Mules NO&CRR transition took place in the 1840s.
Continuing the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Story
I spoke to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides at their monthly meeting this past Monday. They had me in to discuss the origins of the NO&CRR (New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad), which evolved into the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. I’ll be presenting the talk via blog posts here. We discussed the origins of the line, now we move to the transition to mules from steam power.
While steam power made sense to the management of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, residents along the Carrollton Line (which later became the St. Charles Avenue Line) grew unhappy. Steam trains are noisy and smokey. As New Orleans annexed what is now the Garden District, more people built fine houses close to the line.City officials pressured the railroad to abandon steam engines. Mules NO&CRR began in the 1840s.
Mules on the line
Naiads and Napoleon, 1860. Lilienthal photo, halfway point for Mules NO&CRR
Theodore Lilienthal photo of Naiads and Napoleon Avenues, 1860. The railroad built their facilities for the Carrollton line here. The intersection was more-or-less half-way between the CBD and the city of Carrollton.
St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues in 1948. Compare the difference with 1860.
Section from the Robinson Atlas, 1883, showing streetcar tracks around St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues. The half-way facilities for the railroad expanded over the twenty years since the Lilienthal photo. The black dot on St. Charles is a turntable. If you’ve been to San Francisco, you’ve seen this type of turntable. Here, the driver leads the mule out of the barn, placing the car on the turntable. He then walked the mule around, lining up with the track on the street, and off they went.
The building on the right housed the streetcars and the mules. Superior Seafood and Fat Harry’s stand there now. The buildings on the left (lake) side of St. Charles are now the Lower School for the Academy of the Sacred Heart.
Downtown on the line
The corner of St. Charles and Canal Streets in 1850. Notice there are NO streetcar tracks! That’s because the Carrollton line continued to use Baronne Street. While the steam trains terminated at Poydras and Baronne, the streetcars went all the way to Canal Street. The drivers turned around on a turntable on Baronne.
So, there were no streetcars yet on either St. Charles or Canal. The Canal line opened in 1861. The lighter-colored building in the background of this illustration is the first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel. This building burned down in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853.
This 1856 map shows downtown New Orleans (CBD) in 1856. The streetcars came down Naiads to Tivoli Circle. Like the modern line, they curved around to Delord Street, now Howard Avenue. Unlike the modern line, the Carrollton line went up to Baronne, then turned right. Baronne Street had two tracks with a turntable to change direction.
The railroad purchased and operated “Bob-Tail” streetcars from the Stephenson Car Company, from the 1850s until the line electrified in 1893. The driver attached the mule to the right side of the car in this photograph. The single-truck design made for a less-than-smooth ride. Still, the cars were as good as it got for the time.
While the bob-tails did most of the work on the line, the railroad experimented with alternatives. After the Southern Rebellion, PGT Beauregard returned to New Orleans. The railroad employed him as president in the 1870s. Being an engineer, Beauregard entertained a number of different ideas for streetcars. This car used canisters of ammonia gas to propel the car. This drawing is by Alfred Waud. It includes a small drawing of a white woman, and another of a black woman, along with Gus.
The Lamm Thermo-Specific locomotive operated on the line in 1874. The engine’s “fireless” design enabled quiet operation. So, the engine carried a large bottle/canister containing compressed air, steam. The engineer released the steam and the engine moved forward. The Lamm engines pulled 1-2 bobtail cars. The railroad discontinued operations of the Lamms, because of having tor re-charge the canisters.
To Be Continued…
We’ll move on to electrification next time.
Twelve Months New Orleans October, continuing the series by Enrique Alferez
Twelve Months New Orleans October
This image is the ninth in a series of images by Enrique Alferez, published by Michael Higgins as “The Twelve Months of New Orleans.” Higgins published the illustrations in 1940. The image features Jean Lafitte.
Alferez was born in Northern Mexico on May 4, 1901. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1927 to 1929. He came to New Orleans in 1929. Alferez made New Orleans his home. He took advantage of various Works Progress Administration grants in the late 1930s. Alferez created a number of sculptures in the metro area, particularly in New Orleans City Park. Additionally, he designed the large fountain in front of Shushan Airport (now New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Alferez drew and painted, as well as sculpting. So, he included many New Orleans landmarks in the “Twelve Months” booklet.
