The Canal Lakeshore bus took over for the West End line.
Canal Lakeshore bus
Photo of Canal Street, showing Flxible buses operating on the various “Canal Street” lines, after the conversion of the Canal line to buses in 1964. NOPSI cut back streetcar operations on Canal Street to a single block, on what was the inbound outside track. Arch roof streetcars on the St. Charles line, like the one in the photo. I can’t make out which of the 35 remaining 1923-vintage streetcars makes the turn on the left side. If you can sort it out, let me know. The photographer stands in the “Canal Street Zone,” just on the river side of St. Charles Avenue.
Post-streetcar Canal buses
The official name for the line NOPSI 314 rolls on in this photo is, “Canal – Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Boulevard.” Here’s the route.
- Canal Street and the river
- “Canal Street Zone” lakebound to Claiborne Avenue
- Merge into auto lanes at Claiborne, continue outbound to City Park Avenue
- Left turn at City Park Avenue
- Right Turn at West End Blvd.
- Left turn under the Pontchartrain Expressway (later I-10) overpass at Metairie Road.
- Right turn onto Pontchartrain Boulevard
- Continue outbound on Pontchartrain Boulevard
- Right-turn on Fleur-de-lis Avenue (prior to I-10)
- Curve around on Pontchartrain Blvd, go under I-10, continue to Fleur-de-Lis. Left turn onto Fleur-de-Lis. (after I-10)
- Lakebound on Fleur-de-Lis to Veterans
- Right on Veterans to West End Blvd.
- Left on West End to Robert E. Lee Blvd. (Now Allen Toussant Blvd.)
- Right on Toussaint to Canal Blvd.
- Left on Canal Blvd to bus terminal at the lake.
- Depart Canal Blvd terminal, riverbound.
- Right turn on Toussaint to Pontchartrain Blvd.
- Pontchartrain Blvd to Veterans, right turn on Veterans
- Left turn on Fleur-de-Lis
- Fleur-de-Lis back to Pontchartrain Blvd.
- Pontchartrain Blvd to City Park Avenue
- Left on City Park Avenue, the right onto Canal Street
- Canal Street, riverbound to the river.
This route, was one of the main killers of the Canal streetcars. Air-conditioning all the way into town. No change from West End to the streetcar at City Park Avenue.
Canal buses in the 1970s
By the time I rode the Canal buses in the 1970s, on my way to and from Brother Martin, I could hop on any of the three Canal lines, to get to City Park Avenue. Canal Cemeteries ended at City Park Avenue. Canal-Lake Vista and Canal-Lakeshore split there, but all I needed was to get to the outbound Veterans bus.
This Canal Street Postcard was printed in 1903.
Canal Street postcard
Detroit Publishing Company postcard of Canal Street, New Orleans, from 1903. The photographer stands on the roof of the Custom House, looking towards the lake. The foreground shows the 500 block. The round coupla, foreground right, sits atop the Godchaux Building, at Canal and Chartres Streets. Further up the street, the postcard shows the often-overlooked buildings of the 600 block. The top of the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Jesuits Church) is visible, background, center. Streetcars scurry up and down the two main-line tracks at the center, with other lines appearing and disappearing on the outside tracks.
The Henry Clay monument now stands in Lafayette Square, across from City Hall (now Gallier Hall). The city re-located the monument there in 1901. Canal streetcars passed so close to the monument, there were concerns about safety.
While the postcard gets incredibly grainy after the 700 block, the cupola of Leon Fellman’s store at 800 Canal, and the Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club at 900 Canal, are visible.
Detroit Publishing Company knew living vicariously through postcards was a popular pastime. The company bought images from photographers across the country. They then hired artists to color the black-and-white photos in. Now, photographers just have to post their work on social media.
Electrification of streetcar lines began in 1893. Canal Street electrified in 1895. So, this 1905 photo shows first-generation electric streetcars. The engineering firm, Ford, Bacon, and Davis pitched a design to streetcar operators for a single-truck platform in 1894. Most of the streetcars in this photo are of that design. Most of these streetcars move riders on the inside tracks. One single-truck on the Uptown side turns from Camp Street on to Canal. The operator prepares to travel one block, then make another right-turn, onto Magazine Street. The now-immortal arch roof streetcars are still twelve years away. They made their first appearance on the streets in 1915.
