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.
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NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019
Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial stands by a M.A.R.T. “gondola,” 11-April-1985 (Morial papers, New Orleans Public Library)
NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019
Another short-form pod this week! Two items, “New Orleans Past” and unpacking a photo from 1951
Our “New Orleans Past” item, from Catherine Campanella’s website, is her 11-April entry, which goes back to 11-April-1985. The Mississippi Aerial Rapid Transport, M.A.R.T. attraction at the 1984 New Orleans World Exposition attracted visitors and locals alike. Alas, it didn’t attract them in the numbers expected. But then, neither did the fair overall. As a rule, locals didn’t refer to the attraction as “MART”, but rather as “The Gondola”. The east bank station for MART was at Julia Street and the River, just to the east side of the main pavilion building. That building became the Morial Convention Center after Da Fair. The small cars ran across the river, landing next to Mardi Gras World. The theory (hope) of the Kerns was that folks would visit their year-round Mardi Gras attraction in Algiers before returning to the fair site.
This didn’t quite work out as planned. Folks rode MART like an amusement park ride rather than as transportation. Mardi Gras World figured out that the west bank location wasn’t good for attracting tourists, so they moved to the western side of the Convention Center. This was after the fiasco of riverboat casinos in that location.
The operators of MART hoped to continue the attraction as a transportation service, after the fair. While the concept was good, the gondolas weren’t in a good position for the nascent Warehouse District. MART was demolished in 1994. Some of the cars live on at various places around town, such as Poeyfarre Market.
City Park Avenue, 1951
City Park Avenue near the PontchartrainExpresway, 1951 (NOLA.com photo)
Unpacking an old photo. This is City Park Avenue in 1951. I found it on a Tumblr, attributed to NOLA.com. Not sure if it’s originally from the Times-Picayune or the State-Item. Also not sure who shot the photo. The streetcars made a left-turn onto City Park Avenue from Canal Street. The West End line continued from there out to the lake, on the eastern side of the New Basin Canal. The Canal line cars stopped on City Park Avenue. They changed for the inbound run there. The end terminal changed to Canal Street only in 1958.
Algiers 1865, The railroads were a lifeline for the Union.
Trains at the Algiers Terminal of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, in 1865. The NOO&GW served the Union forces after the capture of New Orleans in 1862.
portion of J. H. Colton’s map of Louisiana, 1863.
The railroad was chartered in 1852. Track construction began in Algiers. Track reached Morgan City in 1857. Morgan City was the western terminus for the company. NOO&GW used “Texas gauge” of 5’6″ until 1872, when Morgan converted the tracks to standard gauge.
Because it originated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the railroad didn’t need ferries or bridges going west. Businesses using NOO&GW ferried their goods across the river to Algiers, then loaded them on trains. This made for an easy route west.
When Louisiana seceded from the Union, rebel leaders knew a blockade of the Gulf Coast was eminent. The state considered NOO&GW important as a land connection to Texas. The Union Navy captured New Orleans in late April, 1862. The Union Army moved immediately, taking control of NOO&GW in May, 1862. While rebel troops managed to re-capture some of the tracks near Morgan City in May, the Union troops regained complete control by November, 1862. From there to the end of the war, the railroad serviced the Union.
Benjamin Franklin Flanders founded NOO&GW. He sold the railroad to shipping magnate Charles Morgan in 1869. Morgan re-named the railroad, Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company. He later sold the company to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The NOO&GW merged into the SP system, becoming part of its main line.
Southern Pacific expanded the original NOO&GW terminal in the 1890s. SP operated a large yard in Algiers, until the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in the 1930s. The railroad moved their yard to Avondale then, taking advantage of the new bridge. Even now, many Algiers residents refer to the area between Atlantic and Thayer streets as the “SP Yard.”