Riverfront Arch Roofs – 1923-vintage streetcars operating off St. Charles Avenue
NORTA 459 on Riverfront, 2010 (Youtupedia photo)
Riverfront Arch Roofs
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority opened the Riverfront line in 1988. they used two of the 1923 arch roof streetcars and two Melbourne W-2 streetcars. The arch roofs left New Orleans in 1964, when NOPSI discontinued the Canal line.
NORTA 452, ex-Melbourne 626, on Riverfront in 1988 (Infrogmation photo)
The original line operated on a single track. NORTA upgraded the line in 1997 to double-track, wide-gauge operation. Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the “new” Riverfront line needed accessible streetcars. NORTA retired the 1923 streetcars and the Melbournes. They built the 400-series arch roofs. The 400s are similar to the 900-series, but with wheelchair lifts and modern propulsion.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the 1923 arch roofs ran on Riverfront and Canal. The red streetcars received devastating flood damage, but the track and overhead wiring came through the storm. Uptown, the green streetcars survived the storm, buttoned up at Carrollton Station. The wiring on St. Charles received extensive damage. So, NORTA operated the 900s on Riverfront and Canal.
The “Green” Streetcars
The arch roof style streetcar came to New Orleans in 1915. Perley A. Thomas created the design while working for the Southern Car Company. New Orleans Railway and Light ordered several, putting them into service on the St. Charles/Tulane belts. When NORwy&Lt re-organized as NOPSI, the new company ordered more arch roofs. By this time, Thomas operated his own streetcar company in High Point, North Carolina. He accepted the order, building the 800- and 900-series arch roofs for New Orleans.
NORTA 461 (ex-NOPSI 922) along the Riverfront line. Infrogmation Photo.
City leaders and NORTA knew the importance of showing the world that New Orleans didn’t die. The green streetcars running along Canal Street and in the French Quarter helped demonstrate that. The 400-series and 2000-series “red ladies” returned from their repairs. The St. Charles line’s power was repaired and upgraded. The green streetcars returned to their regular routes.
Pathways lead the way to fading signs.
Uneed a Biscuit wall sign on Dumaine, just off Bourbon. (Audrey Julienne photo)
We all follow paths and pathways in our lives. Some of us step off the well-trodden paths, forging ahead, making new ones. Most of us, however, follow regular paths. So, we leave home and go to work. At lunchtime, we duck out of work. After grabbing a bite to eat, we reverse directions and finish the work day. Our daily rituals follow regular paths.
Working on the book introduction
I’ve looked at a couple of books in The History Press “fading sign” series. While the introductions are well-written, they didn’t offer me a template. I don’t care for writing in the first person. The history isn’t about me. Because New Orleans isn’t like any other city in the nation, this book needs an introduction just as special. So, I considered some of the locations of fading signs. The signs on shops and other businesses mark their locations on our paths. The ads distract us while we travel on the path.
The “Uneed a Biscuit” ad on Dumaine Street, just off of Bourbon Street, puzzled. me. So, a friend (and denizen of Cafe Lafitte in Exile) pointed out that the ad hits home with patrons of that pub. When standing on the balcony, you look up and see it saying what Uneeda. Thing is, that didn’t start happening until almost seventy years after the ad appeared on the side of that house, half a block down on Dumaine.
So, who looked at the ad?
Streetcars rolled down Bourbon and down Dumaine. The Desire line (yes, of Tennessee Williams fame) traveled outbound on Bourbon. That means riders looked out at the Uneeda sign as they rode home from jobs in the Central Business District (CBD). Riders heading inbound (towards the river) on the City Park line looked up and saw the ad. They rode that streetcar, possibly from as far out as its terminus at City Park Avenue and Dumaine Street.
My friend Grey always uses #lookup to tag photos taken on her early-morning walks. Looking up challenges a walker. It’s easy for a rider, though. Paths into town. Paths back home. I’ve got my intro.
City Park Line connected Mid-City and the French Quarter
Trackless Trolley on the City Park Line, 1964s (courtesy NOPL)
City Park Line
The Orleans Railroad Company opened the City Park line on July 1, 1898. It connected the French Quarter with Mid-City, mostly via Dumaine Street. Orleans RR merged into New Orleans Railway and Light in 1910, along with the other streetcar companies. NORwy&Lt combined the French Market line with City Park (both ex-Orleans RR). The rollboards said “French Market-City Park” in 1921. While the route didn’t change, the line’s name returned to just City Park at that time.
