Mules NO&CRR transition took place in the 1840s.
Continuing the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Story
I spoke to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides at their monthly meeting this past Monday. They had me in to discuss the origins of the NO&CRR (New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad), which evolved into the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. I’ll be presenting the talk via blog posts here. We discussed the origins of the line, now we move to the transition to mules from steam power.
While steam power made sense to the management of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, residents along the Carrollton Line (which later became the St. Charles Avenue Line) grew unhappy. Steam trains are noisy and smokey. As New Orleans annexed what is now the Garden District, more people built fine houses close to the line.City officials pressured the railroad to abandon steam engines. Mules NO&CRR began in the 1840s.
Mules on the line
Naiads and Napoleon, 1860. Lilienthal photo, halfway point for Mules NO&CRR
Theodore Lilienthal photo of Naiads and Napoleon Avenues, 1860. The railroad built their facilities for the Carrollton line here. The intersection was more-or-less half-way between the CBD and the city of Carrollton.
St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues in 1948. Compare the difference with 1860.
Section from the Robinson Atlas, 1883, showing streetcar tracks around St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues. The half-way facilities for the railroad expanded over the twenty years since the Lilienthal photo. The black dot on St. Charles is a turntable. If you’ve been to San Francisco, you’ve seen this type of turntable. Here, the driver leads the mule out of the barn, placing the car on the turntable. He then walked the mule around, lining up with the track on the street, and off they went.
The building on the right housed the streetcars and the mules. Superior Seafood and Fat Harry’s stand there now. The buildings on the left (lake) side of St. Charles are now the Lower School for the Academy of the Sacred Heart.
Downtown on the line
The corner of St. Charles and Canal Streets in 1850. Notice there are NO streetcar tracks! That’s because the Carrollton line continued to use Baronne Street. While the steam trains terminated at Poydras and Baronne, the streetcars went all the way to Canal Street. The drivers turned around on a turntable on Baronne.
So, there were no streetcars yet on either St. Charles or Canal. The Canal line opened in 1861. The lighter-colored building in the background of this illustration is the first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel. This building burned down in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853.
This 1856 map shows downtown New Orleans (CBD) in 1856. The streetcars came down Naiads to Tivoli Circle. Like the modern line, they curved around to Delord Street, now Howard Avenue. Unlike the modern line, the Carrollton line went up to Baronne, then turned right. Baronne Street had two tracks with a turntable to change direction.
The railroad purchased and operated “Bob-Tail” streetcars from the Stephenson Car Company, from the 1850s until the line electrified in 1893. The driver attached the mule to the right side of the car in this photograph. The single-truck design made for a less-than-smooth ride. Still, the cars were as good as it got for the time.
While the bob-tails did most of the work on the line, the railroad experimented with alternatives. After the Southern Rebellion, PGT Beauregard returned to New Orleans. The railroad employed him as president in the 1870s. Being an engineer, Beauregard entertained a number of different ideas for streetcars. This car used canisters of ammonia gas to propel the car. This drawing is by Alfred Waud. It includes a small drawing of a white woman, and another of a black woman, along with Gus.
The Lamm Thermo-Specific locomotive operated on the line in 1874. The engine’s “fireless” design enabled quiet operation. So, the engine carried a large bottle/canister containing compressed air, steam. The engineer released the steam and the engine moved forward. The Lamm engines pulled 1-2 bobtail cars. The railroad discontinued operations of the Lamms, because of having tor re-charge the canisters.
To Be Continued…
We’ll move on to electrification next time.
Proteus 1922 had a rose theme.
Krewe of Proteus chose “The Romance of the Rose” for their theme in 1922. Thanks to the Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, for maintaining the krewe’s archives. Those archives include design sketches of their floats throughout the years. This post features three floats from that parade, “The Painted Wall,” “Love Conquers All,” and “Sir Mirth’s Garden.”
Proteus first paraded in 1882. They took a hiatus from 1993 to 2004, because of the controversial “Mardi Gras Ordinance” of 1993. Proteus returned to the streets in 2004. The krewe quarantined in 2021, but plan to parade on Lundi Gras 2022.
Le Roman de la Rose
Title float, Proteus, 1922
Like the other “old line,” debutante krewes, Proteus often chose themes from literature and history. “The Romance of the Rose” is a typical choice. From Wikipedia:
Le Roman de la Rose (The Romance of the Rose) is a medieval poem written in Old French and presented as an allegorical dream vision. As poetry, The Romance of the Rose is a notable instance of courtly literature, purporting to provide a “mirror of love” in which the whole art of romantic love is disclosed. Its two authors conceived it as a psychological allegory; throughout the Lover’s quest, the word Rose is used both as the name of the titular lady and as an abstract symbol of female sexuality.
To put this in Carnival terms, the poem offered the krewe a fertile ground for beautiful costumes and floats. Even if most of the parade-goers in 1922 had no idea about the poem, red! roses! costumes! The float designs lived up to the ambition.
