Crescent Limited Louisville & Nashville #TrainThursday

Crescent Limited Louisville & Nashville #TrainThursday

The Crescent Limited Louisville & Nashville ran from New Orleans to New York City.

crescent limited louisville & nashville - Southern Railway 1401 "Pacific" steam locomotive

The Crescent Limited – Washington – Atlanta – New Orleans. Courtesy StreamlinerMemories.info

Crescent Limited Louisville & Nashville

“Best and Fastest Service between Canal Street and Broadway.” That’s how the L&N advertised service on the Crescent Limited in the Times-Picayune, 5-January-1927. While the route started back in the 1890s, the name “Crescent Limited” was only two years old at the time of this ad. The Southern Railway system, which began in 1894, operated the route from New York to Atlanta. By 1906, the route became the New York and New Orleans Limited. By 1925, Southern re-branded the route.

PRR – Southern – L&N

While Southern owned the consist of the Crescent Limited, the railroad needed tracks of three systems to go the distance. The route originated in NYC on the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). At Washington, DC, the route used Southern tracks to Atlanta. At Atlanta, the Crescent shifted to the West Point Route to Montgomery. At Montgomery, it continued on L&N trackage down to Mobile, then to New Orleans.

After World War II, Southern shifted the route so it operated exclusively on their tracks.

All Pullman

Southern’s re-branding of the New York and New Orleans was more than just a name change. The route evolved into an All-Pullman affair, featuring “Deluxe accommodations; luxurious Pullman Cars of latest design–sections, drawing rooms, and compartments; extra large dressing rooms; excellent dining-car service; club car, observation car; valet-porter, and a ladies’ maid.” Naturally, “A reasonable extra fare is charged on this train.”

In later years, Southern added coach-car service to the Crescent, between New Orleans and Atlanta. This offered travelers a more-affordable option to get between the two cities.

L&N New Orleans Terminal

While the Crescent Limited operated a Southern consist, it departed and arrived at New Orleans via the L&N terminal at Canal Street and the river. All the other Southern trains used Terminal Station, at Canal and Basin Streets. This changed in 1954, when the city consolidated all passenger rail service at Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue.

For further information…

The ad mentions the City Ticket Office, located at 229 St. Charles Street. Most of the railroads maintained ticket offices on the ground floor of the St. Charles Hotel.

Amtrak

Even though it’s no longer “limited,” Amtrak continues operation of the Crescent, daily from Union Passenger Terminal (UPT) to New York Penn Station (NYP).

Dash-8 on the Crescent 20 #TrainThursday

Dash-8 on the Crescent 20 #TrainThursday

A Dash-8 on the Crescent is an uncommon sighting.

Dash-8 on the Crescent

Amtrak Crescent #20, 29-December-2022, departing New Orleans. AMTK 164, a GE P42-DC “Genesis” in the lead, with AMTK 514, a GE P32-8WH (commonly referred to as a “Dash-8”) behind. Crescent #20 departs Union Passenger Terminal (NOL) at 0915CST. It runs parallel to I-10, which was a navigation canal until 1949. The track continues trough Mid-City New Orleans, turning east when it reaches the Norfolk-Southern “Back Belt.” this connection is directly behind Greenwood Cemetery. Prior to the opening of UPT in 1954, Southern Railway operated the Crescent. That train operated from the L&N terminal at Canal Street and the river.

Once on the Back Belt, there are no grade crossings through the city. The train crosses Lake Pontchartrain on the NS “five-mile bridge” to its first stop in Slidell, LA. From Slidell, it’s off through Mississippi and Alabama to Atlanta, then on to DC, ending at New York’s Penn Station (NYP).

Consist

The Crescent operates “Viewliner” equipment, rather than the “Superliners” used on the City of New Orleans and Sunset Limited. The current consist is 3 coaches, 1 cafe car, 2 sleepers, and a bag-dorm. It’s used this consist since vaccinations for COVID-19 became wide spread. Prior to vaccinations, the route went down to 3-day-per-week operations with two coaches and a single sleeper. Amtrak discontinued dining car service on the Crescent prior to the pandemic.

GE P32-8WH

Illustration of Amtrak Dash-8 locomotives in "Pepsi Can" livery by JakkrapholThailand93 on Deviant Art.

Illustration of Amtrak Dash-8 locomotives in “Pepsi Can” livery by JakkrapholThailand93 on Deviant Art.

Amtrak replaced their EMD F40PH units with Dash-8s. GE delivered this locomotive to Amtrak in 1991. They wore the “Pepsi Can” livery for years.

AMTK 514 is based here at NOL. The NOL crew operate 514 as a switcher to stage the Crescent, City of New Orleans, and Sunset Limited. The Dash-8 steps in for a run to NYP when weather and scheduling messes up the Genesis count.

AMTK 164, a GE P42DC "Genesis" locomotive, pulling the Crescent #20, 29-December-2022. Edward Branley photo.

AMTK 164, a GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotive, pulling the Crescent #20, 29-December-2022. Edward Branley photo.

