New Orleans Public Belt Railroad – Servicing the Port since 1908 #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad – Servicing the Port since 1908 #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad owns the Riverfront

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad

Business Cars formerly owned by NOPB (NOPB photo)

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad

NOPB launched an updated website this Fall. They also unveiled a new logo for the system. The Class III railroad opened for business in 1908. They own a number of facilities in the city and Jefferson Parish.

NOPB connects the Port of New Orleans

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad

NOPB Coloring Book (NOPB image)

The Public Belt Railroad connects the wharves with the Class I railroads. Cargo from ships transfers to rail via NOPB. The railroad’s engines pull up to the

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad

NOPB grade crossing in the French Quarter (NOPB photo)

Train horns in the French Quarter mean there’s a NOPB train coming by. NOPB tracks run parallel to the wider tracks for NORTA’s Riverfront streetcar line. In fact, NORTA started Riverfront on a standard-gauge track. NOPB transferred ownership to the transit company. NORTA added a passing siding to that single track. Riverfront was born in 1988.

New NOPB Look

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad adopted a new logo last month. The original logo isn’t going away anytime soon, though. Railroad equipment last a long time. Most railroads don’t repaint equipment when logos and paint schemes change. They add the updated designs to new equipment. Sometimes older engines and cars receive new paint jobs and updates. As a rule, railroads operate equipment from multiple generations.

NOPB Yards

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad

Original NOPB Logo, from 1890.

The railroad operates six yards:

  • Cotton Warehouse Yard
  • Claiborne Yard
  • France Yard
  • Pauline Yard
  • Race St. Yard
  • East Bridge Yard

In addition, NOPB owns and operates the Huey P. Long Bridge. The railroad connects to numerous facilities owned by the Port of New Orleans. They link those facilties to the Class I yards in the area.

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad headquarters is located at Tchoupitoulas and Leake Streets, Uptown. Their engine terminal is behind the office building. NOPB operates one of the few remaining turntable/roundhouse terminals in the region.

 

Illinois Central Railroad – Ads through the years #TrainThursday

Illinois Central Railroad – Ads through the years #TrainThursday

Illinois Central Railroad ads through the years. Service from Chicago to New Orleans.

illinois central railroad

Panama Limited postcard, 1930s

Illinois Central Railroad

Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail

The song is arguably the best advertising the Illinois Central Railroad had for their Chicago-New Orleans train line. While Arlo Guthrie did a lot for the railroad, they also spent money to promote their trains in print.

Chicago-Los Angeles

illinois central railroad

Ad for through service, Chicago to Los Angeles, 1896

This 1896 ad promoted getting out of the Chicago cold. Passengers rode the Panama Limited, Chicago to New Orleans. Their Pullman cars connected with the Sunset Limited as it traveled west.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All-Pullman

Illinois Central Railroad

1950s ad for the Panama Limited

The song romanticized the City of New Orleans train. It wasn’t the only one IC ran to New Orleans, though. While the City of New Orleans offered coach service, the Panama Limited was All-Pullman service. The Panama Limited ran faster. It made fewer stops. So, passengers paid a higher ticket price. The IC ran the City as a “local”, with stops in small towns. It had nothing but coach cars. So, Guthrie paid less for his ticket and stayed up playing cards to pass the time.

Illinois Central Railroad

1940s ad for the Panama Limited

Railroads promoted limited trains like airlines promote business class flights So, the focus was on business travelers. IC boasted 15 hour transit from St. Louis to New Orleans. The railroad stretched advertising beyond Chicago-New Orleans. They appealed to business travelers along the route to hop on the train.

Selling New Orleans

Illinois Central Railroad

1950s IC ad promoting travel to New Orleans

Illiniois Central Railroad sold New Orleans as a magical destination. The warm winters teased Chicagoans. They battled wind and snow. So, they wanted a break!

Amtrak

Illinois Central Railroad

Ad for Amtrak’s City of New Orleans

Amtrak absorbed IC passenger service in 1971. They continued the City of New Orleans as a daytime train. They dropped the Panama Limited. The City was involved in a fatal derailment on June 10, 1971. So, Amtrak changed the train’s name in November of 1971. They restored the Panama Limited. They operated the train as overnight service. The train left New Orleans in the afternoon and arrived in Chicago the next day. Amtrak changed the name back to City of New Orleans. They retained the overnight schedule. You can catch the City of New Orleans daily, at Union Passenger Terminal. It departs at 1:45pm!

