NOPSI 968 on the South Claiborne Line in 1949
One of the 1923-vintage arch roof streetcars, NOPSI 968 traveling along S. Claiborne Avenue. The streetcar approaches the end of the line
on October 30, 1949. The Claiborne line ran from downtown/CBD out to S. Carrollton Avenue. Photograph by William T. Harry.
South Claiborne Line
New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORy<) opened the South Claiborne line on 22-February-1915. The original route wound its way uptown, but ran all the way on S. Claiborne after 1916:
- Start – Canal and St. Charles
- Up St. Charles to Howard
- Turn from Howard to S. Rampart, then Clio, then S. Claiborne
- Out S. Claiborne to S. Carrollton
- Return the same basic route, going on Erato instead of Clio.
S. Claiborne ran this route from 1916 until it was converted to buses on 5-January-1953. Note that the Claiborne (North) line operated on the “downtown” side of Canal, separate from this line.
S. Claiborne originally operated Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcars. The FB&D engineering firm designed these streetcars specifically for New Orleans. NOPSI upgraded the line with the 1923 arch roofs. The arch roofs ran on S. Claiborne until it switched to buses.
Neutral Ground operation
While neutral ground operation was common in New Orleans, the S. Claiborne line did it with style. The wide neutral ground on this avenue offered a wonderful view of Uptown/Backatown. As you can see in this photo, the inbound track isn’t visible. It’s out of frame on the right. S. Claiborne and S. Carrollton Avenues serves uptown as a major terminal. The St. Charles line terminates here, as do a number of bus lines, including S. Claiborne.
This streetcar operates on the St. Charles line to this day. It was one of the 35 900-series arch roofs retained by NOPSI when they converted the Canal line to bus service in 1964.
Thanks to Mike Palmieri for sharing this photo!
Streetcar Ticket for the St. Charles Line
New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company streetcar ticket, 1868. (public domain image)
Streetcar Ticket from 1868
Riders paid for their fare in the 1860s by purchasing a streetcar ticket. This was the style of the ticket for the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (NO&CRR) in 1868. While the NO&CRR continued operations through the Southern Rebellion, only one new company the New Orleans City RR Company (NOCRR) operated streetcars during the rebellion years. Streetcar expansion took off in 1866.
The company operated the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, from 1835 to 1902. In addition to St. Charles, the company operated the Poydras-Magazine, Jackson, and Napoleon lines. The NO&CRR absorbed other operating companies throughout the 1870s to the end of the 19th Century.
Streetcar electrification in New Orleans began in the 1890s. The NO&CRR survived until 1902. The remaining operating companies merged into the New Orleans Railway Company at that time. That company re-organized into the New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) in 1905. That consolidated entity became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) in 1922.
Mule car operation
When the NO&CRR began operations in 1835, St. Charles used steam engines. The smoke and noise generated complaints up and down the line. So, the line was converted to mule-driven operation in the 1850s. The company followed the NOCRR in the 1860s, operating “bobtail” cars from the Johnson Car Company, up to electrification.
Streetcar protests 1862-1867
Streetcars in New Orleans were segregated until 1958. When Louisiana seceded from the union in 1861, many of the white men went off to war. Their jobs around town still had to be done. So, employers hired free men of color. The lines ran “star” cars, which permitted African-Americans to ride, but all other cars were whites-only. Black men experienced difficulty in getting to work. While employers complained to the transit companies, the operators weren’t very responsive. More “star” cars were needed.
The dynamics changed when the Union Army occupied New Orleans in May, 1862. African-Americans protested segregated operation from then until 1867. Hilary McLaughlin-Stonham details those protests in her article, Race and Protest in New Orleans: Streetcar Integration in the Nineteenth Century. It’s worth a read.
Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
Heinemann Park, 1915
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
Aerial view of the New Canal, running out to Lake Pontchartrain at the top, 1915
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
S. Carrollton Avenue bridge over the New Basin Canal. It was demolished when the canal was filled in, late 1940s.
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
Pelican Stadium, ca 1950
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.
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.