Basin Street  – Southern Railway Switching and Steam #TrainThursday

Basin Street – Southern Railway Switching and Steam #TrainThursday

Basin Street was the location of Terminal Station

Basin Street

Southern Ry 6850 switching at Terminal Station in New Orleans ca late 1940’s Frank C. Phillips Photo

Basin Street

basin street

Terminal Station, Canal and Basin Streets, 1910 (Detroit Publishing photo)

Terminal Station serviced Southern Railway and the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad, from 1908 to 1954. Travelers and shoppers on Canal Street saw the arched facade of the building. Those keeping the trains running had a different view.

Terminal Station opened in 1908. It replaced an earlier structure for the Spanish Fort route. In the 1880s, New Orleans City Railroad operated steam service to Spanish Fort, at the Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. Electric streetcars replaced steam service in the late 1890s. The streetcars followed the West End line. So, the Basin Street terminal stood unused. Southern Railway acquired the property in 1908. They built a much larger, 4-track terminal.

Terminal Tracks

Basin Street

Track diagram of Terminal Station on Basin Street (City of New Orleans)

The terminal’s four tracks extended back a bit over three blocks from Canal Street. Southern Railway and New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NONE) operated trains from the station when it opened. NONE merged into the Southern system in 1916. The railroad continued operations in its own name until 1969. While it was all one system, Southern Railway’s Alabama Great Southern Railroad legally absorbed NONE that year. GM&O also offered service from Basin Street.

Basin Street

Diagram of tracks turning north from Basin Street (City of New Orleans)

Trains operating from Terminal Station arrived and departed New Orleans on tracks running in the “Lafitte Corridor,” between St. Louis and Lafitte Streets. So, trains left the station, crossed over Basin Street on an auto underpass. The tracks turned north, heading out to Mid-City, then Gentilly. The area marked “Cemetery” in the diagram is St. Louis Cemetery Number One. The “Church” below the tracks is Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The city ordered the railroads to combine passenger operations at Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue in 1954. Because of the location change, Southern Railway no longer used the Basin Street/St. Louis Street tracks. The path of those tracks became the Lafitte Greenway, a walking and bike trail.

Southern 6850

Southern’s engine #6850 was an EMD NW2 switcher locomotive. The railroad owned 69 NW2s, two of which (6850 and 6851) belonged to NONE. So, this switcher moved cars in and out of Terminal Station, from Southern’s yards along the Lafitte Corridor.

Editor’s Note

The track diagrams in this article are from a 1949 grade crossing survey commissioned by the City of New Orleans. I found it in the Special Collections section of the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans. I shot just some quick phone-pics. So, I use these diagrams as prototype/background for my Pontchartrain Railroad (N-Scale) layout at home. I’ll return and shoot proper photos at some point.





Algiers 1865 – New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western RR

Algiers 1865 – New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western RR

Algiers 1865, The railroads were a lifeline for the Union.

Algiers 1865

Trains at the Algiers Terminal of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, in 1865. The NOO&GW served the Union forces after the capture of New Orleans in 1862.


algiers 1865

portion of J. H. Colton’s map of Louisiana, 1863.

The railroad was chartered in 1852. Track construction began in Algiers. Track reached Morgan City in 1857. Morgan City was the western terminus for the company. NOO&GW used “Texas gauge” of 5’6″ until 1872, when Morgan converted the tracks to standard gauge.

Because it originated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the railroad didn’t need ferries or bridges going west. Businesses using NOO&GW ferried their goods across the river to Algiers, then loaded them on trains. This made for an easy route west.

When Louisiana seceded from the Union, rebel leaders knew a blockade of the Gulf Coast was eminent. The state considered NOO&GW important as a land connection to Texas. The Union Navy captured New Orleans in late April, 1862. The Union Army moved immediately, taking control of NOO&GW in May, 1862. While rebel troops managed to re-capture some of the tracks near Morgan City in May, the Union troops regained complete control by November, 1862. From there to the end of the war, the railroad serviced the Union.


Benjamin Franklin Flanders founded NOO&GW. He sold the railroad to shipping magnate Charles Morgan in 1869. Morgan re-named the railroad, Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company. He later sold the company to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The NOO&GW merged into the SP system, becoming part of its main line.


