Vernon Smith gives NORTA 29 a personality!
I had the privilege of attending a book event last Friday, at St. Francis Xavier Parish, on Metairie Road. There were over twenty authors there. I knew many of the authors. I also enjoyed meeting some new folks, like Mr. Vernon Smith.
NORTA 29, the last Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. (Edward Branley photo)
Vernon sat behind a poster-sized illustration of “the sand car”, also known as NORTA 29. The sand car is the last remaining Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. The FB&Ds date back to 1894. Ford, Bacon and Davis were engineers. They won a contract to advise several streetcar operators in New Orleans. Electric streetcars rolled the streets, beginning in 1893. The transit companies used mule-drawn cars for decades. Electric streetcars meant they had to install overhead wires along their routes. The engineers offered consulting services.
After working on track plans, interchanges, etc., FB&D learned a lot about streetcars. They designed a streetcar for the New Orleans systems. Several companies liked the design. So, they ordered these streetcars in 1894. They first appeared on the St. Charles Avenue line. Then they rolled on Canal Street. From there, the companies put them on the backatown routes.
The Littlest Streetcar
By the 1910s, the operators needed streetcars larger than the FB&Ds. They replaced the single-truck, smaller streetcars with double-truck cars from Brill and American Car Company. New Orleans Railway and Light Company ordered the first arch roof double-trucks in 1915. The 800- and 900-series arch roofs came to New Orleans in 1923.
The transit companies kept many of the FB&D streetcars for years. They ran well. Their smaller sized enabled them to run on routes with smaller ridership. The single-trucks were forty years old by the 1930s. NOPSI retired most of them. They kept a couple FB&Ds for special uses. NOPSI refitted #29 to drop sand on the rails on wet/icy days. NORTA 29 continues this job to this day. It is indeed the littlest streetcar in the NORTA fleet.
Mr. Smith’s book is a wonderfully-illustrated childrens’ book. It’s available in hardcover, librarians take note!
The Littlest Streetcar
Publication Date: February 1st, 2017
Recommended Reading Level
Minimum Age: 4
Maximum Age: 7
Minimum Grade Level: P
Maximum Grade Level: 2
Arabella Station on Magazine Street is now the Whole Foods Uptown location
Magazine and Joseph Streets, looking west, towards Arabella Street, 1948. (Franck Studios photo)
The big barn at Magazine and Arabella Streets serviced streetcars until 1948. NOPSI needed a bus facility uptown. So, they operated Arabella as a bus barn.
The top photo is from 19-February-1948. So, NOPSI discontinued streetcars on the Magazine on 11-February-1948. Buses replaced streetcars that month. Trackless trolleys took over that July. NOPSI did not demolish the infrastructure around the station right away. This was different than on Canal Street. So, NOPSI needed the overhead wiring on Magazine. The neighborhood supported the changes. The company continued streetcars on Canal and St. Charles. Both have neutral grounds. Therefore, they supported streetcars better.
The end of the Magazine Street line, 1883. Robinson’s Atlas. (Courtesy Orleans Parish Notarial Archives)
The Crescent City Railroad Company built Arabella Station in the 1880s. They operated the barn at Octavia and Magazine. CCRRCo acquired the barn from the Magazine Streetcar Company. The company outgrew that barn. So, they moved down a couple of blocks, to Arabella. Crescent City Railroad merged into the New Orleans Traction Company. That company merged into New Orleans Railway and Light. Eventually, transit re-organized into New Orleans Public Service Company, Inc.
Outside streetcar storage behind Arabella Station, 1920. (E. Harper Charlton photo)
Under NOPSI, Arabella Station housed streetcars for the Uptown lines operating from St. Charles to the river. So, Carrollton Station serviced the St. Charles line and the “uptown backatown” lines. In this photo from 1920,
Track plan for the Arabella Barn, 1920s. (NOPSI image)
While Carrollton Station’s layout is, enter from the rear, exit to the front, Arabella Station used Magazine Street for both entrance and exit. The barn occupied the block from Magazine to Constance Street. The block between Constance and Patton Streets was the outside trackage you see in the 1920 photo.
Arabella Station, 1920. (NOPSI photo)
In and out on Magazine Street made sense. The streets were tight. Therefore, going around the barn was tough. These 1920 photos show the hustle-bustle of streetcar operations uptown.
Arabella Station as Supermarket
Whole Foods Market, Arabella Station.
Arabella Station became a Whole Foods Market in 2002. You can still see some of the old tracks in the back parking lot. Compare this Google street view with the 1948 version!