 

 

New Orleans L&N Railroad Station on Canal Street – #Train Thursday

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street – #Train Thursday

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street

Postcard of L&N Station, ca. 1910

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street

1901 Route map for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

The Louisville and Nashville Railroad operated for 132 years, from 1850 to 1982. The L&N began in Kentucky. The Class I railroad expanded to over 6000 miles of track. L&N freight operations came to New Orleans in the 1880s. In 1902, L&N opened a passenger terminal in New Orleans. The terminal stood at Canal Street at the river. The Aquarium of the Americas occupies the location today.

L&N Station

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street

Aerial view of Canal and the river, 1950s, showing the L&N train sheds in brown.

In a 1927 report titled, Railroad Transportation Report for New Orleans-Louisiana, the consulting firm, Bartholomew and Associates listed specifications of the station:

  • One-story
  • Brick building
  • General waiting room, 30’x45′
  • Colored waiting room 25’x35′
  • Two mens and one ladies rest room
  • Lunch room (15’x20′) in the general waiting room
  • Baggage room 30’x60′
  • Train sheds for three tracks that were 550′ long

Navigating Canal and the River

Lucie Allison, preparing to board a L&N train to Asheville, NC, in 1943 (Alexander Allison photo, courtesy NOPL)

Canal and the River was incredibly congested at this time. The L&N, Southern Pacific, and New Orleans Public Belt all had tracks at Canal Street. Streetcars operated to the loop at Liberty Place. They parked in a six-track terminal just up from the railroad terminal. In the above photo, Lucie Allison stands at Liberty Place. Note the streetcar tracks circling her. Her father, Alexander Allison, shot thousands of photos around New Orleans. He worked for the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board. His job took him all over the city.

L&N Trains to New Orleans

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street

L&N dining car, 1920s

The railroad operated four “name” trains to New Orleans:

Azalean – Cincinnati to New Orleans. The Azalean picked up Pullman sleepers from New York in Cincinnati. So, the route offered through sleeper service from that city.

Crescent – While many folks associate the Crescent with Southern Railroad, it actually arrived and departed in New Orleans via L&N. The Crescent traveled over tracks from several railroads in its journey from New Orleans to New York City. The train used L&N’s tracks from Montgomery, AL, to New Orleans. Therefore, it terminated at the L&N station, rather than the Southern terminal. That station stood at Canal and Basin Streets.

New Orleans History L&N Railroad Station Canal Street

L&N advertising poster

Gulf Wind – New Orleans to Jacksonville. The L&N operated the New Orleans – Florida Limited on this route, 1925-1949. So, that train used the older, heavyweight cars. The railroad replaced the older equipment with streamliner trainsets and changed its name.

Piedmont Limited – This train followed the same route as the Crescent. The Crescent train overshadowed the Piedmont Limited in popularity.

Transfer to UPT

The L&N station serviced passengers until the opening of Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the station shortly afterward.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Limited dining and snacking from New Orleans to Los Angeles

Sunset Limited dining and snacking from New Orleans to Los Angeles

Sunset Limited dining across the West

sunset limited dining

Southern Pacific ad for the Sunset Limited, 1950s

Sunset Limited Dining

sunset limited dining

Southern Pacific dining car, ca 1916. (Courtesy claClassicStreamliners.com)

Traveling from New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited is a two-night affair. The Amtrak incarnation of the train departs New Orleans at 9am. The train stops in Houston in the afternoon. Passengers enjoy lunch near El Paso the next day. They then travel overnight through New Mexico and Arizona. The train terminates in Los Angeles in the early morning.

If passengers choose to eat breakfast on the train after departure, that means six meals en route. Bad food meant fewer riders. So, meals were high quality.

Heavyweights

sunset limited dining

Sunset Limited menu, 1946

The Sunset Limited changed to “streamliner” service in 1950. Southern Pacific offered older, “heavyweight” service prior to 1950. The heavyweight train operated with steam locomotives. SP switched to diesels in 1949.

