Streetcars in New Orleans

Streetcars in New Orleans
New Orleans Streetcars
20080622 St. Charles St. Trolley behind tree with Mardi Gras beads.JPG
Streetcar in the background on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District with Mardi Gras beads on a crepe myrtle tree.
Locale New Orleans, LA
Transit type Streetcar
Number of lines 3
Daily ridership 17,600[1]
Began operation January 1835
Operator(s) New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
Track gauge 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm)
Pennsylvania trolley gauge
Minimum radius of curvature 28 ft (8.534 m) in yard,
50 ft (15.240 m) elsewhere[2]
Streetcar network
900 Series

900 Series car. Return of streetcars after Katrina: Vintage St. Charles line car on the Canal Street route, December, 2005
Manufacturer Perley A. Thomas Car Works, High Point NC
Constructed 1923-1924
Entered service 1923-present
Number built 73; 35 in current operation
Capacity 52
Gauge 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm)
457-463 Series - Perley A. Thomas Car Works 900 Series Replicas

457-463 Series car. Built to re-equip the Riverfront Line when it was regauged

in 1997.
Manufacturer New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Constructed 1997
Entered service 1997-present
Number built 7
Capacity 52
Gauge 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm)
2000 series - Perley A. Thomas Car Works 900 Series Replicas

2000 series car - Perley Thomas Replica - pre-Katrina view, near the foot of Canal Street
Manufacturer New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Constructed 1999, 2002-2003
Entered service 1999-present
Number built 24
Capacity 52
Gauge 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm)

Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city's public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans' streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Today, the streetcars are operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

There are currently three operating streetcar lines in New Orleans: The St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, and the Canal Street Line. The St. Charles Avenue Line is the only line that has operated continuously throughout New Orleans' streetcar history (though service was interrupted after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and resumed only in part in December 2006, as noted below). All other lines were replaced by bus service in the period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s; preservationists were unable to save the streetcars on Canal Street, but were able to convince the city government to protect the St. Charles Avenue Line by granting it historic landmark status. In the later 20th century, trends began to favor rail transit again. A short Riverfront Line started service in 1988, and service returned to Canal Street in 2004, 40 years after it had been shut down.

The wide destruction wrought on the city by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods from the levee breaches in August 2005 knocked all three lines out of operation and damaged many of the streetcars. Service on a portion of the Canal Street line was restored in December of that year, with the remainder of the line and the Riverfront line returning to service in early 2006. On December 23, 2007, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) extended service from Napoleon Avenue to the end of historic St. Charles Avenue (the “Riverbend”). On June 22, 2008 service was restored to the end of the line at South Carrollton Avenue & South Claiborne Avenue.


Current lines

The standard fare for all three lines is $1.25, with discounts for senior citizens. Passengers with disabilities and passengers two and under are admitted free. Transfers to other routes are available for $0.25.

St. Charles Avenue Line

St. Charles Streetcar passes the old Carrollton Courthouse Building on Carrollton Avenue, April, 2005
Streetcars return to the Carrollton for the first time since the Katrina disaster over 2 years earlier

The Saint Charles Avenue 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 Saint 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 about seven and a half miles. Officially the St. Charles Avenue Line is designated as Route 12.

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 Rail Road.[3] Service 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). Passenger and freight cars were hauled by steam locomotive.

As the area along the line became more urbanized, objections to the soot and noise produced by the locomotive 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 cables 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 "Chlorine 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 perfected 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.[4]

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.[4]

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.

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.[4]

In 1972 automatic fareboxes were introduced, and the job of a separate conductor was eliminated from 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 like track sanding. The rest of the line's cars date from 1923-24.[3]

In 2005, service along the route was suspended due to damage from Hurricane Katrina and the floods from the 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.

