Bus Stop Iroquois Street Gentilly before the Seminary

Riders wait for the Broad line at a bus stop Iroquois Street Gentilly

Bus Stop Iroquois Street Gentilly

Broad line bus stop Iroquois Street at Gentilly Boulevard

Bus Stop Iroquois Street Gentilly

Bus stop at Gentilly Blvd. and Iroquois Street, 10-Jun-1946. This Franck Studios photo has a court docket number in the corner. I haven’t looked up why NOPSI lawyers hired their go-to photographers to shoot this location yet.

Post-WWII Gentilly

There wasn’t much in Gentilly, below Franklin Avenue, at this time. In May of 1946, the Southern Baptist Convention upgraded the New Orleans Bible College to a seminary. The increased interest in the school motivated the SBC. They moved the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to its present location, directly across the street from this bus stop, in the 1950s.

The Broad Street line ran across town, from out here in Gentilly to Lowerline Street, uptown. Folks studying at NOBTS and their families at this time took the Broad bus to Franklin Avenue. They transferred to the Gentilly streetcar line, heading inbound, to get downtown. NOPSI discontinued the Gentilly streetcar line in 1957. The Franklin Avenue bus line replaced the streetcars.

The Broad line offered a lot of options to the rider. I used Broad to get from Brother Martin High School back to #themetrys in my high school years.

Gentilly Shopping

Bus Stop Iroquois Street Gentilly

Times-Picayune ad announcing the opening of Maison Blanche Gentilly, September 12, 1947

In 1946, Maison Blanche was still a year from opening their store in Gentilly. The store opened its second location, closer to Elysian Fields, in September, 1947. The store at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues followed a few months later. By the 1950s, the Gentilly Woods subdivision grew rapidly. Maison Blanche recognized this. They moved their Gentilly store, from Frenchmen and Gentilly Blvd., to just down the street from NOBTS. MB rode that boom, then moved on to the next boom, New Orleans east. They moved the store to The Plaza at Lake Forest mall in 1974.

Mr. Bingle 1952

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

Lots of photos of those stores in my book, “Maison Blanche Department Stores” – check it out!

 

 

NOPSI Bus roll signs – buses on #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI Bus roll signs – buses on #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI bus roll signs remind me of my high school years

NOPSI bus roll signs

Roll sign used by NOPSI buses

NOPSI bus roll signs

A different story today for #StreetCarMonday. Aaron Handy shared several “roll signs” from NOPSI buses to the Vintage New Orleans Transit group a while back. Through some Facebook strangeness, the images came across my phone, while reading another post in that group. I time-traveled immediately back to my peak bus-riding days, the mid-1970s.

Elysian Fields lines

The first (top) image shows a roll sign for several of the lines in the eastern part of town. They operated out of Canal Station I’m not sure why “ST. CHARLES” is there, since that line was (and still is) street rail. I rode the “Elysian Fields Pont. Beach – U.N.O.” line regularly. The other Elysian Fields line ended at Gentilly Blvd. Most of my rides covered Gentilly to the lake. On days when I wanted t go all the way downtown, I’d walk down to Gentily Blvd. and catch the first bus available. The UNO bus came from up the street. Te Gentilly Blvd. bus would be in the turnaround on the river side of the intersection. So, it was easy to see which line to take.

In the other direction, I rode the Elysian Fields line up to UNO, to hitch a ride with my dad. He worked at the university for over thirty years. I rode in from #themetrys with him. He dropped me off a Brother Martin, and then it was up to me how I got home. Some days, we’d hop the Elysian Fields bus, then jump off at Mirabeau, to catch the Cartier line. Other days, we’d go all the way up to Robert E. Lee Blvd., to stop at he comic book store, before catching the Lake line to Spanish Fort.

Esplanade

The Esplanade line opened in June, 1861. It ran mule-drawn “bobtail” streetcars, before electrification in the 1890s. Esplanade and Canal ran in “belt” service for a time in the early 20th Century. NOPSI discontinued that belt service in the 1930s. Esplanade converted to bus service.

