Brief news article about a streetcar vs train accident in The Daily Picayune, 11-May-1912.
Passenger train No. 339, of the Illinois Central, crashed into the Royal Blue car at Washington Avenue, at 9 o’clock last night and knocked it into splinters. The car was dragged about 125 feet and part of it was on the front of the engine. The latter was derailed.
Howard Heldenfelder, of 136 S. Olympia, employed at the Krauss Store, was the only passenger in the streetcar. He sustained injuries about the chest and was badly shaken up. Jules Mainbaum, the motorman, was thrown from the platform, into a canal. He was fished out by the conductor, Thomas Burke. The motorman was injured about the head. He and Heldenfelder were taken to the hospital, where their injuries were found not very serious.
Interesting unpack here! A quick online search didn’t immediately turn up the route of IC train 339. It was either coming or going to Union Station, on Rampart Street. This was the “old” station, built in 1892. The city demolished it to make way for Union Passenger Terminal, in 1954.
A “Royal Blue car” ran on the Napoleon Avenue line. New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) operated streetcars in the city in 1912. The Napoleon line got the nickname “Royal Blue” because the roll board (the rolling sign indicating the streetcar’s route) was enclosed in blue glass. Since the streetcar was smashed into splinters, it likely was an all-wood Brill double-truck.
The motorman ended up in the New Basin Canal. This part of the canal is now part of the Palmetto canal system, that feeds into the 17th Street Canal and its pumping station near Metairie Road. Good thing the conductor could fish him out!
And then there’s the passenger, Mr. Heldenfelder. he lived at 136 S. Olympia. That’s across the street from St. Dominic School (now Christian Brothers School). To get to work at Krauss, he likely took the Canal line from Mid-City down to Basin Street.
The Sheraton Charles Hotel was the last incarnation of the venerable hotel.
Sheraton Charles Hotel
Ad for the Sheraton Charles Hotel, May 7, 1973. The Sheraton chain bought the hotel in 1965. They re-branded the property, “Sheraton-Charles,” enticing tourists with its proximity to the French Quarter:
Sheraton Gives you modern comfort in an Old World atmosphere, one block from the famous French Quarter
And check those prices! Single rooms $18-$22.
The ad shows an illustration of the third incarnation of the hotel. The summer of 1973 was its last tourist season. The owner, Louis J. Roussel, Jr., demolished the building in 1974. the location became the Place St. Charles office building in 1984.
St. Charles the third
The St. Charles Hotel’s third incarnation, 1940s
Over the decades, the ground-floor storefront shops of the St. Charles Hotel housed ticket offices for railroad and steamboat companies. While some companies operated their own services. others engaged ticket agents. These were the predecessors of travel agencies. All a traveler staying at the St. Charles had to do was go downstairs to the street, find the, say, L&N or Southern Pacific office, and make any changes necessary to their itinerary. Over time, the airlines opened ticket offices, as the railroads migrated over to Union Passenger Terminal, when it opened in 1954. The offices morphed into pick-up points over time. Travelers used the telephone to call, then come get the physical tickets when they were ready. By the time of this 1973 ad, a concierge in the hotel lobby booked travel for guests. Travel agents acquired access to airline and railroad computer systems. They booked and printed out documents for almost all carriers.
The first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel opened in the 200 block of St. Charles Street in 1837. That building burned in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853. It too burned, in 1894. This building dates from 1896. So, while many New Orleanians mourned the loss of the St. Charles/Sheraton-Charles, Sheraton moved to Canal Street. Their 49-story hotel at 500 Canal Street opened in 1982.
Sheraton, as part of the Starwood Group, later merged with Mariott Hotels. So, the ownership of the two towering hotels on either side of Canal Street are essentially the same.
Early morning outbound and inbound on the Canal Street Line, 2-April-2022. The first streetcar, outbound, is actually the second car out of the barn. The Canal line cars leave the barn at Canal and S. White Streets, turn lakebound, and travel to the Cemeteries terminal. The first streetcar of the morning already did this when I pulled up at Blue Dot Donuts. That car is the second one in the video. The operator pulled out, headed to Cemeteries, and now is doing a full inbound run. You can see the “01” on the right-side rollboard on this second car, 2023. That indicates it was the first one on the line this morning.
