Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge – longest in the world

Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge – longest in the world

Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge is the longest train bridge in the world.

"<yoastmark

Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge

"<yoastmark

Rail operations around New Orleans require crossing over water. Lots of water. Eastbound trains traveled over land. They crossed the Chef Menteur Pass and Rigolets Pass. This lengthened trips. So, crossing Lake Pontchartrain rather than going around it made sense, but it was a challenge. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad accepted the challenge in 1883. The NO&NE was incorporated in 1868 as the Mandeville and Sulphur Springs Railroad. It became the NO&NE in 1871. The railroad completed track construction in 1883. William Harris Hardy, a NO&NE vice-president, proposed the bridge in 1883. The railroad built the Lake Pontchartrain bridge the following year. Hardy rode the first train across the bridge in November, 1884.

Swamp on either side

The bridge spans 5.8 miles of open water, but its length covered an additional 15 miles of marsh. The southern approach required 12 miles of bridge and an additional 3 miles on the north end. So, the bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the world. In 1896, the railroad modified the bridge. They built embankments on both sides. So, the bridge itself only spans the 5.8 miles across the lake.

NO&NE to Southern Railway

"<yoastmark

Southern Railway acquired NO&NE in 1916. While it was part of the Southern Railway system, it maintained a bit of its original identity. Equipment operating on NO&NE carried the original railroad’s sub-lettering, below the Southern Railway identification.
In 1969, Southern Railway fully merged NO&NE into their Alabama Great Southern subsidiary. NO&NE ceased to exist. Southern Railway merged in 1990 to become Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern owns/operates the bridge today.

Katrina

Hurricane Katrina wiped out 5 of the 5.8 miles of track on the bridge in 2005. So,NS immediately began repairs to this critical connection. The first train after the hurricane crossed the lake sixteen days later.

Trains on the bridge

"<yoastmark

Freight trains regularly cross the bridge daily. The Amtrak Crescent (#19 and #20) use the bridge to travel from New Orleans to New York City’s Penn Station daily as well.

Swift Stream – New York Central sleeper car now private varnish

Swift Stream – New York Central sleeper car now private varnish

Swift Stream – a sleeper that isn’t a pullman

(cross-posted to Pontchartrain Railroad)

swift stream

New York Central buffet-lounge-sleeper car “Swift Stream”, on the Amtrak Crescent.

Swift Stream

Yesterday’s Amtrak Crescent (#20, heading from New Orleans to New York City) pulled a guest. Budd built the Silver Swift for the New York Central in 1949. NYC Investments operates Swift Stream as a private car. It is available for charter.

Budd

The New York Central Railroad ordered eleven Buffet-Lounge cars from Budd in 1949. They became the “Stream” series. The Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company built passenger rail cars to compete with the Pullman Company. Edward Budd built all-steel automobile bodies when he founded the company in 1913. Edward sold his designs to Dodge. The company invented a technique of welding stainless steel components together called “shotweld”. Budd used shotweld to build “streamliner” passenger rail cars. The manufacturer sold these cars to various railroads from the 1930s through the 1960s. Budd discontinued its passenger car division in the 1970s.

6DB Buffet Lounge Stream-Series

Swift Stream

Floor Plan of the Swift Stream (courtesy nycswiftstream.com)

While Budd built more of its “Slumbercoach” line of sleeper cars, the “Streams” offered railroads a comfortable option for their streamliner trains. The Streams had six bedrooms, a kitchen, and seating for twenty-two. Here’s a list of the eleven cars and their status (as of 2013).

Swift Stream’s history

New York Central operated Swift Stream for 22 years. Amtrak acquired the car in 1971. The national company ran it until the 1990s. Amtrak retired the car in 1981. So, it was sold it to a private owner in 1983.

Here’s the info on the car on Railway Preservation News (link above):

#10627 Swift Stream renumbered in May 1967 to #660 to PC #4415 sold in 1973 to Amtrak #3204. Retired in October 1981. Sold in 1983 to private ownership?? Located at the Midland RY Historical Association (Baldwin City, KS). Later moved to Los Angeles. Renamed City of Angels (1st) (#800460), then sold (when??) to second private owner. Acquired (when??) by Mid America Railcar Leasing. Name changed back to Swift Stream.

This post on the forum has a nice bibliography that railroad historians will appreciate.

Buried streetcar tracks are fun but not all that rare

Buried streetcar tracks are fun but not all that rare

Buried streetcar tracks are all over New Orleans

buried streetcar tracks

Work crews on Bourbon Street discover old streetcar ties.

Buried Streetcar Tracks

The city, on its RoadWorkNOLA page on Facebook, posted a neat find–ties from streetcar tracks under the existing concrete of Bourbon Street. Streetcars operated on Rue Bourbon in the Quarter from 1902 to 1948.

Carondelet and Desire lines

buried streetcar tracks

NOPSI transit map 1922, showing Desire going out on Bourbon and returning on Royal

The Carondelet streetcar line opened for business in 1866. The line crossed Canal Street in 1902, traveling down Bourbon, out to the Ninth Ward. Streetcars returned downtown via Royal Street. In 1919, streetcars on the Carondelet line changed signs when they traveled all the way to Desire Street. By 1920, New Orleans Railway and Light Company split the Carondelet line. The original route from 1866 returned. The Desire line opened for business on October 17, 1920. Desire serviced the French Quarter. Streetcars ran outbound on Bourbon and inbound on Royal.

Equipment on Desire

buried streetcar tracks

NOPSI 830, operating on Desire in 1947. The company cut this streetcar in half in 1964.

While Carondelet used mule-drawn streetcars on the original route, electric cars ran on the line when it crossed Canal. Electric streetcars replaced mule-drawn cars in New Orleans by 1900. So, the Carondelet extension to the Ninth Ward operated electrics. Desire continued with those streetcars.