By the mid-1990s, Amtrak replaced the Dash-8s with GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotives like AMTK 164, shown here.

@Amtrak Crescent #20 50th Anniversary

@Amtrak Crescent #20 50th Anniversary

The Amtrak Crescent #20 led by an Anniversary locomotive.

 

Crescent #20 to New York

Amtrak Crescent #20 heads north to Atlanta, DC, and New York (Penn Station), 30-November-2022. AMTK 160 pulls the train, supported by AMTK 142. Both locomotives are GE P42DC “Genesis” models. The Genesis locos travel all the major Amtrak routes. The special paint scheme for AMTK 160 is the “Pepsi Can” livery. It’s one of six locos specially painted for the railroad’s 50th anniversary. The special “50th” logo is visible at the rear of the locomotive. The train crosses the Canal Boulevard underpass in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans. It travels East, then North, crossing Lake Pontchartrain to its first stop in Slidell, LA.

The Crescent

The Crescent route, from New Orleans to New York, began in 1925. While railroads operated trains to and from New York before this, Southern Railway created the “Crescent” brand that year. Southern retained the Crescent route until 1979. Amtrak assumed control then.

“Pepsi Can”

Crescent #20 - Illustration of Amtrak Dash-8 locomotives in "Pepsi Can" livery by JakkrapholThailand93 on Deviant Art.

Illustration of Amtrak Dash-8 locomotives in “Pepsi Can” livery by JakkrapholThailand93 on Deviant Art.

AMTK 160 bears the livery used on the railroad’s GE C40-8W locomotives. Those engines had the nickname “Dash-8.” Amtrak purchased a number of Dash-8s from General Electric in the 1990s. Their red-white-blue paint scheme bore a resemblance to a can of Pepsi-Cola. So, the nickname stuck.

Amtrak Dash-8s operate mostly in support roles these days. One calls NOL home, used mostly as a switcher between the engine house and UPT. Occasionally, a Dash-8 joins a Genesis for the Crescent run. Since none of the Dash-8s regularly pull trains, Amtrak painted AMTK 160 in honor of them.

The Back Belt

I usually catch the Crescent #20 at Canal Boulevard. There’s a PJ’s Coffee Shop right at the river side of the train underpass. We call those tracks the “Back Belt.” They’re originate in Jefferson Parish and run up to the 5-mile railroad bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans Terminal Company originally built the Back Belt. Southern Railway acquired NOTC in 1916.

Siemens Chargers on the City #TrainThursday

Siemens Chargers on the City #TrainThursday

Siemens Chargers on the City of New Orleans, departing NOL.

Siemens Chargers

AMTK 300, a Siemens Charger, and AMTK 126, a GE Genesis, pull the City of New Orleans

Siemens Chargers at work

ALC-42, Siemens Chargers, operate now on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans route. AMTK 300 and AMTK126 pull the City out of Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans, 19-October-2022. The blue-liveried Charger has the lead. While the City usually operates with a single engine, AMTK 126, an older General Electric P42DC “Genesis” engine, deadheads on the northern route. Illinois Central operated the City of New Orleans from 1947 to 1971. IC’s primary train from Chicago to New Orleans was the all-sleeper, Panama Limited. So, they added the City as a lower-cost alternative. Amtrak took the route over in 1971.

Consist

The two engines pull seven Superliner cars: 2 sleepers, 1 lounge car, and 4 coaches. The Superliners are double-decker passenger cars. Amtrak uses them outside the Northeast Corridor. Trains going to the NEC use single-level “Viewliner” equipment. While the City operated with a diner car prior to the pandemic, it continues to only offer snack bar service in the lounge car. Passengers order from the snack bar via the Amtrak phone app. They pick up their food and return to their seat or compartment.

American View

Additionally, a Viewliner (single-level) car brings up the rear of #58 here. “American View” operates as an “inspection car.” This train pulls it up the former Illinois Central (now Canadian National) route to Chicago. More on American View in an upcoming post.

Return trip

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans #59 19-October-2022, fifteen minutes from arrival at Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans (NOL). The train, pulled by Siemens Charger AMTK 312, approaches Central Avenue in Jefferson, Louisiana, with one sleeper, one lounge, and five coaches, all Superliners. This is the southbound train. It departed Chicago the day before. The two trains, 58 and 59, meet each other just outside of town. When things run on schedule, it’s easy to wait a bit after 58 to catch 59.

 

MOW on the Back Belt #TrainThursday

MOW on the Back Belt #TrainThursday

MOW (Maintenance of Way) equipment keeps the trains running.

mow

Norfolk Southern MOW vehicles changing direction on the Back Belt.

MOW equipment and trucks

Norfolk Southern Maintenance of Way (MOW) equipment along the Back Belt in New Orleans. These units perform regular work on the rails to insure quality. These vehicles are a ballast clearer and a spike repair unit. They maintain the track leading out to the 5-mile bridge and down to the NS Gentilly Yard.

