Tag Archives: Uptown New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana – Streetcars – St. Charles Line

1 Jul

St. Charles Line in the neutral ground between Audubon Park and Tulane

New Orleans is noted for its historic streetcars and streetcar lines.  I have heard them rumble by and there is even a historic roar on the tracks as they pass.  In many places the neutral ground is filled with people jogging or walking.  The green of the neutral ground and the people project a park like setting in which the streetcars rumble up and down St. Charles Avenue and out Carrollton.

Passengers Getting in Streetcar on St. Charles

One of the first family stories that I remember about the St. Charles line happened when I was a baby.  Somehow I managed to kick my shoes off and they sailed out the window of the streetcar. This was not funny to my mother.  In fact, 50 years later, I am compelled to look for those shoes every time I am in New Orleans.

Later I worked for a stint in New Orleans and took the St, Charles line in to work everyday.  It was something that I always enjoyed .  The people, the cars and the atmosphere associated with the whole thing.  It was a part of history.

Historical Marker on Carrollton

On Carrollton Street there is a historic marker that says that the Carrollton Street Car line in the oldest continuous streetcar line in the U.S.  That is true but the Cable Car in San Francisco and the Trolley in New York both predate the New Orleans system by a few years.  Still New Orleans can claim that it was the second city in the nation to have a street car system and that it has the oldest continuously operated line in the world with the St. Charles and Carrollton line.

Historic Streetcar with Mahogany Seats Carries 52 Passengers

The cars in use today are the still “Arch Roof” type designed by Mr. Perley A. Thomas and built by the Brill and Perley Thomas Car Companies in 1922-24.  These double trunk cars are 47’8″ in width, and 11’4″ in height.  The exteriors retain their traditional (since 1899) colors of olive green and cream trim and iron red window and door frames.  The interiors are fitted with wooden seats that seat 52 passengers.  The cars can be operated in either direction with controls in the vestibule at each end of the car.  The cars have been completely refurbished by New Orleans Public Service Incorporated (NOPSI) and presently in good condition.

The Bed of the Tracks is Underground Putting the Rails at Ground Level

There is a “roadbed” for the tracks but it is all underground.  Therefore the tracks and neutral ground traversed by cars that were pulled by mules and then powered by steam and then by electricity still appear very much like they did originally.  In the September 30, 1835 issue of the New Orleans Bee the 25 cent ride was described.

“The route passes through a level and beautiful country; Very high, (About six feet above Canal Street), dry and arable lands – and affording one of the most pleasant drives in the Southern States.  It passes through the limits of an ancient forest of Live Oaks; Peculiarly interesting as being one of the very few of its kind now remaining in the South.”

St. Charles Line Cars on Canal Before Canal Line Cars Started the Route After Hurricane Katrina

In 1866, General P.G.T. Beauregard, C.S.A., and Associates leased the N.O. & C. R.R. Co., and Beauregard served as an innovative president for almost 10 years.  The constant improvements and increased efficiency under his management were reflected in the value of the Company’s stock which rose from $7.50 per share in 1865 to $110.00 per share by the early 1870s.

Car 900 Heads Uptown on the Historic St. Charles Line

For a 125 years streetcars have been an integral part of travel in New Orleans.  Today the St. Charles Line is the oldest, continuously operated street car line in the world today.  Since 1835, street railway cars have rounded Lee Circle and headed up St. Charles Avenue to Carrollton.  It is one of the last surviving examples of an era in which street railways were one of the major forms of public transit contributing greatly to the development of Urban America.

Advertisements