NOPSI 921 was one of 35 arch roofs that survived.
Arch roof streetcar NOPSI 921 on St. Charles Avenue. Roger Puta photo.
St. Charles Avenue at night. This photo, by Roger Puta, shows NOPSI 921 as it’s just made the turn from Canal Street, onto St. Charles, for its outbound run on that line. NOPSI 921 survived the massive cutback in streetcar service NOPSI implemented in 1964. They discontinued streetcar service at the end of May that year. All but thirty-five of the 900-series streetcars were either demolished or donated to museums.
The route of the St. Charles Line changed a number of times to get to the present configuration. In 1950, NOPSI discontinued “belt” service on St. Charles and Tulane. That change set the current route used by NORTA.
- Start at Carondelet and Canal Streets
- Right-turn onto Canal from Carondelet, on the “third” track
- Immediate right-turn onto St. Charles Avenue from Canal Street
- First stop: pick up riders at St. Charles Avenue and Common Street
- Head outbound on St. Charles to Tivoli (Formerly Lee) Circle
- Half-circle around, entering the neutral ground on St. Charles, just before Calliope.
- Outbound on the St. Charles neutral ground to Riverbend.
- Right-turn from St. Charles Avenue onto S. Carrollton Avenue
- Up S. Carrollton Avenue to S. Claiborne Avenue
- Terminate at Carrollton and Claiborne
- Depart S. Claiborne Terminal
- Down S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue
- Down St. Charles Avenue to Tivoli Circle.
- Three-quarters around the circle, to Howard Avenue
- Up Howard Avenue one block
- Right-turn onto Carondelet Street
- Down Carondelet Street to Canal, where the run terminates.
There are a number of signs in this photo, marking the locations of “ain’t there no more” businesses. The Holiday Inn is now a Wyndham, for example. The Musee’ Conti Wax Museum is closed. The sign on Canal and Royal Streets grabbed drivers’ attention, to entice them to turn into the Quarter and go to the museum.
What other ATNM things do you see?
I found this photo in the Commons while looking for images for my next book project. The History Press considers old electric signs for businesses that are no longer around to be “fading signs,” so Kolb’s Restaurant (the sign is visible on the left) counts.
City Park Line connected Mid-City and the French Quarter
Trackless Trolley on the City Park Line, 1964s (courtesy NOPL)
City Park Line
The Orleans Railroad Company opened the City Park line on July 1, 1898. It connected the French Quarter with Mid-City, mostly via Dumaine Street. Orleans RR merged into New Orleans Railway and Light in 1910, along with the other streetcar companies. NORwy&Lt combined the French Market line with City Park (both ex-Orleans RR). The rollboards said “French Market-City Park” in 1921. While the route didn’t change, the line’s name returned to just City Park at that time.
The original route, 1898:
- Start at Canal Street and Exchange Place
- Up Canal to Dauphine Street
- Turn on Dauphine to Dumaine
- Left on Dumaine, then up Dumaine to City Park Avenue
- Down Dumaine to N. Rendon
- N. Rendon to Ursulines
- Ursulines to Burgundy
- Turn onto Canal at Burgundy
- Terminate at Canal and Exchange
In 1910, the route expanded. Instead of turning on Burgundy, City Park continued down Ursulines to Decatur. So, it then continued to Canal, via Decatur and N. Peters. In 1932, NOPSI re-routed City Park, turning the line on Royal to terminate on Canal. This route remained until the line was discontinued in the 1970s.
Streetcars on City Park
Orleans Railroad ran Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D) single-trucks on City Park. Their cars bore a red-and-cream livery. NORwy&Lt replaced the single-trucks with double-truck “Palace” cars in the mid-1910s. NOPSI later replaced the Palaces with 800/900s.
The red livery used by Orleans RR and New Orleans City Railroad are the heritage behind the “red ladies” of the modern Riverfront and Canal Street lines.
Buses and Trackless Trolleys
NOPSI discontinued streetcar operation on City Park in 1941. They switched to buses. City Park was one of the last lines switched before WWII. The War Department turned down other conversions. Buses required gasoline and rubber. Both of those were needed for the war effort.
In 1949, NOPSI replaced buses on City Park with trackless trolleys. They never removed the overhead wires on the route. Trackless Trolleys ran on City Park until 1964. So, buses returned to the line then. NOPSI discontinued the City Park line completely in the 1970s.
The City Park line serviced the “Downtown Backatown” neighborhoods. Like the Desire line, the name indicated the termination point. The streetcars ran on Dumaine Street, through Treme, into Mid-City. Since the line went to Canal Street, City Park carried commuters into work. The line serviced the Quarter as well, particularly Burgundy Street. Armstrong Park blocked the Dumaine portion of the route. I remember seeing the City Park buses at the route’s terminating point as I rode past Dumaine Street on the Esplanade line.
