pullman sleepers, and rounded-end observation cars. The timetable of the Gulf Wind matched up with the Silver Meteor. That train operated from New York City to Miami. It arrived at Jacksonville mid-afternoon. Passengers heading west across the Florida Panhandle changed to Gulf Wind.
Gulf Wind was diesel-powered. L&N and Seaboard Coast operated the route jointly. So, SCL engines pulled the train from Jacksonville to Chattahoochee. L&N power picked it up there, pulling the train into New Orleans.
The train’s ridership declined in the early 1960s. To maintain profitability, L&N combined service. Several routes approaching New Orleans joined together. L&N combined Gulf Wind with the Piedmont Limited, outbound from New Orleans. The train split up in Flomaton, Alabama. Gulf Wind continued into Florida. So, Piedmont headed north to Cincinnati. On the return run, Gulf Wind combined with the Pan-American, coming down from Cincinnati at Flomaton.
New Orleans Stations
The Gulf Wind operated from the L&N’s Canal Street station, from 1949 to 1954. The city demolished the station in 1954. Therefore, service re-located to Union Passenger Terminal. This also meant a slight change in the route. When departing from Canal Street, the train left on L&N tracks. It traveled to the Gulf Coast between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne via the Rigolets Pass. After 1954, trains departed from UPT. They left the city via the Southern Railway’s Back Belt. The route to Mississippi was over the Southern bridge across the lake.
Gulf Wind ended operation in 1971. Amtrak decided to discontinue passenger service when they took over that year. Amtrak revived the New Orleans-to-Florida service in the early 1980s, but dropped it after a couple of years. The company extended Sunset Limited service from New Orleans to Jacksonville. That service was discontinued in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
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This week’s pic for “Today in New Orleans” on NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019
Canal Street, 7-June-1960
NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019
A Lakeview flashback for the NewOrleansPast.com pick this week, along with a photo unpack for NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019. Also, a brief farewell to the Times-Picayune.
Menu from Lenfant’s on Canal Blvd, 1940s.
John L. Lenfant began his career as a barber in the Marigny. Campanella’s entry for 25-June marks Lenfant’s application to open a bar and grocery at 2001 N. Rampart. Gotta love New Orleans, Lenfant wanted to combine a bar and a grocery. A charming cottage occupies 2001 N. Rampart (corner Touro) now.
Inside Lenfant’s in the 1940s. (courtesy NOLA.com)
John Lenfant opened a variety of businesses in the Marigny, Bywater, and Gentilly. John passed before he could open his restaurant on Canal Boulevard. The sons completed the project. It is by far the best-remembered Lenfant’s business
Lenfant’s on Canal Blvd. opened in 1941. The restaurant offered mostly seafood, in dining room styled as “Streamline Moderne.”This style is similar to Art Deco.
In addition to dining in the restaurant, folks could park in the shell lot outside. Car hops would come out and take orders.
Lenfant’s expanded in the 1950s. They opened the “Boulevard Room” next to the restaurant. This expanded Lenfant’s event and catering possibilities. I grew up hearing lots of stories from folks who went to dances at the Boulevard Room in the 1950s. Over time, the ownership of the ballroom and the restaurant separated.
Today in New Orleans History
Canal Street, 1960
Canal Street, 7-June-1960
Unpacking a cool photo from 1960. Streetcars operated on a two-track main on Canal at this time. Palm trees date the photo after the 1958 beautification project. So many signs!
According to “Streetcar Mike” Strauch, “The GMC old look [bus] is on an uptown express, 70 or 71, with the lamps turned on. Jackson trolley coach behind.”
Diesel buses replaced the trackless trolleys in 1964. The Canal Line transitioned to streetcars in 1964 as well.
The Center Theater became the Cine Royale, which ended its days as a porno house.
Last Week’s Pod
Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
Heinemann Park, 1915
Streetcars, Canals, Baseball!
In one of our podcast conversations with Derby Gisclair, we discussed aerial photos of Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium. Derby explains the neighborhood around the stadium used by the Pelicans baseball club. While Heinemann Park wasn’t the first ballpark used by the AA-club, it was their home for most of their tenure.
This 1915 photo is amazing. It shows a football field, chalked out over the outfield, and a racing oval behind the fence. Derby suspects the racing oval dates from the amusement park the stadium replaced.