Canal Street Line

The Canal Street Line traces its origins to the old New Orleans City RR Co., founded to provide horse-drawn streetcar service throughout the city. This system's first lines opened in June, 1861, running on Esplanade, Magazine, Prytania, and Canal Streets. The original car barn for the Canal Line, which served it until the end in 1964, was established at White Street. The line ran on its namesake street from St. Charles Street to the car barn; it was extended in August all the way to the end of the street at the Cemeteries.[4][5]

The City RR came under the control of the New Orleans Traction Co. in 1892 as the system was prepared for electrification. A large order for new electric streetcars was placed with the Brill Co. of Philadelphia. The Canal Line was the first New Orleans Traction line to be electrified, beginning electric service on July 28, 1894. It was followed very quickly by Esplanade and the rest of the company's horsecar lines. The line was extended slightly in the central business district to terminate at the foot of Canal Street, not far from the Mississippi River.[4]

In 1901, the streetcar company slightly extended the Canal and Esplanade Lines so that their outer ends met at City Park Ave., and connected them together in a Belt Line. Canal cars left the central business district on Canal Street, operated to City Park Ave., turned down that street to Esplanade Ave., and returned on Esplanade to Rampart and thus back to Canal Street. Cars marked Esplanade left the central business district via Rampart Street down to Esplanade, then operated out Esplanade to City Park Ave. to Canal, and returned on Canal Street. This Belt Line arrangement lasted until December 27, 1934, when Esplanade Ave. was converted to buses, and Canal resumed running only on Canal Street, end-to-end.[4]

From 1934 to 1950, there were two lines running on Canal Street. Cars marked West End operated from the foot of Canal to the outer end of the street at the cemeteries, then turned left onto City Park Ave. (Metairie Road) to the New Basin Canal, and then out the east bank of that canal to the West End amusement area at Lake Pontchartrain. Cars marked Cemeteries followed the same route, but turned back at the cemeteries immediately after turning off of Metairie Road. West End made only limited stops along Canal Street from Claiborne Ave. to City Park Ave. The West End line was converted to buses in 1950, after which the surviving Cemeteries cars were once again signed Canal. In 1951, the outer terminus of the Canal Line was moved to the end of Canal Street, and tracks on City Park Ave. (Metairie Road) were removed.[4]

In 1964, the streetcar company (known since 1922 as New Orleans Public Service Incorporated, or NOPSI) proposed to convert the Canal Line to buses. The line was to be combined with the West End and Canal Blvd. bus lines, so that patrons could have a one-seat ride all the way from the central business district to Lake Ponchartrain. There was tremendous controversy over the proposal, but it was carried, and the Canal Streetcar was discontinued, over the protests of preservationists. The last day was May 30, 1964, with the final run (NOPSI car 972, carrying banners which read "See Me On St. Charles") leaving Canal Line tracks at about 5:00 a.m. May 31. All the streetcars, except for 35 reserved for the St. Charles Line, were scrapped or donated to museums across the country, and all track and overhead wire was removed.[4]

By the 1990s, interest in streetcars was rekindled, not only in New Orleans, but in many cities around the country. Plans for the restoration of the Canal Line were announced in 2000, and tracks were rebuilt from the foot of Canal Street out to the cemeteries. There was even a branch line created on N. Carrollton Ave., which had never before had streetcar service. Finally, the Canal streetcar line reopened April 18, 2004, almost 40 years after its close.

The Canal Street Streetcar, in its reconception, now includes two lines.[5] The main line, named "Canal - Cemeteries" after the original "Cemeteries" line (and currently designated as Route 47), travels a direct route from the foot of Canal St. at the Mississippi River to its head 3 miles (4.8 km) inland. For much of its history, this area constituted the northern (lakeside) boundary of the city, which explains the density of cemeteries, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, in this area. The other, named "Canal - City Park/Museum" (or sometimes just "City Park", and designated as Route 48), begins at the French Market at the foot of Esplanade and Elysian Fields Avenues, sharing trackage with the Riverfront Line before turning onto Canal Street for most of its length. It diverges from the main trackage at Carrollton Avenue, where it turns on to N. Carrollton Avenue, ending at Beauregard Circle, at Esplanade Avenue and Bayou St. John, near the entrance of the New Orleans Museum of Art and within easy walking distance of the New Orleans Fairgrounds, site of the yearly Jazz and Heritage Festival. The Canal Cemeteries and City Park branches were originally designated as Routes 42 and 45, respectively, until January 2009, when the route numbers were changed to 47 and 48.