Canal line operations
NORTA 2023, inbound on Canal Street, 2-April-2022
There’s a couple of reasons NORTA operates Canal in this mode. First, it’s easier to come out of the barn and make a simple right turn. The car barn is behind the A. Phillip Randolph bus facility, the big building you see on Canal Street. This used to be the location of the original New Orleans City Railroad barn. That building, parts of which were from the 1860s, was demolished in the 90s. When streetcars returned in 2004, NORTA built a new streetcar barn. It’s big enough to hold all the red and green streetcars. So, Carrollton Station, up on Willow Street, is just a maintenance facility. The 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars always operated from this barn. The Rail Department performs minor repairs on the cars on Canal. The streetcars return Uptown for major repairs, maintenance, painting, etc.
The second reason the streetcars go up to Cemeteries first is that it gives the operator a chance to shake the car down before they go to work. If there’s a problem, they can turn around and go back to the barn.
NORTA operates a limited schedule this weekend, because of the NCAA Final Four.
Private varnish Berlin Sleeping Car rides to New York via the Amtrak Crescent.
Berlin Sleeping Car
The Amtrak Crescent 🌙 #20 pulled three private railcars to New York’s Penn Station (NYP on 25-February-2022. We talked about the two Patrick Henry railcars in a previous post. So, the private car, “Berlin” was the third car. This photo shows Berlin coupled to AMTK 69001, a “Bag-Dorm” car. Those cars provide baggage storage for passengers. Additionally, they contain roomettes for crew.
Berlin bears the paint scheme and livery of the American Orient Express, a private railcar charter, and previous owner of the car. While the livery is similar to the Patrick Henry cars, there are two operators.
Union Pacific Sleepers
Pullman-Standard built ten “Placid” series sleeper cars for Union Pacific in 1956. The cars contained 11 double-bed compartments. UP operated the Placids until 1971. The railroad turned them over to Amtrak at that time. Amtrak operated the sleepers throughout the 1970s. American Orient Express acquired three of the Placids. They renamed Placid Lake, “Berlin,” and Placid Waters, “Vienna.” Those names tied into the AOE theme.
The Placid series Pullmans were streamliners. While other railroads chose the corrugated style for their new cars, UP operated smooth-siders. The City of Portland and City of Los Angeles, two of UP’s “name trains,” operated the Placids. Amtrak took these cars into service as part of their “heritage” fleet. As the national passenger railroad acquired its own equipment, Viewliner and Superliner sleepers, they phased out the Placids. Private charter companies refurbished the older cars. They offered charter service, re-creating the “golden” age of streamliners.
The Berlin Sleeping Car’s website presents a detailed history of Placid Lake/Berlin. They include photos of the UP and Amtrak incarnations of Placid Lake. The site includes a floor plan of the car’s current interior. Berlin now contains six bedrooms and an kitchenette. This offers passengers a great more space than the eleven double-occupancy rooms of the UP design.
While private railcar adventures aren’t cheap, the charters usually are priced per trip. So, if you put together a group of twelve, it’s something to think about!
Amtrak #20 in New Orleans
The Amtrak Crescent operates daily service from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOL) to New York Penn Station (NYP), via Atlanta, Richmond, and DC. In this photo the Crescent pulls Berlin over the underpass at Canal Boulevard in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood.
Canal Street 1960 featured Hitchcock at the movies.
Canal Street 1960.
Unpacking a photo from “N.O.L.A. – New Orleans Long Ago” on Facebook. This color shot features the 1101 to 901 blocks of Canal Street. The photographer (unidentified) stands across the 140′ street. the angle indicates they’re at Elk Place. A green arch roof streetcar travels inbound, on the Canal line. A second streetcar travels outbound, a block down the street. The marquee of the Saenger features Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Woolworth’s at N. Rampart Street, the Audubon Building, and Maison Blanche Department Store are visible, along with numerous billboards and other advertising.
While this photo is undated, the marquee of the Saenger Theater tells us it’s from the Summer of 1960. Paramount and Hitchcock released “Psycho” nationwide at the end of June. An interesting tidbit about the film: it was the first movie released in the United States with a “no late admission” policy. While Paramount opposed the notion, it turned out that moviegoers lined up well in advance to see the film.