The Henry Clay Monument stood on Canal Street from 1860 to 1901.
NOTE: If you see something else interesting on these maps, speak up! Le’ts talk about it.
Henry Clay Monument
A private group raised money to build a monument to American statesmen Henry Clay in 1860. The city approved their plan to erect the monument on Canal Street. They placed it at the three-way intersection of Canal Street, St. Charles Avenue, and Royal Street. The Robinson Atlas of 1883, Plate 6, shows the monument, with the streetcar tracks passing around it.
The Henry Clay monument stood as mapped here until 1895. The New Orleans City Railway Company electrified the Canal Street line that year. The city cut back the massive circular base. This provided the streetcars with a linear path across the intersection. Prior to 1895, mule-drawn streetcars curved around the monument.
Canal Street activity
Activity at the Canal-St. Charles-Royal intersection developed after 1861. The Henry Clay monument rose in the center of Canal Street a year earlier. The streetcar company simply went around the statue, completing the transit to the river. The main activity happens just above and below the intersection. Notice the circles in the center of the Canal Street neutral ground. Those are turntables. If you’ve been out to San Francisco, you may have seen the turntables used to change the direction of cable cars when they reach the end of the line. Before electrification, streetcar companies operated “single-ended” equipment. the mule pulled the streetcar onto the turntable. The operator guided the mule in a circle.
The turntable just below Clay handled “backatown” lines coming up from along the riverfront. Additionally, the turntable on the lake side (see, we really do express directions as “lake” and “river”) handled the streetcars coming to Canal Street from Carondelet, Baronne, Dauphine, Burgundy, and Rampart Streets.
The Clio Street line crossed Canal Street at Bourbon and Royal Streets. So, after passing by the Jackson Depot railroad station, streetcars on Clio made their way down Carondelet Street, crossing Canal, then heading outbound to Elysian Fields. They used Bourbon Street to traverse the Quarter. The line returned to the St. Charles Hotel via Royal Street. The streetcars curved around Henry.
NOPSI 888, a wrecked streetcar, outside Carrollton Station.
The running joke is, when there’s a streetcar-versus-automobile confrontation, the streetcar wins. While this is true, it doesn’t mean the streetcar comes out unscathed. Such was the case on 13-May-1947. NOPSI 888 became a wrecked streetcar, after striking a vehicle while operating on the Desire line. NOPSI 888 received a lot more damage than those involved in wrecks with automobiles because it hit a truck. The streetcar left the scene with heavy damage on the opposite end. We documented the wreck some time ago. Franck Studios photographed 888 from all sides. From this angle, the streetcar appears fine, unless you look through the window! While the Desire line operated out of Canal Station, the Rail Department brought 888 back to Carrollton Station. NOPSI 888 stands here on Jeanette Street. Once the photographer finished, they rolled the streetcar into the barn.
The “Streetcar Named Desire” operated until May 30, 1948. NOPSI replaced the 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars with White Company buses. These buses bore the classic maroon-and-cream livery of the “old style” buses. The streetcars operating on Desire shifted to the two remaining lines, St. Charles. NOPSI chose not to repair 888. So, it was the first 800-series car scrapped. The remaining 800s, with only a couple of exceptions, joined 888 on the junk pile in the summer of 1964.
While the Desire line gained immortality thanks to Tennessee Williams, it didn’t happen because of traveling on Desire Street. The Desire line rolled inbound on Royal Street, and outbound on Bourbon Street, for the length of the French Quarter. Since Williams lived in a third-story walk-up on Royal Street, he heard those streetcars running past, night and day. Even had Williams not gotten around town much, those streetcars would still stick out in his memory.
On this day, NOPSI 888 sported ad signs on the ends for Regal Beer. The American Brewing Company owned the Regal (“lager” spelled backwards) brand. They brewed and bottled Regal from their plant on Bourbon Street, from 1890 to 1960.
The Pontchartrain Railroad station in Faubourg Marigny was on Decatur Street.