Ford, Bacon and Davis single truck streetcars operated on Carondelet in 1902, Therefore, the Desire extension used the same single-truck cars. The line switched to double-truck streetcars in 1924. The arch roof 800s and 900s phased out the older double-trucks in the second half of the 1920s.

The Desire line switched to buses in 1948.

Tearing up the tracks

Buried streetcar tracks

NOPSI bus 1932 running on the Desire-Florida bus line in the late 1940s.

The War Department refused requests from NOPSI to convert many of the streetcar lines to buses. during WWII. So, those ties found by the work crew are likely from then. After the war, the federal government approved bus conversions.

NOPSI and the city did not rush ripping up streetcar tracks in the 1940s and 1950s. NOPSI riders approved the switches in this period. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that preservationists took notice of streetcars. NOPSI planned to convert the Canal line in 1958. They implemented the plan in 1964. The company cut down the overhead catenary lines on Canal Street within hours of the switch in May, 1964. The city ripped up the tracks over the next two months.

This was quite the exception to previous conversions. So, a lot of streetcar tracks still exist. Digging a bit deeper reveals others. It isn’t rare, but it’s fun to see.

Single Truck Streetcars on Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans, 1901 #StreetcarMonday

Single Truck Streetcars on Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans, 1901 #StreetcarMonday

Single Truck Streetcars were common in 1901

single truck streetcars

New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad streetcars on S. Carrollton Avenue and Willow Street, 1901 (NOPL)

Single Truck Streetcars

Two Ford, Bacon and Davis single truck streetcars on S. Carrollton Avenue in 1901. Here’s the original note attached to the photo:

View of normal condition surrounding transfer point at Carrollton Ave. & Poplar [now Willow] St. from upper side of street–with rear of transfer house–showing two cars–with passengers going each way–

NO&CRR

The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company owned these streetcars. The NO&CRR was the first streetcar operator in the city. They owned the St. Charles Avenue line, and its predecessors. The NO&CRR merged together with other struggling operators into New Orleans Railway and Light in 1915. That company became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) in 1923.

Ford, Bacon and Davis Streetcars

NO&CRR hired two young engineers from Philadelphia, Frank R. Ford and George W. Bacon to electrify their streetcar lines in 1894. As Ford and Bacon developed the electrification plan, they also also studied the electric streetcars available. While the various New Orleans companies started with single truck streetcars from Brill and others, Ford and Bacon, along with their new partner, George H. Davis, designed a new streetcar for New Orleans. Several companies accepted their design, and FB&D delivered the streetcars in 1896. Those streetcars ran from the old City of Carrollton to the Central Business District.

The Last FB&D

NORTA #29, ex-NOPSI #29, is the last FB&D streetcar. It operates now as a “sand car”. Number 29 goes out on the line when conditions are wet or icy. NORTA’s Rail Department spreads sand on the tracks to improve traction on those days.

Court Documents

Charles T. Yenni photographed these streetcars for a lawsuit. Civil District Court of Orleans parish assigned #62696 to Muller vs New Orleans and Carrollton Rail Road Co. Law firms regularly hired photographers to take pictures of accidents and other claims. Those photographs ended up in various collections at the New Orleans Public Library.

 

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.

 

MP-TP Terminal 0-6-0 on the Riverfront, 1930s #TrainThursday

MP-TP Terminal 0-6-0 on the Riverfront, 1930s #TrainThursday

MP-TP Terminal 0-6-0 on the riverfront.

MP-TP Terminal 0-6-0

SS West Hobomac at New Orleans, late 1930s. (WPA photo in the public domain)

MP-TP Terminal 0-6-0

This 0-6-0 switching engine is working the docks on the New Orleans riverfront in the late 1930s. American Locomotive Company (ALCO) built this engine in 1907. At the time of this photo, it ran on the Missouri-Pacific/Texas Pacific Terminal Railroad in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB RR) ran tracks along the waterfront at number of the wharves. While longshoremen unloaded ships carrying bananas and other perishables to warehouses, then onto trains, many cargoes went directly into railroad cars on the dock. Switch engines placed the appropriate type of cars next to the ship. So, they filled the cars and the switch engine pulled them off the dock. The railroad assembled a short trains just off the dock. They ran those trains to their yards. From there, the railroad organized longer consists to get the goods away from New Orleans.

The USS West Hobomac

The ship in this photo was the USS West Hobomac. It was the thirteenth in a series of twenty-four cargo ships built by Skinner and Edy in Seattle, Washington. The shipyard launched West Hobomac after only sixty-six days. The ship traveled to Europe, hauling cargo during WWI. The ship made two trips before the end of the war.

After WWI, the US Navy decommissioned West Hobomac. It became SS West Hobomac. The Navy transferred it to the United States Shipping Board. USSB leased the ship to several operators. Lykes Steamship operated the ship from 1933 until the beginning of World War II. Lykes had extensive operations in New Orleans. So, it’s logical that SS West Hobomac visited the city regularly.

This photo is part of a WPA collection, which dates it at 1939-1940.

TP-MP Terminal 0-6-0 #2

MP-TP Terminal 0-6-0

TP-MPT #2 is now owned by the Louisiana Steam Train Association.

The Trinity and Brazos Valley ordered this engine from Alco in 1907. Alco built delivered it from their Richmond Works. T&BV assigned it #76. T&BV went bankrupt in 1914, and Barry Equipment acquired it in 1917. Barry sold #76 to TP-MPT. That railroad renumbered the engine to #2.

After TP-MPT folded, Bisso Towboat bought the engine. The engine remained with that company for over thirty years.

The Louisiana Steam Train Association now owns this engine. Thanks to Tony Howe and Gregory Beadle for info on the 0-6-0.