In the mid-1970s, the Esplanade line ran from Canal Street, down N. Rampart Street, then up Esplanade to Bayou St. John. From there, the line turned onto Wisner Blvd., then up City Park Avenue, to Canal Blvd. The Carrollton line started its inbound run at Elysian Fields and Gentilly Blvd, at the same turnaround used by the Elysian Fields-Gentilly Blvd. line. From there, Carrollton ran up Gentilly Blvd., to De Saix Street. It crossed the bayou there, then down Wisner Blvd. From there, it ran up Carrollton, to S. Claiborne Avenue. One of the options to get to the Veterans line was Carrollton to Esplanade.

Express Buses

NOPSI Bus Roll Signs

NOPSI roll signs

The lines with numbers operated in “express” service. For an extra nickel (when the regular fare was a quarter), riders bypassed a significant number of stops, on the way toward the end of the line. For example, the Canal express lines, 80 and 81, made no stops on Canal Street from City Park Avenue to Claiborne. Express 91 and 92 made no stops on their respective streets from Gentilly Blvd to St. Claude.

Express 80 and 81 occasionally fit into the going-home calculus. In addition to he NOPSI bus roll signs, expres buses used amber flashing lights. The rider saw the lights and knew whether to get aboard. We’d take the Cartier or Lake lines from Elysian Fields to Spanish Fort. Usually, the next leg was Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd. If the only bus at Spanish Fort was express, you had to decide if it was worth the extra nickel. Most of the drivers did let us slide. They knew we planned to get off at Robert E. Lee and Canal Blvd., or at the Cemeteries.

Then the process repeated itself. At Canal Blvd., we transferred to Canal – Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd. We rode that line to Veterans, by the old State Police station.

Modern bus routes

As time went on, NOPSI bus roll signs went digital, in the NORTA era. NORTA changed the route map dramatically in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While these same trips require fewer transfers, there are fewer buses, too. It’s much more of a challenge.

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NOPSI Maps from the past  #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI Maps from the past #StreetcarMonday

Bus and streetcar routes in New Orleans were laid out in NOPSI Maps.

NOPSI maps

1928 NOPSI transit map

NOPSI Maps

Maps of the local transit system are essential for riders. While those maps are most often found online these days, proper paper maps existed for generations before handheld devices with Everything.

1928 Map

Lots of interesting things here, on this 1928 map. This is a year before the 1929 Transit Strike (the origin of the po-boy, etc.). In terms of total miles of track, this is the zenith of streetcar operations. The 1929 strike changed how New Orleans commuted. NOPSI worked to get riders back, but it was not an overnight process.

Some things here that caught my eye:

  • The Napoleon line went all the way out to Shrewsbury Road in Metairie. Streetcar service in Metairie ended in 1934.
  • The Canal and Esplanade lines ran in “belt service” at this time. NOPSI provided “Cemeteries” service that ran to the end of Canal Street.
  • The “Canal Bus” ran on Canal Blvd, out to Fillmore Ave.
  • NOPSI offered no service on North Carrollton Avenue. Mid-City, between Canal Street and Bayou St. John contained the Bernadotte Street railroad yard and extensive industry. NOPSI services the neighborhood with the City Park line.
  • West End ran out to the lake, along the New Canal. While the regular Spanish Fort line no longer operated, NOPSI maps indicate the seasonal shuttle line.

The Canal/Esplanade belts defined service in Mid-City at the time. While there were shorter, “support” lines, the neighborhood relied primarily on the Canal line.

Uptown

NOPSI provided extensive streetcar and bus service Uptown. So, NOPSI maps show the St. Charles and Tulane lines running in “belt” service. While the original operators consolidated years before this map, the older lines continued on. Prytania, Laurel, and Tchoupitoulas operated at this time. So, Claiborne, Freret, St. Charles, and Magazine lines operated as the main cross-Uptown lines. Those lines operate today.

Gentilly

The Gentilly line ran from downtown out to Dreux Avenue on Franklin Avenue. Bus service on Elysian Fields only operated to Florida. The Pontchartrain Railroad still ran out to Milneburg at this time.

Vintage New Orleans Transit is a fun group on Facebook, if you’re active on that platform.

Finally, check out NOLA History Guy Podcast!

