Southern Railway Park stood just off from the tracks leading to Terminal Station.
Southern Railway Park
Franck Studios photos of Basin Street turning towards the lake in the late 1950s. The two parking tracks inside Southern Railway Park are visible on the left. Prior to 1954, railroad tracks leading out of Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets followed Basin, down to just before St. Louis Street. They turned lakebound at that point, heading into Mid-City. They connected with the “Back Belt” tracks, where trains turned east to cross the Industrial Canal and Lake Pontchartrain.
The New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) built a railroad passenger station on Canal Street in 1908. Southern Railway assumed control of the station when it acquired NOTC in 1916. Southern shifted their operations from Press Street Station in the Bywater to Faubourg Treme. Tracks ran along Basin from Canal Street to St. Louis. Additionally, Southern built a freight station, just before the tracks curved north. That station stood at 501 Basin, just out of the frame of these photos, on the left. A private concern purchased the freight building in the early 2000s, converting it into Basin Street Station, a visitors center and event venue.
After trains for Southern Railway (or Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio, the other railroad using Terminal Station) unloaded their passengers, they pulled off to a service yard. Engines pulled the train up past the Municipal Auditorium, then backed the cars into a side yard. Additionally, Southern trains carried “business cars” throughout the system. These cars looked like open-ended observation cars. They contained offices, bedrooms, and a kitchen. Railroad executives used these cars to travel the system.
When business cars came to New Orleans, the railroad parked them next to the passenger car service yard. Those tracks terminated in Southern Railway Park. The executives got a landscaped area where they could stretch their legs, or take a car to other parts of the city.
In 1954, the city consolidated passenger rail operations at Union Passenger Terminal, on Loyola Avenue. The city ordered the demolition of the five existing passenger stations. Southern Railway relocated the business car parking tracks to the location in this photo. They also moved several of the light fixtures like the one in this James H. Selzer photo from 1975.
Thanks to Mr. Maunsel White for sharing these photos on Facebook.
The Southern Railway Terminal on Basin Street serviced New Orleans for forty-six years.
Southern Railway Terminal
Franck Studios photo (via HNOC) of the Southern Railway Terminal, Canal and Basin Streets, downtown. This particular photo caught my eye because it’s a straight-on shot, rather than from an angle. The photographer stands in the Canal Street neutral ground. They shot the photo in-between streetcars. Krauss Department Store stands to the left. The Saenger Theater is visible to the right. Architect Daniel N. Burnham of Chicago, designer of the Flatiron building in New York, created this station. The New Orleans Terminal Company built it in 1908.
Not just Southern
While the electric sign at the top of the station’s arch proclaims Southern Railway, the Gulf, Mobile, and Northern (later Gulf, Mobile and Ohio) also operated here. The trains ran down Basin Street to St. Louis Street, where the tracks turned lakebound to head out of town. The Lafitte Corridor greenway runs the path of the old railroad tracks. The area remained abandoned for decades after passenger trains all moved over to Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola.
This Southern Rialway terminal photo contains interesting details to unpack. Two of the fleur-de-lis light poles that light up Canal Street to this day flank the station. Union Sheet Metal Company fabricated those poles for the city in 1930. The pole on the right has a sign promoting the Community Chest charity. Since Mayor Chep Morrison extensively used the light posts to promote seasonal causes and celebrations, this narrows the date down. While HNOC does not date the photo, it’s likely between 1950 and 1954.
Two men sit at small stands outside the Southern Railway terminal. One sits under an umbrella. I couldn’t read the words painted on either stand, so I put the question to the folks in Facebook’s “Ain’t There No More” group.. My original guess was the guy under the umbrella operated a food stand, and the other sold newspapers. Folks made out “ITEM” on the right-hand stand. That fits with the New Orleans Item newspaper. Longtime Times-Picayune photographer (and current director of the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House in Laplace) John McCusker says they’re both newsstands. Works for me!
Amtrak’s Panama Limited began operations in 1971.