The heavyweight version of the Sunset Limited included a dining car and a lounge car. Passengers chose between full service meals, or a limited menu in the lounge.

 

 

 

sunset limited dining

Sunset Limited menu, 1946

 

This 1946 menu has some New Orleans touches, like fried oysters remoulade. The menu requires diners to check their choices. This is likely because most of the stewards on trains in the 1940s were African-American men. The best way to avoid confusion and complaints from white customers was to limit their interaction with the stewards. Note that this doesn’t mean the stewards were unable to take an order. It’s more likely the railroad heard complaints from passengers looking to blame someone for their own issues.

1950 Streamliners

sunset limited dining

Streamliner lounge car on the Sunset Limited, 1950s

Sunset Limited dining changed radically with the debut of streamliner service in 1950. One of the trainsets featured two New Orleans-named cars, a diner, “Audubon Room” and a lounge, “French Quarter”. Both matched the streamliner livery, corrugated steel with a maroon stripe across the top of the cars.

Audubon Dining Car

sunset limited dining

Audubon diner on the Sunset Limited (Budd ad, 1950)

Fine dining continued on the streamlined Sunset Limited, in the Audubon Room. The blue tones of the brand-new Budd diner encouraged passengers to enjoy meals. The car also featured some of Audubon’s bird paintings. The menu in the new diner likely wasn’t much different from the 1946 version above. So, diners feasted on their oysters in a more modern setting.

French Quarter Lounge

sunset limited dining

French Quarter Lounge, 1950. (Budd ad)

SP promoted the new Sunset Limited heavily. They featured the French Quarter Lounge car in brochures and advertisements.

Sunset Limited dining

French Quarter Lounge, 1950 (Budd ad)

The lounge’s “wrought-iron” around the bar and along the walls gave the car the feel of a New Orleans club.

“Pride of Texas” Coffee Shop

sunset limited dining

Pride of Texas (courtesy Texas Compound)

In addition to the restaurant and lounge, the Sunset Limited offered coffee and snack service. Sunset Limited dining meant several meals while crossing Texas. They named the coffee shop the Pride of Texas. The decor here focused on common Texas themes, such as the longhorn on the wall.

sunset limited dining

Pride of Texas coffee shop, 1950. (Budd ad)

Southern Pacific ordered five streamliner trainsets from Budd for the Sunset Limited. It’s unclear if the railroad named all of the diners, lounges, and cafes the same, or if the other trainsets had different names.

sunset limited dining

Pride of Texas menu, 1952 (courtesy Texas Compound)

Passengers welcomed the chance to get up and walk around. The sleeper compartments offered as much comfort as possible. While they provided privacy, sometimes you need to get up and around.

sunset limited dining

Pride of Texas (courtesy Texas Compound)

A real estate development project, Texas Compound, restored Pride of Texas. They display the car at their location.

End of an era

Audubon and French Quarter, in Daylight Livery (Courtesy CSRM)

Southern Pacific transferred the Sunset Limited to Amtrak in 1971. The national company operated the “heritage” equipment on the route. They eventually switched to Superliner service. They sold the hertiage cars. Some became private varnish. Others became museum exhibits. SP retained French Quarter (Budd #2987, SP #291) as a business car. The railroad painted the car in Daylight livery. They donated the lounge car to the California State Railway Museum in 1998. The museum also acquired Audubon that same year. As of 2015, both cars operated in private service. It would be an interesting experience to ride in the original French Quarter, tagging along behind the current Sunset Limited!

Amtrak

sunset limited dining

Superliner lounge seating. (courtesy Matthew Neleigh)

As mentioned above, Amtrak continued the route in 1971. Sunset Limited dining became Superliner dining.

sunset limited dining

Superliner Lounge bar and attendant (courtesy Ben Schumin)

While the cars no longer have unique names, they offer quality service.

sunset limited dining

Superliner Dining Car (courtesy Ben Schumin)

Passengers enjoy full meals in the dining cars and snacks in the lounge cars.

Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge – longest in the world

Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge – longest in the world

Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge is the longest train bridge in the world.

