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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Talking green streetcars and Benjamin Butler in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.
NOPSI 865, rounding the turn from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue in 1960
NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019
Two segments this week. We talk about our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History. Then we “unpack” a photo from 1960.
May 1, 1862
top of the broadside printing of Butler’s proclamation of martial law and occupation, 1-May-1862
While the United States Navy compelled the surrender of New Orleans on 25-May-1862, it was the Army that did the heavy lifting from there. Major General Benjamin Butler, USA, issued a proclamation on 1-May-1862, announcing that New Orleans was under the control of the federal government. He also declared martial law.
The rebels lost the war on the night of 24-25 April, 1862. While many people died and much was destroyed before the formal armistice, it was all over when New Orleans returned to Union control. Farragut forced the rebels to retreat north of the city. Butler came over from Ship Island with his invading force and moved in. Once martial law was established, most of the occupying force moved North as well, in pursuit of the rebels.
Butler was pretty much an awful person. He had a massive ego. To be fair, so did Farragut and Porter. All three commanders claimed credit for the victory in New Orleans. It’s hard to say who was the worst in this respect, but Butler received the most disparagement. The Lost Cause mythos plays out locally, portraying Butler as a venal man and petty thief. The “spoons” legend is an example. Butler and the USA had orderly procedures for occupying New Orleans. They confiscated gold and silver from residents. Butler didn’t pocket spoons, he sent his troops to loot entire houses!
May 1st is Inauguration Day in New Orleans. Two notable 1-May inaugurations were in 1978, when Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial officially became the city’s first African-American mayor. Last year, 2018, Latoya Cantrell became the city’s first woman mayor. It’s important to note that 1-May was set as inauguration day by the charter changes of 1954. As much as grumpy liberals who hate Mitch Landrieu want to slander him, he didn’t engineer a way to stay around through the city’s Tricentennial.
NOPSI 865, 1960
Our photo this week is of NOPSI 865, a vintage-1923 arch roof streetcar. This “Charley car” turns from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, on an inbound run. We unpack the photo in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.
I’m working on a long-form pod about Da Paper, now that it looks like John Georges is going to vaporize it. That will go up in 2-3 weeks. Working on preserving the memories of the “digital” years.
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The Bernadotte Street Yard ran from Canal Blvd. to Jefferson Davis Parkway
Sanborn fire map from the 1940s, showing detail in Mid-City New Orleans. Full PDF here.
Bernadotte Street Yard
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the portion of Mid-City that ran from Jefferson Davis Parkway to City Park Avenue was much narrower than the neighborhood is today. On the western side, Mid-City extended to the New Canal. From there, the neighborhood ran west, crossing Banks, Canal, and Bienville Streets. Mid-City hit a dead end one block past Bienville. So, the Bernadotte Street railroad yard began at Conti Street, essentially cutting off Mid-City from Bayou St. John.
New Orleans Terminal Company
The New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) built a railroad link from Canal and Basin Streets. It ran through Faubourg Treme, then down St. Louis Street, out to Florida Avenue. So, this connected the company’s passenger terminal downtown with the “Back Belt” owned by Southern Railway. Southern moved their passenger operations from their station on Press Street to Canal Street in 1916. Therefore, NOTC made a solid investment.
In addition to connecting Canal Street with the Southern Railway’s track, the NOTC link became the foundation for an industrial corridor. So, NOTC built a railroad yard at the Canal Blvd end of the link. Southern Railway leased the yard from NOTC. Southern referred to it as the “Bernadotte Street Yard.”
The image above is part of a Sanborn fire map from the 1940s. It shows the American Can Company factory on the right, on Orleans Avenue.The map details the various warehouses and other industrial sites. The borders are Jefferson Davis Parkway to N. Carrollton Avenue, Bienville Street to Orleans Avenue. Additionally, this area included a Southern Railway engine facility. That facility had a turntable and roundhouse.
To be contnued…
The Bernadotte Street Yard is relevant to a number of my research interests. So, I’ve got a fiction project in my head that may play out on passenger trains. That means Terminal Station. The station’s proximity to Krauss Department Store is also significant. I regularly watch rail activity on the Back Belt, on Canal Blvd. The mouth of the yard is not far away. In other words, come back periodically for more on this area.
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.
Finally, check out NOLA History Guy Podcast!
Basin Street 1900 – Before Terminal Station on Canal Street
View of the Storyville District, ca 1900.
