Hickory Creek is an ex-New York Central observation car.
Private varnish “Hickory Creek,” bringing up the rear of the Amtrak Crescent #20, 30-Dec-2019. (Edward Branley photo)
Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt
The ex-New York Central car, Hickory Creek, brought up the rear on the Amtrak Crescent, on its way to Penn Station on 30-December-2019. I don’t know the details of this particular trip for Hickory Creek, if they came down just to New Orleans, or if this was a return from going all the way out to Los Angeles. Either way, the car headed back north on Monday morning.
New York Central’s 20th Century Limited
Poster for the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited, featuring the 1948 trainset.
Hickory Creek was one of the “sleeper observation” cars put into service by the New York Central in 1948. So, the railroad switched the train to diesel (EMD units) in 1945, ordering new trainsets as well. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower rode the inaugural run in 1948. The train ran until 1967.
So, the train began operation in 1902. A typical 20th Century Limited consist, including Hickory Creek, in 1965 looked like this:
- E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4025;
- E8A diesel locomotive: NYC 4080;
- E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4007;
- MB Class Baggage-mail car: NYC 5018;
- CSB Class Baggage-dormitory car: NYC 8979;
- PB Class Coach: NYC 2942;
- DG Class Grill-diner: NYC 450;
- PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10811;
- PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10817;
- PS Class Sleeper (22-roomette): NYC 10355 BOSTON HARBOR;
- DKP Class Kitchen-Lounge Car: NYC 477;
- DE Class Dining Room Car: NYC 406;
- PS Class Sleeper (10-roomette 6-double bedroom): NYC 10171 CURRENT RIVER;
- PS Class Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10511 PORT OF DETROIT;
- Class PS Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10501 PORT BYRON;
- Class PSO Sleeper-Buffet-Lounge-Observation (5-double bedroom): NYC 10633 HICKORY CREEK.
Hickory Creek after the New York Central
Since the railroad discontinued the 20th Century Limited before the creation of Amtrak in 1971, the rolling stock didn’t go over to the new operator. Ringling Brothers Circus bought Hickory Creek. Since they didn’t need Pullman quality, the circus used it as dorm-style housing. They ripped out the interior of the car.
Hickory Creek, prior to the 2014 restoration. (Fred Heide photo)
In 2014, Star Trak, Inc., acquired Hickory Creek. They restored the car for private operation. So, the team modified original Pullman Standard design of five bedrooms to four. Since modern operations of private cars involve hitching on Amtrak trains, the team reduced the bedrooms to add showers. Trains Magazine published an article on the restoration by Mr. Fred Heide in November, 2014.
Post-restoration floor plan of Hickory Creek.
In addition to reducing the number of bedrooms, the 2014 restoration changed the galley area. The 1948 design of Hickory Creek included a small galley, for preparing snacks and drinks. So, the Star Trak team converted the space into a full-service kitchen. Again, this fits with modern use of private cars. They’re designed to be independent of the trains pulling them.
Observation area of the restored Hickory Creek. (photo courtesy Simon Pielow)
While the bedrooms and galley changed a bit, the team kept the rear observation area true to the 1948 design.
Private Rail on the #BackBelt
Private car Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt in New Orleans, behind an Amtrak baggage/dorm car. (Edward Branley photo)
I spend a lot of mornings at the PJ’s Coffee Shop at 5555 Canal Boulevard. The baristas here are great and the regulars are nice folks. Regulars occasionally ask me why I get up and record/photograph the Crescent as it heads out of town. It’s pretty much the same consist each morning, but then there are the days when something extra brings up the rear.
Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
Heinemann Park, 1915
Streetcars, Canals, Baseball!
In one of our podcast conversations with Derby Gisclair, we discussed aerial photos of Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium. Derby explains the neighborhood around the stadium used by the Pelicans baseball club. While Heinemann Park wasn’t the first ballpark used by the AA-club, it was their home for most of their tenure.
This 1915 photo is amazing. It shows a football field, chalked out over the outfield, and a racing oval behind the fence. Derby suspects the racing oval dates from the amusement park the stadium replaced.
City Park Avenue to Tulane Avenue
Aerial view of the New Canal, running out to Lake Pontchartrain at the top, 1915
The Pelicans played ball at Crescent City Park, later known as Sportsman’s Park, until 1901. They moved to Tulane Avenue that year. Heinemann built the ballpark at Tulane and S. Carrollton in 1915. The team moved there that year.
Here’s the area behind the Halfway House, City Park Avenue and the New Canal. It’s a bit grainy, but you can see the patch of ground where Sportsman’s Park was located. NORD eventually built St. Patrick’s Park, a few blocks down, at S. St. Patrick and the New Canal.
Getting to the ballgame
S. Carrollton Avenue bridge over the New Basin Canal. It was demolished when the canal was filled in, late 1940s.
Pelican Stadium sat very close to the New Canal. A set of railroad tracks separated the park from the waterway. So, bridge crossed the Canal there. The streetcars used that bridge, then turned onto Tulane Avenue to continue their inbound run. So, baseball fans from Uptown rode the St. Charles line to get to the ballpark. Folks coming from downtown rode the Tulane line, down Tulane Avenue, to the ballpark.
So, I know we’ve talked about the Tulane line, particularly when it operated in “belt” service with the St. Charles line. It seems line some things pop up regularly. But hey, this is baseball! The area around S. Carrollton and Tulane was a nexus. The Tulane/St. Charles belt crossed the New Canal here. Passenger trains coming to town from the West rolled by, on their way to the Illinois Central’s Union Station. Folks bowled across the street at Mid-City Lanes. Therefore, the corner is important to many folks.