Like other movie houses in New Orleans in 1960, the Saenger observed Jim Crow laws and restrictions. The theater operated the balcony separately from the rest of the building. They walled off the balcony as a “colored” theater, the Saenger Orleans. The theater merged back to one after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Rubenstein’s store, on the Sanger’s corner at Canal and N. Rampart, was not connected to Rubenstein Brothers, the venerable men’s store still at Canal and St. Charles Avenue. This Rubenstein’s was part of a chain of women’s stores. They later moved to the 1000 block. That corner storefront of the theater became a Popeyes in the 1980s.
F. W. Woolworth Co.
Woolworth’s operated one of its two Canal Street stores on the other side of N. Rampart. This location became a nexus for Civil Rights protests just two years after this photo. As in other cities, protesters focused on the Woolworth’s lunch counter. While there were no major incidents, Civil Rights leaders, most notably the Rev. Avery Alexander, led pickets and protests on Canal Street.
Woolworth’s closed the store in the 1990s. The building remained vacant until 2011. Developer Mohan Kailas acquired the store. He demolished the building (which stood on the corner since the 1930s). Kailas partnered with Hard Rock Cafe to build a hotel on the site. In 2019, construction failures caused the development to collapse, killing three.
The 901 block of Canal Street stands as it has since 1910. The Audubon Building was an office building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy streets. It was later converted into a hotel, The Saint. Next is the S. H. Kress store, then Maison Blanche Department Store. MB the store occupied the first five floors. The upper floors were leased as office space. WSMB radio stood atop the building, on the thirteenth floor.
A 1923-vintage arch roof streetcar heads inbound on Canal Street. It approaches the corner of Canal and Rampart streets. I can’t make out its number – if you can, let me know! New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) operated the transit system in New Orleans at the time.
The “beautification project” of 1958 cut back the number of streetcar tracks on Canal from four to two. Streetcar lines heading inbound to Canal Street used the outside tracks to turn around and return to their origin points. By the late 1950s, the only remaining streetcar lines were Canal and St. Charles. So, since those turn-arounds were no longer necessary, the city cut down the size of the neutral ground. Additionally, they increased the number of auto lanes in the downtown section of Canal. planters and palm trees appeared as part of the project. By the summer of 1960, the palm trees survived a couple of winters.
A buggy ride is still a fun part of a visit to New Orleans.
“Carriage driver. Mardi Gras, New Orleans. February 1976” by Elisa Leonelli, via Claremont College’s Special Collections. A dapper buggy driver for Gay 90s Carriages sits at Jackson Square, waiting for the next customer(s). Cafe du Monde is visible top left background. This driver is a bit far back in the line. Hopefully it was a busy day, and he moved up to the front of the line, (at Decatur and St. Peter).
Buggy Ride evolution
The business of offering buggy rides to Vieux Carre visitors began before WWII. Clem and Violet Lauga founded Gay 90s in the early 1940s. They retired, turning the business over to their son, James Lauga, Sr., in 1971.
Carriage tours were regulated by the city as a conveyance. They fell under the purview of the city’s Taxicab Bureau. So, what mattered to the regulators was the safety of the carriages and how they were operated. Nobody took an interest in the stories the buggy drivers actually told their customers. As a result, a lot of fanciful and inaccurate stories about New Orleans went home with visitors. Licensed tour guides dismissed those stories as “buggy ride history.” The tour guides enticed tourists seeking facts and accuracy. Riding a carriage through the Quarter was fun, but come to us for the stories.
In the 1990s, the city put its foot down on “buggy ride history.” Carriage drivers are now required to be licensed tour guides.
Horses versus Mules
Until the 1970s, carriage ride operators used retired race horses to pull tourists. They purchased horses from owners who ran them at the Fair Grounds. When he took over management of the company, James Lauga, Sr., investigated the use of mules. He learned that draft mules were superior to horses for pulling wagons and carriages. Jim Sr. purchased six mules in 1972. The company has operated with mules ever since. Mules have played an important role in the New Orleans economy for centuries, from riverfront wagons to streetcars.
In the mid-1970s, around the time of this photo, hot summers took a toll on the horses pulling carriages. Horses dropped dead of heat exhaustion in the Quarter. The city council then required all buggy-ride companies use mules.
Royal Carriages today
As mentioned above, Gay 90s Carriages is now Royal Carriages, where scholar, museum operator and buggy-ride tour guide Charlotte Jones roamed the streets with Chica.