Hickory Creek is an ex-New York Central observation car.
Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt
The ex-New York Central car, Hickory Creek, brought up the rear on the Amtrak Crescent, on its way to Penn Station on 30-December-2019. I don’t know the details of this particular trip for Hickory Creek, if they came down just to New Orleans, or if this was a return from going all the way out to Los Angeles. Either way, the car headed back north on Monday morning.
New York Central’s 20th Century Limited
Hickory Creek was one of the “sleeper observation” cars put into service by the New York Central in 1948. So, the railroad switched the train to diesel (EMD units) in 1945, ordering new trainsets as well. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower rode the inaugural run in 1948. The train ran until 1967.
So, the train began operation in 1902. A typical 20th Century Limited consist, including Hickory Creek, in 1965 looked like this:
- E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4025;
- E8A diesel locomotive: NYC 4080;
- E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4007;
- MB Class Baggage-mail car: NYC 5018;
- CSB Class Baggage-dormitory car: NYC 8979;
- PB Class Coach: NYC 2942;
- DG Class Grill-diner: NYC 450;
- PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10811;
- PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10817;
- PS Class Sleeper (22-roomette): NYC 10355 BOSTON HARBOR;
- DKP Class Kitchen-Lounge Car: NYC 477;
- DE Class Dining Room Car: NYC 406;
- PS Class Sleeper (10-roomette 6-double bedroom): NYC 10171 CURRENT RIVER;
- PS Class Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10511 PORT OF DETROIT;
- Class PS Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10501 PORT BYRON;
- Class PSO Sleeper-Buffet-Lounge-Observation (5-double bedroom): NYC 10633 HICKORY CREEK.
Hickory Creek after the New York Central
Since the railroad discontinued the 20th Century Limited before the creation of Amtrak in 1971, the rolling stock didn’t go over to the new operator. Ringling Brothers Circus bought Hickory Creek. Since they didn’t need Pullman quality, the circus used it as dorm-style housing. They ripped out the interior of the car.
In 2014, Star Trak, Inc., acquired Hickory Creek. They restored the car for private operation. So, the team modified original Pullman Standard design of five bedrooms to four. Since modern operations of private cars involve hitching on Amtrak trains, the team reduced the bedrooms to add showers. Trains Magazine published an article on the restoration by Mr. Fred Heide in November, 2014.
In addition to reducing the number of bedrooms, the 2014 restoration changed the galley area. The 1948 design of Hickory Creek included a small galley, for preparing snacks and drinks. So, the Star Trak team converted the space into a full-service kitchen. Again, this fits with modern use of private cars. They’re designed to be independent of the trains pulling them.
While the bedrooms and galley changed a bit, the team kept the rear observation area true to the 1948 design.
Private Rail on the #BackBelt
I spend a lot of mornings at the PJ’s Coffee Shop at 5555 Canal Boulevard. The baristas here are great and the regulars are nice folks. Regulars occasionally ask me why I get up and record/photograph the Crescent as it heads out of town. It’s pretty much the same consist each morning, but then there are the days when something extra brings up the rear.
The Krauss Service Building more than doubled the size of the Canal Street favorite.
Krauss Service Building 1951
When Leon Fellman built the storefront that became Krauss Department Store, the original two-story building didn’t extend even half-way back in the 1201 block. The store’s first expansion opened in 1911. The Krauss brothers bought the rest of the block over the years. The 1201 block of Canal Street is bounded by Canal, Crozat, Iberville, and Basin Streets. The store occupied the entire block by 1927.
Leon Heymann was Thekla Krauss’ husband. The Krauss brothers turned over day-to-day management of the store to Heymann in 1920. After acquiring the 1201 Canal city block, he turned his attention to the block behind the store. By 1939, Heymann purchased the second block, bounded by Iberville, Crozat, Bienville and Basin Streets.
Planning the Service Building
In 1940, Heymann tasked his son, Jimmy and son-in-law, Leon Wolf, with the responsibility of planning out the expansion of Krauss. Jimmy Heymann and Wolf traveled to cities in the American midwest, looking at how department stores provided electricity and air conditioning to their sales floors. The pair returned to Canal Street, ready to hire an architect and contractor. The project ran into a major obstacle in 1941, World War II. The Krauss Company were strong supporters of the war effort. They put the expansion on hold.
Leon Heymann waited on the project, due to the post-war economy. He wanted things to settle down. Also, technology evolved in the ten years since Wolf and Jimmy Heymann developed their plans. So, the company hired the architectural firm of Favrot, Reed, Mathes & Bergman to update the project. R.P. Farnsworth & Co., General Contractors, turned those plans into a five-story expansion.
Connecting the buildings
This photo, taken on 26-Feb-1951, by Franck-Bertacci Studios, shows the progress of the project. The scaffolding on the left side covers part of the four-story connecter between the buildings. So, Iberville Street remained clear at the ground level. The multi-story connector allowed the store to move utilities and air-conditioning to the service building. Furthermore, he connector carried power and airflow back to the main store. Additionally, tockrooms re-located from the front building to the back.
The Service Building increased the retail floor space of Krauss by 90%.
Connecting New Orleans to Florida via the Gulf Wind
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
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.
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.
NOPSI 866 as a Desire Streetcar 19-December-1947
Desire Streetcar 19-December-1947
NOPSI 866, in the barn on 19-December, 1947. The note at the bottom says “Stiglets Case,” meaning Franck Studios shot the photo as part of a lawsuit. NOPSI lawyers used Franck Studios regularly to run out and shoot accident scenes. They also photographed streetcars involved in other types of lawsuits. NOPSI 866 appears undamaged. So, it’s possible the “Stiglets case” involved something like a slip-and-fall incident. Riders regularly filed legal claims against the transit operator. A lot of things happen on a moving public transit vehicle. Therefore, people claim damages. This continues under NORTA as well.
Canal Street Station
Streetcars running on Desire usually originated from Canal Station, rather than Arabella or Carrollton. Canal housed and maintained the streetars on the “downtown” and “downtown backatown” lines. Canal Station dated back to the creation of the New Orleans City Railroad Company, in 1861. That company operated most of the downtown-side lines. So, when the company merged into New Orleans Traction, the station remained in service. Canal Station serviced streetcars until 1964. NORTA demolished the original station. The A. Phillip Randolph bus facility replaced Canal Station. NORTA constructed a streetcar barn behind the bus station in 2004. The 400-series Riverfront and 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars operated from there. NORTA transferred the green arch roof streetcars to the Canal barn as well. So, Carrollton Station now maintains the streetcars, while Canal houses them.
This streetcar ran on all of the lines in the city, from 1923 to 1964. NOPSI converted the Desire line to buses in 1947. They transferred the streetcars to the Canal and St. Charles lines. The “roll boards” (the signs indicating which line the streetcar was running on) still had all the old line names. Both streetcars and buses used roll signs. In the 1950s, tourists would ask the motormen on the remaining lines to change the roll board to Desire. The riders photographed themselves with the “Streetcar Named Desire.”
NOPSI demolished all of the 800-series arch roofs in 1964. They converted Canal to bus service. Only a couple of 800s remain today.
Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
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
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
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
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.