The Illinois Central Railroad operated the Panama Limited from Chicago to New Orleans.
Travel poster advertising the Panama Limited railroad route, 1929. The Illinois Central Railroad (IC) operated the route. The train ran from Chicago to New Orleans and return. The trip ran overnight, departing Chicago in the afternoon, arriving in New Orleans the next morning.
Illinois Central featured the Panama Limited as its flagship route. The train operated in “limited” service, running a consist of sleeper, diner, lounge, and observation cars. Since it was a luxury train, its advertising appealed to passengers with means. Travel to New Orleans, they suggested. Escape the stifling Summer heat of the big city with activities along the Gulf Coast! Come golf, swim, sail, fish, even play polo!
The IC operated their Chicago-New Orleans service as the Chicago and New Orleans Limited. On February 4, 1911, the railroad changed the route’s name in honor of the Panama Canal. Even though the canal did not open for another three years, the IC made a big deal of the achievement. A year later, in 1912, IC rolled out new equipment for the route. They solidified the route as an exclusive, first-class train. It made the trip in twenty-five hours.
The train transitioned to diesel and streamlined equipment in 1942. The 1944 timetable shows the train departed at 3:15pm, arriving in New Orleans at 9:15am the next morning.
When Amtrak took over passenger rail service in 1971, they dropped the route. The new entity retained the day train, the City of New Orleans. Later that year, Amtrak revived the Panama Limited, returning the schedule to an overnight run. In 1972, they once again dropped the Panama Limited name. Amtrak returned to the name, City of New Orleans, in the hopes they could leverage the popularity of Arlo Guthrie’s song of the same name.
The current Chicago to New Orleans trip on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans departs Chicago at 8:05pm, arriving in Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans at 3:47pm the following day, for a total trip of 19 hours and 42 minutes.
Streetcar operations on S. Carrollton Avenue in 1913 weren’t all that different than they are today.
Streetcar Operations 1913
New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) #383, outbound on St. Charles Avenue, 1913. Workers surround the car as they do street repairs. The streetcar heads to Carrollton Station as it ends a run on the Prytania line. NORwy&Lt #383 is a single-truck, Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D) streetcar. So these streetcars dominated street rail in New Orleans from 1894, through the 1920s. One FB&D streetcar remains, NORTA #29, the “sand car.” If you see a streetcar running on the St. Charles line that doesn’t look like the classic arch-roofs, it’s likely #29.
The photographer of this image is unidentified, possibly a file photo owned by NOPSI.
Ford, Bacon, and Davis
NORwy&Lt #383 took to the streets in 1894. Both the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad (NO&CRR) and the New Orleans City Railroad (NOCRR) purchased FB&D streetcars. Ford, Bacon, and Davis was an engineering firm. The streetcar operators hired them to help improve the city’s streetcar operations. Electrification required a number of changes. So, as the engineers worked on the system as a whole, they learned a lot about running streetcars here. They designed a single-truck streetcar that would work in all neighborhoods.
So, by 1913, the date of this photo, FB&Ds operated in New Orleans for almost twenty years. That’s nothing for a streetcar, of course. They’re built for 70+ years of operation.
Electrification presented a number of challenges for the streetcar companies. The costs of generating power and running wires along the streetcar routes bankrupted the companies. The city stepped in, helping to re-organize the system. They formed a holding company, New Orleans Traction Company, in 1897 that combined the existing operators. That evolved into a second incarnation of the New Orleans City Railroad Company in 1899. Yet another re-org took place in 1905, when the New Orleans Railway and Light Company took over. By 1922, that company became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI). NOPSI exists to this day, as Entergy New Orleans. Entergy gave up streetcar operations in 1983, when they turned the transit system over to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.
The large building in the background is Leland University. It was founded in 1870 as Leland College, a school of higher learning for free Black men. The school sustained serious damage in the hurricane of 1915, and moved to Baker, Louisiana.
Canal Street 1958 is a view from the roof of the Jung Hotel.
Canal Street 1958
Franck Studios photo of Canal Street, looking inbound towards the river. The Franck Studios photographer stands on the rooftop of the Jung Hotel, at 1500 Canal. Krauss Department Store stands in the 1201 block to the left, with the Hotel New Orleans in the 1300 block on the right. The Saenger Theater is across Basin Street from Krauss, with the iconic buildings of the 901 block (Audubon Building, Kress, and Maison Blanche) in the background, left. The studio shot this photo in 1958 or 1959.
Krauss in the 1950s
This photo offers a great view of the expansion progress of Krauss. The original store, built by Leon Fellman in 1903, consists of the two-story section fronting Canal Street. Fellman acquired the property in 1899. He built that first 2-story section and leased it to the Krauss Brothers. The brothers acquired the property behind the building, along Basin Street. In 1911, they built a five-story expansion. You can see the line/seam after four windows on each floor. Leon Heymann (the “Krauss Brother-in-Law”) built the third portion of the store in 1921. Heymann continued expanding the store until it filled the block between Canal and Iberville Streets.
While HNOC dates this picture at “approximately 1955,” the streetcar tracks narrow it down for us. Note the two-track configuration in the Canal Street neutral ground. With streetcar operation limited to Canal and St. Charles, the city ripped up the two outside tracks on Canal. The lines using those tracks had been converted to buses by 1948. So, Canal operated on the two tracks running from Liberty Place to City Park Avenue. One block of the inbound outside track remained, between Carondelet Street and St. Charles Avenue. St. Charles streetcars turned for their outbound run on that track.
