The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.
The Humming Bird
“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.
Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.
Blue Humming Bird
The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.
When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.
While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.
New Orleans Stations
Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947
Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.
End of an era
L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.
Bywater streetcar complications involve the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
NOPSI 1005, ca. 1935. Franck Studios via HNOC
St. Claude Line Bywater streetcars
NOPSI 1005, running on the St. Claude Avenue line, approximately 1935 (Franck Studios photo via HNOC). The car is heading outbound from N. Rampart Street. The 1000-series were the pinnacle of engineering development for the arch roof streetcars. The 1000s kept the original Perley A. Thomas design, with additions under the carriage. While the 400, 800, and 900s operated with two motors, the 1000s had four, one for each set of wheels.
Railroad versus Streetcar
Norfolk Southern train crossing the Industrial Canal, 13-Dec-2019, via Commons user Bl20gh114
St. Claude Avenue and Press Street, in the Upper Ninth Ward, is one of the few locations where streetcars and railroad equipment meet at grade. While the railroads own the Riverfront, the streetcar line operates in parallel to the New Orleans Public Belt RR tracks. The “Back Belt,” originally constructed for the NO&NE and Frisco by the New Orleans Terminal Company, includes a number of automobile underpasses. Once the Back Belt hits Orleans Parish, there are no grade crossings until Slidell.
After the consolidation of passenger rail into Union Passenger Terminal, those trains operated away from automobiles. The tracks run more-or-less parallel to the Pontchartrain Expressway. They merge into the Back Belt just past Greenwood Cemetery.
NOPSI 1371, a trackless trolley, inbound over the Industrial Canal at St. Claude Avenue, approaching Press Street, ca. 1950. City photo.
So, the most significant point of contention between railroad and streetcar was St. Claude and Press. NO&NE/Southern connected to the Public Belt from their Gentilly yard via tracks at Press Street. NOPSI streetcars crossed the train tracks there with few problems for decades. The overhead catenary presented no issues for the railroad. This continued after NOPSI discontinued the 1000-series streetcars in 1949. They scrapped those beauties, replacing them with trackless trolleys. The electric buses received power through the catenary, like the streetcars. They ran across Press, across the Industrial Canal, all the way down to the sugar refinery.NOPSI converted St. Claude from trackless trolleys to diesel buses in 1964. They cut down the overhead wires.
TTGX “tri-level” auto carrier, on the Norfolk Southern Back Belt, 22-Sep-2022.
While streetcars never left New Orleans, NOPSI reduced operations down to the St. Charles line in 1964. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority expanded streetcar service, introducing the Riverfront line in 1988. The success of Riverfront led to returning streetcars to the Canal line in 2004. Economic stimulus money from the federal government offered an opportunity to further expand streetcars in 2010. NORTA constructed a partial return of the St. Claude line. The line operates from Canal Street, along N. Rampart, then St. Claude, to Elysian Fields.
The line stops at Elysian Fields because NORTA and Norfolk Southern can’t come to terms on running the overhead wires over Press and St. Claude. Since the overhead departed almost sixty years ago, it’s on NORTA to change the status quo. The railroad argues that modern rolling stock, such as tri-level auto carriers, are too high for streetcar wires. NORTA disputes this, and they’re right. Still, Norfolk Southern continues to oppose restoring a grade crossing at this intersection.
My Veterans Bus memories go back over fifty years.
Veterans Bus Memories
Old and new photos of buses operating on the Veterans Blvd. line. The line, originally operated by Louisiana Transit Company, now Jefferson Transit (JeT), originally ran from Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue, out to Veterans Blvd. and Loyola Avenue in Kenner. The photos from the 1970s (courtesy of Mike Strauch, the man behind streetcarmike.com) are of General Motors “New Looks” buses operated by Louisiana Transit in the 70s. The newer buses are from 16-August-2022, shot at the Cemeteries Transit Terminal. The Veterans line (now known as the “E1” line services the “new” terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
MC 320 on the Veterans Memorial line eastbound east of Oaklawn Dr. in the late 1970s. (Courtesy streetcarmike.com)
When I attended Brother Martin High School in the mid-1970s, I had two basic options for getting home in the afternoon. One was to take either the then-NOPSI Broad or Carrollton bus lines to Canal Street, transfer to one of the outbound Canal lines, then catch the Veterans line at City Park Avenue. The other option was the “Lakeview” run. We’d take the then-NOPSI Cartier Line, which ran on Mirabeau to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line heading inbound. When that bus got to Canal Blvd, we’d transfer to the Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) line, and ride that to Pontchartrain and Veterans Boulevards. Then out to Metairie on the Veterans. The buses were GM “New Looks,” and occasionally, the air conditioning actually worked.
