by nolahistoryguy | Oct 6, 2022 | 1940s, 1950s, City Park, Mid-City, Railroads
City Park’s Miniature Railroad dates to the 1890
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
by nolahistoryguy | Sep 29, 2022 | 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, CBD, Railroads, Riverfront
The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.
The Humming Bird
“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.
Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.
Blue Humming Bird
The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.
When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.
While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.
New Orleans Stations
Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947
Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.
End of an era
L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.
by nolahistoryguy | Sep 22, 2022 | 1920s-1930s, 2020s, Ninth Ward, Railroads, Streetcars
Bywater streetcar complications involve the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
NOPSI 1005, ca. 1935. Franck Studios via HNOC
St. Claude Line Bywater streetcars
NOPSI 1005, running on the St. Claude Avenue line, approximately 1935 (Franck Studios photo via HNOC). The car is heading outbound from N. Rampart Street. The 1000-series were the pinnacle of engineering development for the arch roof streetcars. The 1000s kept the original Perley A. Thomas design, with additions under the carriage. While the 400, 800, and 900s operated with two motors, the 1000s had four, one for each set of wheels.
Railroad versus Streetcar
Norfolk Southern train crossing the Industrial Canal, 13-Dec-2019, via Commons user Bl20gh114
St. Claude Avenue and Press Street, in the Upper Ninth Ward, is one of the few locations where streetcars and railroad equipment meet at grade. While the railroads own the Riverfront, the streetcar line operates in parallel to the New Orleans Public Belt RR tracks. The “Back Belt,” originally constructed for the NO&NE and Frisco by the New Orleans Terminal Company, includes a number of automobile underpasses. Once the Back Belt hits Orleans Parish, there are no grade crossings until Slidell.
After the consolidation of passenger rail into Union Passenger Terminal, those trains operated away from automobiles. The tracks run more-or-less parallel to the Pontchartrain Expressway. They merge into the Back Belt just past Greenwood Cemetery.
NOPSI 1371, a trackless trolley, inbound over the Industrial Canal at St. Claude Avenue, approaching Press Street, ca. 1950. City photo.
So, the most significant point of contention between railroad and streetcar was St. Claude and Press. NO&NE/Southern connected to the Public Belt from their Gentilly yard via tracks at Press Street. NOPSI streetcars crossed the train tracks there with few problems for decades. The overhead catenary presented no issues for the railroad. This continued after NOPSI discontinued the 1000-series streetcars in 1949. They scrapped those beauties, replacing them with trackless trolleys. The electric buses received power through the catenary, like the streetcars. They ran across Press, across the Industrial Canal, all the way down to the sugar refinery.NOPSI converted St. Claude from trackless trolleys to diesel buses in 1964. They cut down the overhead wires.
TTGX “tri-level” auto carrier, on the Norfolk Southern Back Belt, 22-Sep-2022.
While streetcars never left New Orleans, NOPSI reduced operations down to the St. Charles line in 1964. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority expanded streetcar service, introducing the Riverfront line in 1988. The success of Riverfront led to returning streetcars to the Canal line in 2004. Economic stimulus money from the federal government offered an opportunity to further expand streetcars in 2010. NORTA constructed a partial return of the St. Claude line. The line operates from Canal Street, along N. Rampart, then St. Claude, to Elysian Fields.
The line stops at Elysian Fields because NORTA and Norfolk Southern can’t come to terms on running the overhead wires over Press and St. Claude. Since the overhead departed almost sixty years ago, it’s on NORTA to change the status quo. The railroad argues that modern rolling stock, such as tri-level auto carriers, are too high for streetcar wires. NORTA disputes this, and they’re right. Still, Norfolk Southern continues to oppose restoring a grade crossing at this intersection.
by nolahistoryguy | Aug 13, 2022 | 1920s-1930s, CBD, Railroads, Uncategorized
Railroad enticements in 1924 included Asheville, NC and Cincinnati.
A few ads from the Times-Picayune, 13-August-1924. These railroad enticements appealed to New Orleanians wrestling with the dog days of summer. The Louisville and Nashville advertised sleeper service to Asheville, NC, and the Southern Railway System ran trains to Cincinnati. The L&N trains departed New Orleans from their depot at Canal Street by the river. Southern Railway trains operated from Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets. Both railroads (as well as most of the others) maintained ticket offices on the ground floor of the St. Charles Hotel. The photo is of the L&N’s “Pan American” train, which ran from New Orleans to Cincinnati.
“The temperature at this famous vacation land is delightfully cool and invigorating. Get some mountain air into your lungs, and come back to the South benefited by your vacation.”
L&N offered sleeper car service from New Orleans to Asheville. The trains left New Orleans at 8:30am, arriving the next morning.