Amtrak’s Panama Limited
Paul Oliver photo of Amtrak’s Panama Limited, 5-May-1974. This is train #58, heading northbound from New Orleans to Chicago. Here’s Mike Palmieri’s caption, from a Facebook group:
AMTK No. 58 – NEW ORLEANS AREA – 5 MAY 1974 – Paul Oliver image
Amtrak train No. 58 – the northbound PANAMA LIMITED – was highballing through EAST BRIGDE JUNCTION, probably doing the speed limit of 60, on its way out of the New Orleans area. The train consisted of Illinois Central E8A units 4028 (in Amtrak colors), 4023 and 4027 with 14 cars, including deadheading dome-sleepers 9212 and 9211. The rest of the train consisted of baggage car 1020, 6-6-4 sleepers 2153 *SILVER IRIS *and 2152 SILVER HYACINTH, dining car 8029, lounge car 3353 and seven coaches: 5459, 5248, 5266, 5267, 4843, 4402 and 5233. The 4028 was passing a slightly newer General Motors product, a 1967 Oldsmobile CUTLASS coupe.
Amtrak took over passenger rail operations three years prior to this photo, in 1971. The nationalization of passenger rail in the US meant a lot movement of equipment. The existing railroads turned over their passenger equipment to Amtrak. Therefore, the Panama Limited continued to operate Illinois Centeral (IC) equipment.
By 1974 Amtrak repainted much, but not all of their rolling stock. Three locomotives pull #58 here. An IC EMD E8A-B-A trio lead. The two A units sport Amtrak livery, but the B unit remains in IC colors. The two dome cars following the locos one wears Amtrak, the other appears to still be IC brown and orange.
This mash-up of colors and equipment continued throughout the 1970s. While the early years presented combinations of Amtrak and single railroad colors, trains became more diverse as equipment moved around the country. Eventually, Amtrak replaced “heritage” equipment with newer, modern cars. The last of the original, pre-1971 cars to roll were diner cars. Amtrak replaced these cars with newer diners in the 2010s.
Panama Limited to City of New Orleans
Amtrak branded the New Orleans-Chicago line, “Panama Limited,” retaining the name of IC’s flagship train. When Arlo Guthrie recorded his iconic version of “City of New Orleans,” the railroad changed this route’s name to IC’s second route. So, #58 and #59 now bear the name, City of New Orleans.
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.
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.
Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry connected the East Bank with the NOO&GW railroad.
Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry
S. T. Blessing stereograph, titled, “View from Opelousas railroad ferry,” The image is essentially undated. The New York Public Library lists it as 1850-1930. The likely date is 1870s. The photographer stands at the Faubourg Marigny ferry landing, located at Elysian Fields Avenue and the river. The New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western (NOO&GW) railroad operated the ferry, connecting the east bank with their station in Algiers.
The NOO&GW railroad originated on the West Bank, in Algiers. It incorporated in 1853, with the mission of connecting New Orleans to points west. So, prior to the Southern Rebellion, the railroad grew west, to what is now Morgan City, Louisiana. The Union took control of the “Texas Gauge” railroad, from 1862 to 1865. Expansion continued during reconstruction. Additionally, we’ve written a couple of articles on the railroad. It started from a Louisiana operation to ownership by Charles Morgan, to becoming part of the Southern Pacific system.
The Marigny riverfront
Blessing captures an active riverfront scene. The vessel to the center of the photograph is an ocean-going ship. While this vessel may depart for the US east coast, like New York or Baltimore, the riverboat on the right will likely return up the Mississippi. Two mules stand in the foreground, resting after unloading barrels. Those barrels likely contain molasses. Sugar plantations processed raw sugar cane. They converted it to molasses, making it easy to barrel and transport. Longshoremen loaded those barrels on both types of ships.
In the background, a church steeple rises from the neighborhood. Given the position of the photographer, that is likely the spire of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
The ferry itself
Robinson Atlas, 1883, showing the Pontchartrain Railroad station on Elysian Fields and the ferry landing.
The NOO&GW ferry crossing enabled passengers to board trains on the east bank, cross the river, and continue westward. While Algiers was the railroad’s main station, getting passengers there was still a challenge. The railroad ferry gave passengers a more-comfortable ride, in their coach and sleeper cars.
After Charles Morgan sold the NOO&GW to the Southern Pacific system, trains crossed the river in Jefferson Parish. That ferry landing was near the location of the Huey P. Long bridge. Rather than traveling to the Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry, passengers boarded SP trains at Union Station. The departing trains headed north from there.
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