Riverfront Line

Riverfront Streetcar in 1988, the line's first year of operation
Riverfront Line along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter

The Riverfront Line was built along a section of the city's Mississippi River banks, in an area with many amenities catering to tourists. It opened August 14, 1988, the first new streetcar route to be unveiled in New Orleans in 62 years. The line is the city's shortest, running 2 miles (3.2 km) from Thalia Street at the upper end of the New Orleans Convention Center to the downriver (far) end of the French Quarter at the foot of Esplanade Avenue. Unlike the other two lines, it travels on an exclusive right of way, along the river levee beside New Orleans Belt Railway tracks. Officially, the Riverfront Line is designated Route 2.

Two retired Perley Thomas streetcars, formerly running along the Canal line until the 1960s, were repurchased and refurbished, along with two W2-type streetcars originally from Melbourne, Australia. It was the city's first streetcar line to offer handicapped access, using the Melbourne cars; the historic landmark status of the Saint Charles route prevented the modification of the cars on that line.

The original line was single-track, 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge), with one passing siding. But the line proved to be so popular that this was inadequate, so in 1990, it was temporarily closed and a second track was added. At the same time, another repurchased Perley Thomas streetcar and another ex-Melbourne streetcar were added to the fleet.

By 1997, RTA felt the need for additional wheelchair access on the Riverfront line. It was decided to build new streetcars, which would be replicas of the venerable Perley Thomas cars, but would have more modern trucks and controls. The first such car used the body shell of another repurchased Perley Thomas streetcar, with a wheelchair access door cut into its side. Six additional replica car bodies were built from scratch in the venerable Carrollton Shops. After some experimentation with second hand PCC trucks and controls salvaged from retired Philadelphia streetcars, all seven new cars were equipped with trucks and controls from the Czech builder ČKD Tatra.

At the same time, it was decided to regauge the Riverfront line to broad gauge (5 ft 2 12 in/1,588 mm) to conform to the St. Charles track gauge, and to build a connecting track on Canal Street from St. Charles to Riverfront. This would make it much easier to service Riverfront cars at Carrollton Station, and they could even be housed at Carrollton rather than out in the open at the ends of the Riverfront line.

The last day of standard gauge operation of Riverfront was September 6, 1997, after which the line was again temporarily closed and the track gauge changed. The three Perley Thomas cars and the three ex-Melbourne cars were retired at this time. The ex-Melbourne cars were sold to the Memphis Area Transit Authority, for use on that city's Main Street Trolley line. One of the Perley Thomas cars was sent to the San Francisco Municipal Railway, and the other two were stored at Carrollton Station. The Riverfront line reopened with the new cars running on the wide gauge track in December 1997.


In 1902, there was protest when the Louisiana legislature mandated that public transportation must enforce racial segregation. At first this was objected to by both white and black riders as an inconvenience, and by the streetcar companies on grounds of both added expense and the difficulties of determining the racial background of some New Orleanians.

In 1929, there was a widespread strike by transit workers demanding better pay which was widely supported by much of the public. Sandwiches on baguettes were given to the "poor boys" on strike, said to be the origin of the local name of "po' boy" sandwiches. The same year, the last of the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) tracks were converted to 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm) (Pennsylvania trolley gauge) to match the rest of the streetcar lines.

After World War II, as with much of the United States, many streetcar lines were replaced with buses, either internal combustion (gasoline/diesel) or electric (trolley bus).

Hurricane Katrina

Fallen pole across St. Charles streetcar tracks

The area through which the St. Charles Avenue Line traveled fared comparatively well in Hurricane Katrina's devastating impact on New Orleans at the end of August 2005, with moderate flooding only of the two ends of the line at Claiborne Avenue and at Canal Street. However, wind damage and falling trees took out many sections of trolley wire along St. Charles Avenue, and vehicles parked on the neutral ground over the inactive tracks degraded parts of the right-of-way. At the start of October 2005, as this part of town started being repopulated, bus service began running on the St. Charles line.

