Vernon Smith turned NORTA 29 into “The Littlest Streetcar”

Vernon Smith turned NORTA 29 into “The Littlest Streetcar”

Vernon Smith gives NORTA 29 a personality!

Vernon Smith

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

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.

The book

Mr. Smith’s book is a wonderfully-illustrated childrens’ book. It’s available in hardcover, librarians take note!

The Littlest Streetcar

ISBN: 9781455621897
ISBN-10: 1455621897
Publisher: Pel
Publication Date: February 1st, 2017
Pages: 32
Language: English
Recommended Reading Level

Minimum Age: 4
Maximum Age: 7
Minimum Grade Level: P
Maximum Grade Level: 2

Arabella Station Serviced the Uptown Lines #StreetcarMonday

Arabella Station Serviced the Uptown Lines #StreetcarMonday

Arabella Station on Magazine Street is now the Whole Foods Uptown location

Arabella Station

Magazine and Joseph Streets, looking west, towards Arabella Street, 1948. (Franck Studios photo)

Arabella Station

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.

History

arabella station

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.

Arabella Station

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,

Layout

Arabella Station

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

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

Arabella station

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!

 

 

 

Streetcar accidents – NOPSI 888 back at Carrollton Station

Streetcar accidents – NOPSI 888 back at Carrollton Station

Streetcar accidents happen when automobile drivers don’t look

streetcar accidents

NOPSI 888 at Carrollton Station, after a traffic accident.

Streetcar accidents

Just this week, a garbage truck turned in front of NORTA 900, on Canal Street. Streetcar accidents happen once or twice a year.

1947 accident

Today’s photo shows NOPSI 888 with one end bashed in. The photo was shot on 13-May-1947. An automobile hit the streetcar earlier that day. Several lines still operated streetcars in 1947. The photographer notes the date, but not the circumstances of the accident.

Streetcar accidents began when automobiles took to the streets. In my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, I’ve got a photo of a Ford Model T, right after it encountered a streetcar. The accident occurred in front of Warren Easton High School, in 1914. The automobile lost.

Handling accidents

Streetcar-versus-automobile accidents present challenges for all concerned. Damage to the vehicles generates repair expenses. The transit operator (in this case, NOPSI) has to deal with claims from riders. Those claims often lead to lawsuits. While the transit operator is usually not at fault, the company has the deeper pockets. Drivers carry insurance, but often not enough to settle injuries for 10+ transit riders.

NOPSI’s lawyers retained a photographer. Charles Franck Studios had the job for years. They sent out a photographer to accident scenes. NOPSI towed the wrecked streetcars back to Carrollton Station. The photographer documented the damage. Those photos ended up as evidence in lawsuits.

NOPSI 888

This streetcar is part of the 800-series. They looked almost identical to the 900s currently running on the St. Charles Line. These streetcars used mechanical doors, not unlike a school bus door. The 900s have automatic doors.

NOPSI retained 35 of the 900-series when the Canal line ended streetcar service in 1964. With only a couple of exceptions, they destroyed the 800s.

Streetcar repair

Carrollton Station served as the main maintenance and repair facility for streetcars. NORTA’s Rail Department operates out of Carrollton Station today. While the Arabella and Canal Barns housed streetcars, they came to Carrollton for big repairs.

Accident photos

This Franck Studios photo is part of the HNOC collection. Since NOPSI received city subsidies for transit operations, the photo is in the public domain.

Trackless Trolleys on the Magazine Street Line – #StreetcarMonday

Trackless Trolleys on the Magazine Street Line – #StreetcarMonday

Trackless Trolleys, also known as “trolley buses”

trackless trolleys

NOPSI trackless trolley on the Magazine line at Audubon Park, 1941 (Franck Studios photo)

Trackless Trolleys

Electric buses, “trackless trolleys”, operated on several New Orleans transit lines over the years. In the 1920s, NORwy&Lt/NOPSI experimented with the buses. By 1930, trackless trolleys operated on major lines in the system.

Magazine Street

Magazine Street, like St. Charles Avenue, runs the length of what we usually call “Uptown”. While St. Charles Avenue presents elegant mansions, Magazine Street borders the two sides of “the tracks”. You know, when someone says, “she’s from the other side of the tracks”. So, in New Orleans, that could easily mean Magazine street. While the neighborhoods between Magazine and St. Charles contain more elegant houses, the other side was, well, the other side. The area between Magazine and the river holds docks, wharves, warehouses, and small shotgun houses.

The combination creates a dense area. Neighborhoods grew, usually as plantations fronting the river were subdivided and sold off by their owners. As each plantation became a residential neighborhood, open-air markets, shops, schools and churches appeared.

Uptown Transit

trackless trolleys

1883 Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, showing the corner of Magazine and Toledano.

These new neighborhoods required connections to the Central Business District (CBD). The New Orleans City Railroad Company established the Magazine Street line on June 8, 1861. Streetcars on the Magazine line ran from the Clay Statue (St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street), down Canal, turning right on Magazine. The mule-drawn “bobtail” streetcars traveled outbound on Magazine to Toledano.

At Toledano, NOCRR operated a car barn and stables. Streetcars turned around by going through the car barn. They then returned the same route. The company expanded the line in 1883, running Magazine all the way to Audubon Park. NOCRR electrified the line in 1895.

