Transit maintenance on Canal Street is our photo breakdown this week
Workers from the New Orleans City RR Company, inspecting overhead wires for streetcars on Canal St, 1901
This is a wonderful photo, just to enjoy. It offers a lot to break down as well. The scene is 1901 or 1902, Canal Street, right by the rear of the Liberty Monument. Prior to electrification, streetcars running on the Canal Street line stopped in the 200 block. They turned around there and headed outbound.
Liberty Place in 1906
The photographer taking our breakdown photo stands right behind the Liberty Monument. For the sordid history of this obelisk (now removed after being designated a public nuisance), start with its Wikipedia entry. In 1894, the two main streetcar operators in town hired the engineering firm of Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D), to make recommendations on how to proceed with electric streetcars in New Orleans. They made a number of suggestions, along with designing a single-truck streetcar specifically for operation in the city.
Streetcar tracks around Liberty Place, 1899
The photo above shows the Liberty Monument, looking from the river, opposite from our breakdown photo. FB&D designed a single-track loop around the monument for streetcars. The inbound cars looped around, then parked on layover tracks behind the monument, in the 200 block.
By 1899, all streetcar operations merged into a single company. They adopted the name, New Orleans City Railroad Company (NOCRR). This was the name of the company that originally operated the Canal and Esplanade lines, as well as a number of other backatown lines, beginning in 1861. Their main streetcar barn and maintenance facility was in Mid-City, at Canal and N. White Streets. So, our work crew here likely came down Canal from that station, or possibly up St. Claude Avenue, from their Poland Avenue barn. They bring this mule-drawn wagon and two big ladders to Liberty Place. They set up the ladders in the back of the wagon, leaving the mule unattended! I don’t know f I’d have that much faith in the mule to stay still.
There are three types of streetcars in the photo. There are two FB&D single-truck cars, two Brill single-truck cars, and one of the 500-series double-truck streetcars from the American Company. These were the forerunners of the venerable “Palace” streetcars that were so popular on the Canal, West End, and Napoleon lines. This car, 510, ran on the West End line. It’s finished the loop around the monument, preparing for its outbound run to the lakefront. The streetcar system grew rapidly after 1900. So, transit maintenance was important!
Today in New Orleans History – March 17, 1930
Hibernia Bank Building, location of the offices of the Mississippi Steamship Company, 1930s
In addition to our transit maintenance photo, we offer our pick of the week from Campanella’s NewOrleansPast.com website (also as a Facebook group, Today in New Orleans History) is from March 17, 1930. Ms. Campanella takes us back to a story from the late, wonderful, historian and storyteller, Gaspar “Buddy” Stall. Stall wrote that the first “coffee break” in America happened on this day, in the Hibernia Bank Building on Carondelet. The Mississippi Steamship Company (later re-organized as the Delta Steamship Company, operators of the Delta Queen cruise steamer/riverboat) called their eighty employees together at 3:30pm, for a gathering where they served coffee, in the Brazilian tradition. Word spread around in America, and that’s how we got the “coffee break.”
I’ve presented this talk to several groups in the last year or so. With everyone holed up because of Covid-19, I did the talk yesterday (19-March) via Zoom. It’s a bit long, because I was sorting out the use of Zoom, so you’ll need to fast-forward through the first 20 minutes of the talk to get to its actual beginning.
Also, TIL: it’s too long for YouTube. I’ll edit out that first portion and get it up there over the weekend. If you’d like to view it now, the link will let you download the MP4 version.
“Cemetery Scene” by Jeffrey H. Goldman, 1985 (via HNOC)
Local architect and artist Jeffrey H. Goldman painted this “Cemetery Scene” in 1985. It depicts a cemetery from the other side of a single railroad track. This painting and several others by Mr. Goldman are now held by the Historic New Orleans Collection.
I try to post three or four images of old New Orleans daily to social media. It’s a great way to promote my books. The process of choosing those photos is rarely simple. While it’s easy to find images and tie them to themes in my books, I end up going down rabbit holes. For example, I may find a great image of the Lakefront, then see another with details that merit further research. Then I look at other images related to that one, and down and down I go. It’s fun, even though it can be time consuming.
Finding this Goldman painting is typical. I sought Boyd Cruise paintings, since he did so many of buildings in the French Quarter. I expanded the search to include other artists, and Goldman came up.
