St. Charles Streetcar Line

Route map:
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St. Charles
St. Charles Streetcar passing through the New Orleans Central Business District
OwnerNew Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Line number12
LocaleNew Orleans, Louisiana
  • South Carrollton and South Claiborne
  • Carondelet and Canal
TypeHeritage streetcar
SystemStreetcars in New Orleans
Depot(s)Carrollton Transit Station
Rolling stock900 Series Perley Thomas streetcars
457 Series Perley Thomas replica streetcars
OpenedSeptember 26, 1835; 188 years ago (1835-09-26)
Line length6 mi (9.7 km)[1]
Number of tracks2
CharacterPrimarily in neutral ground (central median), street running between Howard Avenue and Canal Street
Track gauge5 ft 2+12 in (1,588 mm)
ElectrificationOverhead line600 V DC
St. Charles Streetcar Line
St. Charles Streetcar Line is located in East New Orleans
St. Charles Streetcar Line
St. Charles Streetcar Line is located in Louisiana
St. Charles Streetcar Line
St. Charles Streetcar Line is located in the United States
St. Charles Streetcar Line
LocationSt. Charles Ave. route from central business district to Carrollton, New Orleans, Louisiana
Area15 acres (6.1 ha)
Built byPerley A. Thomas, B. Booth & Co.
NRHP reference No.73000873[2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 23, 1973
Designated NHLAugust 25, 2014
Route map

Canal & Carondelet Streets
St. Charles & Common Street
St. Charles & Union Street
Carondelet & Gravier Street
Poydras Street
Lafayette Street
Girod Street
Julia Street
St. Charles & St. Joseph Street
Howard Avenue &
Carondelet Street
Lee Circle
Erato Street
Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard /
Melpomene Street
Euterpe Street
Felicity Street
St. Andrew Street
Josephine Street
Jackson Avenue
First Street
Third Street
Washington Avenue
Sixth Street
Eighth Street
Louisiana Avenue
Foucher Street
Peniston Street
Constantinople Street
Milan Street
Napoleon Avenue
Jena Street
Cadiz Street
Bordeaux Street
Robert Street
Duffosat Street
Valmont Street
Jefferson Avenue
Joseph Street
Nashville Avenue
State Street
Webster Street
Calhoun Street
Exposition Boulevard
Tulane University
Walnut Street
Broadway Street
Lowerline Street
Hilary Street
Burdette Street
Fern Street
St. Charles Avenue
Maple Street
Freret Street
Oak Street
Willow Street
Carrollton Transit Station shop
Jeanette Street
Birch Street
Spruce Street
Sycamore Street
South Claiborne Avenue

The St. Charles Streetcar Line is a historic streetcar line in New Orleans, Louisiana. Running since 1835, it is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world. It is operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Officially the St. Charles Streetcar line is designated as Route 12, and it runs along its namesake, 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.

The St. Charles Streetcar Line is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only two street railways that are National Historic Landmarks, along with the San Francisco cable car system.


The St. Charles line starts uptown, at South Carrollton Avenue and South Claiborne Avenue.[3] 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 6 miles (9.7 km).[1] 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.


Planning for the line began in 1831, and work began as the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad in February 1833, the second railway in Greater New Orleans after the Pontchartrain Railroad.[3] 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.[3] 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 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.[3] 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 the Pontchartrain 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.[3]

In 1973, preservationists successfully listed the St. Charles line on the National Register of Historic Places. But it is not possible to provide the historic cars with wheelchair access doors and lifts in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For this reason, it has been the only service in the system not to have wheelchair access.

Interior of car

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 National 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] It joins the San Francisco cable car system as one of only two moving streetcar National Historic Landmarks. (There are other moving landmarks, such as ships and trains.)