NOCRR operated single-truck streetcars on Magazine after electrification. They replaced the single-trucks initially with Brill double-trucks, then “Palace” cars. NOPSI phased out the “Palace cars” with arch roofs, until 1930.

Trolley buses

NOPSI converted the Magazine line to trackless trolley service on November 30, 1930. Therefore, trolley buses meant NOPSI only needed one employee per bus, the driver. The city required two-man operation of streetcars. So, NOPSI cut labor costs dramatically when a line converted from streetcars to buses, even electric ones.

NOPSI converted Magazine from electric buses to diesel ones in 1964.

 

Fortier High School football – friday night lights in the forties

Fortier High School football – friday night lights in the forties

Fortier High School football – FNL

fortier high school football

The Alcee Fortier High School football, 1940s

Fortier High School Football

This is a Franck Studios photo of a football team from Alcee Fortier High School. I’m thinking this is from the 1940s rather than the 1950s, but there’s so little to go on in terms of identification. They look like your basic football team from the time before integration.

Alcee Fortier High School

Fortier High School Football

Fortier High School, on Freret and Nashville, Uptown. The facility is now Lusher High School.

The school opened in 1931. Fortier occupied the Uptown block bounded by Freret, Joseph, Loyola, and Nashville, The main entrance fronted Freret Street. Fortier opened as an all-boys, all-white school. It integrated as part of the school district’s plan, in 1961. The student body lost lost white students steadily through the 1960s and 1970s, due to white flight.

Fortier offered German language classes prior to World War II. It was one of the few schools in the city that taught the language.

Hurricane Katrina

Fortier declined dramatically in quality in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, it was rated as one of the worst schools in the city. The Louisiana Legislature pointed to schools like Fortier and demanded changes. They created the Recovery School District. The state tasked RSD with taking over public schools in Orleans Parish. They believed the Orleans Parish School Board could not handle the job any longer.

Within a year of the RSD’s creation, Hurricane Katrina struck. The storm’s aftermath changed all the plans for public schools. RSD permanently closed many schools. Fortier was one of them. RSD authorized charter schools across the city. Those new schools occupied the buildings of many older, failing schools.

Lusher High School

Lusher Elementary School opened on Willow Street in Carrollton in 1917. The school board expanded Lusher, opening a middle school, in 1990. The middle school used the old Carrollton Courthouse. That building housed Benjamin Franklin High School until that school moved to the University of New Orleans campus.

Lusher Elementary and Middle converted to a charter school in the wake of Katrina. The community planned a high school, going back to 2003. The charter enabled them to move on those plans. They opened the Fortier Campus as Lusher High School in 2006.

Donaldsonville South Louisiana State Fair – Trip from New Orleans #TrainThursday

Donaldsonville South Louisiana State Fair – Trip from New Orleans #TrainThursday

Donaldsonville South Louisiana State Fair

donaldsonville south louisiana state fair

Broadside advertising a day trip to Donaldsonville, 1930. (courtesy LaRC)

Donaldsonville South Louisiana State Fair – Ride the train from New Orleans

Advertisement for a special round-trip train to take students from New Orleans to the Donaldsonville South Louisiana State Fair, October 3, 1930. The train departed Uptown New Orleans at 8am and returned at 7:15pm. While that’s a long day for kids, it was a fun day!

The “official” Louisiana State Fair is held in Shreveport, Louisiana. Today, New Orleans to Shreveport requires a five-hour car trip. The typical route is I-10 to Lafayette, then I-49 to Shreveport. Before the Interstate Highway System, the trip required travel on US highways and state roads. Therefore it took longer.

donaldsonville south louisiana state fair

Autos entering the South Louisiana State Fair grounds, ca 1925

A “South Louisiana State Fair” attracted people who didn’t want to travel to the northwestern corner of the state. While autos traveled the roads of Louisiana in 1930, many people didn’t own a car. So, the train enabled kids to go to the state fair.

Texas and Pacific Railroad

donaldsonville south louisiana state fair

Cover for a route map, Texas and Pacific Railroad, 1906.

The Texas and Pacific Railroad operated from 1871 to 1976. The Missouri Pacific Railroad acquired the railroad in 1928. While MP owned T&P, they operated it separately.

The T&P planned a southern transcontinental connection, between Marshall, Texas and San Diego.  The T&P met up with the Southern Pacific railroad. SP expanded from California.

The Texas & Pacific/Missouri Pacific Terminal in New Orleans

donaldsonville south louisiana state fair

Texas and Pacific Terminal, Annunciation Street, ca 1920. (Detroit Publishing Company)

The T&P built a terminal on Annunciation and Thalia Streets in 1916. Missouri Pacific trains operated from that terminal after MP acquired T&P. The demolished the station in 1954.

Gretna Station

Donaldsonville South Louisiana State Fair

Gretna Station, 1983

Trains operating from the T&P/MP station crossed the river by ferry, basically just behind the station. The ferry carried the trains to Gretna. That’s why the stop in Gretna on the schedule. From the Fourth Street station, the train traveled to Westwego, picked up kids there. The train made no stops after Westwego, bringing kids and teachers to the Donaldsonville fair grounds.

The ferry crossing enabled the railroad to offer a stop on the west bank of New Orleans. So, passengers looking to travel on T&P/MP boarded over there. They didn’t have to come across the river.

Thanks to Lee Miller at the Louisiana Research Collection at Tulane University for this great item.