 

 

 

Race Screens on NOPSI 930 – Segregation on New Orleans transit

Race Screens on NOPSI 930 – Segregation on New Orleans transit

Race Screens on NOPSI 930 were typical on the 800 and 900 streetcars.

race screens

Movable race screens on NOPSI 930 streetcar. (Franck Studios photo in the public domain)

Race Screens

Jim Crow segregation began in the 1890s. They started in the wake of the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision. It comes as no surprise that the city where Homer Plessy and the Citizens Committee did their work embraced Jim Crow. White families of the area asserted their supremacy over the former enslaved and their families. We often look at New Orleans society as something more than white versus black. Creoles of color had extensive influence in the city. The White League saw them as “colored,” however. Because they weren’t “white”, the Creoles of Color were no better than the former enslaved to white people.

Jim Crow

The Jim Crow laws, and the overall attitude of racial segregation helped foster the Great Migration of the early 20th Century. The most visible impact of this movement of African-Americans to the north and west was with musicians. Jazz started out as a musical style in the various black communities of New Orleans. Musicians tired of having to enter/exit venues via the back door got on the train for New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. The music spread. It stayed home, too, as many African-Americans didn’t leave the South.

Back of the bus

Separate but equal was problematic on public transit. While the Canal and West End lines looped around Liberty Place, many of the lines operated “point to loop.” When the streetcar reached the outbound end of the line, the crew changed the direction of the electric poles on the roof. They also changed the direction of the seats. With the seats flipped, the race screens were at the front of the car. Black folks would get in and sit, but had to keep going to the back as white riders boarded. On crowded runs, it got to the point where black riders stood in the aisle. White riders kept moving the screens back.

Naturally, black riders got fed up. In Montgomery, Alabama, that came to a head when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955. New Orleans was spared a Montgomery-style bus boycott. A federal judge ordered the race screens on NOPSI streetcars and buses be removed in 1958.

Trackless Trolleys on the Magazine Street Line – #StreetcarMonday

Trackless Trolleys on the Magazine Street Line – #StreetcarMonday

Trackless Trolleys, also known as “trolley buses”

trackless trolleys

NOPSI trackless trolley on the Magazine line at Audubon Park, 1941 (Franck Studios photo)

Trackless Trolleys

Electric buses, “trackless trolleys”, operated on several New Orleans transit lines over the years. In the 1920s, NORwy&Lt/NOPSI experimented with the buses. By 1930, trackless trolleys operated on major lines in the system.

Magazine Street

Magazine Street, like St. Charles Avenue, runs the length of what we usually call “Uptown”. While St. Charles Avenue presents elegant mansions, Magazine Street borders the two sides of “the tracks”. You know, when someone says, “she’s from the other side of the tracks”. So, in New Orleans, that could easily mean Magazine street. While the neighborhoods between Magazine and St. Charles contain more elegant houses, the other side was, well, the other side. The area between Magazine and the river holds docks, wharves, warehouses, and small shotgun houses.

The combination creates a dense area. Neighborhoods grew, usually as plantations fronting the river were subdivided and sold off by their owners. As each plantation became a residential neighborhood, open-air markets, shops, schools and churches appeared.

Uptown Transit

trackless trolleys

1883 Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, showing the corner of Magazine and Toledano.

These new neighborhoods required connections to the Central Business District (CBD). The New Orleans City Railroad Company established the Magazine Street line on June 8, 1861. Streetcars on the Magazine line ran from the Clay Statue (St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street), down Canal, turning right on Magazine. The mule-drawn “bobtail” streetcars traveled outbound on Magazine to Toledano.

At Toledano, NOCRR operated a car barn and stables. Streetcars turned around by going through the car barn. They then returned the same route. The company expanded the line in 1883, running Magazine all the way to Audubon Park. NOCRR electrified the line in 1895.

NOCRR operated single-truck streetcars on Magazine after electrification. They replaced the single-trucks initially with Brill double-trucks, then “Palace” cars. NOPSI phased out the “Palace cars” with arch roofs, until 1930.

Trolley buses

NOPSI converted the Magazine line to trackless trolley service on November 30, 1930. Therefore, trolley buses meant NOPSI only needed one employee per bus, the driver. The city required two-man operation of streetcars. So, NOPSI cut labor costs dramatically when a line converted from streetcars to buses, even electric ones.

NOPSI converted Magazine from electric buses to diesel ones in 1964.

 

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.