Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, 1970s #TrainThursday

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, 1970s #TrainThursday

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited

Amtrak's Sunset Limited

Sunset Limited crossing the Mississippi River, 1970s (Amtrak photo)

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited

When Amtrak took over passenger rail service in the United States in 1971, they continued the Sunset Limited service. The Southern Pacific Railroad began the Sunset Limited in 1894. It was the second “transcontinental” railroad in the United States. The train traveled over Santa Fe and Southern Pacific track, from New Orleans to Los Angeles and back.

It’s possible for rail travelers to start in the east, as far north as Maine and travel to Los Angeles. While passengers commute through the Northeast Corridor, “long haul” travelers join them to Penn Station, in New York City. There, they board Amtrak’s Crescent (#19). The Crescent takes them to New Orleans. From there, they transfer to the Sunset Limited (#1).

The Sunset Limited in New Orleans.

The Sunset Limited originally used the Trans-Mississippi Terminal on Annunciation Street. This station was uptown, close to the Mississippi River. The train pulled out of the station, then traveled across the river on a railroad ferry. When the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in 1935, the Sunset Limited operated out of Union Station, on Howard Avenue. In 1954, the train shifted operations to Union Passenger Terminal.

Pullman Service

Amtrak's Sunset Limited

The Pullman Company provided sleeper cars to many of the railroads running passenger trains. Therefore, travelers could board a Pullman sleeper coach in the east, and stay on it all the way to Los Angeles. The different railroads would pass the car along as service changed. So, Southern Railroad customers would travel from New York City to New Orleans on the Crescent. Southern Pacific picked up the sleeper, connecting it to the Sunset Limited.

Early Amtrak Service

This photo (courtesy Amtrak) shows the Sunset Limited, crossing the bridge  in the 1970s. When Amtrak started, the company used equipment given to them by the other railroads. So, this photo shows E-8 locomotives (A-B-B-A) from Southern Pacific. Budd “streamliner” cars make up the consist.

Modern Sunset Limited Service

Currently, Amtrak uses a pair of P-42DC “Genesis” locomotives to pull a consist of Streamliner coaches up the Huey and out to Los Angeles.

 

Old Metairie – 800 Metairie Road then and now

Old Metairie – 800 Metairie Road then and now

Old Metairie

old metairie

800 Metairie Road, 1962 (Franck Studios photo)

Old Metairie, Metairie Road, near the railroad tracks.

This is a Franck photo of the strip shopping center at 800 Metairie Road in 1962. I went there a bit with my parents as a kid, when we lived on Bonnabel Blvd and Dream Court. Daddy preferred making groceries at Schwegmann’s rather than Winn-Dixie, but we went to the K&B on the right-hand side of this photo a good bit.

Evolution of 800 Metairie Road

The Do Drive In was across the street. Like all drive-ins, as property values increased, the owner usually sold out, or subdivided the property themselves. In the case of the Do, the theater was replaced by a condo development, DeLimon Place. Next to it, another shopping center appeared, Old Metairie Village.

K&B

The Katz and Besthoff shifted locations, from the right side of the shopping center to the left. This store converted to a Rite Aid when that chain bought out K&B. My memories of the drugstore are more from the 1980s. The western end of the shopping center then became a McDonald’s. When the fast food joint closed, PJ’s Coffee took over. The patio of the coffee shop still has the jail-like fence that was the “play place” from the McDonald’s.

Winn-Dixie to Langenstein’s

Old Metairie

800 Metairie Road, now. (Google Maps)

The Winn-Dixie closed, leaving the grocery store footprint open. The uptown grocery, Langenstein’s, opened their second location here.

Other stores

The loading dock on the side of the K&B closed in when the store moved. Now, the western side of the shopping center is home to a number of small businesses. The larger stores needed more parking and access. Maison Blanche, for example, expanded from the city to Airline Hwy.

The laundromat next to the Winn-Dixie closed at some point in the 1970s. Radio Shack took its place. I worked at that Radio Shack in 1981. I taught high school, and Radio Shack was my summer gig. The store was the smaller, neighborhood type. We set up one of the high-end audio systems in the bay window in front. I blasted the tunes and read books, sometimes for over an hour, uninterrupted. It was easy to flip down the music quickly when someone came into the store. By that fall, my friend who was the manager got promoted to the Radio Shack in Lakeside Mall. I went along for the ride, better commission.

What are your memories of 800 Metairie Road?

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Shop Edward’s bookstore

Edward’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, as well as Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and other online booksellers.

For signed copies of Edward’s books, visit his online bookshop:


Hidden Talents


Dragon’s Danger


Maison Blanche Department Stores


Legendary Locals of New Orleans


Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans


New Orleans Jazz


New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

 

Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

maison blanche airline

Maison Blanche Airline, 1956 (Franck Studios photo)

The first suburban MB – Maison Blanche Airline

When S. J. Shwartz founded Maison Blanche in 1897, MB was a single store on Canal Street. It remained that way until 1947, when the company opened its second location, at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. A year later, the company went out to Gentilly, opening a store at Frenchmen Street and Gentilly Boulevard. In the late 1940s, post WWII, Gentilly was considered a “suburb” with respect to the rest of the city.

The “real” suburbs of New Orleans at that time were around, but did not have the economic significance they would have later. Jefferson Parish had three distinct neighborhoods close to the city: Jefferson, Metairie, and Bucktown. Going downriver from the city, St. Bernard Parish had Arabi, Chalmette, and Meraux. While both parishes had towns further out, these were the ‘burbs.

