St. Charles Streetcar Line

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     St. Charles Streetcar line
Streetcar in New Orleans, USA1.jpg
St. Charles Streetcar passing through New Orleans' CBD
Overview
Type Streetcar using heritage streetcars
System New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Status Operational
Locale New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Termini South Carrollton and South Claiborne
Carondelet and Canal
Services Route 12
Operation
Opening 1835
Owner New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Operator(s) New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Character Runs primarily in neutral ground (central median), except street running between Howard Avenue and Canal Street
Technical
Line length 13.2 mi (21.2 km)
Track gauge 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm)
Electrification Trolley wire
St. Charles Streetcar Line
Streetcars on St Charles Ave Red Green.jpg
A Perley Thomas streetcar (green) and Perley Thomas replica streetcar (red) on St. Charles Avenue, 2009.
Location St. Charles Ave. route from central business district to Carrollton, New Orleans, Louisiana
Area 15 acres (6.1 ha)
Built 1835
Architectural style Other, trolley system
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 73000873[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 23, 1973
Designated NHL August 25, 2014

The St. Charles Streetcar line is a historic streetcar line in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, as it has been in operation since 1835. It is operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Officially the St. Charles Streetcar line is internally designated as Route 12, and it runs along its namesake street, St. Charles Avenue. It is the busiest route in the RTA system as it is heavily used by local commuters and tourists. On most RTA maps and publications, it is denoted in green, which is also the color of the streetcars on this line.

Route[edit]

The St. Charles line starts uptown, at South Carrollton Avenue and South Claiborne Avenue.[2] It runs on South Carrollton Avenue through the Carrollton neighborhood towards the Mississippi River, then near the river levee turns on to St. Charles Avenue. It proceeds past entrances to Audubon Park, Tulane University and Loyola University New Orleans, continues through Uptown New Orleans including the Garden District, and ends at Canal Street in the New Orleans Central Business District at the edge of the French Quarter, a distance of 13.2 miles (21.2 km).[3] With the exception of Carondelet Street and the downtown portion of St. Charles where the line runs in the curbside lane, most of the line runs in the neutral ground (the median strip) with greenery between the tracks.

History[edit]

"Street Railroad Car, New Orleans". 1855 engraving showing horse-drawn streetcar on St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans.

Planning for the line began in 1831, and work began as the New Orleans and Carrollton Rail Road in February 1833, the second railway in Greater New Orleans after the Pontchartrain Rail Road.[2] Passenger and freight services by steam locomotives began on September 26, 1835, originally without a dedicated right-of-way (it ran on public streets), although one was eventually established in the neutral ground (the median). Service began as a suburban railroad, since Carrollton was at that time a separate city, while areas along the route were still mostly undeveloped. Two locomotives New Orleans and Carrollton were supplied from England by B. Hick and Sons.[4][5]

As the area along the line became more urbanized, objections to the soot and noise produced by the locomotives increased, and transport was switched to cars that were powered by horses and mules.[2] For decades in the late 19th century, desire for a mode of transit more swift and powerful than horses but without the disruptive effects of locomotives resulted in a number of systems being tried out. Experimental systems included overhead cable propulsion (with a cable clamp patented by P.G.T. Beauregard in 1869 later being adapted for the San Francisco cable car system), and several innovative designs by Dr. Emile Lamm, including ammonia engines, a "Chloride of Calcium Engine", and most successfully the Lamm Fireless Engine which not only propelled pairs of cars along the line in the 1880s but was adopted by the street railways of Paris.

While the city's first experiments with electric powered cars were made in 1884 (in conjunction with the World Cotton Centennial World's Fair), electric streetcars were not considered sufficiently developed for widespread use until the following decade, and the line was electrified February 1, 1893.[2] At the same time, it was extended from the corner of St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues out Carrollton to a new car barn at Willow Street.[6]

A 400 Series streetcar operating on the St. Charles Avenue line, 1910s.

