Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion – electric with no rails
NOPSI Trackless Trolley on the Magazine line. Undated Franck-Bertacci photo, ~1948-1952
Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion
Riders Digest flyer, 11-February-1948 (courtesy Aaron Handy, III)
New Orleans Public Service, Inc (NOPSI) discontinued streetcars on a number of lines after World War II. Magazine Street was one of these lines. While most lines transitioned to diesel buses, Magazine Street used “trackless trolleys” from 1948 to 1964.
Mules to Electrics to Buses
The Magazine Street line began operation in June, 1861. It used mule-drawn streetcars until 1895. The line electrified in 1895. The first electrics on Magazine were open-vestibule cars that were quickly replaced by single-truck Brills. When the arch roof cars began service on Canal, the 1905-vintage “Palace” cars shifted to Magazine and other upriver-downriver lines. Eventually, the 800-900 series arch roofs operated everywhere in the city.
NOPSI planned to convert streetcars to buses in 1940, but WWII delayed that. The War Department refused the conversions, saying the increased consumption of rubber and diesel fuel were unacceptable.
NOPSI 931 at Arabella Station on Magazine Street, 1947. (Franck-Bertacci Studios, THNOC)
Magazine originally ran outbound on Camp, inbound on Magazine Street. Streetcars ran up to Toledano Street. The direction on Camp and Magazine flipped in the 1920s. Since then, line runs inbound on Magazine Street to St. Andrew. The inbounds turn there onto Sophie Wright Place, then onto Camp Street at Felicity. From there, they run to Canal Street. The end of the line is on Canal and Magazine. Outbound travels all the way up on Magazine, to Audubon Park. Magazine continued past the park, up Broadway to S. Claiborne until 1933. The service cut back to the park when the Freret line opened.
Ripping up the streetcar tracks on Camp Street, 1948 (NOPL)
The government lifted wartime restrictions in 1947. NOPSI discontinued streetcar operations as soon as possible. While West End and other long-haul lines switched to buses, The city ripped up the tracks in after trackless trolleys began operation in February, 1947. The overhead wire remained until 1964.
Napoleon Avenue links the river to Broadmoor
Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles Avenue, 1860 (photographer unknown)
Napoleon Avenue in 1860
The first streetcar service in New Orleans was along St. Charles Avenue. The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company started at Canal Street. They expanded service in stages, as demand and their capital allowed. So, by 1860, the line extended past Napoleon Avenue,
Map of Uptown New Orleans, 1850
The street we known know as St. Charles Avenue was called “Nayades Street” for most of the 19th Century. So, architect and surveyor Barthelmy Lafon named this long street after the mythic Green Nymphs who watched over fresh water wetlands. The street ran from the Business District, out to the City of Lafayette. Finally, the line ran to the City of Carrollton. The “Route of the Nayades” connected the neighborhoods. Similarly, it connected the plantations. In 1852, descendants of Spanish planters like Francisco Bouligny continued development. So, they changed the name of the street to honor Charles III. Charles was a Saint and king of Spain. As a result, of naming an uptown-to-downtown street after a Spaniard they needed balance. Bouligny’s descendants named their north-south road after Napoleon Bonaparte. They subdivided the plantation after 1862. Streets on either side of Napoleon Avenue were named to commemorate Bonaparte’s major victories.
The NO&CRR opened its crosstown line in 1835. By the time of this 1860 photo, the company operated “bobtail” streetcars. The Johnson Car Company sold these cars to the New Orleans company. These streetcars, pulled by mules, were a good fit for New Orleans. Therefore, when the New Orleans City Railroad opened their line on Canal Street, they ordered bobtails. The uptown company acquired the property on either side of the tracks at St. Charles an Napoleon. Because the area grew in population, they extended service on Napoleon. So, the Napoleon line ran from St. Charles, going further up the street. NO&CRR opened a mule barn and a streetcar storage barn/maintenance shop at the intersection.
Eventually, the the mule-drawn streetcars were replaced with electrics. The NO&CRR facilities closed. Streetcar operations consolidated closer to the business district.
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!