Following a lawsuit over access for wheelchair and other limited mobility patrons, RTA entered into a consent decree in 2017, agreeing to make six stops (each end, as well as Napoleon, Louisiana, Jackson, and a then-undetermined stop near Riverbend) accessible. At least one wheelchair lift-equipped car was to be added to the line, but the historic Perley Thomas streetcars were not to be modified.[8][9]

In 2020, to comply with the 2017 consent decree, RTA renovated three streetcars (and later a fourth) that had originally been built with a wheelchair lift and accessible features for Riverfront service, bringing the St. Charles streetcar line into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).[10] This included repainting these cars from Riverfront red to the iconic St. Charles line green. The cars carry a wheelchair icon on their ends and sides. RTA also rebuilt car stops at six major intersections to allow wheelchair access. Accessible service on the St. Charles line began on December 1, 2020.[11][12]


The St. Charles Streetcar line operates 24 hours a day, with frequent service most of the day (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.), with cars coming every nine minutes. Cars operate every 18 minutes early morning (before 7 a.m.) and late night (10 p.m. to midnight), with 36-minute intervals in the night owl period (midnight to 6 a.m.).[13]

The principal equipment of the line consists of 35 streetcars built in 1923–24 by the Perley A. Thomas Car Works. They have been rebuilt several times during their long service life.[14] The line also uses four Perley Thomas replica streetcars equipped with a wheelchair lift.[12]

List of streetcar stops[edit]

From Canal Street to Uptown

Stop Disabled access Neighborhood(s) Other streetcar lines Notes
Canal and Carondelet Streets Disabled access Downtown, Central Business District, French Quarter 47 48 Eastern (inbound) terminus of St. Charles Streetcar line
Transfer point to Canal Streetcar Line
Carondelet continues as Bourbon Street into the French Quarter
Line turns back on dedicated 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 Union Street (outbound)
Carondelet and Gravier Street (inbound)
Downtown, Central Business District
Poydras Street Downtown, Central Business District Serves Hancock Whitney Center, 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 Tivoli Circle/Harmony Circle[15] to Carrollton Avenue
Tivoli 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 Disabled access 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 Disabled access Milan, Tuoro
Foucher Street Milan, Touro
Peniston Street Milan, Touro
Constantinople Street Milan, Touro
Milan Street Milan, Touro
Napoleon Avenue Disabled access 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 Avenue Audubon
State Street Audubon
Webster Street Audubon
Calhoun Street Audubon
Exposition Boulevard Audubon
Tulane/Loyola Audubon Stop at intersection of St. Charles and West Road
Serves Audubon Park, Tulane University and Loyola University
Tulane University Audubon Stop at 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
Hillary 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 Disabled access 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 Marsalis Harmony Park (formerly Palmer Park)
South Claiborne Avenue Disabled access Fontainebleau/Marlyville, Leonidas Outbound terminus of line

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Streetcars in New Orleans". The Official Tourism Site of the City of New Orleans. 2023. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. ^ 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 978-1-879714-02-1.
  4. ^ "St. Charles Avenue Street Car Line – New Orleans, LA – Engineering Landmarks on". Engineering Landmarks. Groundspeak, Inc. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  5. ^ American Society of Mechanical Engineers Regional Transit Authority. "St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line, 1835" (PDF). 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. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 20, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Hennick, Louis C.; E. Harper Charlton (1975). The Streetcars of New Orleans. Jackson Square Press. ISBN 978-1-56554-568-7.
  7. ^ "New Orleans' St. Charles streetcar line named national historic landmark". NOLA Media Group. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  8. ^ "St. Charles Streetcar Line to become Wheelchair Accessible". WGNO. May 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  9. ^ "St Charles Streetcar Line to Become Wheelchair Accessible Consent Decree Says". WDSU. May 2, 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  10. ^ "New ADA streetcars enter service on St. Charles Avenue". December 2020.
  11. ^ "New ADA streetcars enter service on St. Charles Avenue". December 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Photos: RTA introduces three St. Charles Streetcars with ADA compliant wheelchair lifts". December 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  13. ^ "New Orleans RTA". New Orleans RTA. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  14. ^ Hennick, Louis C. "Appendix III to The Streetcars of New Orleans". pp. x, y, z. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  15. ^ Murphy, Paul (April 21, 2022). "Lee Circle in New Orleans officially renamed". WWL TV. Retrieved January 20, 2024.

External links[edit]

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