This “Cemetery Scene” is of Greenwood Cemetery, viewed from the other side of the New Orleans Terminal Company track running parallel to the cemetery. Greenwood opened in 1852. Its western side was on the east bank of the New Basin Canal. The trains ran between the cemetery and canal.
Norfolk Southern Railroad owns the track. The ownership runs through the old New Orleans Terminal Company. Southern Railway acquired NOTC in the early 1900. Now, it’s all Norfolk Southern.
This particular track connected old Union Station with the “back belt” tracks that run from Metairie, out to New Orleans East. Now, it’s only used by passenger trains coming and going from Union Passenger Terminal. While several trains used the track prior to the Amtrak consolidation, now it’s only used by the Amtrak Crescent. The video above shows the Amtrak Crescent traveling the track shown in Goldman’s Cemetery Scene. It’s shot from the other side of I-10, for safety reasons.
This video is from a couple of days prior to the cemetery scene. It shows the Crescent after it’s switched onto the Back Belt and is heading out of town.
Mr. Jeffrey H. Goldman was born on February 11, 1941. He was an architect, photographer, writer, and artist. He passed away on September 4, 2010.
Royal Street Photo Breakdown on this week’s podcast!
100-200 Blocks of Royal Street, 1916.
Royal Street Photo Breakdown
Derby Gisclair shared a neat photo from 1916 earlier this week on social media. The photographer stands in the middle of the 100 block of Royal Street, looking down into the 200 block. As I was looking through some other photos, I came across a 1956 photo of Royal, where that photographer stood almost in the same place. Time for a Royal Street Photo Breakdown!
At the top of the page is the 1916 photo, with Solari’s on the left, an electric sign for Fabacher’s Restaurant hanging over the street, then the Commercial Hotel and Union Bank on the right.
Franck-Bertacci Studios photo of the 100-200 blocks of Royal Street, 1956.
Fast forward to 1956. Solari’s is still on the left. The Commercial Hotel is now the Monteleone Hotel. Fabacher’s Restaurant, which was the hotel restaurant for the Commercial, is long closed. Walgreen’s drug store replaced the bank building in the late 1940s. That drug store remains today.
In the 1916 photo, streetcar tracks and the overhead wiring are visible. The Desire streetcar line ran inbound on Royal Street. The streetcars turned right onto Canal Street. They ran up one block, then turned right again. They ran down Bourbon Street for the French Quarter portion of the outbound run. We’ve talked about the Desire line before, and how it was the main connector for the Quarter.
Buses replaced streetcars on Desire in 1948. So, by the 1956 photo, the tracks and wires are long gone. The maroon-and-cream NOPSI buses serviced Desire.
NewOrleansPast.com – January 15th
NOPSI 817, operating in Belt Service in the 1940s.
Our pick of the week from NewOrleansPast.com (Facebook page, Today in New Orleans History) is Ms. Campanella’s entry for January 15th. The Tulane streetcar line rolled for the first time on 15-January-1871. Mules pulled the streetcars then. The line switched to electric streetcars in the 1890s. Tulane operated in “belt service” with the St. Charles line from 1900 to 1951. Listen to our podcast episode on “Riding the Belt” for more details on that.
NOPSI converted the West End streetcar line to diesel buses on 15-January, 1950, as part of the trend away from electric street rail operations. West End operated as steam train service until the 1890s. After that, electric streetcars ran out to the lakefront, along the east bank of the New Basin Canal. NOPSI retired streetcars on West End in 1950. The line ran until the 1960s, when it became the Canal-Lakeshore line.
Hickory Creek is an ex-New York Central observation car.
Private varnish “Hickory Creek,” bringing up the rear of the Amtrak Crescent #20, 30-Dec-2019. (Edward Branley photo)
Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt
The ex-New York Central car, Hickory Creek, brought up the rear on the Amtrak Crescent, on its way to Penn Station on 30-December-2019. I don’t know the details of this particular trip for Hickory Creek, if they came down just to New Orleans, or if this was a return from going all the way out to Los Angeles. Either way, the car headed back north on Monday morning.
New York Central’s 20th Century Limited
Poster for the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited, featuring the 1948 trainset.
Hickory Creek was one of the “sleeper observation” cars put into service by the New York Central in 1948. So, the railroad switched the train to diesel (EMD units) in 1945, ordering new trainsets as well. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower rode the inaugural run in 1948. The train ran until 1967.
