Express 80 bus service made it easy to discontinue streetcar service.
Express 80 bus in Lakeview (NOPSI photo)
NOPSI’s Express 80
From the late-1960s, riders board a NOPSI bus on the Express 80 route. NOPSI operated this line as an “express” option to its Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd line. The bus, NOPSI 251, is a General Motors “New Looks” bus. They, along with buses from Flxable, replaced the maroon and cream GM “Old Looks” buses, and similar designs from White. The sign at the top front advertises color televisions. The amber lights on either side of the roll board (the route designator) flashed, informing riders this was an express bus rather than the local.
The Canal-Lake Vista and Express 80 lines shared the same basic route:
- Canal Street at Liberty Place
- Lakebound on Canal Street to City Park Avenue
- Right on City Park Avenue
- Immediate left onto Canal Boulevard to Toussaint
- Right on Allen Toussaint Boulevard to Marconi
- Left on Marconi Boulevard to Lakeshore Drive
- Right onto Lakeshore Drive to Beauregard
- Right on Beauregard Avenue to Toussaint. (Spanish Fort Terminal)
- Right onto Toussaint, heading west to Canal Blvd
- Left on Canal Blvd to City Park Avenue
- Right, then left, onto Canal Street
- Canal Street to Liberty Place
The difference between the local route and Express 80 was that Canal-Lake Vista made every stop along the way. When the outbound Express 80 reached Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue, it didn’t stop again until City Park Avenue. The bus resumed stops from there.
Riders paid fifteen cents for local bus service at this time. Transfers were free. NOPSI charged an additional nickel for the express lines. When I was a student at Brother Martin High, 1971-1976, I often rode home via Gentilly and Lakeview. We took the Cartier Line (Mirabeau to St. Bernard to Spanish Fort), then Canal-Lake Vista, up to City Park Avenue. I caught the Veterans bus there. Or, if the connections worked. I transferred to the Canal-Lakeshore bus at Canal Blvd and Toussaint. I rode that bus up to the old State Police Troop B station (now the OMV) on Veterans. That’s where I would pick up the Vets bus. When catching either Express 80 or Express 81 (the Lakeshore express), the drivers let me slide on the extra nickel. They knew I was getting off before they went into express service.
Fares in the 1970s went up from fifteen cents to a quarter, with the extra five cents for express.
Sinking the steetcars
How did the express lines help NOPSI discontinue streetcar service on Canal? The Lakeview and West End buses went to the Cemeteries, then turned around. Riders transferred to the green, 1923-vintage arch roof streetcars there. Look at the men in this photo, dressed in business suits. They switched from air-conditioned buses to hot, humid, open-window streetcars. There was no romance of “A Streetcar Named Desire!” So, NOPSI offered them one a/c bus from, say, Harrison Avenue and Canal (or Pontchartrain) into town. That sealed the fate of the Canal line.
MOW (Maintenance of Way) equipment keeps the trains running.
Norfolk Southern MOW vehicles changing direction on the Back Belt.
MOW equipment and trucks
Norfolk Southern Maintenance of Way (MOW) equipment along the Back Belt in New Orleans. These units perform regular work on the rails to insure quality. These vehicles are a ballast clearer and a spike repair unit. They maintain the track leading out to the 5-mile bridge and down to the NS Gentilly Yard.
The Back Belt
The Back Belt originates in Jefferson Parish, joining with the Kansas City Southern and Canadian National (formerly Illinois Central) main lines. As it reaches Orleans Parish, these tracks join with the New Orleans Terminal Company trackage at the New Basin Canal. The Pontchartrain Expressway replaced the canal in 1949. Now, the highway is part of I-10. New Orleans Terminal Company merged with the Southern Railway system (now Norfolk-Southern Railroad) in 1916. The NOTC track led out of old Union Station on S. Rampart Street. Union Passenger Terminal used the track starting in 1954. The Amtrak Crescent follows this track to the Back Belt, then out of town.
Types of MOW cars
Norfolk Southern operates a number of maintenance cars, including:
- Anchor Machines
- Ballast Regulators
- Clip Machines
- Spike driving/pulling machines
- Rail lifters/plate inserters
- Tie equipment
- Tie pluggers and drills
There’s a great article on Trainfanatics showing the railroad moving MOW equipment through Ohio.
The top photo shows these units at work on the Back Belt. They use the crossovers between Marconi Drive and the track leading to UPT to change directions.
Norfolk Southern maintenance vehicles parked at the mouth of the old Bernadotte Yard, Mid-City
This photo shows the vehicles parked at the mouth of Southern Railway’s former Bernadotte Yard. These tracks are just to the east of Canal Boulevard. This rail yard was a mainstay of Southern’s local operations from the 1920s to the 1950s. Now, there are a couple of customers along the old access line in Mid-City. When the MOW units are working this area for a few days, the railroad parks them here.
Norfolk Southern maintenance pick-up truck (top), on the Back Belt
Trucks owned by the railroad appear regularly on the Back Belt. These units run with both rubber tires and steel train wheels. The truck pulls up to the track, and gets aligned. Then the driver lowers the steel wheels down. The truck proceeds as a train car! It’s a good way to do quick visual inspections, or move personnel up and down the line. A train’s coming? No problem, raise the wheels and roll down on the tires to a street.
Abraham Shushan’s monuments marked Lakefront milestones.
New Basin Canal Lock monument, 1930
Two 1930 photos of lakefront monuments. The late 1920s were a time of major improvements to the lakefront. Lake Pontchartrain seawall improved flood protection. So, the Levee Board* erected monuments to the “New Basin Canal Lock” and the “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall.” Board president Abraham “Abe” Shushan supervised their placement.