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Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge

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Rail operations around New Orleans require crossing over water. Lots of water. Eastbound trains traveled over land. They crossed the Chef Menteur Pass and Rigolets Pass. This lengthened trips. So, crossing Lake Pontchartrain rather than going around it made sense, but it was a challenge. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad accepted the challenge in 1883. The NO&NE was incorporated in 1868 as the Mandeville and Sulphur Springs Railroad. It became the NO&NE in 1871. The railroad completed track construction in 1883. William Harris Hardy, a NO&NE vice-president, proposed the bridge in 1883. The railroad built the Lake Pontchartrain bridge the following year. Hardy rode the first train across the bridge in November, 1884.

Swamp on either side

The bridge spans 5.8 miles of open water, but its length covered an additional 15 miles of marsh. The southern approach required 12 miles of bridge and an additional 3 miles on the north end. So, the bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the world. In 1896, the railroad modified the bridge. They built embankments on both sides. So, the bridge itself only spans the 5.8 miles across the lake.

NO&NE to Southern Railway

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Southern Railway acquired NO&NE in 1916. While it was part of the Southern Railway system, it maintained a bit of its original identity. Equipment operating on NO&NE carried the original railroad’s sub-lettering, below the Southern Railway identification.
In 1969, Southern Railway fully merged NO&NE into their Alabama Great Southern subsidiary. NO&NE ceased to exist. Southern Railway merged in 1990 to become Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern owns/operates the bridge today.

Katrina

Hurricane Katrina wiped out 5 of the 5.8 miles of track on the bridge in 2005. So,NS immediately began repairs to this critical connection. The first train after the hurricane crossed the lake sixteen days later.

Trains on the bridge

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Freight trains regularly cross the bridge daily. The Amtrak Crescent (#19 and #20) use the bridge to travel from New Orleans to New York City’s Penn Station daily as well.

Swift Stream – New York Central sleeper car now private varnish

Swift Stream – New York Central sleeper car now private varnish

Swift Stream – a sleeper that isn’t a pullman

(cross-posted to Pontchartrain Railroad)

swift stream

New York Central buffet-lounge-sleeper car “Swift Stream”, on the Amtrak Crescent.

Swift Stream

Yesterday’s Amtrak Crescent (#20, heading from New Orleans to New York City) pulled a guest. Budd built the Silver Swift for the New York Central in 1949. NYC Investments operates Swift Stream as a private car. It is available for charter.

Budd

The New York Central Railroad ordered eleven Buffet-Lounge cars from Budd in 1949. They became the “Stream” series. The Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company built passenger rail cars to compete with the Pullman Company. Edward Budd built all-steel automobile bodies when he founded the company in 1913. Edward sold his designs to Dodge. The company invented a technique of welding stainless steel components together called “shotweld”. Budd used shotweld to build “streamliner” passenger rail cars. The manufacturer sold these cars to various railroads from the 1930s through the 1960s. Budd discontinued its passenger car division in the 1970s.

6DB Buffet Lounge Stream-Series

Swift Stream

Floor Plan of the Swift Stream (courtesy nycswiftstream.com)

While Budd built more of its “Slumbercoach” line of sleeper cars, the “Streams” offered railroads a comfortable option for their streamliner trains. The Streams had six bedrooms, a kitchen, and seating for twenty-two. Here’s a list of the eleven cars and their status (as of 2013).

Swift Stream’s history

New York Central operated Swift Stream for 22 years. Amtrak acquired the car in 1971. The national company ran it until the 1990s. Amtrak retired the car in 1981. So, it was sold it to a private owner in 1983.

Here’s the info on the car on Railway Preservation News (link above):

#10627 Swift Stream renumbered in May 1967 to #660 to PC #4415 sold in 1973 to Amtrak #3204. Retired in October 1981. Sold in 1983 to private ownership?? Located at the Midland RY Historical Association (Baldwin City, KS). Later moved to Los Angeles. Renamed City of Angels (1st) (#800460), then sold (when??) to second private owner. Acquired (when??) by Mid America Railcar Leasing. Name changed back to Swift Stream.

This post on the forum has a nice bibliography that railroad historians will appreciate.