The Modern Veterans Line
Map of the Veterans E1 line, via JeT.
Da Airport’s “new” terminal opened in 2019. That changed access to the airport dramatically. Instead of approaching the original terminal from Airline Drive (US 61), flyers exit I-10 at Loyola Avenue, cross Veterans Blvd, and enter the terminal from there. So, instead of the old “Airport Express” and “Kenner Local” bus lines, access to the airport via public transit is by the E1 – Veterans (Airport) line. The E1 now goes all the way into the CBD, on Canal Street. It picks up passengers at limited stops along Canal. When the line reaches the end of Canal, at City Park Avenue, it returns to its traditional route. The line enters I-10 at City Park Avenue, then immediately exits at West End Blvd. It runs onto Veterans Blvd, where it heads west to Loyola Ave. The E1 then turns into the airport. It terminates at the airport and returns for the inbound trip. While there is no “express” service to the airport, the price ($2 one way from the CBD) is right.
Rear view of JeT E1 bus. at the Cemeteries Terminal.
Jefferson Transit (JeT) was created in 1982. Prior to that, Louisiana Transit operated buses on the East Bank, and Westside Transit on the West Bank. When the state created the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in 1984 to assume operations of transit lines in Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish chose to operate buses in the suburbs independently. (The City of Kenner did join NORTA at that time). JeT purchased buses from the two legacy companies and contracted with them to operate the lines. In 2006, JeT consolidated operations under a single contract, awarded to Veolia Transportation, Inc. They assumed control of operations in 2008.
Railroad enticements in 1924 included Asheville, NC and Cincinnati.
A few ads from the Times-Picayune, 13-August-1924. These railroad enticements appealed to New Orleanians wrestling with the dog days of summer. The Louisville and Nashville advertised sleeper service to Asheville, NC, and the Southern Railway System ran trains to Cincinnati. The L&N trains departed New Orleans from their depot at Canal Street by the river. Southern Railway trains operated from Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets. Both railroads (as well as most of the others) maintained ticket offices on the ground floor of the St. Charles Hotel. The photo is of the L&N’s “Pan American” train, which ran from New Orleans to Cincinnati.
“The temperature at this famous vacation land is delightfully cool and invigorating. Get some mountain air into your lungs, and come back to the South benefited by your vacation.”
L&N offered sleeper car service from New Orleans to Asheville. The trains left New Orleans at 8:30am, arriving the next morning.
“Are Railroad Rates Too High?” – L&N addressed the concerns of the various businesses they serviced. The railroads moved goods across the country in the 1920s. The dominance of trucking and the Interstate highway system did not come until the 1950s. “Cold facts and not wild fancies are shown by the figures here presented.”
While the L&N’s railroad enticements were to the cool mountain air, Southern advertised service to the cities. Two drains daily in 1924, leaving New Orleans at 8:30am and 8:10pm. The day train reached Birmingham, AL, by 6:55pm that evening, and Cincinnati at 9:30am the next morning. The evening train reached Birmingham for breakfast, terminating at Cincinnati at 8:55pm.
Unlike the Pan American’s all-sleeper service on the L&N, Southern Railway offered service via Pullman Sleeping Cars and standard coaches. That enabled the railroad to offer comfort as well as economy fares. Trains included dining cars.
Mules NO&CRR transition took place in the 1840s.
Continuing the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Story
I spoke to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides at their monthly meeting this past Monday. They had me in to discuss the origins of the NO&CRR (New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad), which evolved into the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. I’ll be presenting the talk via blog posts here. We discussed the origins of the line, now we move to the transition to mules from steam power.
While steam power made sense to the management of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, residents along the Carrollton Line (which later became the St. Charles Avenue Line) grew unhappy. Steam trains are noisy and smokey. As New Orleans annexed what is now the Garden District, more people built fine houses close to the line.City officials pressured the railroad to abandon steam engines. Mules NO&CRR began in the 1840s.