The Back Belt

The Back Belt originates in Jefferson Parish, joining with the Kansas City Southern and Canadian National (formerly Illinois Central) main lines. As it reaches Orleans Parish, these tracks join with the New Orleans Terminal Company trackage at the New Basin Canal. The Pontchartrain Expressway replaced the canal in 1949. Now, the highway is part of I-10. New Orleans Terminal Company merged with the Southern Railway system (now Norfolk-Southern Railroad) in 1916. The NOTC track led out of old Union Station on S. Rampart Street. Union Passenger Terminal used the track starting in 1954. The Amtrak Crescent follows this track to the Back Belt, then out of town.

Types of MOW cars

Norfolk Southern operates a number of maintenance cars, including:

  • Anchor Machines
  • Ballast Regulators
  • Cribbers
  • Clip Machines
  • Spike driving/pulling machines
  • Rail lifters/plate inserters
  • Tampers
  • Tie equipment
  • Tie pluggers and drills

There’s a great article on Trainfanatics showing the railroad moving MOW equipment through Ohio.

The top photo shows these units at work on the Back Belt. They use the crossovers between Marconi Drive and the track leading to UPT to change directions.

MOW

Norfolk Southern maintenance vehicles parked at the mouth of the old Bernadotte Yard, Mid-City

This photo shows the vehicles parked at the mouth of Southern Railway’s former Bernadotte Yard. These tracks are just to the east of Canal Boulevard. This rail yard was a mainstay of Southern’s local operations from the 1920s to the 1950s. Now, there are a couple of customers along the old access line in Mid-City. When the MOW units are working this area for a few days, the railroad parks them here.

mow

Norfolk Southern maintenance pick-up truck (top), on the Back Belt

Trucks owned by the railroad appear regularly on the Back Belt. These units run with both rubber tires and steel train wheels. The truck pulls up to the track, and gets aligned. Then the driver lowers the steel wheels down. The truck proceeds as a train car! It’s a good way to do quick visual inspections, or move personnel up and down the line. A train’s coming? No problem, raise the wheels and roll down on the tires to a street.

City Park Miniature Railroad #TrainThursday

City Park Miniature Railroad #TrainThursday

City Park’s Miniature Railroad dates to the 1890

miniature railroad

The Miniature Railroad at City Park

This is a 2010 photo of the current incarnation of the City Park railroad, courtesy Mid-City Messenger. A miniature railroad first operated in New Orleans City Park in the 1890s. After a couple of false starts, the park’s railroad has run since 1905, pausing only for war (fuel rationing). Trains circle the lower section of the park, starting and ending at the back of Storyland/Carousel Gardens. The train goes east, towards Marconi Drive, then follows Marconi south, to City Park Avenue, it turns west, following the lower edge of the park, turning just before the Wisner/City Park Avenue/N. Carrollton intersection. It curves north, passing the New Orleans Museum of Art, then the Sculpture Garden and Casino, returning to its station by the rides.

Origins

The first miniature railroad in the park opened in 1895. The park chose not to renew the contract for the train, saying maintenance of the track cost more than fares brought in. A second attempt, a couple of years later, yielded similar results. A contractor proposed resuming the ride in 1905. The park board of commissioners approved the plan. The railroad became a success. The railroad’s route initially consisted of about 1500 feet of track, which later expanded to 2000 feet.

Wartime

The train took a temporary hiatus for a year in World War I, and closed completely during the Second World War. While the fuel rationing restrictions ended after the war, the route fell into disrepair. The park re-vamped the railroad in 1949. They laid new rail for the 2000-foot route, using crossties provided by American Creosote Works company, on Dublin Street, Uptown. All was done according to prototype railroad specifications.

The park ordered a train from the Miniature Train and Railway Company of Elmhurst, Illinois. They delivered a faithful replica of a General Motors F3 diesel locomotive and six passenger cars. That train ran on the miniature railroad into the 1970s. The current train is less to prototype, and built for a bit more comfort.

Union Passenger Terminal

miniature railroad

When Mayor Chep Morrison completed his plans to operate all passenger trains in and out of New Orleans from a single terminal, then-President of the City Park Railroad, Harry J. Batt, Jr., took out an ad in the Times-Picayune on May 1, 1954. Batt sent Mr. William G. Zetzmann, the Chairman of the New Orleans Terminal Board (the body that built Union Passenger Terminal) his regrets that his mainiature ailroad would not be consolidating operations at UPT. Batt’s note was good-natured:

Dear Mr. Zetzmann,

It is with sincere regret that we must have the unique distinction of being the only 48-passenger train that will not enter and leave your wonderful new station. I contratulate you on this new building, but it is of of necessity that we maintain our present station.

Narrow gauge rail equipment and other factors over which we have no control bring about this condition.

I believe, too, that the kiddies would much prefer the present surroundings with the giant oaks overhead, the blooming flowers, and the other environments of nature that give childhood its greatest urge for happiness.

Sincerely,
Harry J. Batt, Jr.
Presiednt, City Park Railroad

While this is a cute and up-beat note, it also served as a poke at Mayor Morrison, who played hardball with the railroads for ten years to get UPT.