NOPSI 943 departing Canal Station, a month before the Canal line converted to buses.
NOPSI 943 departing Canal Station
The 1923-vintage arch roof cars operated on the St. Charles and Canal lines in the early 1960s. This photo shows car 943 departing Canal Station on April 24, 1964. NOPSI 943 spent the night on the outdoor track next to the station’s buildings. The operator eases the streetcar into the Canal Street neutral ground, for another day of moving New Orleanians.
Canal Station serviced both buses and streetcars in 1964. Warren Easton Senior High looms in the background. Buses rest in the lot between the streetcar facilities and the school. NORD owned that bus parking for decades. A baseball park occupied that block. NOPSI acquired it in the 1930s. The block originally provided outdoor space for streetcars. As the company converted transit routes from streetcars to buses, the block became bus parking.
The buildings comprising Canal Station date back to 1861. NOPSI’s stewardship of the station left a great deal to be desired. The company adopted a policy of “demolition by neglect” with respect to streetcars. By 1959, the company sold the city on eliminating streetcars altogether. When neighborhood groups along the St. Charles line learned of this, they forced a compromise. They agreed to allow NOPSI to convert the Canal line without opposition, so long as the company continued streetcar operation on St. Charles.
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority demolished the Canal Station complex in the 1990s. They built a bus storage and maintenance facility on they site. NORTA returned the Canal line to streetcar operation in 2004. They installed new track on the line. NORTA also built a new streetcar barn behind the bus facility. Streetcars enter and exit the barn via tracks right across from Warren Easton, on N. Gayoso.
The iconic “Public Service” sign was similar to the one at Carrollton Station, on Willow Street, uptown.
Thanks to Aaron Handy, III, for sharing this photo on Facebook.
Flixible buses that ended the Canal Streetcar.
Aaron Handy III posted this photo a while back:
“Inbound NOPSI Flxible New Look 194, assigned to Canal-Cemeteries, and a piggybacking colleague, both of the 1964 F2D6V-401-1 fleet (194 was next-to-last of the batch), waits at the corner of Canal and Carondelet Streets. May 1975.”
Those green buses are how NOPSI convinced transit riders to give up on the Canal Streetcar. In the late 1950s/early 60s, to get to downtown from Lakeview, you rode the West End bus to City Park Avenue. From there, you transferred to the Canal Streetcar. Hot or cold, rain or shine, you had to switch. In 1962-1963, NOPSI pitched the city and the public with running air-conditioned buses on West End and Canal Blvd. The commuter could board a bus near home and ride in a/c until their downtown stop. No transfer in Mid-City. No sweaty, crowded streetcar. Men in suits and women in stockings arrived ready for work. While there were activists in May of 1964 who tried to stop the conversion, they were way too late to the game. The city approved the plan, most of the ridership agreed, and all the activists could do was sacrifice the Canal line to save St. Charles (their primary goal anyway).
Going home from school
As stated in Aaron’s caption, the 1964 Flixibles were still operating in 1975. That’s when I was at Brother Martin High, 1971-1976. One of the options for getting home was connecting with the Canal Street lines. NOPSI offered the choice of taking the Carrollton line to Canal Street. The other choice was the Broad line to Canal. So, from Broad and Canal or Carrollton and Canal (next to the Manuel’s Hot Tamales stand), we connected outbound.
NOPSI operated three Canal Street lines at the time:
- Cemeteries, which terminated at City Park Avenue.
- Lake Vista (via Canal Blvd), which went up Canal Blvd, along Lakeshore Drive, and terminated at Spanish Fort.
- Lakeshore (via Pontchartrain Blvd), which went up West End Blvd outbound, returning via Pontchartrain Blvd, inbound.
We chose any of the three, since they all passed the connecting corners.
Zoom Talk 2020-03-19
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.
Riders wait for the Broad line at a 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.
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.
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.
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 remind me of my high school years
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.
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.
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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Bus and streetcar routes in New Orleans were laid out in NOPSI Maps.
1928 NOPSI transit map
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.
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.
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.
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.
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