Abe Shushan inspects the seawall monument, 1930
The “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall” was the finishing touch of a years-long series of land reclamation projects along the Orleans Parish lakefront. In 1915, the south shore of the lake went right up to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard). The Levee Board planned to drain the swampy ground and create new subdivisions. By 1930, the reclamation projects were completed.
The Levee Board built the finishing touch in 1929. Along with the stepped, concrete wall, they created Lakeshore Drive for access to recreational areas along the lakefront. Previous generations traveled out to the lakefront resorts at West End, Spanish Fort, and Milneburg via train/streetcar. With the completion of Lakeshore Drive, driving along the lake became a pleasant experience.
Both of Shushan’s monuments contain the same text, with the name as the only change:
Constructed During the Administration of
HUEY P. LONG, Governor
Board of Levee Commissioners
Orleans Levee District
The stones then list the members of the board and the various people who worked the projects. While John Riess built the lock, Orleans Dredging Company built the seawall.
Shushan’s Monuments display Abe’s name, as president of the board. Shushan is seen in the seawall photo, inspecting the massive tablet. Abe got his start in his family’s business, Shushan Brothers. Shushan Brothers sold dry goods wholesale. Additionally, they operated retail toy stores. Abe left the business founded by his father and uncle, entering government as a strong supporter of Huey P. Long. He moved up in the Long organization. They arranged his appointment to the Levee Board.. Accordingly, the board named New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NOL) for Shushan. In 1935, the government indicted and tried him for tax fraud. Furthermore, they charged him with money laundering. While Shushan was acquitted, the Longs cut him loose. Although he was cleared, the trial exposed massive corruption. So, his name was removed from just about everything it was visible on, including these monuments.
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.
Operation Lifesaver Amtrak, a salute to the safety education organization.
Operation Lifesaver Amtrak
AMTK 203, a GE P-42 Genesis locomotive, painted to mark 50 years of Operation Lifesaver. The organization was originally sponsored by Union Pacific Railroad. OL promoted rail safety in the early 1970s. After localized campaigns in Idaho, the program expanded. Operation Lifesaver presented rail safety education nationally. Operation Lifesaver Amtrak demonstrates that passenger trains take safety seriously. AMTK 203 pulled the Amtrak Crescent #20 out of New Orleans (NOL) on 27-January-2022. Additionally, this was the day Catalpa Falls brought up the rear. Catalpa Falls is a restored Pullman car.
Operation Lifesaver accomplishments
The safety organization delivers its message to schools, community and civic groups. Additionally, OLI.org offers materials for download. They engage with film and television productions. Spotting unsafe actions in films, the group contacts production companies. While In 2006, they engaged with Pixar. They spotted a problematic scene in “Cars.” The lead character-car, “Lightning McQueen” races a train. While their advocacy doesn’t work all the time, they do have accomplishments.
OL offers a wide range of printed material for sale. Clubs and groups can distribute those materials. Additionally, OL offers merch such as t-shirts and keychains. So, safety-conscious supporters carry the message around regularly.
Amtrak endorses the OL mission wholeheartedly. Passenger trains operate at high speeds. Unsafe drivers and pedestrians present challenges for Amtrak. Amtrak cooperates with the railroads that own the tracks. So, every grade crossing displays a sign with a toll-free number. A motorist can call if they get stuck. They call, dispatchers stop trains.
We got word that AMTK 203 was on its way to NOL. It departed NOL two days later. It was a double-treat for train-watchers that morning. The Canal Boulevard underpass is quite the photo spot. Thanks, rail enthusiasts on social media!
Catalpa Falls – Private railcar running on the Amtrak Crescent.
Edward J. Branley photo
Private railcar Catalpa Falls, bringing up the rear of the Amtrak Crescent #20 (Northbound), 27-January-2022. Catalpa Falls is a 1949-vintage 6-double-bedroom/lounge car, built for the Pennsylvania Railroad by the Pullman Company. The car ran on the PRR signature train, Broadway Limited, from 1949 to 1967. Amtrak sold the car off when it took over passenger operations in 1971. Catalpa Falls operates as a private charter car now. While Catalpa Falls was built by Pullman-Standard, Budd also made similar cars.
The Broadway Limited
The Pennsylvania Railroad operated the Broadway Limited from New York to Chicago, from 1912 to 1971. So, Amtrak continued the route from 1971 to 1995. In 1995, the national passenger railroad discontinued the route. By 1995, Amtrak lost over $18 million a year on the Broadway Limited. The Three Rivers replaced the train in 1995. Amtrak later discontinued the Three Rivers. The Lake Shore Limited now offers daily service from New York to Chicago.
According to its Wikipedia entry, the Broadway Limited in 1956 ran a 14-car consist:
The February 1956 Official Guide listed the westbound Broadway Limited (Train 29) consist as having fourteen cars normally assigned: nine sleeping cars between New York and Chicago, one additional sleeping car from New York continuing through to Los Angeles on the Santa Fe’s Super Chief, the twin-unit dining car, lounge car, and observation car.
One of the sleeping cars at the time was Catalpa Falls. Additionally, PRR ordered replacements for their 1938 Broadway Limited trainsets in 1946, after World War II. Pullman-Standard delivered the cars in 1949.
Restored to original
Floorplan of the Catalpa Falls, restored to its 1949 design by Executive Rail.
Executive Rail, a division of Catalpa Falls Group, LLC, owns the railcar. The company restored the car to its mid-century glory. While Catalpa Falls contains modern amenities such as flat-screen televisions and wi-fi Internet service, they’re worked in so they don’t detract from the experience.
Like a number of private cars, Executive Rail offers passengers a throwback to a golden age of passenger rail. Instead of the usual Amtrak sleeper cars, Catalpa Falls tempts the traveler with a more elegant form of rail travel.