Royal Street – Louisville and Nashville observation car #TrainThursday

Royal Street

(cross-posted to Pontchartrain RR)

royal street

L&N “Royal Street” observation car.

Royal Street

I caught the Louisville and Nashville observation car, Royal Street, out at the KCS yard in Metairie, LA, yesterday. This corrugated observation car was one of eight built by Pullman Standard and delivered in February-Marcy, 1950. Four of the cars ran on Southern Railway’s Royal Palm, and two were delivered to L&N. They ran on the Crescent and other L&N name trains.

Royal Street was part of an upgrade of the Crescent in 1950. In 1950, the train, which was operated for the most part by Southern Railway, traveled from New York to Washington, DC, on the Pensylvania RR. In DC, it took Southern’s tracks to Atlanta. From Atlanta, on the Atlanta and West Point RR, to West Point, GA. From West Point to Montgomery, AL, on the Western Railway. The Crescent ran on L&N tracks from Montgomery into New Orleans.

New Orleans

Royal Street

L&N Station, New Orleans

Since the Crescent used L&N tracks to come into New Orleans, it arrived and departed from the L&N station at Canal Street and the river. Other Southern trains, including the Southerner, the other New Orleans to NYC train, arrived and departed from Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets. After 1954, The Southerner and the Crescent both moved to Union Passenger Terminal, as the Canal Street stations were demolished.


Southern continued to operate the Crescent until 1974, when it turned the route over to Amtrak. So, the Amtrak Crescent continues daily service. Train #20 departs in the morning from New Orleans (NOL), and #19 from Penn Station (NYP) in New York.

Modeling Royal Street

royal street

Will this kit become “Royal Street”?

While the N-Scale Pontchartrain RR plans to model Royal Street, we haven’t found the right kit just yet. We also plan to model the New York Central’s Bonnie Brook car. It is often at the KCS yard. This kit doesn’t match either prototype, so we’re looking for a closer match. This particular kit might become a Pontchartrain RR-liver car.

Carrollton Station – NOPSI 813, 1948

Carrollton Station – NOPSI 813, 1948

Carrollton Station

Carrollton Station in 1948

New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) streetcar 813, on the ladder tracks on Jeanette Street, behind Carrollton Station. Streetcars based uptown returned to the barn by turning onto Jeanette Street from S. Carrollton Ave. They approached the barn, then turned in on one of the “ladder tracks”. Those are the tracks you see in the foreground.

Over the years, NOPSI operated several streetcar stations. By 1948, the Arabella Station on Magazine Street focused on “trackless trolleys”, or “trolley buses”. The streetcars were stored and serviced at Carrollton Station.


NOPSI 813 was a steel, arch roof streetcar. The transit company acquired the 800- and 900-series arch roofs in 1923-1924. The designer was Perley A. Thomas. Thomas worked for the Southern Car Company of High Point, North Carolina, when he created the arch roof design. New Orleans Railway and Light Company, the forerunner to NOPSI, bought arch roofs from Southern from 1910-1915. They became the 400-series streetcars.

The roll board on NOPSI 813 in this photo indicates it operated on the Tulane Belt on this day.

Southern Car Company folded in 1916. So, Thomas started his own company in the wake of the closure. He refined the design and NOPSI placed an large order in 1923. Thomas subcontracted some of the construction to other companies. The arch roof streetcars roll along the St. Charles Avenue line to this day.

800s and 900s

While the arch roofs were similar, the main visible difference between the 800 and 900 series streetcars was the doors. On the 800s, the doors were manual. The motorman (front) and conductor (rear) had to manually operate the doors, like a school bus driver, with a big mechanical handle. On the 900 series streetcars, the doors were powered, so the motorman could just hit a switch.

In 1964, when NOPSI discontinued the Canal Street line, the company kept 35 of the green arch roof streetcars. They were all from the 900 series. A few of the 800s were sold to private concerns like trolley museums, but most were cut in half and destroyed.