Mules on the line
Naiads and Napoleon, 1860. Lilienthal photo, halfway point for Mules NO&CRR
Theodore Lilienthal photo of Naiads and Napoleon Avenues, 1860. The railroad built their facilities for the Carrollton line here. The intersection was more-or-less half-way between the CBD and the city of Carrollton.
St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues in 1948. Compare the difference with 1860.
Section from the Robinson Atlas, 1883, showing streetcar tracks around St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues. The half-way facilities for the railroad expanded over the twenty years since the Lilienthal photo. The black dot on St. Charles is a turntable. If you’ve been to San Francisco, you’ve seen this type of turntable. Here, the driver leads the mule out of the barn, placing the car on the turntable. He then walked the mule around, lining up with the track on the street, and off they went.
The building on the right housed the streetcars and the mules. Superior Seafood and Fat Harry’s stand there now. The buildings on the left (lake) side of St. Charles are now the Lower School for the Academy of the Sacred Heart.
Downtown on the line
The corner of St. Charles and Canal Streets in 1850. Notice there are NO streetcar tracks! That’s because the Carrollton line continued to use Baronne Street. While the steam trains terminated at Poydras and Baronne, the streetcars went all the way to Canal Street. The drivers turned around on a turntable on Baronne.
So, there were no streetcars yet on either St. Charles or Canal. The Canal line opened in 1861. The lighter-colored building in the background of this illustration is the first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel. This building burned down in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853.
This 1856 map shows downtown New Orleans (CBD) in 1856. The streetcars came down Naiads to Tivoli Circle. Like the modern line, they curved around to Delord Street, now Howard Avenue. Unlike the modern line, the Carrollton line went up to Baronne, then turned right. Baronne Street had two tracks with a turntable to change direction.
The railroad purchased and operated “Bob-Tail” streetcars from the Stephenson Car Company, from the 1850s until the line electrified in 1893. The driver attached the mule to the right side of the car in this photograph. The single-truck design made for a less-than-smooth ride. Still, the cars were as good as it got for the time.
While the bob-tails did most of the work on the line, the railroad experimented with alternatives. After the Southern Rebellion, PGT Beauregard returned to New Orleans. The railroad employed him as president in the 1870s. Being an engineer, Beauregard entertained a number of different ideas for streetcars. This car used canisters of ammonia gas to propel the car. This drawing is by Alfred Waud. It includes a small drawing of a white woman, and another of a black woman, along with Gus.
The Lamm Thermo-Specific locomotive operated on the line in 1874. The engine’s “fireless” design enabled quiet operation. So, the engine carried a large bottle/canister containing compressed air, steam. The engineer released the steam and the engine moved forward. The Lamm engines pulled 1-2 bobtail cars. The railroad discontinued operations of the Lamms, because of having tor re-charge the canisters.
To Be Continued…
We’ll move on to electrification next time.
The origins NO&CRR date back to the early 1830s.
Origins of the NO&CRR
I spoke to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides at their monthly meeting this past Monday. They had me in to discuss the origins of the NO&CRR (New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad), which evolved into the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. I’ll be presenting the talk via blog posts here. We’re starting at the beginning.
If you didn’t know how to get ahold of me online, here you go. @nolahistoryguy on all social media, and there’s my email. Please keep in mind, I may not see your question as the high priority you do!
The image you see is of Canal and Rampart, 1915ish. I use it on my business cards.
Tour Guide Talking Points
These are important to the guide-on-the-street. While the FOC guides are very smart people, it’s important for me to give them a quick gist of the subject they can use for answering questions.
- NO&CRR was founded in 1833 and the railroad began operations in 1835
- The railroad route (and later streetcar line) was named “Carrollton,” not St. Charles.
- It’s the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the United States. While NYC and Philly had streetcar operations before New Orleans, St. Charles still runs.
- Connected Downtown to the City of Carrollton
- First streetcar line to electrify
- The company operated the single-truck Ford, Bacon & Davis electric cars
- Upgraded to double-truck arch roof cars in 1915
- Belt service from 1900-1950
- Current route dates to 1951
- Only streetcar line in New Orleans from 1964 to 2004
- Current line is approximately 13.2 miles in length
We’ll get into the details of these points in this series.
Building railroads was a new thing in the 1830s. Businessmen in New Orleans recognized this. A group planning a navigation canal from Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg at the lake opted for a railroad line (the Pontchartrain RR) instead. Others looked at the City of Carrollton as an opportunity.