In 1900, the St. Charles and Tulane streetcar lines were extended on Carrollton Avenue and connected together, resulting in a two-way belt line. Cars signed St. Charles left Canal Street on Baronne Street to Howard Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, thence all the way to Carrollton and out that avenue, returning to the central business district on Tulane Avenue. Streetcars leaving Canal Street on Tulane Avenue were signed Tulane, operating out to Carrollton Avenue, then turning riverward to St. Charles Avenue, passing Lee Circle to Howard Avenue, and finally down Baronne (later Carondelet) to Canal Street.[6]

In 1922 the New Orleans & Carrollton Rail Road was merged into New Orleans Public Service Incorporated (NOPSI), which consolidated the city's various streetcar lines and electrical production.

900 Series streetcar running on the St. Charles line.

In 1950, plans were made to fill in the New Basin Canal, which the Belt Lines crossed on a bridge on Carrollton Avenue. The right of way was to be used for an expressway, and Carrollton Avenue traffic was to use an underpass. Rather than rebuild tracks in the underpass, the Tulane and St. Charles lines were separated, and Tulane Avenue was converted to a trolley coach line. During construction, the St. Charles line continued to operate (in both directions) all the way on Carrollton Avenue from St. Charles Avenue to the underpass construction site at Dixon Street. Once the underpass was completed, the St. Charles streetcar line was cut back to Claiborne Avenue, as it operates at present, and the Tulane trolley coach line took over the part of Carrollton Avenue between Tulane Avenue and Claiborne.[6]

Typical car stop signage along the line.

In 1972 automatic fareboxes were introduced, and the job of a separate conductor was eliminated from the streetcars. The line still has one of the Ford, Bacon & Davis 1894 vintage cars in running condition. Although it is not used for passenger service, it stays busy with work operations such as track sanding. The rest of the line's cars date from 1923–24.[2]

In 1973, preservationists successfully listed the St. Charles line on the National Register of Historic Places. For this reason, it is the only service in the RTA system not to have wheelchair access.

In 1983, the RTA was created to oversee public transportation in New Orleans. It assumed the operations of city bus lines and the St. Charles line from NOPSI, which has since folded into Entergy.

In 2005, service along the route was suspended due to damage from Hurricane Katrina and the floods from levee breaches. The small section from Canal Street to Lee Circle was the first part restored. The section continuing up to Napoleon Avenue was re-opened for service on November 11, 2007, and on December 23, 2007 was extended up to Carrollton Avenue, near the line's original terminus in 1833. The restoration of the line on the remaining section along Carrollton Avenue to Claiborne Avenue took place on June 22, 2008.

The St. Charles line was listed by the National Park Service as a Historic Landmark in 2014. This recognizes it as a place that possesses "exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States," quoting the announcement from the Department of the Interior.[7]

Operation[edit]

The St. Charles Streetcar line is the only service in the entire RTA system to operate 24 hours a day post-Katrina. It operates very frequently daily, from six minutes during the day to ten minutes at night, with 20 to 30 minute intervals in the night owl period.

List of streetcar stops[edit]