Dixie Brewery – Art by Jane Brewster

Dixie Brewery Art

dixie brewery art

Jane Brewster’s Dixie Brewery

Dixie Brewery Art

I had the pleasure of giving a talk at a private event last night, Uptown. It’s becoming an ongoing thing, and they’re lots of fun. These talks give me a chance to introduce my books and speaking to others. I also get the opportunity to introduce other creatives to new people.

Tulane Avenue

Last night’s topic was Tulane Avenue. This particular street in New Orleans has had its ups and downs over the decades. We started with the Robinson Atlas map of the 1st District in 1881. Tulane Avenue didn’t even exist at that time. It was Common Street, all the way up to Claiborne Avenue.

So, the talk went through various stages in Tulane Avenue’s history, from the 1920s, through the 1930s and WWII, While we talked about “Riding The Belt“, the main section of the conversation was about the 1950s. That’s when Tulane Avenue became the “Miracle Mile”.

Jane Brewster’s Dixie Brewery

One of the fixtures in so many photos of Tulane Avenue is Dixie Brewery, at 2401 Tulane (corner S. Rocheblave). The brewery was founded in 1907. The location was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and is no longer used by the company.

I was looking around online for a good, older photo of the brewery to include in the talk. When I did a basic images search, one of the hits back was of Jane Brewster’s painting of the building. Jane is a New Orleans artist who captures the heart and soul of the city. I wanted to share this painting with you, and encourage you to check out the rest of Jane’s work.

Lakeview Theater

dixie brewery art

Jane Brewster’s Lakeview Theater

Mike Scott of NOLA dot com did an article last week on “lost movie theaters” that offered up photos from Da Paper’s archives on a number of places that are ATNM. When I shared it on the NOLA History Guy Facebook Page, folks mentioned a bunch of long-gone theaters that weren’t listed in the article. One of those was Lakeview Theater, which was on Harrison Avenue. I remember Lakeview Theater because it’s where my parents took us to see “Gone with the Wind” back in the 1960s. When I was looking on Jane’s website for the Dixie painting, I came across a her painting of the theater. I remember the building vividly, from all the drives we took from Metairie, out to my grandma’s house in Gentilly.

Retail Giants – Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival – FRIDAY!

Retail Giants – Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival – FRIDAY!

Retail Giants

Retail Giants at the Tennessee Williams Festival!

The Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival is a fantastic annual event. It’s in the French Quarter. I’ve been asked to be part of a panel titled Retail Giants. The panel will be on Friday, March 23, at 10am. It will be in the Queen Anne Ballroom of the Hotel Monteleone.

The Festival runs from Wednesday, March 21 to Sunday, March 25. Festival HQ is open on the Mezzanine level of the Hotel Monteleone. The hotel is at 214 Royal Street. HQ operates from Thursday-Sunday, from 9am to 4pm. There’s lots of interesting talks, discussion panels, and other events. Check out the full festival schedule.

Retail Giants – The Panel

Here’s the blurb on the panel:


New Orleans is a nostalgic town that cherishes its diehard institutions, particularly the retailers who became household names over multiple generations. David Johnson of the New Orleans Museum of Art moderates a panel of authors whose work chronicles where New Orleanians made groceries, furnished homes, and browsed for bric-a-brac. David Cappello is the biographer of John G. Schwegmann; Ed Branley writes about Krauss Department Store, and John Magill is the author of a recent book about that popular commercial and social thoroughfare, The Incomparable Magazine Street.

I’m looking forward to this. The authors know their stuff! So, I’ll be the lightweight in this group.

Krauss, Maison Blanche, and Streetcars!

mb book

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

I was invited to participate on this panel because of the latest book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, but my earlier book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, fits the subject wonderfully. I’ll be talking both Krauss and MB, and how retail evolved on Canal Street. There’s lots of New Orleans history here, as Canal Street was the nexus of many separate communities, as folks came downtown to shop. Therefore, we’ll talk a bit about streetcars as well, since they were an integral part of shopping on Canal and Magazine Streets.

There will be a lot of stories and fun on Friday. I’m looking forward to seeing y’all there.

