Buried streetcar tracks are fun but not all that rare

Buried streetcar tracks are fun but not all that rare

Buried streetcar tracks are all over New Orleans

buried streetcar tracks

Work crews on Bourbon Street discover old streetcar ties.

Buried Streetcar Tracks

The city, on its RoadWorkNOLA page on Facebook, posted a neat find–ties from streetcar tracks under the existing concrete of Bourbon Street. Streetcars operated on Rue Bourbon in the Quarter from 1902 to 1948.

Carondelet and Desire lines

buried streetcar tracks

NOPSI transit map 1922, showing Desire going out on Bourbon and returning on Royal

The Carondelet streetcar line opened for business in 1866. The line crossed Canal Street in 1902, traveling down Bourbon, out to the Ninth Ward. Streetcars returned downtown via Royal Street. In 1919, streetcars on the Carondelet line changed signs when they traveled all the way to Desire Street. By 1920, New Orleans Railway and Light Company split the Carondelet line. The original route from 1866 returned. The Desire line opened for business on October 17, 1920. Desire serviced the French Quarter. Streetcars ran outbound on Bourbon and inbound on Royal.

Equipment on Desire

buried streetcar tracks

NOPSI 830, operating on Desire in 1947. The company cut this streetcar in half in 1964.

While Carondelet used mule-drawn streetcars on the original route, electric cars ran on the line when it crossed Canal. Electric streetcars replaced mule-drawn cars in New Orleans by 1900. So, the Carondelet extension to the Ninth Ward operated electrics. Desire continued with those streetcars.

Ford, Bacon and Davis single truck streetcars operated on Carondelet in 1902, Therefore, the Desire extension used the same single-truck cars. The line switched to double-truck streetcars in 1924. The arch roof 800s and 900s phased out the older double-trucks in the second half of the 1920s.

The Desire line switched to buses in 1948.

Tearing up the tracks

Buried streetcar tracks

NOPSI bus 1932 running on the Desire-Florida bus line in the late 1940s.

The War Department refused requests from NOPSI to convert many of the streetcar lines to buses. during WWII. So, those ties found by the work crew are likely from then. After the war, the federal government approved bus conversions.

NOPSI and the city did not rush ripping up streetcar tracks in the 1940s and 1950s. NOPSI riders approved the switches in this period. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that preservationists took notice of streetcars. NOPSI planned to convert the Canal line in 1958. They implemented the plan in 1964. The company cut down the overhead catenary lines on Canal Street within hours of the switch in May, 1964. The city ripped up the tracks over the next two months.

This was quite the exception to previous conversions. So, a lot of streetcar tracks still exist. Digging a bit deeper reveals others. It isn’t rare, but it’s fun to see.

Single Truck Streetcars on Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans, 1901 #StreetcarMonday

Single Truck Streetcars on Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans, 1901 #StreetcarMonday

Single Truck Streetcars were common in 1901

single truck streetcars

New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad streetcars on S. Carrollton Avenue and Willow Street, 1901 (NOPL)

Single Truck Streetcars

Two Ford, Bacon and Davis single truck streetcars on S. Carrollton Avenue in 1901. Here’s the original note attached to the photo:

View of normal condition surrounding transfer point at Carrollton Ave. & Poplar [now Willow] St. from upper side of street–with rear of transfer house–showing two cars–with passengers going each way–

NO&CRR

The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company owned these streetcars. The NO&CRR was the first streetcar operator in the city. They owned the St. Charles Avenue line, and its predecessors. The NO&CRR merged together with other struggling operators into New Orleans Railway and Light in 1915. That company became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) in 1923.

Ford, Bacon and Davis Streetcars

NO&CRR hired two young engineers from Philadelphia, Frank R. Ford and George W. Bacon to electrify their streetcar lines in 1894. As Ford and Bacon developed the electrification plan, they also also studied the electric streetcars available. While the various New Orleans companies started with single truck streetcars from Brill and others, Ford and Bacon, along with their new partner, George H. Davis, designed a new streetcar for New Orleans. Several companies accepted their design, and FB&D delivered the streetcars in 1896. Those streetcars ran from the old City of Carrollton to the Central Business District.

The Last FB&D

NORTA #29, ex-NOPSI #29, is the last FB&D streetcar. It operates now as a “sand car”. Number 29 goes out on the line when conditions are wet or icy. NORTA’s Rail Department spreads sand on the tracks to improve traction on those days.