So, the train began operation in 1902. A typical 20th Century Limited consist, including Hickory Creek, in 1965 looked like this:
E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4025;
E8A diesel locomotive: NYC 4080;
E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4007;
MB Class Baggage-mail car: NYC 5018;
CSB Class Baggage-dormitory car: NYC 8979;
PB Class Coach: NYC 2942;
DG Class Grill-diner: NYC 450;
PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10811;
PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10817;
PS Class Sleeper (22-roomette): NYC 10355 BOSTON HARBOR;
DKP Class Kitchen-Lounge Car: NYC 477;
DE Class Dining Room Car: NYC 406;
PS Class Sleeper (10-roomette 6-double bedroom): NYC 10171 CURRENT RIVER;
PS Class Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10511 PORT OF DETROIT;
Class PS Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10501 PORT BYRON;
Class PSO Sleeper-Buffet-Lounge-Observation (5-double bedroom): NYC 10633 HICKORY CREEK.
Since the railroad discontinued the 20th Century Limited before the creation of Amtrak in 1971, the rolling stock didn’t go over to the new operator. Ringling Brothers Circus bought Hickory Creek. Since they didn’t need Pullman quality, the circus used it as dorm-style housing. They ripped out the interior of the car.
Hickory Creek, prior to the 2014 restoration. (Fred Heide photo)
In 2014, Star Trak, Inc., acquired Hickory Creek. They restored the car for private operation. So, the team modified original Pullman Standard design of five bedrooms to four. Since modern operations of private cars involve hitching on Amtrak trains, the team reduced the bedrooms to add showers. Trains Magazine published an article on the restoration by Mr. Fred Heide in November, 2014.
Post-restoration floor plan of Hickory Creek.
In addition to reducing the number of bedrooms, the 2014 restoration changed the galley area. The 1948 design of Hickory Creek included a small galley, for preparing snacks and drinks. So, the Star Trak team converted the space into a full-service kitchen. Again, this fits with modern use of private cars. They’re designed to be independent of the trains pulling them.
Observation area of the restored Hickory Creek. (photo courtesy Simon Pielow)
While the bedrooms and galley changed a bit, the team kept the rear observation area true to the 1948 design.
Private Rail on the #BackBelt
Private car Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt in New Orleans, behind an Amtrak baggage/dorm car. (Edward Branley photo)
I spend a lot of mornings at the PJ’s Coffee Shop at 5555 Canal Boulevard. The baristas here are great and the regulars are nice folks. Regulars occasionally ask me why I get up and record/photograph the Crescent as it heads out of town. It’s pretty much the same consist each morning, but then there are the days when something extra brings up the rear.
New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company streetcar ticket, 1868. (public domain image)
Streetcar Ticket from 1868
Riders paid for their fare in the 1860s by purchasing a streetcar ticket. This was the style of the ticket for the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (NO&CRR) in 1868. While the NO&CRR continued operations through the Southern Rebellion, only one new company the New Orleans City RR Company (NOCRR) operated streetcars during the rebellion years. Streetcar expansion took off in 1866.
The company operated the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, from 1835 to 1902. In addition to St. Charles, the company operated the Poydras-Magazine, Jackson, and Napoleon lines. The NO&CRR absorbed other operating companies throughout the 1870s to the end of the 19th Century.
Streetcar electrification in New Orleans began in the 1890s. The NO&CRR survived until 1902. The remaining operating companies merged into the New Orleans Railway Company at that time. That company re-organized into the New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) in 1905. That consolidated entity became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) in 1922.
Mule car operation
When the NO&CRR began operations in 1835, St. Charles used steam engines. The smoke and noise generated complaints up and down the line. So, the line was converted to mule-driven operation in the 1850s. The company followed the NOCRR in the 1860s, operating “bobtail” cars from the Johnson Car Company, up to electrification.
Streetcar protests 1862-1867
Streetcars in New Orleans were segregated until 1958. When Louisiana seceded from the union in 1861, many of the white men went off to war. Their jobs around town still had to be done. So, employers hired free men of color. The lines ran “star” cars, which permitted African-Americans to ride, but all other cars were whites-only. Black men experienced difficulty in getting to work. While employers complained to the transit companies, the operators weren’t very responsive. More “star” cars were needed.