The section running from Canal Street to Lee Circle via Carondelet Street and St. Charles Street in the Central Business District was restored December 19, 2006 at 10:30am Central time. Service from Lee Circle to Napoleon Avenue in Uptown New Orleans was restored November 10, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. NORTA restored streetcar service on the remainder of St. Charles Ave. on December 23, 2007. Service along the remainder of the line on Carrollton Ave. to Claiborne Avenue resumed June 22, 2008.[6][7][8][9] The time was needed to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and to perform other maintenance and upgrades to the lines that had been scheduled before the hurricane. Leaving the line shut down and the electrical system unpowered allowed the upgrades to be performed more safely and easily.

Perhaps more serious was the effect on the system's rolling stock. The vintage green streetcars rode out the storm in the sealed barn in a portion of Old Carrollton that didn't flood, and were undamaged. However, the newer red cars were in a different barn that unfortunately did flood, and all of them were rendered inoperable; early estimates were that each car would cost between $800,000 and $1,000,000 to restore. In December 2006, NORTA received a $46 million grant to help pay for the car restoration efforts. The first restored cars were to be placed in service early in 2009.[10]

Service on the Canal Street Line was restored in December 2005, with several historic St. Charles line green cars transferred to serve there while the flood-damaged red cars were being repaired. The eventual reopening of all lines was made a major priority for the city as it rebuilds.

Brookville Equipment Corporation[11] located in Pennsylvania was awarded the contract to provide the components to rebuild 31 New Orleans’ streetcars to help the city bring its transportation infrastructure closer to full capacity. The streetcars were submerged in over five feet of water while parked in their car barn, and all electrical components affected by the flooding had to be replaced. Brookville Equipment’s engineering and drafting departments immediately began work on this three-year project to return these New Orleans icons to service. Painting, body work, and final assembly of the restored streetcars was carried out by NORTA craftsmen at Carrollton Station Shops. As of March 2009, sufficient red cars had been repaired to take over all service on the Canal Street and Riverfront lines. As of June 2009, the last three Canal Street cars were scheduled for repair. The seven Riverfront cars were worked on next; they began to return to service in early 2010.

Historic lines

Streetcar on Esplanade Avenue, 1921

In the mid 19th to early 20th century, the city had dozens of lines, including:[4]