Court Documents

Charles T. Yenni photographed these streetcars for a lawsuit. Civil District Court of Orleans parish assigned #62696 to Muller vs New Orleans and Carrollton Rail Road Co. Law firms regularly hired photographers to take pictures of accidents and other claims. Those photographs ended up in various collections at the New Orleans Public Library.

 

NOPSI Buses and the 900s on Canal Street #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI Buses and the 900s on Canal Street #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI Buses

NOPSI buses

Canal Street, late 1960s (Aaron Handy III photo)

NOPSI Buses on Canal Street

NOPSI buses and not much streetcar action in this #StreetcarMonday photo. That’s because it’s from the 1970s. The St. Charles Line operated solo from 1964 to 1988. Buses ran on all the other lines.

The appeal of buses

New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) operated the New Orleans public transit system from 1923 until 1984. NOPSI was a private corporation. Middle South Utilities owned NOPSI. A holding company owned by General Electric, Electric Bond and Share Company (EBASCO) owned MSU. So, essentially, NOPSI belonged to General Electric. The power company owning the transit system made sense when streetcars dominated. They needed electricity, after all.

There are a number of reasons transit companies adopted buses over streetcars. NOPSI switched over a number of lines before World War II. The government forbade further conversion during the war. The War Department wanted the rubber used for bus tires for the war effort. After WWII, conversion to buses resumed. Most of the remaining streetcar lines converted to buses between 1948 and 1952. That left only Canal Street and St. Charles. In the early 1960s, Air-conditioned NOPSI buses tempted riders from Lakeview with a cool ride downtown. When buses took over Canal Street in 1964, that left only streetcars on St. Charles.

Buses on Canal

From the river to Claiborne Avenue, Canal Street buses ran in the street’s neutral ground. Three lines named “Canal” and two Express lines serviced Canal Street:

  • Cemeteries
  • Lake Vista via Canal Blvd.
  • Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd.
  • Express 80 (Lake Vista)
  • Express 81 (Lakeshore)

So, all three Canal lines stopped at every stop from the river to City Park Avenue. NOPSI buses on Express lines picked up passengers until Claiborne Avenue. So, from Claiborne to City Park Avenue, they did not stop. Riders paid an extra nickel (in addition to the quarter base fare) for Express service.

When Canal-Lake Vista and Express 80 reached City Park Avenue, both lines turned onto Canal Blvd. From there the route was:

  • Canal Blvd (all stops)
  • Right turn on to Robert E. Lee Blvd. to Marconi Drive
  • Left turn onto Marconi to Lakeshore Drive
  • Lakeshore Drive to Beauregard Avenue
  • Right turn onto Beauregard to Robert E. Lee

Therefore, the inbound run began at Robert E. Lee and Beauregard

The Canal-Lakeshore and Express 81 route, from City Park Avenue:

  • Left turn onto City Park
  • Right turn onto Pontchartrain Blvd.
  • Curve along Pontchartrain Blvd, continuing on Academy Drive
  • Continue under I-10 at the 17th Street Canal, where street becomes Frontage Road
  • Left turn from Frontage Road onto Fleur de Lis Avenue
  • Fleur-de-Lis to Veterans Blvd.
  • Right on Veterans to West End Blvd.
  • Left on West End to Robert E. Lee Blvd.
  • Right on Robert E. Lee to Canal Blvd.
  • Left on Canal Blvd. to the end of the line at Lakeshore Drive.

Inbound run started at Lakeshore Drive.

One block of streetcar track

NOPSI 972, at the left of the photo, runs outbound on the single block of streetcar track remaining on Canal Street. The streetcars turned right onto St. Charles from Canal, for their outbound run to S. Claiborne.

Streetcar Monday: the St. Charles Hotel and “bobtails”

Streetcar Monday: the St. Charles Hotel and “bobtails”

St. Charles Hotel

st. charles hotel

St. Charles Avenue, ca 1870. S. T. Blessing photo, in the public domain.

St. Charles Hotel

Two “bobtail” streetcars, manufactured by the Johnson Car Company, approaches the St. Charles Hotel in the 1870s. The St. Charles Hotel opened in 1837. The original building was destroyed by fire on January 18, 1851. Therefore, this is the “second” St. Charles Hotel. This building also burned down, on April 1, 1894. The owners rebuilt, and that building remained until its demolition in 1974. An office tower, Place St. Charles, replaced the hotel.

The Streetcars

Service began on the St. Charles line in 1834. The operator was the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (NO&CRR). Initial service was steam-powered, but the noise and smoke forced the company to switch. They chose mule-power. Horses cannot tolerate the New Orleans heat and humidity like mules. The “bobtail” car from Johnson operated on St. Charles. It was well-accepted by riders. The NO&CRR maintained a car facility at the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues. It included a barn for the mules.