City Park Avenue to Tulane Avenue
Aerial view of the New Canal, running out to Lake Pontchartrain at the top, 1915
The Pelicans played ball at Crescent City Park, later known as Sportsman’s Park, until 1901. They moved to Tulane Avenue that year. Heinemann built the ballpark at Tulane and S. Carrollton in 1915. The team moved there that year.
Here’s the area behind the Halfway House, City Park Avenue and the New Canal. It’s a bit grainy, but you can see the patch of ground where Sportsman’s Park was located. NORD eventually built St. Patrick’s Park, a few blocks down, at S. St. Patrick and the New Canal.
Getting to the ballgame
S. Carrollton Avenue bridge over the New Basin Canal. It was demolished when the canal was filled in, late 1940s.
Pelican Stadium sat very close to the New Canal. A set of railroad tracks separated the park from the waterway. So, bridge crossed the Canal there. The streetcars used that bridge, then turned onto Tulane Avenue to continue their inbound run. So, baseball fans from Uptown rode the St. Charles line to get to the ballpark. Folks coming from downtown rode the Tulane line, down Tulane Avenue, to the ballpark.
So, I know we’ve talked about the Tulane line, particularly when it operated in “belt” service with the St. Charles line. It seems line some things pop up regularly. But hey, this is baseball! The area around S. Carrollton and Tulane was a nexus. The Tulane/St. Charles belt crossed the New Canal here. Passenger trains coming to town from the West rolled by, on their way to the Illinois Central’s Union Station. Folks bowled across the street at Mid-City Lanes. Therefore, the corner is important to many folks.
Especially baseball fans.
After the streetcars
Pelican Stadium, ca 1950
Belt service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines was discontinued in 1950. So, after that time, fans from Uptown rode the streetcar to its new terminus at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues. They transferred to the Tulane bus line from there. The Tulane line provided trackless trolley service until 1964. After 1964, Tulane used regular diesel buses. While the railroads worked with the city on the new Union Passenger Terminal, they trains still stopped right here, a convenience for Uptown passengers. The other “belt service” in New Orleans was on Canal and Esplanade, which we discuss in my book on the Canal line.
This photo is likely from 1950, because the city resurfaced Tulane Avenue. So, they removed the streetcar tracks, leaving the overhead wires for trackless trolleys.
After Pelican Stadium
The stadium became the Fontainebleau Hotel after the stadium was demolished. So, the hotel became a mini-storage facility later. Now it’s condos and storage units.
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Talking baseball! Derby Gisclair conversation on NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
We have a LONG “long-form” podcast today! It’s our second conversation with S. Derby Gisclair, author and historian, about his book, Baseball in New Orleans. I had a great chat with Derby, up at the French Truck Coffee Shop on Magazine Street in the Garden District.
New Orleans Pelicans Baseball
Pelicans manager Jimmy Brown with two Loyola players, Moon Landrieu (l), and Larry Lassalle, 1948.
Most of Baseball in New Orleans focuses on the old New Orleans Pelicans. The club was around, in one form or another, from 1887 to 1977. The New Orleans Zephyrs arrived in 1993. So, the AAA-level club in Denver had to leave that city when they got a team in The Show, the Colorado Rockies. These professional teams anchored baseball interest in New Orleans for over 150 years.
New Orleanians played baseball at several locations in the 1800s. The early Pelicans teams played at Sportsman’s Park. So, this ballpark sat just behind what became the “Halfway House,” later the Orkin Pest Control Building, on City Park Avenue. The ballpark operated from 1886 to 1900. The Pelicans moved to Athletic Park on Tulane Avenue in 1901.
Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium
In the early years of the Pelicans,Alexander Julius (A.J.) Heinemann, sold soft drinks at Pelicans games. Heinemann eventually joined the board of the club. He acquired the land at the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. So, Heinemann displaced a small amusement park called “White City.” Therefore, the Pelicans had a “serious” home. While the Pels were in the off-season, they moved the bleachers up Tulane Avenue to the new ground. The Pelicans played at Heinemann Park, later named Pelican Stadium, until its demolition in 1957. Derby has lots of stories about the ballpark in NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019.
