NOPSI 921 was one of 35 arch roofs that survived.
Arch roof streetcar NOPSI 921 on St. Charles Avenue. Roger Puta photo.
St. Charles Avenue at night. This photo, by Roger Puta, shows NOPSI 921 as it’s just made the turn from Canal Street, onto St. Charles, for its outbound run on that line. NOPSI 921 survived the massive cutback in streetcar service NOPSI implemented in 1964. They discontinued streetcar service at the end of May that year. All but thirty-five of the 900-series streetcars were either demolished or donated to museums.
The route of the St. Charles Line changed a number of times to get to the present configuration. In 1950, NOPSI discontinued “belt” service on St. Charles and Tulane. That change set the current route used by NORTA.
- Start at Carondelet and Canal Streets
- Right-turn onto Canal from Carondelet, on the “third” track
- Immediate right-turn onto St. Charles Avenue from Canal Street
- First stop: pick up riders at St. Charles Avenue and Common Street
- Head outbound on St. Charles to Tivoli (Formerly Lee) Circle
- Half-circle around, entering the neutral ground on St. Charles, just before Calliope.
- Outbound on the St. Charles neutral ground to Riverbend.
- Right-turn from St. Charles Avenue onto S. Carrollton Avenue
- Up S. Carrollton Avenue to S. Claiborne Avenue
- Terminate at Carrollton and Claiborne
- Depart S. Claiborne Terminal
- Down S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue
- Down St. Charles Avenue to Tivoli Circle.
- Three-quarters around the circle, to Howard Avenue
- Up Howard Avenue one block
- Right-turn onto Carondelet Street
- Down Carondelet Street to Canal, where the run terminates.
There are a number of signs in this photo, marking the locations of “ain’t there no more” businesses. The Holiday Inn is now a Wyndham, for example. The Musee’ Conti Wax Museum is closed. The sign on Canal and Royal Streets grabbed drivers’ attention, to entice them to turn into the Quarter and go to the museum.
What other ATNM things do you see?
I found this photo in the Commons while looking for images for my next book project. The History Press considers old electric signs for businesses that are no longer around to be “fading signs,” so Kolb’s Restaurant (the sign is visible on the left) counts.
Smokey Mary linked Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg for almost a century
The Smokey Mary at Milneburg, 1860s.
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from 1831 to 1930. The trains ran out to the fishing village of Milneburg. A port facility developed along the lakefront at Milneburg. The railroad connected that port to the city. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried freight and passengers. After the Civil War, it ran mostly as a day-trip line. By the end of the 19th Century, it carried almost exclusively passengers.
The railroad purchased two steam engines in 1832. Those engines lasted for about twenty years. The railroad cannibalized one for parts to keep the other going. By the late 1850s, the railroad purchased the larger engine shown in the photo above. This engine operated to the end of the 1800s. The big smokestack inspired most of the stories and memories of the train.
The Smokey Mary ran simply from the Milneburg Pier to a station at Elysian Fields and the river. Eventually, the railroad added a stop at Gentilly Road, but it was only by request. The railroad terminated operations in 1930. The WPA paved Elysian Fields from river to lake in the late 1930s. Pontchartrain Beach opened in Milneburg in 1939.
The village of Milneburg was located at the end of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. Shipping traffic came in from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, into Lake Pontchartrain. Ships docked at the Milneburg pier. Merchants offloaded their goods and put them on the Pontchartrain Railroad, to bring them down to the city.
Jazz on the Lakefront
By the 1910s, Milneburg’s residents lived mostly in fishing camps. Musicians rode the Smokey Mary out to Milneburg to play some of the small restaurants. They also walked the piers, playing for locals. They busked for tips. This kept them busy during the day. The musicians rode the train back to the city in the late afternoon. They then played gigs at dance halls and saloons in town.
City Park Line connected Mid-City and the French Quarter
Trackless Trolley on the City Park Line, 1964s (courtesy NOPL)
City Park Line
The Orleans Railroad Company opened the City Park line on July 1, 1898. It connected the French Quarter with Mid-City, mostly via Dumaine Street. Orleans RR merged into New Orleans Railway and Light in 1910, along with the other streetcar companies. NORwy&Lt combined the French Market line with City Park (both ex-Orleans RR). The rollboards said “French Market-City Park” in 1921. While the route didn’t change, the line’s name returned to just City Park at that time.
The original route, 1898:
- Start at Canal Street and Exchange Place
- Up Canal to Dauphine Street
- Turn on Dauphine to Dumaine
- Left on Dumaine, then up Dumaine to City Park Avenue
- Down Dumaine to N. Rendon
- N. Rendon to Ursulines
- Ursulines to Burgundy
- Turn onto Canal at Burgundy
- Terminate at Canal and Exchange
In 1910, the route expanded. Instead of turning on Burgundy, City Park continued down Ursulines to Decatur. So, it then continued to Canal, via Decatur and N. Peters. In 1932, NOPSI re-routed City Park, turning the line on Royal to terminate on Canal. This route remained until the line was discontinued in the 1970s.
Streetcars on City Park
Orleans Railroad ran Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D) single-trucks on City Park. Their cars bore a red-and-cream livery. NORwy&Lt replaced the single-trucks with double-truck “Palace” cars in the mid-1910s. NOPSI later replaced the Palaces with 800/900s.
The red livery used by Orleans RR and New Orleans City Railroad are the heritage behind the “red ladies” of the modern Riverfront and Canal Street lines.
Buses and Trackless Trolleys
NOPSI discontinued streetcar operation on City Park in 1941. They switched to buses. City Park was one of the last lines switched before WWII. The War Department turned down other conversions. Buses required gasoline and rubber. Both of those were needed for the war effort.