The title/cover page of the booklet says:
A set of 12 Romantic
Displaying 60 local subjects
drawn direct on the plate
with pen, brush, and crayon
Printed and published by Michael Higgins
at 303 North Peters St
Lafitte the Hero is the theme of October’s illustrations.
Top Left: Stand by to board! Lafitte the pirate maneuvers a ship, approaching his prey. The captain of the other vessel weighs his options. Fight, flight, or surrender! Flight likely isn’t an option at this point. Fight? A pirate crew? Risky. The border features ropes and a pulley from a ship’s mast.
Top Right: City Life. A group of men surround a table. The two towards the center gesture, but why? Is this a spirited conversation? An argument leading to a demand of satisfaction? Excitement over a card game? City life in the early 19th century enabled the Lafitte brothers to sell smuggled goods and develop customers. The floral border contrasts with the rough ropes of the ships.
Bottom Left: Bayou Barataria. Lafitte established a base along Barataria Bay. This location afforded good access to the Gulf of Mexico. The bay provided security for smuggling. Barataria Bay presented challenges to the US Navy, when they wanted to shut down the operations. The border displays an arm holding a torch.
Bottom Right: The Blacksmith Shop. While the Lafittes didn’t own the Blacksmith Shop at the corner of Bourbon and St. Phillip, it made a good meeting place. A potential customer avoided entertaining smugglers and pirates in their home. A trip to the blacksmith offered cover. The anchor and chain of the corner’s border presents the sea-captain connection to the shop.
The central drawing for October features Jean Lafitte. The caption reads:
Jean LAFITTE, Pirate,
and his brother Pierre, worked most
months, including OCTOBER
Alferez pictures Lafitte aboard one of his ships, ordering cannon fire. He stands at the edge of the deck, as a gunner aims a cannon in the background. Flames rise behind them.
See you for the eleventh image in November.
NOTE: Apologies for October in November!
This railroad stock certificate, from the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad was issued in 1853.
Railroad Stock Certificate
Chartered in 1852, the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad (NOO&GW) sought investors immediately. The railroad planned to connect New Orleans with Houston, Texas, and points in between. The company built a station in Algiers, Louisiana. They expanded westward from there. By 1857, the railroad reached Morgan City, Louisiana. Construction stopped there for more than twenty years. The company was unable to continue west because of the Southern Rebellion.
NOO&GW used “Texas Gauge” in constructing the initial 83 miles of track (prior to the Rebellion). While “standard gauge” 4′ 8 1/2″, Texas Gauge is 5’6″ in width. Proponents of the wider gauge argued that it allowed locomotives to include more features. They also argued that the wider gauge offered passengers a more comfortable ride. Street railway operators agree, since they use wide gauge track systems. The only remaining railroad in the United States operating with Texas Gauge is Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the subway system for San Francisco, Oakland, and the Bay Area.
Reconstruction and beyond
Steamship magnate Charles Morgan acquired the NOO&GW in 1869. He re-built the railroad using standard gauge. Morgan realized that the railroad would be a better target for acquisition if it connected easily to those systems expanding from the west. New Orleans was already a major rail hub, with connections to Chicago and the Eastern Seaboard. He was right, as the Southern Pacific system eventually acquired NOO&GW.
This stock certificate represents 15 shares of stock in the railroad. The company proclaims capital in the amount of $6 million on the left side of the certificate. The right side states the value of each share is $25. So, its value is a total of $375. That’s a sizeable investment in a company that, at the time of issue, had no track!
Birds-eye view of New Orleans, 1851, by John Bachmann.
Click the image for hi-res copy
Birds-eye view 1851
“Birds’ eye view of New-Orleans / drawn from nature on stone by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann].” The Mississippi River stands in the foreground. The view looks north to Lake Pontchartrain. Below the title: “Published by the agents A. Guerber & Co., c1851 (Printed by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann]).”
The map features an incredible amount of detail. While the majority of the map focuses on the east bank of the river, scenes on the west bank are visible. Reply/comment with the details that stand out to you!
John Bachmann, Sr., was a lithographer from Switzerland. While most of his work features views of New York City, he made a number of lithographs in other cities. Students of the Southern Rebellion refer to his drawings regularly. Anticipating conflict, Bachmann traveled to a number of possible flashpoints. He sketched those scenes, then converted them to “aerial” views.