From Canal Street to Uptown

Stop Neighborhood(s) Other streetcar lines Notes
Canal and Carondelet Streets Downtown, Central Business District, French Quarter                Transfer connection to Canal and Loyola-UPT Streetcar lines.
Eastern terminus of St. Charles Streetcar line.
Carondelet continues as Bourbon Street into the French Quarter.
Line has its own track in Canal Street neutral ground apart from the tracks for other lines.
By way of St. Charles Avenue (outbound) or Carondelet Street (inbound)
St. Charles and Common Street (outbound) Downtown, Central Business District
St. Charles and Gravier Street (outbound)
Carondelet and Union Street (inbound)
Downtown, Central Business District
Poydras Street Downtown, Central Business District Serves One Shell Square, the tallest building in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
Lafayette Street (outbound only) Downtown, Central Business District Serves Gallier Hall, Hale Boggs Federal Building and Lafayette Square.
Girod Street Central Business District, Arts and Warehouse District
Julia Street Arts and Warehouse District
St. Charles and St. Joseph Street (outbound)
Howard Avenue and Carondelet Street (inbound)
Arts and Warehouse District
by way of St. Charles Avenue from Lee Circle to Carrollton Avenue
Lee Circle Arts and Warehouse District Stop is located south of Lee Circle where inbound and outbound tracks meet.
Serves Civil War Museum, Contemporary Arts Museum, National World War II Museum and Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Erato Street Central City, Lower Garden District
Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard/Melpomene Street Central City, Lower Garden District
Euterpe Street Central City, Lower Garden District
Felicity Street Central City, Lower Garden District
St. Andrew Street Central City, Lower Garden District
Josephine Street Central City, Lower Garden District
Jackson Avenue Central City, Lower Garden District
First Street Central City, Garden District
Third Street Central City, Garden District
Washington Avenue Central City, Garden District
Sixth Street Central City, Garden District
Eighth Street Central City, Garden District
Louisiana Avenue Milan, Tuoro
Foucher Street Milan, Touro
Peniston Street Milan, Touro
Constantinople Street Milan, Touro
Milan Street Milan, Touro
Napoleon Avenue Milan, Touro, Uptown
Jena Street Uptown
Cadiz Street Uptown
Bordeaux Street Uptown
Robert Street Uptown
Duffosat Street (inbound only) Uptown
Valmont Street Uptown
Jefferson Avenue Audubon, Uptown
Joseph Street Audubon
Nashville Street Audubon
State Street Audubon
Webster Street Audubon
Calhoun Street Audubon
Exposition Boulevard Audubon
Tulane/Loyola Audubon Intersection of St. Charles and West Road.
Serves Audubon Park, Tulane University and Loyola University.
Tulane University Audubon Intersection of St. Charles and Law Road.
Serves Audubon Park and Tulane University.
Walnut Street Audubon Serves Audubon Park.
Broadway Street Audubon
Lowerline Street Audubon, Black Pearl, East Carrollton
Hilary Street Black Pearl, East Carrollton
Burdette Street (inbound only) Black Pearl, East Carrollton
Fern Street (outbound only) Black Pearl, East Carrollton
by way of South Carrollton Avenue from St. Charles to South Claiborne Avenue
St. Charles Avenue* Black Pearl, East Carrollton, Leonidas *Car stop is located in the neutral ground of Carrollton right after the tracks turn northward through the St. Charles intersection near the riverbend of the Mississippi River.
Maple Street East Carrollton, Leonidas
Freret Street East Carrollton, Leonidas
Oak Street East Carrollton, Leonidas Serves Oak Street shopping district.
Willow Street East Carrollton, Leonidas Tracks diverge via Willow and Jeanette Streets to the Carrollton Station car barn.
Jeanette Street (inbound only) East Carrollton, Leonidas
Birch Street (outbound only) East Carrollton, Leonidas
Spruce Street East Carrollton, Leonidas
Sycamore Street Fontainebleau/Marlyville, Leonidas Serves Palmer Park.
South Claiborne Avenue Fontainebleau/Marlyville, Leonidas Outbound terminus of line.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Guilbeau, James (1992). The St. Charles Street Car or The History of the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad (3rd ed.). New Orleans, La.: Louisiana Landmarks Society. ISBN 978-1879714021. 
  3. ^ "Streetcars in New Orleans". NewOrleansOnline.com. The Official Tourism Site of the City of New Orleans. 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "St. Charles Avenue Street Car Line - New Orleans, LA - Engineering Landmarks on Waymarking.com". Engineering Landmarks. Groundspeak, Inc. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  5. ^ American Society of Mechanical Engineers Regional Transit Authority. "St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line, 1835". Adapted from the book The St. Charles Street Car or The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad, by J. L. Guilbeau, revised and reprinted 1977. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers 345 East 47th Street New York, N.Y. 10017. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Hennick, Louis C.; E. Harper Charlton (1975). The Streetcars of New Orleans. Jackson Square Press. ISBN 978-1565545687. 
  7. ^ "New Orleans' St. Charles streetcar line named national historic landmark". NOLA.com. NOLA Media Group. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 

External links[edit]