Getting to Jefferson Parish

maison blanche airline

Tulane Avenue in the 1950s (Morrison Collection, NOPL)

The main conduit connecting modern East Jefferson to New Orleans is I-10, but the interstate highway system was just in the planning stages in the 1950s. President Eisenhower saw the value of the autobahn system in Germany, and wanted that for the US. In the meantime, folks living outside the city proper needed routes to get back into the stores, shops, and other establishments.

mid-city new orleans maison blanche airline

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Rather than expand out into Jefferson Parish immediately, MB opened their first store in Mid-City. The Tulane and Carrollton location appealed to the the growning Mid-City and Lakeview neighborhoods, because folks didn’t have to go all the way to the CBD. S. Carrollton Avenue was where Tulane Avenue became Airline Highway. Airline was US Hwy 61, which led out of town and northwest to Baton Rouge. As Metairie began to expand, those folks came to the edge of town to shop at MB.

Opening in the suburbs

Crescent Drive-in on Airline Highway in Metairie, 1950 (Franck Studios Photo)

The property along Airline Highway in the late 1940s was largely undeveloped and inexpensive. In 1950, the Crescent Drive-In opened, along with the Crescent Shopping Center next door. The main reason drive-ins across the country closed was rising property values. The owners would sell to developers, and they’d move the drive-in further out into the burbs. By 1955, this happened to the Crescent. Developers built the Airline Village Shopping Center on the property. The main anchor of Airline Village was Maison Blanche Airline.

MB Airline attracted shoppers from the growing subdivisions along Metairie Road. Folks who lived near St. Martin’s Episcopal and St. Catherine of Sienna churches took Metairie Road to Atherton Drive, and turned towards Airline. They’d cross the railroad tracks (the “back belt”), and ended up right in the back parking lot of Maison Blanche Airline.

Shopping at MB Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Like the stores on Carrollton and in Gentilly, MB Airline carried the same product lines the main store on Canal Street did. If there was something advertised in the paper that wasn’t available on the sales floor at Airline Village, the store gladly transferred it from downtown, or the customer could arrange for free home delivery.

My personal memories of MB Airline were when we lived in Old Metairie. I was a Cub Scout in the pack that was sponsored by Mullholland Memorial Methodist Church on Metairie Road. My parents would bring me from our house on Dream Court, up Metairie Road and that back route into Airline Village. MB was one of the “official” Scouting stores back then. So, that’s where we bought my uniforms, t-shirts, pocket knives, etc.

Clearview and decline

maison blanche airline

Architectural rendering, Airline Village Shopping Center

MB Airline was a resounding success for the chain well into the 1970s. When Interstate 10 opened and dominated the traffic patterns, Maison Blanche recognized the shift. They opened a new store in the Clearview Shopping Center. That mall is between I-10 and Veterans Boulevard, at the Clearview Parkway exit.

MB Airline declined rapidly after the Clearview store opened. New subdivisions developed between Veterans and the lake. Lakeside Mall and Clearview Mall became the focal points of retail shopping in Metairie. While MB Airline was convenient for residents of “Old Metairie”, everyone else favored the malls. Maison Blanche recognized this, and closed the Airline Village location.

Airline Village Today

maison blanche airline

Celebration Church (Darrell Harden photo)

The main anchor of Airline Village is now Celebration Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation.

Be sure to check out my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores by “liking” our page on Facebook.

Become a Patron

Support NOLA History Guy’s writing by becoming a Patron. Our goals are 100 patrons supporting us at $1 per month. When we reach this goal, we’ll be able to move forward with anthology production and publication.

Become a Patron!


Shop Edward’s bookstore

Edward’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, as well as Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and other online booksellers.

For signed copies of Edward’s books, visit his online bookshop:


Hidden Talents


Dragon’s Danger


Maison Blanche Department Stores


Legendary Locals of New Orleans


Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans


New Orleans Jazz


New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

 

The Irish-Italian Podcast!

The Irish-Italian Podcast!

The Irish-Italian connection/tradition originates with the two cultures merging in New Orleans after WWII.

The Irish

In terms of numbers and influence, the Irish were first in New Orleans. O’Reilly is an outlier on this; the Irish influence begins in the 1820s.  That first wave of Irish immigrants provided the manpower to build the New Basin Canal.

Crescent City Living’s video on the Irish Channel, produced by Crista Rock, with commentary from NOLA History Guy.

The Irish in New Orleans

Love New Orleans? Thank an Irishman

The story of St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s Assumption churches

The Irish Cemeteries

Ten Contributions the Irish Made to New Orleans

These are articles about the Irish I’ve written over the years. This podcast doesn’t go into a ton of detail, since its focus is how all these folks ended up in the same parade. 🙂 Don’t let that deter you from looking further into the Irish. Their story is an important part of the bigger story of New Orleans.

The Italians

In many ways, the Italians get more exposure in the touristy writing than the Irish. That’s mainly because the Italians all but took over the French Quarter. This was in the 1880s and 1890s. The Italians left a lasting mark on the French Quarter. It’s the one neighborhood just about every visitor sees. Naturally, this is going to leave an impression. The Italian groceries, St. Mary’s Italian church (next to the convent), so many other Italian-owned businesses. Even the building the Louisiana State Museum currently uses as a warehouse for their massive collection was at one time a pasta factory!

Anyway, I wasn’t kidding about going to the Beauregard-Keyes House, either. The mafia connection is fascinating!

It’s not all about the Quarter, though, for the Italians.

Five Italian Contributions to New Orleans

The Hotel Monteleone was built by Italians

So, the Italians migrated from the Downtown side of Canal Street. They went to Gentilly, Metairie, and St. Bernard Parish. The folks who went out to Metairie teamed up with the Irish for the big parade.