Creating a birds-eye view
The perspective of drawings like birds-eye view 1851 dates back centuries. The idea is, the artist surveys and sketches the scene from a ground-level perspective. They then “stretch” the scene in their imagination. The artist uses that mental image to “look down” on the scene. They review the original details, adjusting the perspective.
So, to draw those riverboats, Bachmann sketched them, most likely sitting on the west bank levee. He added them to the river on the birds-eye, adjusting the angle in his mind. The paralell riverboat now appears from above.
New Orleans detail
Several things stand out to me from this litho:
- Riverboats. Bachmann captures a number of ocean-going ships as well as the classic riverboats that traveled up and down the Mississippi. The Port of New Orleans bustled in the late 1840s/early 1850s.
- Old Canal. The Carondelet Canal runs on the Eastern side of the lithograph, merging with Bayou St. John. The bayou then extends to the lake. The left-right body of water visible where canal joins bayou is Bayou Metairie. The city closed the Carondelet Canal in the 1920s. Norman C. Francis Parkway comes to and end in what was the swampy ground joining the bayous.
We’ll return to this drawing again for more detail!
Westbound railroads from New Orleans originated with the NOOGW.
The New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad offered service to the West of New Orleans. We’ve talked about NOOGW in previous posts, but this particular map contains some interesting points.
The NOOGW was organized in 1852. Its first fifty miles of track opened to service in 1854. This map dates to 1853. So, it’s another “proposal” map.
The Library of Congress summary for this map says, “Mississippi delta area shows drainage, sugar crop, parishes, major cities and towns, canals, and railroads with lines named and distances on the main line.” All those details make perfect sense for pitching a Westbound railroads. Sugar farmers require transportation, once they turn raw sugar into a granulated form, or molasses. Railroads connect towns. These points hit what investors want to hear.
LOC attributes the map to G. W. R. Bayley, published by company, Childs & Hammond. While there are no notes beyond attribution, it looks like someone took Bayley’s map and drew train tracks on it. Not that there’s a problem with that, as the saying goes.
Algiers to the west
The NOOGW serviced the city from a terminal in Algiers. This station played an important role in the Southern Rebellion. NOOGW’s fifty miles of track enabled the Union Army to supply their troops to the west. The rebels defended the Mississippi River fiercely. So, coming up from the South created two fronts of attack. The Union Army pushed up from New Orleans. Grant pushed down from St. Louis. Denying the rebels access to the river played an important role in shortening the rebellion.
After the rebellion, the NOOGW route extended past Morgan City, eventually into Texas. The Algiers facilities became part of the Southern Pacific system. SP expanded operations in Algiers. They built a full freight yard there. That yard later moved to Avondale.
This Custom House preliminary design evolved over the 1850s.
Custom House New Orleans
The Custom House occupies the 401 block of Canal Street. The final design became the building still standing. The Custom House functions as a federal office building. Additionally, it was the former location of the Audubon Insectarium.
Controversy surrounded the original Custom House design. From the HABS survey:
The structure was designed by Alexander Thompson Wood; however,
Mr. Arthur quotes James Gallier, Senior’s claim in his (Gallier’s)
autobiography that Wood had plagiarized the design from models and
plans submitted by Dakin and Gallier. [Arthur, A History . . __,
New Orleans, page 8,]
So, this appears to be the design that Gallier accused Wood of plagiarizing. The government suspended Wood. James E. Dakin continued the project. Arthur says, “…Dakin began a series of changes in the original design ‘to see that the building should be arranged and constructed in the best and most convenient manner to meet the wants and purposes designed'”
Dakin transformed this concept drawing into the current building. The cornerstone of the Custom House was laid on 22-February-1849. The cornerstone is no longer visible, because the foundation sunk 30″ at the time. So, the project required engineering intervention.
So, P.G.T. Beauregard assumed management of the Custom House construction in 1853. Gus was the Supervising Engineer for Southeast Louisiana. He held the rank of brevet Major (permanent rank of Captain) at the time. By 1858, Beauregard set up his office in the building. The Army promoted Gus to Colonel and appointed him to Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. So, he left the Custom House for West Point. While Gus was eminently qualified, the appointment fell through. Louisiana seceded and the US Army rescinded the appointment. They lost trust in Beauregard. Gus resigned from the Army and returned to his office on Canal Street.
The National Park Service documented the facility as part of its Historic American Building Survey. The building is HABS No. LA-1109. This preliminary design dates to 1851. It was published in a collection of images in 1857.