The New Orleans City Railroad (NOCRR) began service on Canal Street in 1861. They also used bobtails. So, by the 1870s, these streetcars ran all over the city.

Civil War HQ

The St. Charles Hotel was the initial headquarters for Louisiana troops in the Southern rebellion. Major General David Twiggs set up shop at the St. Charles in May, 1861. Twiggs resigned his commission in October, 1861, citing poor health. Major General Mansfield Lovell replaced him. So, Lovell kept the headquarters at the hotel.

Blessing Stereos

St. Charles Hotel

Full stereo card of the St. Charles Hotel, by S. T. Blessing, ca 1870. Public domain image.

This image is part of a collection of stereo photographs taken by New Orleans photographer, S. T. Blessing. The Blessing collection ranges from 1865 to 1892, with most of the photos taken in the 1870s. The early 1870s fits for this photo. The bobtails operated on St. Charles until 1893. That was when the NO&CRR electrified the line.

My interest in this particular photo, other than it’s a great shot of the 200 block of St. Charles, is for a fiction project. My story begins in 1861. So, the St. Charles Hotel was ten years old then. It was a focal point for social and business gatherings in the “American Sector” of the city.

 

The Spanish Fort Streetcar Line

The Spanish Fort Streetcar Line

Spanish Fort Streetcar

spanish fort streetcar

Tracks running out on the Spanish Fort fishing pier, 1911. (Franck Studios)

Spanish Fort Streetcar

The amusements at Spanish Fort entertained New Orleanians, from the 1880s, up to the first incarnation of Pontchartrain Beach, in 1929. Going to the fort was a day trip, and a train service brought folks out to the lake. The train service ended in the late 1890s. Streetcar service began in 1911 and ran until the 1930s.

History

spanish fort streetcar

Heading out to Spanish Fort, 1912.

Fort Saint John, known to New Orleanians as the Spanish Fort, guarded the mouth of Bayou St. John at Lake Pontchartrain during the Spanish Colonial Period. While it never saw action, the fort played an important role in the War of 1812. Because Jackson assigned Lafitte’s gunners to the fort, the British chose to come at the city from Lake Borgne and St. Bernard Parish. They made no attempt to come down the bayou and Carondelet Canal. The US Army pushed the city’s defenses further out, building forts at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass. By the time of the Southern Rebellion, Spanish Fort was a tourist attraction.

Amusement Area

spanish fort streetcar

Spanish Fort in New Orleans, “The Coney Island of the South”

After the end of Southern Rebellion, civilian government returned to New Orleans. Streetcar lines expanded across the city. Mules pulled these streetcars. The streetcar companies experimented with steam locomotives, but residents along the lines complained of the noise and smoke. Electric streetcars came to New Orleans in the mid 1890s.

Mules weren’t practical for getting out to the lakefront. To make the trip to West End or Spanish Fort in the 1870s-1880s, folks took steam trains. The railroad companies made the locomotives look like streetcars.

The Spanish Fort amusement area was popular. The location offered cool evening breezes. In general, temperatures were lower near the water. The combination attracted folks to come out for a swim, and to hear jazz, opera, and other music in the evenings.

The train service meant a trip to Spanish Fort was a long day trip, or, if you were out for the evening, an overnight excursion.

Ownership Change

spanish fort streetcar

“Plan Book” for the sale of Spanish Fort, 1911 (courtesy New Orleans Notarial Archives)

Spanish Fort declined in popularity in the 1900s. West End dominated as the lakefront destination of choice. The Spanish Fort area was sold in 1911, and the new owners convinced the New Orleans Railway and Light Company to offer electric streetcar service.

The Streetcar Line

spanish fort streetcar

Streetcars at the old Spanish Fort railroad station, ca 1911.

NO Rwy & Lt company originated the Spanish Fort line. The route:

  • Start – S. Rampart, between Tulane and Canal
  • Left turn onto Canal Street, outbound to City Park Avenue
  • Left turn onto City Park Avenue to the Halfway House
  • Right turn at the New Basin Canal, heading outbound next to the railroad right of way
  • Right turn at Adams Avenue (now Robert E. Lee Blvd.)
  • East on Adams to Spanish Fort.
  • Left turn into the Spanish Fort Station (still there from railroad service)

The inbound/return route was a reversal of the outbound run.

The line operated seasonal service. More streetcars ran in the Spring through the Summer. In the Fall and Winter, Spanish Fort operated as “shuttle” service. Riders took West End to Adams Avenue and transferred to the shuttle cart that went to the fort. This shuttle service operated when the line started in March, 1911. The full service began in June, 1911.