St. Aloysius Memories – The Brother’s Residence on Esplanade

St. Aloysius Memories – The Brother’s Residence on Esplanade

St. Aloysius Memories

St. Aloysius Memories

Chapel in the residence of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart on Esplanade Avenue (Edward Branley photo, courtesy SEAA)

St. Aloysius Memories

Here’s an image that didn’t get into the book, Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. It’s an architectural drawing of the altar in the chapel in the Brothers’ residence, next to the school on Esplanade.

The BOSH book

This image is a great example of the process involved in putting together an “Images of America” book for Arcadia. The books are 128 pages, including front and back matter. To fill up the book, a prospective Arcadia author should have about 300 photos to start. Then that universe of 300 can be narrowed down to the 180-200 images that best tell the story.

I found a lot of great photos in the Province office, as well as Kenny’s alumni office. That was my base universe for the BOSH book. That’s a big milestone. Without a good selection of images, the publisher won’t green-light the project. Once the book was a go, I kept digging.

Southeastern Architectural Archive

There are a number of special collections and archives in New Orleans. Some are privately held, others are collections maintained by public and university libraries. The Southeastern Architectural Archive at Tulane University is one of these. While most of the collection isn’t online, their list of holdings is. While digging around online for any references to “St. Aloysius”, I came across a hit at the SEAA. It was a listing in the archive’s holdings for a local architectural firm.

So, I called the SEAA and made my way uptown, to the Howard-Tilton Library. They pulled the box I saw listed, but this was the only drawing related to St. Aloysius. Turned out, the project was just for the altar renovation, and this was the only drawing. I took a quick phone-pic of the drawing and thanked the grad student who helped me out.

The image didn’t make the final cut for the book. It was just a phone-pic, and I didn’t go back to make a proper copy image. Still, it’s part of the history of the school, and this was part of the process!

Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans

by Edward J. Branley

catholic high baton rouge

When New Orleanians ask Where did you go to school? they aren t asking what university you attended but what high school. That tells a native a lot about you. For over 150 years, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart have educated the young men of New Orleans, giving them the opportunity to answer the question proudly by replying St. Stanislaus, St. Aloysius, Cor Jesu, or Brother Martin. Images of America: Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans showcases photographs, illustrations, and maps tracing the role of the institute in making New Orleans a vibrant and dynamic city, able to overcome even the worst of adversity. From their roots in the French Quarter, moving to Faubourg Marigny, and finally settling in Gentilly, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart continue to make a major contribution to metro New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories Escalators

Escalators at Maison Blanche on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

While Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store was the first department store on Canal Street to install an escalator, MB wasn’t far behind. MB Memories for me include a lot of up and down on those escalators.

Early Escalators

Krauss added an escalator from the ground (first) floor to the “Mezzanine” in 1927. Not to be outdone, Maison Blanche acquired an escalator system a year later. Those first escalators were “up-only” systems. They were meant to get shoppers upstairs quickly. Getting down was another story. The store wasn’t all that motivated to get folks out of the store. So, initially, the paths back down to the first floor included stairs (from the second floor), and the elevators.

Eventually, MB expanded the escalators to all five floors. The elevators were towards the rear of all the stores. The open architecture of escalators made them attractive to customer and retailer alike.

Maison Blanche in the 1950s

This Franck Studios photo is from the early 1950s. The post-war boom was in full swing. Returning vets finished their educations. They moved out of mom and dad’s house, to Gentilly and Lakeview. Really adventurous folks headed to the suburbs, Metairie and Chalmette. Maison Blanche recognized this, opening stores in Mid-City and Gentilly in 1948. The Airline store wasn’t far behind.

Throughout all that expansion, Canal Street anchored the chain. The five-story store continued drawing shoppers from all over the city. Buses replaced streetcars on many transit lines, but that didn’t stop the shoppers. They still came to Canal Street.

Many older shoppers didn’t trust escalators. They didn’t like stairs, so they continued to use the elevators. MB’s elevators had human operators for years. Automatic, push-the-button service, was considered bad treatment of customers. Cheerful smiles encouraged buyers to buy!