“The Painted Wall”
“The Painted Wall”
Standing between “The Lover,” and the object of his desire, “The Rose,” was “The Painted Wall.” To reach his desire, the wall required our protagonist to overcome the trials of Poverty, Villainy, and Hate, among others. This float creates positions for six riders a side, with The Lover up front.
“Sir Mirth’s Garden”
“Sir Mirth’s Garden” Proteus 1922
Once he passes The Painted Wall, The Lover approaches the walled garden of Sir Mirth. Inside, he encounters couples dancing, led by Sir Mirth Lady Gladness.
Love Conquers All
“Omnia Vincit Amor”
This float bears the saying, “Omnia Vincit Amor” on the side. “Love Comquers All.” At the front of the float stands The Lover. The Rose, an artistic blending of a lovely flower with a woman at the center, highlights the float.
Floats then and now
Proteus 1922 floats sit atop old wooden wagons. The krewe use these same wagons to this day (well, to be sure, they’re regularly maintained/rebuilt). Proteus limits its size, so mega-floats are unnecessary. Additionally, a number of the members of Proteus also belong to other “old-line” krewes. It’s important to remember, these organizations present their daughters and granddaughters to society at their respective balls. Before the growth of parading organizations, the actual old-line parades served as glorified transportation to the bal masque.
The Napoleon Avenue Tunnel proposal would connect Uptown to a new bridge.
Napoleon Avenue Tunnel
Diagram of proposed approaches to a second bridge across the Mississippi River at New Orleans. The concept was to use Napoleon Avenue as a major traffic approach to the bridge. Instead of wiping out the neighborhood, cars would come to the bridge via a tunnel.
This diagram was published in the Times-Picayune on 17-January-1970. The traffic congestion on the original bridge grew to the point where it was clear a second bridge was necessary.
The first bridge
The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened to traffic in April, 1958. New Orleanians relied on ferries for the 250 years prior to its opening. As the Interstate Highway System grew in the 1950s, a bridge across the river at New Orleans made sense. (Ironically, the Interstate system uses the bridge at Baton Rouge). While the metro area had a bridge in Jefferson Parish (the Huey P. Long Bridge), that structure was designed for railroad use, with automobile lanes tacked on.
So, with states and the federal government throwing money into highway expansion and improvements after WWII, New Orleans got a bridge. It was five lanes, two in each direction with an emergency lane in the center.
By the late 1960s, the West Bank of the NOLA metro area grew dramatically. Algiers and Gretna appealed to younger residents looking to get out of their parents’ houses in town. Housing on the West Bank was affordable. You just had to cross the bridge.
Building a new bridge
Lots of proposals came forward for a second bridge. Locations ranged from Uptown by the parish line to down in Chalmette. From an access and traffic perspective, putting a bridge at Napoleon Avenue made some sense. The Jackson Avenue ferry put people out in downtown Gretna. Put a bridge just upriver, and you split the difference between Gretna and Harvey. Folks going to Algiers would continue to use the existing bridge.
While the concept looked interesting, it never got past this diagram. A tunnel? In New Orleans? Good luck with that. And the construction! Those who argued against tearing up Napoleon Avenue for a tunnel and bridge approach were vindicated in recent years with the nightmare that was drainage upgrades on that street. Combine that with the general NIMBY factor from every neighborhood, and we ended up with a second bridge next to the first one.
Still, ideas spark discussion, and a bit of amusement after fifty years.
Tivoli Circle connected the CBD with Union Station.
NOPSI 934, heading outbound on the St. Charles line, 1968. John LeBeau photo, via Aaron Handy, III. Here’s Aaron’s caption from Facebook:
Outbound Charley car 934 coming off Saint Charles Avenue to round the former Lee Circle, piggybacked by NOPSI GMC New Look 18, assigned to Freret. October 23, 1968. (John LeBeau collection.)
NOPSI 934 was one of the thirty-five 900-series arch roof cars to make the cut in 1964. It was one of the 1923-24 streetcars ordered by New Orleans Public Service, Inc. While New Orleans Railway and Light Company ordered arch roofs in 1915, things changed by 1923. The transit company in New Orleans re-organized as NOPSI. Mr. Perley A. Thomas took his arch roof design from Southern Car Company, opening his own business in High Point, NC. The NOPSI order was so big, Thomas had to sub-contract it to other manufacturers.
Tivoli to Lee to…?
As streetcar traffic from Uptown increased in the 1870s, the city converted the intersection of St. Charles Avenue and Delord Street (later Howard Avenue) into a traffic circle. The re-design made it easier for streetcars to curve off into the Central Business District or down to Union Station. The city named the roundabout “Tivoli Place,” after the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1884, the White League petitioned the city to construct a monument to the traitor Lee at the roundabout. The city authorized the construction of “Lee Place” in 1877. While the monument and the small park surrounding it was named for the rebel general, the roundabout remained “Place du Tivoli.” Over time, however, the names merged, and locals called it “Lee Circle.” The column at the center of Place du Tivoli remains, even though Alexander Doyle’s statue is in storage.