The city planted the palm trees in this photo as part of the 1957 “beautification project.” They also built planter boxes along the neutral ground. Unfortunately, those palm trees only lasted about three years, because of a couple of cold winters.
Looking down Canal in 1926 reveals many of the buildings still standing on the city’s main street.
Looking down Canal
Canal Street, looking towards the river from the 1000 block. Franck Studios shot this photo between 1926 and 1929. The old-style lampposts on Canal Street date the photo prior to 1930. The poor condition of the neutral ground also indicates this was shot before the 1930 beautification program. To the left, the building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy in the 1001 block flows into the Audubon, Kress, and Maison Blanche buildings in the 901 block. On the right, the buildings of the 1000, 900, and 800 blocks flow together. Back to the left, the Godchaux Building stands prominently in the 500 block, with its cupola and rooftop water tower. An electric sign advertising the Orpheum Theater, hangs across the Canal Street.
Arch roof streetcars 821 and 813, operate on the N. Claiborne and St. Charles lines. St. Charles ran in belt service with Tulane at this time. The neutral ground held five tracks at this point. This enabled streetcars to connect and switch as needed at Rampart Street. The area between Rampart and Basin streets served as a busy terminal area, as various lines converged, offering riders connections to the railroad stations.The Canal/Esplanade cars, along with the West End line, operated on the inside tracks. Lines coming inbound to Canal popped up for a block, traveled the outside tracks for a block, then turned for their outbound runs. NOPSI discontinued and demolished all of the remaining 800-series streetcars in 1964.
While HNOC suggests the date at 1926 to 1929, the presence of streetcars narrows it down a bit. Since motormen and conductors struck NOPSI from July to October, 1929, this photo likely dates before that time.
Behind the first set of streetcars stand a set of “Palace” cars. These larger streetcars from the American Car Company, operated in belt service on Canal and Esplanade. The Palace cars also ran out to West End, on that line.
L&N uptown tracks were where the railroad staged passenger trains.
L&N uptown tracks
Parlor car 395, Louisville and Nashville Railroad, on the L&N Uptown tracks near Gravier and S. Front Streets. The photo is part of the George F. Mungier Collection from the Louisiana State Museum. Photo is undated, but details in the photo place it in the mid-1890s. The Anheuser-Busch stables (left) and brewery (right) are visible, as is the Daniel Edwards Iron Works. The railroad staged passenger trains on the uptown side of Canal Street, then brought them into the station.
American railroads offered seating in parlor cars as an upgrade from coach class. While European railroads offered first- and second-class coach cars, American railroads resisted seating by class. Additionally, American railroads had to maintain “separate but equal” seating for African Americans. So, the railroads added “parlor” cars as an upgrade. These cars sat fewer passengers, and offered food and beverages in the car. The parlor car offered the passenger willing to pay extra an escape from the crowds in coach. On overnight trips, the parlor car enabled the passenger to split the difference between coach and a sleeper. While the sleeping car was the best option, the parlor car’s lower capacity and extra amenities made the trip better.
L&N Canal Street
The L&N railroad operated a station on Canal Street since the early 1890s. The railroad used terminal tracks on the uptown side of Canal Street to assemble passenger trains. They then pulled the train across Canal, up to the boarding platforms. From Canal Street, L&N trains traveled along the river to Elysian Fields Avenue. They turned north there, using the Pontchartrain Railroad tracks to head out of town to the East. L&N used the train bridge over the Rigolets Pass to cross the lake and move north-and-east. The well-known station appeared on Canal Street in 1902. So, this parlor car pulled up into the original station.
Daniel Edwards Iron Works
According to the “Standard History of New Orleans,” 1900, the Daniel Edwards Foundry opened in 1846. The business underwent ownership and management changes in the second half of the 19th Century.
The 1929 transit strike in New Orleans snarled downtown traffic for over four months.
1929 Transit Strike
Photo of Canal Street, looking towards the river, July, 1929. The photographer stands at Canal and Rampart Streets, at the lake end of the 1000 block. The Audubon Building and Maison Blanche Department Store loom over the 901 block, on the left. A jitney bus, the light-colored vehicle in traffic on the right, offers what little service New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) could offer, with all the streetcars locked up in their barns. The antenna tower above MB is the transmitter for WSMB Radio.
Empty neutral ground
Streetcars remained off the streets from July 1 to July 4th, 1929. NOPSI tried to run streetcars using strikebreakers on Saturday, July 5th, but picketers and their supporters wouldn’t allow the cars to exit the barns, after the first streetcar departed Canal Station. That streetcar rolled this route, down Canal Street, followed by a massive crowd. The strikers burned that streetcar when it reached the ferry terminal.
Maison Blanche 1929
The MB building was twenty-one years old at the time of the 1929 transit strike. This photographer captured two signs on the building. The store’s name runs vertically on the lake side of the building. The roof displays the store’s name and its tagline, “Greatest Store South” on the roof.
The MB building is about ten years old in this photo. Doctors, dentists, and other professionals occupied the office building. The transit strike created problems for those tenants. Without public transit, it was difficult to get to the doctor. While grandma would hop on the Desire line or the St. Charles-Tulane belt, no streetcars meant someone had to drive her to Maison Blanche. Look at that traffic on either side of the “Canal Street Zone.”
On the retail side, the lack of public transit put the hurt on the Canal Street stores. Marks Isaacs, D. H. Holmes, Maison Blanche, all the way up to Krauss Department Store. Again, look at that traffic. In that first week of July, 1929, the retailers were furious. That the strike continued for four months did permanent damage to NOPSI and public transit in New Orleans.