“Are Railroad Rates Too High?” – L&N addressed the concerns of the various businesses they serviced. The railroads moved goods across the country in the 1920s. The dominance of trucking and the Interstate highway system did not come until the 1950s. “Cold facts and not wild fancies are shown by the figures here presented.”
While the L&N’s railroad enticements were to the cool mountain air, Southern advertised service to the cities. Two drains daily in 1924, leaving New Orleans at 8:30am and 8:10pm. The day train reached Birmingham, AL, by 6:55pm that evening, and Cincinnati at 9:30am the next morning. The evening train reached Birmingham for breakfast, terminating at Cincinnati at 8:55pm.
Unlike the Pan American’s all-sleeper service on the L&N, Southern Railway offered service via Pullman Sleeping Cars and standard coaches. That enabled the railroad to offer comfort as well as economy fares. Trains included dining cars.
by nolahistoryguy | Jul 15, 2022 | 1830s, Railroads, Streetcars
The origins NO&CRR date back to the early 1830s.
Origins of the NO&CRR
I spoke to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides at their monthly meeting this past Monday. They had me in to discuss the origins of the NO&CRR (New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad), which evolved into the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. I’ll be presenting the talk via blog posts here. We’re starting at the beginning.
If you didn’t know how to get ahold of me online, here you go. @nolahistoryguy on all social media, and there’s my email. Please keep in mind, I may not see your question as the high priority you do!
The image you see is of Canal and Rampart, 1915ish. I use it on my business cards.
Tour Guide Talking Points
These are important to the guide-on-the-street. While the FOC guides are very smart people, it’s important for me to give them a quick gist of the subject they can use for answering questions.
- NO&CRR was founded in 1833 and the railroad began operations in 1835
- The railroad route (and later streetcar line) was named “Carrollton,” not St. Charles.
- It’s the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the United States. While NYC and Philly had streetcar operations before New Orleans, St. Charles still runs.
- Connected Downtown to the City of Carrollton
- First streetcar line to electrify
- The company operated the single-truck Ford, Bacon & Davis electric cars
- Upgraded to double-truck arch roof cars in 1915
- Belt service from 1900-1950
- Current route dates to 1951
- Only streetcar line in New Orleans from 1964 to 2004
- Current line is approximately 13.2 miles in length
We’ll get into the details of these points in this series.
Building railroads was a new thing in the 1830s. Businessmen in New Orleans recognized this. A group planning a navigation canal from Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg at the lake opted for a railroad line (the Pontchartrain RR) instead. Others looked at the City of Carrollton as an opportunity.
by nolahistoryguy | Jun 23, 2022 | 1920s-1930s, Jefferson Parish, Railroads
The Huey P. Long Bridge Administration Building, on the east bank.
Bridge Administration Building
The State of Louisiana built the Huey P. Long Bridge in 1934-35. They included a Bridge Administration Building in the project. So, they located the building on the East Bank side. It stood in what is now Elmwood, Louisiana. From the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) survey summary:
Significance: The Huey P. Long Bridge, Administration was built as part of the Huey P. Long Bridge project and designated as Contract No. 10. It was built to house the administrative offices of the Louisiana Highway and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission. Also the control room for the bridge operations. The simple Modern/Beaux-Arts style building was designed by renowned Lousiana Architects; Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth of New Orleans who also designed the new nationally significant 1932 Modern/Beaux-Arts style Louisiana State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Building floor plan
HAER surveys, along with Historic American Building Surveys (HABS) are done by the Department of the Interior to preserve detailed records of historic structures which may end up demolished at some point. For example, there’s a HABS survey of old Canal Station (now the location of the A. Phillip Randolph bus facility, operated by NORTA) at Canal and N. White Streets in Mid-City. While the best result for these buildings would be preservation, at least we have these records.
Crossing the river
Plaque marking the construction of the Huey.
The Huey P. Long Bridge provided New Orleans with its first overhead river crossing, Prior to its opening, people and goods crossed via ferries. A number of companies operated passenger ferries. Morgan Steamship (Southern Pacific Railroad) operated a ferry in the Marigny. It moved railcars from Esplanade Avenue to Algiers. From there, trains traveled to Houston and points West. SP later constructed ferry landings in Jefferson and Avondale. They used that crossing until the Huey opened.
Phone box used by the Huey P. Long Bridge staff in the Bridge Administration Building
The building housed the Louisiana Highway Commision and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. Additionally, it included a “control room” for the bridge. The Public Belt staff monitored railroad traffic on the approaches. Automobile traffic was secondary to rail for decades. (Anyone driving the original auto lanes on the Huey appreciates this.) The control room maintained communications with the switch towers. Supervisors manned the control room. Phones routed through the switchboard room.
Fate of the building
NPS published this HAER in 1968. The Public Belt demolished it after the survey. Additionally, a self-storage facility now stands on the site.