In 1949, NOPSI replaced buses on City Park with trackless trolleys. They never removed the overhead wires on the route. Trackless Trolleys ran on City Park until 1964. So, buses returned to the line then. NOPSI discontinued the City Park line completely in the 1970s.
The City Park line serviced the “Downtown Backatown” neighborhoods. Like the Desire line, the name indicated the termination point. The streetcars ran on Dumaine Street, through Treme, into Mid-City. Since the line went to Canal Street, City Park carried commuters into work. The line serviced the Quarter as well, particularly Burgundy Street. Armstrong Park blocked the Dumaine portion of the route. I remember seeing the City Park buses at the route’s terminating point as I rode past Dumaine Street on the Esplanade line.
When Aaron Handy III shared this photo in a Facebook group, the City Park rollboard brought back memories of riding home from Brother Martin in the 1970s. While I never rode the line, I was fascinated that there were streetcars going all the way out to the park, in-between Canal Street and Esplanade. This photo looks to be part of the Dorothy Violet Gulledge collection at the New Orleans Public Libaray.
Single-truck Streetcars were the first electrics in New Orleans
Single-truck streetcars on Canal Street. Teunisson photo, ~1905
Streetcar operating companies phased out mule power in the mid-1890s. So, the single-truck streetcars replaced the “bobtails”, as the first electric cars in the city. “Single-truck” means one set of four wheels. The cars were relatively small. Companies like NO&CRR and NOCRR initially purchased Brill streetcars. They switched to Ford, Bacon, and Davis single-trucks in 1894. The car on the left, running on Prytania, is a Brill. The car running on Annunciation is a FB&D. .
The Prytania Line
The New Orleans City Railroad Company opened the Prytania line on June 8, 1861. The line started at the Clay Monument, Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue. Cars ran initially from Canal, up Camp, to Prytania, to Toledano. NOCRR expanded the line in 1883. Prytania ran up to Exposition Boulevard at Audubon Park. Therefore, it dropped off riders at the Cotton Exposition. So, mule-drawn streetcars operated on Prytania at this time.
While the New Orleans and Carrollton RR operated on St. Charles Line, Prytania became popular, because of Touro Infirmary and the Garden District. The streetcars dropped folks off right at the hospital. Many people living in the Garden District took Prytania in for Canal Street shopping. They avoided the crowds on St. Charles. People called Prytania the “Silk Stocking Line” because of the privileged riders.
Prytania’s first electrics were Brills. until the 1920s. The line switched to Jackson and Sharp single-truck streetcars. In 1915, New Orleans Railway and Light ran double-truck “Palace” cars on Prytania. The arch roofs eventually replaced those streetcars in the 1920s. NOPSI discontinued the Prytania line in 1932.
Annunciation serviced the uptown riverfront area and the Irish Channel. The Crescent City Railroad Company opened the line in 1863. New Orleans Traction Company electrified Annunciation in 1895. The line started at Canal and Camp, then up Tchoupitoulas, then Annunciation. At Louisiana, the line turned back towards the river and terminated at Tchoupitoulas. The return was different, because of one-way streets. From Louisiana, it ran down Chippewa, then Race, then Annunciation, Erato, Race, Camp, Calliope, then St. Charles to Canal.
The first electrics on Annunciation were Brills painted yellow with brown trim. FB&Ds replaced the brills in the late 1890s. Palace double-trucks operated on Annunciation around 1910. The line merged with Laurel in 1917.
The Mercier Building
The coupla visible in the top right of the photograph is the top of the Mercier Building. Simon J. Shwartz operated his Maison Blanche Department Store in that building. He tore down the building in 1908. The building we know as the Maison Blanche Building (Now the Ritz-Carlton Hotel New Orleans) dates from that time.
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
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad owns the Riverfront
Business Cars formerly owned by NOPB (NOPB photo)
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad
NOPB launched an updated website this Fall. They also unveiled a new logo for the system. The Class III railroad opened for business in 1908. They own a number of facilities in the city and Jefferson Parish.
NOPB connects the Port of New Orleans
NOPB Coloring Book (NOPB image)
The Public Belt Railroad connects the wharves with the Class I railroads. Cargo from ships transfers to rail via NOPB. The railroad’s engines pull up to the
NOPB grade crossing in the French Quarter (NOPB photo)
Train horns in the French Quarter mean there’s a NOPB train coming by. NOPB tracks run parallel to the wider tracks for NORTA’s Riverfront streetcar line. In fact, NORTA started Riverfront on a standard-gauge track. NOPB transferred ownership to the transit company. NORTA added a passing siding to that single track. Riverfront was born in 1988.
New NOPB Look
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad adopted a new logo last month. The original logo isn’t going away anytime soon, though. Railroad equipment last a long time. Most railroads don’t repaint equipment when logos and paint schemes change. They add the updated designs to new equipment. Sometimes older engines and cars receive new paint jobs and updates. As a rule, railroads operate equipment from multiple generations.
Original NOPB Logo, from 1890.
The railroad operates six yards:
- Cotton Warehouse Yard
- Claiborne Yard
- France Yard
- Pauline Yard
- Race St. Yard
- East Bridge Yard
In addition, NOPB owns and operates the Huey P. Long Bridge. The railroad connects to numerous facilities owned by the Port of New Orleans. They link those facilties to the Class I yards in the area.
The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad headquarters is located at Tchoupitoulas and Leake Streets, Uptown. Their engine terminal is behind the office building. NOPB operates one of the few remaining turntable/roundhouse terminals in the region.