Other Baseball Leagues
St. Aloysius and Loyola star (later Brother Martin and UNO coach) Tom Schwaner
Numerous leagues played in New Orleans. While the Pels played, amateur leagues also organized. They included workers at stores and businesses. So, these leagues played at local parks. High School and college teams also played. Derby’s books chronicle those teams. Special shout-outs to the “Brothers Boys! So, several BOSH young men appear in the book. So, one of them was St. Aloysius and Loyola Grad Tom Schwaner. Schwaner also coached Brother Martin and UNO. So, Gisclair also mentions the strong teams at Brother Martin High School in the early 1980s.
The Books of NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: March 24th, 2004
Series: Images of Baseball
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: January 2007
Series: Images of Baseball
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Publication Date: March 15th, 2019
Last Week’s Podcast, where we talk with Derby about Early Baseball.
The Bernadotte Street Yard ran from Canal Blvd. to Jefferson Davis Parkway
Sanborn fire map from the 1940s, showing detail in Mid-City New Orleans. Full PDF here.
Bernadotte Street Yard
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the portion of Mid-City that ran from Jefferson Davis Parkway to City Park Avenue was much narrower than the neighborhood is today. On the western side, Mid-City extended to the New Canal. From there, the neighborhood ran west, crossing Banks, Canal, and Bienville Streets. Mid-City hit a dead end one block past Bienville. So, the Bernadotte Street railroad yard began at Conti Street, essentially cutting off Mid-City from Bayou St. John.
New Orleans Terminal Company
The New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) built a railroad link from Canal and Basin Streets. It ran through Faubourg Treme, then down St. Louis Street, out to Florida Avenue. So, this connected the company’s passenger terminal downtown with the “Back Belt” owned by Southern Railway. Southern moved their passenger operations from their station on Press Street to Canal Street in 1916. Therefore, NOTC made a solid investment.
In addition to connecting Canal Street with the Southern Railway’s track, the NOTC link became the foundation for an industrial corridor. So, NOTC built a railroad yard at the Canal Blvd end of the link. Southern Railway leased the yard from NOTC. Southern referred to it as the “Bernadotte Street Yard.”
The image above is part of a Sanborn fire map from the 1940s. It shows the American Can Company factory on the right, on Orleans Avenue.The map details the various warehouses and other industrial sites. The borders are Jefferson Davis Parkway to N. Carrollton Avenue, Bienville Street to Orleans Avenue. Additionally, this area included a Southern Railway engine facility. That facility had a turntable and roundhouse.
To be contnued…
The Bernadotte Street Yard is relevant to a number of my research interests. So, I’ve got a fiction project in my head that may play out on passenger trains. That means Terminal Station. The station’s proximity to Krauss Department Store is also significant. I regularly watch rail activity on the Back Belt, on Canal Blvd. The mouth of the yard is not far away. In other words, come back periodically for more on this area.
If you didn’t have air-condition or a lot of fans, you might have lived in screen porch houses growing up.
(cross-posted to Eloquent Profanity)
House with a screen porch on Iberville Street in #NOLAMidCity
Screen porch houses
Before central air-conditioning became part of everyday home life, screen porch houses lined the blocks of New Orleans neighborhoods. Residents escaped the heat of summer by going outside. There were two problems with being directly outside, though. First, most folks avoided direct sunlight and sunburn. Second, the mosquitoes! So, homeowners screened in their front porches. Screens allowed the breeze in, but not the bugs. The offered protection from the sun. The wood floor gave the rocking chair a smooth surface.
Nothing to fans to a/c
It’s hard to remember a time before so many homes in New Orleans had air-conditioning. By 2011, 88% of homes in the United States were built with central a/c. Prior to the suburban expansions of the late 1960s/early 1970s, homes lacked a/c. While many were retro-fitted with wall units in bedrooms, living spaces often were not. Families believed you should go outside. Sit on the porch. Talk to the neighbors. Many a writer and literary critic supports the notion that central air conditioning dramatically changed the genre of “Southern Literature”, because people just didn’t socialize like they used to. They holed up inside and stayed cool.
There’s a lot of merit to this concept, In New Orleans, we sit outside for a few weeks in the Spring and the Fall. The rainy season (what the northern parts of the US call, “Winter”) just doesn’t accommodate outside activity. The humidity of the Summer and early Fall drain us.
New Orleans homes
Not everyone has a Spanish Colonial courtyard to retreat to on a hot day. Shotgun homes offer good airflow, but privacy concerns often outweigh the breeze running through the house. That leaves the backyard. Thing is, the backyard isolates the family from the neighborhood. Porch-sitting brings folks together.