St. Charles Avenue Street Car Line - New Orleans, LA
Posted by: NorStar
N 29° 56.973 W 090° 07.752
15R E 777080 N 3316662
Quick Description: The St. Charles Street Car Line is the oldest operating interurban-urban passenger rail transport line in the country, running from Canal Street in downtown New Orleans to the Carrolton Section of the city.
Location: Louisiana, United States
Date Posted: 7/7/2010 7:07:13 PM
Waymark Code: WM974T
In New Orleans, running mostly along St. Charles Avenue from the downtown section to the Carrolton section, is a public transit line that is known as the St. Charles Streetcar Line. This line is considered the oldest interurban-urban passenger rail transport line in the country. This line presently uses trolleys that were made in the 1920s, and it was the site where several important experiments in propulsion were tried, including mule, overhead cable, ammonia, and several forms of electrification.
The St. Charles line is the remaining branch of a network of lines that included the Desire line, made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford's play, "A Streetcar Named Desire." From downtown New Orleans, it runs from Canal Street, down St. Charles Avenue, to Lee Circle, then down St. Charles Avenue all the way to South Carrolton Avenue, then along South Carrolton Avenue to South Claiborne Avenue. The return trip is the same, except that at Lee Circle the streetcar goes along Carondelet St. The car barn is about a block off Carrolton Avenue, at the corner of Willow and Dublin Streets. The ride is among the prettiest in New Orleans and probably one of the prettiest rides on a streetcar. Outside of the core of the city, the line runs by beautiful mansions, churches, parks, and universities. Large Live Oak trees hang over the street. The car bounces around as it runs down a grassy section in between the road.
The line is run by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, which operates the Riverside Streetcar Line (which is a newer line), and the bus lines. The fare to ride on the St. Charles line is $1.25 each way, exact change. Though you can get off at any point along a line and catch a returning car, it takes over an hour to ride to the end point (over two hours for a round trip). Service (as of July 4, 2010) on this line runs 24 hours, and varies from about one every 90 minutes in the early hours to one every 8 minutes in the day time hours. A schedule can be found on the web site for NORTA, listed below.
Service started on this line in 1835 as the New Orleans and Carrolton Railroad. It generally followed the curvature of the river, and thus, as the area became settled, other roads were built either parallel or perpendicular to this line, forming crescents, and contributing to the nickname of New Orleans as "The Crescent City." It was not the first railroad in New Orleans: there was a line established previously that ran along today's Elyssian Fields Avenue from New Orleans to Lake Pontchartrain. The line was initially run using a steam locomotive. Locomotives were ordered from Benjamin Hick and Company from England. Horse-drawn cars were also used. Since it ran along a street into New Orleans, steam power wasn't popular, but it was the only practical means to haul cars. Several experiments were conducted, however. In 1870, General Beauregard tried out overhead moving cable on a 2400 ft stretch along St. Charles Avenue. Also starting in 1872, a propulsion system was tried using ammonia and water instead of steam - thought it was a closed system. In 1872, so many horses were sick on the horse-drawn cars that people pulled the cars for a short time. Another form of super-heated water/steam system was tried in 1872, called the Thermo-specific engine. None of these systems proved practical or as reliable. In the 1880s, electrification was attempted starting with a storage battery system. In 1893, overhead wires were installed and the line was finally electrified. The first cars were built by the St. Louis Car Company, and ran on 4 ft 8-1/2 inch track on 500 volts, DC current. In 1964, the St. Charles Streetcar Line became the only streetcar line when the others were replaced by buses. The line replaced the 800 series cars running on it with the 900 series, which are running today. More details can be read from the brochure which is downloadable from the ASME landmark web site, below.
In February 1984, the line was designated a Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The plaque is located at the car barn installed on a metal framed pedestal outside the car barn by the sign at the corner of Willow Street and Dublin Street. The doors to the barn are usually open and you can look inside, though don't cross the roped off area (a guard is closely watching the area).
Personal Observations of the Line Pre- and Post- Hurricane Katrina
I have had the honor of riding this line in four separate years. The first experience was in the mid 1990s. At that time the streetcars ran the entire 12 mile route. The next time I rode was in 2007. This was after Hurricane Katrina had run through. The hurricane did extensive damage to the city and to all the streetcar lines. However, though many of the streetcars were flooded and heavily damaged on other lines, the older cars were on higher ground and were spared. Still, the line was made inoperable. By the time I rode the line in 2007, the line only went from Canal Street to Lee Circle. When I returned in 2008, the line had just opened to the intersection with South Carrolton. In 2010, the line was fully restored to the intersection with S. Clairborne Avenue.
Come and take a ride!
Plaque: Outside Car Barn, Willow and Dublin Streets, New Orleans.
Type of structure/site: Public Transit System
Date of Construction: 1/1/1835
Engineer/Architect/Builder etc.: Gen. Beauregard, Dr. Emile Lamm, and Sylvester L. Langdon are mentioned as experimenters.
Engineering Organization Listing: American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Primary Web Site: [Web Link]
Secondary Web Site: [Web Link]
The listed coordinates for this waymark must be personally visited.
Please submit at least one ORIGINAL PHOTO of the structure, preferably one showing a different aspect, angle, season, etc. from the original waymark.
Give the DATE of your visit and any comments or additional information that will help other visitors enjoy this site.