When the new owners took over in 1911, they extended the streetcar tracks from the railroad station out along the fishing pier. A streetcar ran from the station stop that was usually the end of the line to the end of the pier.

The Streetcars

spanish fort streetcar

Barney and Smith streetcar, ca 1905 (NOPSI drawing)

NORwy&Lt operated double-truck streetcars on the Spanish Fort line. The Barney and Smith cars ran regularly, with some American Car Company cars also used. During the busy summer season, the powered streetcars pulled unpowered “trailer” cars.

End of Spanish Fort service

pontchartrain beach

Main Gate of the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, 1929

The Spanish Fort line terminated in 1932. By the 1920s, the fort’s popularity as an amusement destination declined. When the Batt family opened their Pontchartrain Beach amusement park on the eastern side of Bayou St. John, in 1929, ridership on the Spanish Fort line spiked up again. Pontchartrain Beach heavily advertised the Spanish Fort line as a way to get to the amusement park. “Right Next to Krauss!” The park moved to Milneburg in the 1930s, though. Without either the fort or Pontchartrain Beach, there was no reason to keep the line in operation.

 

 

 

 

St. Aloysius, 1925 #BOSH

St. Aloysius, 1925 #BOSH

St. Aloysius 1925

st. aloysius

St. Aloysius College, 1925. (Frack Studios photo, via HNOC)

St. Aloysius – New School for 1925

St. Aloysius College moved into their new home on Esplanade and North Rampart in 1925. The original building was a lovely mansion that was owned by the Ursuline Sisters. In 1892, the Ursulines decided to move their school uptown. The Brothers of the Sacred Heart were in a house on Barracks and Chartres at the time. The BOSH jumped on the Esplanade Avenue house, The Aloysius student body grew now that the Institute had some room to grow.

Streetcars!

The corner of Esplanade and Rampart was an active transit location. The Canal and Esplanade Belt lines turned there. When the streetcars ran in “belt” service, they ran continuously in one direction. In this case, the Canal Street line ran out Canal, then turned right onto City Park Avenue at the Cemeteries. The streetcars went down City Park Avenue to the Bayou Bridge, then crossed Bayou St. John. They then went down Esplanade Avenue to N. Rampart. From Rampart, they turned right to go up to Canal Street. The streetcar turned left, went around Liberty Place, which turned them around do it all again.

The Esplanade line did the opposite run. From Canal and Rampart, Esplanade streetcars went down Rampart, then turned to go up Esplanade to the Bayou. From there, they went up City Park Avenue, turning left at Canal Street. They then went down Canal, to Liberty Place.

That’s why they were called “belt” lines. The St. Charles and Tulane lines are the more well-known belts in town, since they operated into the 1950s. Canal/Esplanade belt service was discontinued in 1931.

Eminent Domain

Streetcar ridership increased through the early 1920s. New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) worked with the city to expand and improve the streetcar system. When it came to Esplanade and N. Rampart, NOPSI wanted to expand the neutral ground on Rampart. They sought city approval to widen the street. That required the city to acquire about a foot of right-of-way from the property owners.

The Institute were smart men. They didn’t voluntarily sell that foot of ground on the corner. The BOSH forced the city to use its “eminent domain” authority. They made the city pay to demolish the old mansion when buying the right-of-way. The Brothers then built the building most of us know as St. Aloysius College.

Back to School

This is one of the earliest photos of the new building. Franck Studios took it for either the city or NOPSI. You can see the street work just completed on Rampart. The boys started the 1925-26 school year in their new home. By the 1960s, the rush to build caught up with the school. That’s the prologue to the story of Brother Martin High School, which began its 50th year, educating young men, this week.

Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans

by Edward J. Branley

st. aloysius

When New Orleanians ask Where did you go to school? they aren t asking what university you attended but what high school. That tells a native a lot about you. For over 150 years, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart have educated the young men of New Orleans, giving them the opportunity to answer the question proudly by replying St. Stanislaus, St. Aloysius, Cor Jesu, or Brother Martin. Images of America: Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans showcases photographs, illustrations, and maps tracing the role of the institute in making New Orleans a vibrant and dynamic city, able to overcome even the worst of adversity. From their roots in the French Quarter, moving to Faubourg Marigny, and finally settling in Gentilly, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart continue to make a major contribution to metro New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.
Product Details

ISBN: 9780738585673
ISBN-10: 073858567X
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: April 12th, 2010
Pages: 127
Language: English
Series: Images of America (Arcadia Publishing)