  • Poydras-Magazine (January 1835 - March/April 1836) - Though short-lived, this was the first true streetcar line to begin operation in New Orleans, having opened the first week of January 1835.
  • Jackson Ave. (January 13, 1835 - May 19, 1947) - This long-running line also opened before the St. Charles line, on January 13, 1835. Replaced with trolley bus and later diesel bus service.
  • Louisiana Ave. (February 4, 1850–1878, August 27, 1913 - December 27, 1934) - The original 1850-1878 Louisiana Line was a branch line of the New Orleans & Carrollton, running on Louisiana from St. Charles to the river at Tchoupitoulas. The later 1913-1934 line ran from Canal Street up to Louisiana Ave. on Freret and Howard (now LaSalle) Streets, then to Tchoupitoulas. For part of its life, it terminated on Canal Street at the ferry landing.
  • Napoleon Ave. (February 4, 1850 - February 18, 1953) - Like the Louisiana Line, the original Napoleon Ave. line was a branch line of the New Orleans & Carrollton, running on Napoleon from St. Charles Ave. to the river at Tchoupitoulas. Unlike the Louisiana, it was extended to Canal Street when electrified in 1893. A second line, popularly known as the Royal Blue Line, was opened on January 1, 1903 from St. Charles out to the end of the Avenue at Broad Street. The two were combined in 1906. With the Shrewsbury Extension on Metairie Road, which operated from 1915–1934, this was the longest streetcar line in New Orleans. Its routing was as follows: on Napoleon Ave. from Tchoupitoulas to S. Broad, then turning right onto S. Broad, left onto Washington Ave. (running between the street and the Palmetto-Washington drainage canal), right onto S. Carrollton Ave., left onto Pontchartrain Blvd. (this would now be impossible due to the presence of the Pontchartrain Expressway / I-10), left onto Metairie Rd., then zig-zagging through several Old Metairie streets to a terminus at Cypress and Shrewsbury Rd. (now Severn Ave.).
  • Esplanade Ave. (June 1, 1861 - December 27, 1934) - This was the first streetcar line to traverse the "back-of-town" section of New Orleans, running all the way out Esplanade Ave. to Bayou St. John in its original routing. From 1901–1934 the Canal and Esplanade lines operated in a loop as the Canal-Esplanade Belt, until Esplanade Ave. went to buses in 1934.
  • Coliseum (originally Canal and Coliseum and Upper Magazine) (September 1, 1881 - May 11, 1929) - Known as the "Snake Line" because it curved all over the place in uptown New Orleans. Originally operating on Coliseum Street from Canal to Louisiana, it was extended piece by piece over the years, first on Magazine to the present Audubon Park, then through the park to Broadway and then across to Carrollton Ave., where it connected to the loop on Oak and Willow Streets from Carrollton to the Orleans-Jefferson parish line. Beginning in 1913, however, the Magazine Line took over all trackage on Magazine Street, and a shorter Coliseum Line ended near Audubon Park.
  • Magazine Street (June 8, 1861 - February 11, 1948) - Its longest routing, in the 1910s, took it all the way from Canal Street, up Magazine and Broadway to S. Claiborne Ave. Replaced with trolley bus and later diesel bus service.
  • Prytania St. (June 8, 1861 - October 1, 1932) - Known as the "Silk Stocking Line", Prytania ran through the Garden District.
  • Bayou Bridge and City Park (mid-1861 - December 22, 1894, route absorbed into Esplanade line) - This early line ran the full length of the present-day City Park Ave. (then called Metairie Rd.)
  • Tchoupitoulas Street (August 10, 1866 - July 2, 1929) - This early riverfront line once ran the full-length of Tchoupitoulas St. from Canal Street to Audubon Park.
  • N. Claiborne Ave. (May 13, 1868 - December 27, 1934) - This was a downtown (i.e., downriver) line. From 1917 to 1925, it was operated as a single line with the Jackson Line.
  • Tulane Ave. (originally Canal & Common) (January 15, 1871 - January 8, 1951) - From 1900–1951 the St. Charles and Tulane lines operated in a loop as the St. Charles-Tulane Belt, taking passengers past the beautiful homes on St. Charles Ave., up S. Carrollton Ave. past the St. Charles Line's present terminal at S. Claiborne Ave., across the New Basin Canal (now the site of the Pontchartrain Expressway), turning at the former Pelican Stadium onto Tulane Ave. and back downtown. The Tulane Avenue service became a trolley bus and later a diesel bus route.
  • Broad St. (originally Canal, Dumaine & Fair Grounds) (1874 - July 16, 1932) - After 1915, the Broad Line had two branches, on St. Bernard and Paris Avenues.
  • West End (April 20, 1876 - January 15, 1950) - This line is still fondly remembered for its jaunty ride through the grassy right-of-way along the New Basin Canal (now filled in) to the popular West End area on Lake Pontchartrain.
  • Spanish Fort (March 26, 1911 - October 16, 1932) - Further east along Lake Pontchartrain at the mouth of Bayou St. John was another amusement area built around an old fort. This was the original location of Pontchartrain Beach before it moved further east to Elysian Fields Ave. The Spanish Fort Line branched off of the West End Line at what is now Robert E. Lee Blvd.
  • S. Claiborne Ave. (February 22, 1915 - January 5, 1953) - In its later years, this line operated at the edges of the neutral ground, which covered a large drainage canal, part of which was open. The part of the neutral ground that was covered was planted in grass and ornamental trees and bushes, and was quite beautiful.
  • Desire Street (October 17, 1920 - May 29, 1948) - This line ran through the French Quarter down to its namesake street in the Bywater district. It was immortalized in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire. The line was converted to buses in 1948. Various proposals to revive a streetcar line with this name have been discussed in recent years, but the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has no current plans to rebuild. For many years, a 1906 Brill-built semi-convertible streetcar was displayed in the French Market with a Desire route sign, although there is no evidence that cars of this type ever served the Desire Line. At first it was under cover; later out in the open, it deteriorated from the weather, and in the 1990s it was turned over to New Orleans RTA. It is currently housed at Carrollton Station in the car shops.
  • Freret St. (September 7, 1924 - December 1, 1946) - Replaced with trolley bus and later diesel bus service.
  • St. Claude Ave. (February 21, 1926 - January 1, 1949) - This and the Gentilly Line were the last two streetcar lines to open in New Orleans until August 1988 (inauguration of the Riverfront line). Replaced with trolley bus and later diesel bus service. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has plans to rebuild a similar route. [12]
  • Gentilly (February 21, 1926 - July 17, 1948) - Gentilly was derived from the old Villere Line. It was unusual in being named for the neighborhood it served, rather than the street along which it ran. At one end, it traversed the French Quarter. Then it turned up Almonaster (now Franklin) to its terminal at Dreux. Replaced by diesel bus service, which was eventually renamed Franklin for the street.
  • Orleans/Kenner interurban (or O.K. Line) - This line operated between 1915–1931 and connected New Orleans to Kenner. It began at the intersection of Rampart and Canal in New Orleans and followed the route of the present-day Jefferson Hwy. through Jefferson Parish to the St. Charles Parish Line in an area then known as Hanson City (now part of Kenner). This line was not a NOPSI service, although it came under NOPSI control in the late 1920s.[4]