The original route, 1898:
- Start at Canal Street and Exchange Place
- Up Canal to Dauphine Street
- Turn on Dauphine to Dumaine
- Left on Dumaine, then up Dumaine to City Park Avenue
- Down Dumaine to N. Rendon
- N. Rendon to Ursulines
- Ursulines to Burgundy
- Turn onto Canal at Burgundy
- Terminate at Canal and Exchange
In 1910, the route expanded. Instead of turning on Burgundy, City Park continued down Ursulines to Decatur. So, it then continued to Canal, via Decatur and N. Peters. In 1932, NOPSI re-routed City Park, turning the line on Royal to terminate on Canal. This route remained until the line was discontinued in the 1970s.
Streetcars on City Park
Orleans Railroad ran Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D) single-trucks on City Park. Their cars bore a red-and-cream livery. NORwy&Lt replaced the single-trucks with double-truck “Palace” cars in the mid-1910s. NOPSI later replaced the Palaces with 800/900s.
The red livery used by Orleans RR and New Orleans City Railroad are the heritage behind the “red ladies” of the modern Riverfront and Canal Street lines.
Buses and Trackless Trolleys
NOPSI discontinued streetcar operation on City Park in 1941. They switched to buses. City Park was one of the last lines switched before WWII. The War Department turned down other conversions. Buses required gasoline and rubber. Both of those were needed for the war effort.
In 1949, NOPSI replaced buses on City Park with trackless trolleys. They never removed the overhead wires on the route. Trackless Trolleys ran on City Park until 1964. So, buses returned to the line then. NOPSI discontinued the City Park line completely in the 1970s.
The City Park line serviced the “Downtown Backatown” neighborhoods. Like the Desire line, the name indicated the termination point. The streetcars ran on Dumaine Street, through Treme, into Mid-City. Since the line went to Canal Street, City Park carried commuters into work. The line serviced the Quarter as well, particularly Burgundy Street. Armstrong Park blocked the Dumaine portion of the route. I remember seeing the City Park buses at the route’s terminating point as I rode past Dumaine Street on the Esplanade line.
When Aaron Handy III shared this photo in a Facebook group, the City Park rollboard brought back memories of riding home from Brother Martin in the 1970s. While I never rode the line, I was fascinated that there were streetcars going all the way out to the park, in-between Canal Street and Esplanade. This photo looks to be part of the Dorothy Violet Gulledge collection at the New Orleans Public Libaray.
CONTEST time! Help us find “fading ads”
A. Shwartz ad, 800 block of Canal Street (Infrogmation photo)
I’ve submitted the proposal for Fading Ads of New Orleans to The History Press! It’s looking good that they’ll accept the proposal and the book will move forward. That means I need fading ads! You guys are always wonderful about helping out with ideas and old photos. It’s time to reward that help.
Here’s how this is going to work. You submit a photo or a location to one of these places:
Comment on this post, or on the links in the following Facebook spots:
- NOLA History Guy
- Ain’t There No More New Orleans
- New Orleans – Still There More
- Edward Branley’s Personal Page
And you’ll be entered.
- Only two entries per individual per week.
- You can submit a photo or location suggestion only once.
- It’s OK if you suggest something someone else suggests. A lot of us don’t read the comments.
- I’ll judge your submission/suggestion as to whether it works for the book. If it does, you’re entered. If it doesn’t, you can suggest something else. My decisions are final.
- One winner per week. Weeks run Tuesday to Monday. The first week starts today, the last week ends on Christmas Eve.
- The weekly winner will be announced on the Tuesday after that contest closes.
I have four $20 gift cards for Wakin Bakin. So, you can choose between those or a copy of one of my books. While WB is tasty, it’ll be just the books when the gift cards run out.
Let’s Have fun!
I really do appreciate all y’all. You offer good conversation, lots of great research help, and you’re fun folks. I know you’d support this effort without an incentive, which is all the more reason to offer it. I’m looking forward to the discussions.
And we’re off!