Especially baseball fans.
After the streetcars
Pelican Stadium, ca 1950
Belt service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines was discontinued in 1950. So, after that time, fans from Uptown rode the streetcar to its new terminus at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues. They transferred to the Tulane bus line from there. The Tulane line provided trackless trolley service until 1964. After 1964, Tulane used regular diesel buses. While the railroads worked with the city on the new Union Passenger Terminal, they trains still stopped right here, a convenience for Uptown passengers. The other “belt service” in New Orleans was on Canal and Esplanade, which we discuss in my book on the Canal line.
This photo is likely from 1950, because the city resurfaced Tulane Avenue. So, they removed the streetcar tracks, leaving the overhead wires for trackless trolleys.
After Pelican Stadium
The stadium became the Fontainebleau Hotel after the stadium was demolished. So, the hotel became a mini-storage facility later. Now it’s condos and storage units.
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.
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.
Missiles traveling through Avondale
Southern Pacific Alco RS units passing through Avondale, LA, 1960. (Franck-Bertacci Studios photo courtesy THNOC)
Missiles in Avondale
a Southern Pacific Railroad train pulls missile parts through the railroad’s yard in Avondale, Louisiana, 7-Sep-1960. Several Alco road switcher engines pull flatcars containing the parts.
Google Earth view of the Avondale shipyard and rail yard facilities.
In 1938, Avondale Marine Ways opened on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. By 1941, the barge repair facility expanded, building ships for the war. So, the company survived the transition to peacetime, landing contracts to build vessels for the offshore energy industry. The owners sold the company to the Ogden Corporation in 1951. Ogden renamed the facility, Avondale Shipyards. The shipyard landed a number of Navy contracts throughout the Cold War. Therefore, the shipyard became a big part of the metro New Orleans economy in the 1950s/1960s.
Southern Pacific at Avondale
Containers carrying missile parts on “piggyback” flatcars. (Franck-Bertacci photo courtesy THNOC)
The railroad was an important part of the shipyard complex. So, Southern Pacific delivered raw materials to the riverfront construction facilities. The rail yard didn’t exist solely because of the shipyard, though. The Texas and New Orleans Railroad was a SP subsidiary. So, they initially operated a large yard in Algiers. After the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in 1931, the railroad moved upriver. Trains heading west through New Orleans crossed the Huey. Then they continued over T&NO tracks. This included the SP “name trains” such as the Sunset Limited.
SP inaugurated “piggyback” service in 1953. This cargo starts on truck trailers which were then loaded onto flatcars.
Southern Pacific fully absorbed T&NO in 1961.
SP “Piggyback” flatcars. (Frank-Bertacci Studios photo via THNOC)
It’s hard to discern the full story of these missile parts from the photos alone. Avondale Shipyards built a number of destroyers and destroyer escorts for the Navy. These ships suited the facility. Like many shipyards along the Mississippi River, this facility built ships in the river. They launched the completed ships sideways. The ships then steamed off, to the shipyard’s finishing docks, or to other locations.
Rocket and missile technology developed rapidly, post-WWII. The Space Race leveraged military missile technoloy. NASA’s first manned space program, Mercury is an example. They started with the Army’s Redstone missile.
So, it’s possible that this train delivered missile parts to the shipyard. Destroyers carry missiles. It’s also possible that these parts originated at, say the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. The trains heading west certainly crossed the river via the Huey, heading to Texas and points west.
Riverfront Arch Roofs – 1923-vintage streetcars operating off St. Charles Avenue
NORTA 459 on Riverfront, 2010 (Youtupedia photo)
Riverfront Arch Roofs
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority opened the Riverfront line in 1988. they used two of the 1923 arch roof streetcars and two Melbourne W-2 streetcars. The arch roofs left New Orleans in 1964, when NOPSI discontinued the Canal line.
NORTA 452, ex-Melbourne 626, on Riverfront in 1988 (Infrogmation photo)
The original line operated on a single track. NORTA upgraded the line in 1997 to double-track, wide-gauge operation. Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the “new” Riverfront line needed accessible streetcars. NORTA retired the 1923 streetcars and the Melbournes. They built the 400-series arch roofs. The 400s are similar to the 900-series, but with wheelchair lifts and modern propulsion.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the 1923 arch roofs ran on Riverfront and Canal. The red streetcars received devastating flood damage, but the track and overhead wiring came through the storm. Uptown, the green streetcars survived the storm, buttoned up at Carrollton Station. The wiring on St. Charles received extensive damage. So, NORTA operated the 900s on Riverfront and Canal.
The “Green” Streetcars
The arch roof style streetcar came to New Orleans in 1915. Perley A. Thomas created the design while working for the Southern Car Company. New Orleans Railway and Light ordered several, putting them into service on the St. Charles/Tulane belts. When NORwy&Lt re-organized as NOPSI, the new company ordered more arch roofs. By this time, Thomas operated his own streetcar company in High Point, North Carolina. He accepted the order, building the 800- and 900-series arch roofs for New Orleans.
NORTA 461 (ex-NOPSI 922) along the Riverfront line. Infrogmation Photo.
City leaders and NORTA knew the importance of showing the world that New Orleans didn’t die. The green streetcars running along Canal Street and in the French Quarter helped demonstrate that. The 400-series and 2000-series “red ladies” returned from their repairs. The St. Charles line’s power was repaired and upgraded. The green streetcars returned to their regular routes.