Current rolling stock

Canal Streetcar
The last 19th century Ford Bacon & Davis car (Ole 29), still in work car service on St. Charles Avenue, 2008

The St. Charles Avenue Line has traditionally used streetcars of the type that were common all over the United States in the early parts of the 20th century. Most of the streetcars running on this line are Perley Thomas cars dating from the 1920s. The one exception is an 1890s vintage streetcar that is still in running condition; it is used for maintenance and special purposes. Unlike most North American cities with streetcar systems, New Orleans never adopted PCC cars in the 1930s or 1940s, and never traded in older streetcars for modern light rail vehicles in the later 20th century.

In the Carrollton neighborhood, the RTA has a streetcar barn, called Carrollton Station, where the streetcars of the city's lines are stored and maintained. The block wide complex consists of two buildings: older carbarn at Dante and Jeannette Streets and a newer barn at Willow and Dublin Streets. The shop there has become adept at duplicating any part needed for the vintage cars.

With the addition of the two new lines, more vehicles were needed for the system. The RTA's shops built two groups of modern cars as near duplicates of the older cars in appearance. One group of seven cars was built for the Riverfront line in 1997, and another group for the restored Canal Street line in 1999 (one car) and 2002-2003 (23 cars). These new cars can be distinguished from the older vehicles by their bright red color; unlike the older cars, they are ADA-compliant, and the Canal Street cars are air conditioned.

Before Hurricane Katrina, the historic cars ran exclusively on the St. Charles Avenue Line, and the newer cars on the other two lines. However, in the wake of hurricane damage to the St. Charles line tracks and overhead wires, and to almost all of the new red cars, the older cars were run on Canal Street and Riverfront until the new cars could be repaired. Using whatever worked wherever it could be run continued for several years. By 2010 enough restored streetcars were back in service to again confine the historic Pearly Thomas cars to the St. Charles line.

New Orleans Streetcar Expansion

For a description of current and planned expansion of the New Orleans streetcar system, see New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.


  1. ^ American Public Transportation Association, Light Rail Transit Ridership Report, First Quarter 2011.
  2. ^ Lightrail now New Orleans RTA/Brookville streetcar
  3. ^ a b c d e The Saint Charles Streetcar – or the history of The New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, by James Gilbeau, 3rd edition 1992, Louisiana Landmarks Society
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hennick, L., & Charlton, E., Street Railways of New Orleans, Pelican, 1975.
  5. ^ a b New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line by Edward J. Branley, Arcadia Publishing
  6. ^ Fanfare greets streetcar's return to part of Uptown, New Orleans Times-Picayune,, November 10, 2007
  7. ^ St. Charles streetcar route to grow again Sunday, New Orleans Times-Picayune,, December 22, 2007
  8. ^ Back on line: Streetcars return to South Carrollton, New Orleans Times-Picayune,, June 22, 2008
  9. ^
  10. ^ H. G. Friedman, Jr., Canal Street: A Street Railway Spectacular
  11. ^
  12. ^ "New Orleans Regional Transit Authority : Loyola Project Alternative Analysis". 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 

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