Southern Pacific expanded the original NOO&GW terminal in the 1890s. SP operated a large yard in Algiers, until the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in the 1930s. The railroad moved their yard to Avondale then, taking advantage of the new bridge. Even now, many Algiers residents refer to the area between Atlantic and Thayer streets as the “SP Yard.”





Yatmedia – NOLA History Guy Connection – Building Community for Clients

Yatmedia – NOLA History Guy Connection – Building Community for Clients

Yatmedia – Social Media for Social Justice

(cross-posted to Yatmedia)


Southern Pacific’s Sunbeam train operated from Houston to Dallas.

Yatmedia and NOLA History Guy

In 2010, we formed partnership and hung out a shingle, doing social media consulting. Things evolved over time. Now, Yatmedia is wholly-owned by me. So, it makes sense to leverage the success of NOLA History Guy with the social media consulting.

Yatmedia’s mission is to build real-world community through solid social media strategies. The firm offers a wide range of services to clients, from training to fully-managed social media.

Adding History to the mix

1839 drawing of a house on St. Philip Street in Faubourg Treme

Communities don’t just pop up out of thin air. Neighborhoods draw on their history. They grow because they remember their roots. NOLA History Guy reminds folks of those roots. Folks buy the history books because they want to look back. They read about the past. Looking at photos ties past to present.

NOLA History Guy writes and speaks about neighborhoods in New Orleans. Yatmedia taps that knowledge to build community. A client with a great business idea comes to Yatmedia to develop a presence on Facebook. We know what works. The history stuff is part of the Yatmedia portfolio. We’ve identified the groups and pages that are best for New Orleans history content. Sharing the right photo in the right place builds the following. The following buy books.

Add NOLA History Guy to your social media strategy

NOLA History Guy

So, Yatmedia applies what works for selling history books to your business. We research more than what directly sells a product. Because we’re good at it, clients get the things that build community. So, Yatmedia knows how to go beyond Google and Facebook ads. We develop content to grow your community.

We love teaching. Watching business owners discover the roots of their business, their community boosts our spirits. Because The best promotions come from within, our philosophy is to teach. Our company gives you the tools you need to craft that content.

No #TrainThursday today


Yatmedia – Social Media for Social Justice

Because we wanted to talk about social media, #TrainThursday took a backseat this week. We’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline for January, though, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, this is a photo of the Sunbeam, which ran between Houston and Dallas. The Texas and New Orleans Railroad operated the Sunbeam. The train offered “heavyweight” service in the 1920s and early 1930s. So, in 1937, the Sumbeam operated “streamliner” equipment. The trains bore the Southern Pacific “Daylight” color livery.

Smokey Mary – The Pontchartrain Railroad in the 1860s #TrainThursday

Smokey Mary – The Pontchartrain Railroad in the 1860s #TrainThursday

Smokey Mary linked Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg for almost a century

Smokey Mary

The Smokey Mary at Milneburg, 1860s.

Smokey Mary

The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from 1831 to 1930. The trains ran out to the fishing village of Milneburg. A port facility developed along the lakefront at Milneburg. The railroad connected that port to the city. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried freight and passengers. After the Civil War, it ran mostly as a day-trip line. By the end of the 19th Century, it carried almost exclusively passengers.

The railroad purchased two steam engines in 1832. Those engines lasted for about twenty years. The railroad cannibalized one for parts to keep the other going. By the late 1850s, the railroad purchased the larger engine shown in the photo above. This engine operated to the end of the 1800s. The big smokestack inspired most of the stories and memories of the train.

The Smokey Mary ran simply from the Milneburg Pier to a station at Elysian Fields and the river. Eventually, the railroad added a stop at Gentilly Road, but it was only by request. The railroad terminated operations in 1930. The WPA paved Elysian Fields from river to lake in the late 1930s. Pontchartrain Beach opened in Milneburg in 1939.


The village of Milneburg was located at the end of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. Shipping traffic came in from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, into Lake Pontchartrain. Ships docked at the Milneburg pier. Merchants offloaded their goods and put them on the Pontchartrain Railroad, to bring them down to the city.

Jazz on the Lakefront

By the 1910s, Milneburg’s residents lived mostly in fishing camps. Musicians rode the Smokey Mary out to Milneburg to play some of the small restaurants. They also walked the piers, playing for locals. They busked for tips. This kept them busy during the day. The musicians rode the train back to the city in the late afternoon. They then played gigs at dance halls and saloons in town.

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.













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!


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!