Basin Street 1900
This postcard, published by C.B. Mason, shows the Storyville District, three to five years after it’s creation (legally). Here’s the note on the postcard:
“Bird’s-Eye View Of New Orleans LA. ”
View from high building on Canal Street looking towards “Storyville” district. Of particular interest is the row of buildings seen fronting Basin Street, including Tom Anderson’s Josie Arlington’s and Lulu White’s, and “the District” behind it. This is one of the few published cards showing what history recalls as “Storyville”.
There are a lot of shots of Storyville, the section of Faubourg Treme from Canal Street to the Carondelet Canal, but this one of Basin Street 1900 caught my eye for several reasons. The photographer stands on a building on Canal Street. It looks like he’s on the old Mercier Building, at 901 Canal. This was Maison Blanche, before S.J. Shwartz demolished it and built his larger store and office building. This photo shows the neighborhood just before Leon Fellman builds the 2-story retail building at 1201 Canal Street. That building becomes Krauss Department Store.
Trains before 1908
1896 Sanborn Map, Canal and Basin Streets
Trains didn’t travel much on Basin Street 1900. The big passenger terminal opens in 1908. The first two blocks off Canal, Basin to Customhouse (now Iberville), then to Bienville, supported the excursion train to Spanish Fort. So, this 1896 Sanborn map shows the tracks and small station for that Spanish Fort train. Passengers boarded at Canal, then the tracks turned lakebound on Bienville. Note the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal. The Krauss building isn’t there yet. Furthermore, it was a lot quieter at this time, without the trains.
“Down the Line”
Zoom of the CB Mason Postcard of Storyville, 1900ish
This zoom of the postcard shows the same area of the well-known, “Basin Street Down the Line” photo. Two horse-drawn carriages or wagons head riverbound on Custom House. First of all, that’s Tom Anderson’s Saloon behind them, on the corner. Then, in the middle of the street, there’s a passenger stand and shed, for the railroad. So, the tracks are visible.
A few doors down from Tom Anderson’s, Josie Arlington’s “sporting palace” with its distinctive cupola welcomes customers.
1911 view of Canal and Basin Streets
This 1911 postcard shows the changes within a decade. Krauss Department Store stands at 1201. So, Terminal Station swallows up Basin street for blocks. The New Orleans and North Eastern (NO&NE) Railroad moved over from Press Street in the Bywater to Canal Street. NO&NE became part of the Southern Railway system in 1916. As a result of the merger, the station’s main sign changed to reflect the merger.
Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion – electric with no rails
NOPSI Trackless Trolley on the Magazine line. Undated Franck-Bertacci photo, ~1948-1952
Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion
Riders Digest flyer, 11-February-1948 (courtesy Aaron Handy, III)
New Orleans Public Service, Inc (NOPSI) discontinued streetcars on a number of lines after World War II. Magazine Street was one of these lines. While most lines transitioned to diesel buses, Magazine Street used “trackless trolleys” from 1948 to 1964.
Mules to Electrics to Buses
The Magazine Street line began operation in June, 1861. It used mule-drawn streetcars until 1895. The line electrified in 1895. The first electrics on Magazine were open-vestibule cars that were quickly replaced by single-truck Brills. When the arch roof cars began service on Canal, the 1905-vintage “Palace” cars shifted to Magazine and other upriver-downriver lines. Eventually, the 800-900 series arch roofs operated everywhere in the city.
NOPSI planned to convert streetcars to buses in 1940, but WWII delayed that. The War Department refused the conversions, saying the increased consumption of rubber and diesel fuel were unacceptable.
NOPSI 931 at Arabella Station on Magazine Street, 1947. (Franck-Bertacci Studios, THNOC)
Magazine originally ran outbound on Camp, inbound on Magazine Street. Streetcars ran up to Toledano Street. The direction on Camp and Magazine flipped in the 1920s. Since then, line runs inbound on Magazine Street to St. Andrew. The inbounds turn there onto Sophie Wright Place, then onto Camp Street at Felicity. From there, they run to Canal Street. The end of the line is on Canal and Magazine. Outbound travels all the way up on Magazine, to Audubon Park. Magazine continued past the park, up Broadway to S. Claiborne until 1933. The service cut back to the park when the Freret line opened.
Ripping up the streetcar tracks on Camp Street, 1948 (NOPL)
The government lifted wartime restrictions in 1947. NOPSI discontinued streetcar operations as soon as possible. While West End and other long-haul lines switched to buses, The city ripped up the tracks in after trackless trolleys began operation in February, 1947. The overhead wire remained until 1964.