When Aaron Handy III shared this photo in a Facebook group, the City Park rollboard brought back memories of riding home from Brother Martin in the 1970s. While I never rode the line, I was fascinated that there were streetcars going all the way out to the park, in-between Canal Street and Esplanade. This photo looks to be part of the Dorothy Violet Gulledge collection at the New Orleans Public Libaray.
Single-truck Streetcars were the first electrics in New Orleans
Single-truck streetcars on Canal Street. Teunisson photo, ~1905
Streetcar operating companies phased out mule power in the mid-1890s. So, the single-truck streetcars replaced the “bobtails”, as the first electric cars in the city. “Single-truck” means one set of four wheels. The cars were relatively small. Companies like NO&CRR and NOCRR initially purchased Brill streetcars. They switched to Ford, Bacon, and Davis single-trucks in 1894. The car on the left, running on Prytania, is a Brill. The car running on Annunciation is a FB&D. .
The Prytania Line
The New Orleans City Railroad Company opened the Prytania line on June 8, 1861. The line started at the Clay Monument, Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue. Cars ran initially from Canal, up Camp, to Prytania, to Toledano. NOCRR expanded the line in 1883. Prytania ran up to Exposition Boulevard at Audubon Park. Therefore, it dropped off riders at the Cotton Exposition. So, mule-drawn streetcars operated on Prytania at this time.
While the New Orleans and Carrollton RR operated on St. Charles Line, Prytania became popular, because of Touro Infirmary and the Garden District. The streetcars dropped folks off right at the hospital. Many people living in the Garden District took Prytania in for Canal Street shopping. They avoided the crowds on St. Charles. People called Prytania the “Silk Stocking Line” because of the privileged riders.
Prytania’s first electrics were Brills. until the 1920s. The line switched to Jackson and Sharp single-truck streetcars. In 1915, New Orleans Railway and Light ran double-truck “Palace” cars on Prytania. The arch roofs eventually replaced those streetcars in the 1920s. NOPSI discontinued the Prytania line in 1932.
Annunciation serviced the uptown riverfront area and the Irish Channel. The Crescent City Railroad Company opened the line in 1863. New Orleans Traction Company electrified Annunciation in 1895. The line started at Canal and Camp, then up Tchoupitoulas, then Annunciation. At Louisiana, the line turned back towards the river and terminated at Tchoupitoulas. The return was different, because of one-way streets. From Louisiana, it ran down Chippewa, then Race, then Annunciation, Erato, Race, Camp, Calliope, then St. Charles to Canal.
The first electrics on Annunciation were Brills painted yellow with brown trim. FB&Ds replaced the brills in the late 1890s. Palace double-trucks operated on Annunciation around 1910. The line merged with Laurel in 1917.
The Mercier Building
The coupla visible in the top right of the photograph is the top of the Mercier Building. Simon J. Shwartz operated his Maison Blanche Department Store in that building. He tore down the building in 1908. The building we know as the Maison Blanche Building (Now the Ritz-Carlton Hotel New Orleans) dates from that time.
Vernon Smith gives NORTA 29 a personality!
I had the privilege of attending a book event last Friday, at St. Francis Xavier Parish, on Metairie Road. There were over twenty authors there. I knew many of the authors. I also enjoyed meeting some new folks, like Mr. Vernon Smith.
NORTA 29, the last Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. (Edward Branley photo)
Vernon sat behind a poster-sized illustration of “the sand car”, also known as NORTA 29. The sand car is the last remaining Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. The FB&Ds date back to 1894. Ford, Bacon and Davis were engineers. They won a contract to advise several streetcar operators in New Orleans. Electric streetcars rolled the streets, beginning in 1893. The transit companies used mule-drawn cars for decades. Electric streetcars meant they had to install overhead wires along their routes. The engineers offered consulting services.
After working on track plans, interchanges, etc., FB&D learned a lot about streetcars. They designed a streetcar for the New Orleans systems. Several companies liked the design. So, they ordered these streetcars in 1894. They first appeared on the St. Charles Avenue line. Then they rolled on Canal Street. From there, the companies put them on the backatown routes.
The Littlest Streetcar
By the 1910s, the operators needed streetcars larger than the FB&Ds. They replaced the single-truck, smaller streetcars with double-truck cars from Brill and American Car Company. New Orleans Railway and Light Company ordered the first arch roof double-trucks in 1915. The 800- and 900-series arch roofs came to New Orleans in 1923.
The transit companies kept many of the FB&D streetcars for years. They ran well. Their smaller sized enabled them to run on routes with smaller ridership. The single-trucks were forty years old by the 1930s. NOPSI retired most of them. They kept a couple FB&Ds for special uses. NOPSI refitted #29 to drop sand on the rails on wet/icy days. NORTA 29 continues this job to this day. It is indeed the littlest streetcar in the NORTA fleet.