Pontchartrain Railroad Station
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from Faubourg Marigny to Port Pontchartrain, in Milneburg. While the lake terminus extended out onto a shipping pier, the operated a regular terminal on the river side. The Robinson Atlas of 1883 shows the Marigny depot, and the businesses/residences surrounding it. The map shows the route of the Clio Street line, passing next to the station, before turning for its inbound run.
This plate also shows the ferry landing for the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad.
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated a simple route: to the lake and back. Day trippers took the railroad out to “Lake City” (Milneburg), for a gathering or meeting, perhaps staying overnight at the Washington Hotel. These gatherings included more than people who lived within walking distance of the station. So, the St. Charles Railroad company extended its Jackson Depot line (later the Clio Street line) across Canal Street, into the Marigny. Folks rode streetcars from various lines to the St. Charles Hotel. They purchased railroad tickets at the hotel, then hopped on the Jackson Depot line. After passing by the Illinois Central station, the streetcar turned into the French Quarter, heading to Elysian Fields Avenue.
When the Louisville and Nashville Railroad acquired the Pontchartrain in 1880, that streetcar connection grew in importance. While L&N operated its own station on Canal Street, passengers from Uptown rode the Clio line to the Pontchartrain Railroad station. The L&N trains turned onto Elysian Fields, then headed out of town via Florida Avenue. So, passengers hopped on L&N trains there.
The railroad ferry
This plate shows a ferry landing on the right side. This ferry carried trains for the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad to their station in Algiers. Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company acquired the NOO&GW in 1883. They continued the ferry connection for a few years, then built a new ferry link in Jefferson Parish. That ferry crossing continued after the Southern Pacific acquired Morgan’s, and lasted even after the Huey P. Long Bridge opened.
1964 Transit Improvement Program ended the Canal streetcar line.
1964 Transit Improvement
Flyer updating riders on the 1964 Transit Improvement Program. New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) planned the removal of streetcars from the Canal Street line for May 31, 1964. While advocacy groups organized in late 1963/early 1964 to oppose the program, it was too little, too late. The plans for this removal began in late 1959.
This flyer emphasizes the advantages of switching Canal to bus service. NOPSI rolled out new buses as part of this “improvement.” Those Flixible company buses were air-conditioned. Riders in Lakeview and Lakeshore could get on the bus close to the house and ride all the way into the CBD.
This flyer promotes the Phase 2 changes. In Phase 1 of 1964 Transit Improvement, the city cut back the width of the Canal Street neutral ground. This allowed for three traffic lanes on either side of the street. When streetcars returned to Canal Street in 2004, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA, successor to NOPSI’s transit operations) built a single-track terminal at Canal Street and City Park Avenue. There was no space to re-create the two-track end of the line. So, at the time, New Orleanians approved these changes. Preservationists were caught off guard.
NOPSI immediately cut down the electric overhead wires on 31-May-1964, as part of Phase 2 of 1964 Transit Improvement. The city ripped up the streetcar tracks within weeks of the switch to buses. Additionally, the air-conditioning started on 31-May.
NOPSI expanded the “suburban” bus lines. They extended buses going to West End and Lakeview into downtown. Streetcars on the Canal line ended their runs at City Park Avenue. So, a rider living, say, off Fleur-de-Lis Avenue walked to Pontchartrain Blvd. They caught the bus to City Park Avenue, transferring there to the streetcar. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, NOPSI discovered an opportunity. The rider starts on a bus with a/c, but switches to a hot, humid streetcar. If it’s raining, well, you get the idea.
Additionally, NOPSI offered an enhanced service, the “express” lines. Express 80 followed the Canal-Lake Vista (via Canal Boulevard) route. For an extra nickel, riders boarded Express 80 rather than the regular line. When the express bus reached City Park Avenue, Express 80 made no stops until Claiborne Avenue. Same for Express 81, which followed the Canal-Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Boulevard line. So that rider could not only stay on the bus from home, they got to the office that much quicker.
Downtown workers relied upon public transit so much more in 1964. When something is part of your day-to-day routine, improvements that enhance your experience are easy to sell. Preserving forty-year old streetcars didn’t seem like a big deal compared to not sweating through your clothes by the time you arrived at work.
Thanks to Aaron Handy, III, for this image of the flyer!