ConsenCIS DotNet Home: New Orleans: Infrastructure: Transportation: Public Transit:

Street Cars

La Voiture de la Rue (more or less).  I guess we can have a French sounding name for our venerable streetcars.

New Orleans is no stranger to light rail. Introduced in 1833, horse drawn streetcars provided public transit across the city. "Smokey Mary" ran from the CBD to Carrollton. Electrification in the 1890's gave a boost to the popularity of street cars and allowed the system to grow to 200 route miles by 1911. More than 50 routes were operated across New Orleans at one time or another. Largely replaced by buses (cheaper and air conditioned) in the 1960's the Canal Street line was closed, leaving only the St.Charles streetcar as a reminder of the past. Recognizing the tourist value of the streetcar, a line linking the French Quarter to the Convention Center was opened in 1988. Then in 2004 the Canal Street Line was reopened from the foot of Canal (at the river) to City Park and the Cemetaries area. You'll find more details and images at George Friedman's website.

Katrina closed the St. Charles line by destroying the overhead catenary (power lines), flooding the power transformers and rectifiers and damaged the cars used on the Canal line in flooding. The St. Charles cars were quickly switched to the Canal Line and continue to provide service today. The St Charles line  reopened in stages. The first bit from Canal to Lee Circle opened in December, 2006. November 11, 2007 saw the line extended to Napoleon Avenue. December 2007 saw the streetcars running all the way to Carrollton at Riverbend powered from the Calliope substation. Finally the section along Carrolton to Claiborne reopened June 22, 2008 when repairs to the substation at the Willow Street car barn were completed.

  • Brill Streetcar : The Brill Streetcars were used before the Perley Thomas cars replaced them. This Brill has a coupler that was sometimes used to pull a "trailer car." :: Continue reading...
  • Streetcar Power : Electrification in the 1890's replaced mules and steam locomotives with clean quiet DC power and electric motors built in to the cars. Much of the power for the streetcars came from NOPSI's then new Market Street power plant. (1901).  The streetcar system continues to draw its power from the city's commercial power suppliers (now Entergy). :: Continue reading...
  • Streetcar Tracks - 1922 : By 1922 the streetcar system served most of New Orleans. Historian Lynn Chapman contributed this map of the system showing the 29 lines, the six car barns and two shop locations. The Market Street power station energized the system through four substations and a network of overhead catenary power lines.

    When streetcars were king.
    :: Continue reading...

  • click to expand
    click to expand

    Just under 50 feet in length and 11 feet tall, street cars provide seating for 40 passengers. They are never coupled into multi-car trains. The design pictured here is the Perly-Thomas car manufactured in 1923-24. Powered by Westinghouse or GE motors, these 21 ton cars are capable of but rarely achieve of speeds of 35 mph.

    The sounds, smells and motion of the cars are unforgettable. The electric motors have a hum at idle that deepens during the gentle acceleration. The metal wheels whir and clatter on the offset tracks. Manual or pneumatic doors open smoothly to admit new travelers. Signal bells emit an authentic ding heard nowhere else in the world.

    Built from pine, canvas and steel the smell is uniquely New Orleans. No plastic seats will be found here. The bench seats are all steel and polished wood construction. The seat backs pivot so the cars can run either forward or backward with the passengers always facing forward.

    With no air conditioning the windows are usually open. They slide up and down in tracks using hardware from the distant past. When you hop aboard you can easily imagine that someone is cooking gumbo nearby. In the era of automobiles and diesel fumes, the streetcar is a welcome refuge from internal combustion. Ride past Audubon Park early on a foggy autumn morning and slip back into history.

    In the olden days you entered at the rear past the conductor's stand where you paid your fare and collected a transfer. (Now the driver and conductor are the same and stationed at the front.) Walk forward to find an empty seat as the car gathers speed, swaying gently on its tracks. Sit patiently or stand holding one of the steel and wood, spring loaded overhead grips that swing down from overhead rails running the length of the car . As your stop approaches, pull the cord running above the windows to signal your intention to depart. Exit at the front passing the driver with his strange looking speed controller, signal bell and brakes.

    Life is truly experienced in the journey when you travel by streetcar.

    Louisiana Swift Taxi Cabs

    Created : 7/14/2006 10:09:11 AM Updated: 6/22/2008 5:26:05 PM

      f1 f3

    Web Application Byf3 ConsenCIS





    Notes regarding this page
    • Subnotes