Mr. Smith’s book is a wonderfully-illustrated childrens’ book. It’s available in hardcover, librarians take note!
The Littlest Streetcar
Publication Date: February 1st, 2017
Recommended Reading Level
Minimum Age: 4
Maximum Age: 7
Minimum Grade Level: P
Maximum Grade Level: 2
Arabella Station on Magazine Street is now the Whole Foods Uptown location
Magazine and Joseph Streets, looking west, towards Arabella Street, 1948. (Franck Studios photo)
The big barn at Magazine and Arabella Streets serviced streetcars until 1948. NOPSI needed a bus facility uptown. So, they operated Arabella as a bus barn.
The top photo is from 19-February-1948. So, NOPSI discontinued streetcars on the Magazine on 11-February-1948. Buses replaced streetcars that month. Trackless trolleys took over that July. NOPSI did not demolish the infrastructure around the station right away. This was different than on Canal Street. So, NOPSI needed the overhead wiring on Magazine. The neighborhood supported the changes. The company continued streetcars on Canal and St. Charles. Both have neutral grounds. Therefore, they supported streetcars better.
The end of the Magazine Street line, 1883. Robinson’s Atlas. (Courtesy Orleans Parish Notarial Archives)
The Crescent City Railroad Company built Arabella Station in the 1880s. They operated the barn at Octavia and Magazine. CCRRCo acquired the barn from the Magazine Streetcar Company. The company outgrew that barn. So, they moved down a couple of blocks, to Arabella. Crescent City Railroad merged into the New Orleans Traction Company. That company merged into New Orleans Railway and Light. Eventually, transit re-organized into New Orleans Public Service Company, Inc.
Outside streetcar storage behind Arabella Station, 1920. (E. Harper Charlton photo)
Under NOPSI, Arabella Station housed streetcars for the Uptown lines operating from St. Charles to the river. So, Carrollton Station serviced the St. Charles line and the “uptown backatown” lines. In this photo from 1920,
Track plan for the Arabella Barn, 1920s. (NOPSI image)
While Carrollton Station’s layout is, enter from the rear, exit to the front, Arabella Station used Magazine Street for both entrance and exit. The barn occupied the block from Magazine to Constance Street. The block between Constance and Patton Streets was the outside trackage you see in the 1920 photo.
Arabella Station, 1920. (NOPSI photo)
In and out on Magazine Street made sense. The streets were tight. Therefore, going around the barn was tough. These 1920 photos show the hustle-bustle of streetcar operations uptown.
Arabella Station as Supermarket
Whole Foods Market, Arabella Station.
Arabella Station became a Whole Foods Market in 2002. You can still see some of the old tracks in the back parking lot. Compare this Google street view with the 1948 version!
Streetcar accidents happen when automobile drivers don’t look
NOPSI 888 at Carrollton Station, after a traffic accident.
Just this week, a garbage truck turned in front of NORTA 900, on Canal Street. Streetcar accidents happen once or twice a year.
Today’s photo shows NOPSI 888 with one end bashed in. The photo was shot on 13-May-1947. An automobile hit the streetcar earlier that day. Several lines still operated streetcars in 1947. The photographer notes the date, but not the circumstances of the accident.
Streetcar accidents began when automobiles took to the streets. In my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, I’ve got a photo of a Ford Model T, right after it encountered a streetcar. The accident occurred in front of Warren Easton High School, in 1914. The automobile lost.
Streetcar-versus-automobile accidents present challenges for all concerned. Damage to the vehicles generates repair expenses. The transit operator (in this case, NOPSI) has to deal with claims from riders. Those claims often lead to lawsuits. While the transit operator is usually not at fault, the company has the deeper pockets. Drivers carry insurance, but often not enough to settle injuries for 10+ transit riders.
NOPSI’s lawyers retained a photographer. Charles Franck Studios had the job for years. They sent out a photographer to accident scenes. NOPSI towed the wrecked streetcars back to Carrollton Station. The photographer documented the damage. Those photos ended up as evidence in lawsuits.
This streetcar is part of the 800-series. They looked almost identical to the 900s currently running on the St. Charles Line. These streetcars used mechanical doors, not unlike a school bus door. The 900s have automatic doors.
NOPSI retained 35 of the 900-series when the Canal line ended streetcar service in 1964. With only a couple of exceptions, they destroyed the 800s.
Carrollton Station served as the main maintenance and repair facility for streetcars. NORTA’s Rail Department operates out of Carrollton Station today. While the Arabella and Canal Barns housed streetcars, they came to Carrollton for big repairs.
This Franck Studios photo is part of the HNOC collection. Since NOPSI received city subsidies for transit operations, the photo is in the public domain.