General Motors produced their “New Look” buses from 1958 to 1979. NOPSI purchased a number of these buses. While Flxible Company buses replaced the streetcars on the Canal Street line in 1964, New Look buses also traveled the city’s streets. In this photo, NOPSI 18, operating on the Freret line, follows NOPSI 934.
There’s always activity at the Claiborne Terminal.
Claiborne Terminal 1978
It was hectic at the end of the St. Charles line on 18-August-1978. Michael Palmieri captured this shot of three vintage-1923 arch roof streetcars, (l-r) NOPSI 914, 923, 962. NOPSI 923 blocks the other two streetcars. On the left, 914 can’t move forward, and 962 can’t enter the terminal. All three streetcars survived the 1964 massacre, when the Canal line transitioned to bus service. NOPSI kept 35 of the Perley Thomas streetcars for St. Charles. The route of the St. Charles line runs from this terminal, at S. Claiborne and S. Carrollton Avenue, inbound down S. Carrollton, turning onto St. Charles, where the line runs into downtown.
Here’s Mike’s caption for the photo from Facebook:
We’re not sure what misfortune has befallen New Orleans Public Service car 923, but the big truck parked on the other end of the car and the large contingent of sidewalk supervisors indicate that something is amiss. We’re standing on South Carrollton Avenue facing the outer end of the line at South Claiborne Avenue. The car on the right has changed direction, and is ready to head back to Canal Street. The inbound car in the background is the 914. Plum Street is behind us and Willow Street is right on the other side of the 914.
Since this mishap happened on S. Carrollton, it was easy for supervisors from the Rail Department to come up to Claiborne Terminal from Carrollton Station.
As Mike mentions, there’s a truck behind 923. The sequence to get the line back moving would be, send 962 inbound. The streetcar is on the outbound track, but the operator will switch to inbound at S. Carrollton and Willow, by the streetcar barn.
With 962 out of the way, that big truck can push 923 forward through the crossover, onto the inbound track. If the problem was with 923 itself, the truck could push the streetcar to the switch at S. Carrollton and Jeanette Street, and into the barn. Assuming the track and overhead are OK, NOPSI 914 can then leave Claiborne Terminal and head inbound, following 962.
The Cartier Bus line ran in Gentilly.
Photo from Aaron Handy, III, of two streetcars and a “old looks” bus at Carrollton Station in the mid-1970s. Here’s his caption from the “Vintage New Orleans Transit” group on the Book of Face: “Charley cars 951 and 961 rest at Carrollton Station And Shops, with NOPSI GM old look bus 1930, curiously assigned to Cartier!”
NOPSI 951 and 961 were two of the thirty-five arch roof streetcars that survived the slaughter of 1964. At this time, mid-1970s, the extent of the Rail Department’s operations was the St. Charles line, from S. Claiborne terminal, looping around at Carondelet and Canal Streetsl, back to St. Charles Avenue, for the outbound run.
Buses at Carrollton Station
The bay next to the streetcars has no rails. The station housed trackless trolleys until 1964. After NOPSI converted trolley bus service back to regular buses, they housed those buses at Canal Station, Carrollton, and Arabella. Aaron is right, a bus working on the Cartier line parked Uptown is curious!
Gentilly transit service
Cartier! That line was one of my ways home from Brother Martin High School. The line primarily served as school buses. Fed FW Gregory Jr High to JFK. Here’s the route:
- Outbound from Franklin Ave. at Mirabeau Avenue.
- Up Mirabeau to St. Bernard
- Stop at Mirabeau and Press along the way. This was a huge stop, since it connected F. W. Gregory Jr. High, down the street on Press.
- Up St. Bernard to Toussaint
- Turn left on Toussaint to cross the bayou
- Stop at Spanish Fort
- U-turn on Toussaint, then right on Wisner (cross the bayou)
- Down Wisner to JFK. End of route.
- Return: reverse the direction, back to Franklin Avenue
While Cartier wasn’t the only option to get back to Metairie, it allowed me to hang out with friends who lived in Lakeview a bit longer. We’d ride Cartier to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line, or its “Express” line, 80. The express drivers didn’t charge us the extra nickel, since they knew we exited in Lakeview. The Lake Vista bus turned at Toussaint and Canal Blvd, heading inbound. We would either ride to City Park Avenue, or exit at Toussaint. The Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) bus began its inbound run at Canal Blvd and the lake. We caught it at Toussaint, and rode up to Veterans. Then it was JeT out to Metairie.
Those GM “Old Looks” buses were long gone from most routes by the mid-1970s. NOPSI promoted/sold discontinuing streetcars on Canal by offering air-conditioned service from Lakeview, all the way into town. Since the Cartier and Lake lines were essentially school buses for JFK Senior High, the company didn’t mind retaining the old buses. At least the seats were comfortable.