New Orleans September 20, 2018
These 10 Historic Photos Of The New Orleans Streetcar Will Amaze You
There are few sights more iconic than the New Orleans streetcar. They’ve been a part of our history since the early 19th century, and the St Charles streetcar line is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world. These ten historic photos of the New Orleans streetcar system give us a fascinating glimpse into the past that’s truly remarkable.
The first rail service in New Orleans was established in 1831 by the Pontchartrain Railroad Company.
The five-mile line ran north along Elysian Fields Avenue from the river to the lake.
Interestingly enough, the first trains weren’t engine powered.
The first trains were actually pulled by horses because the engines meant to power the trains hadn’t arrived from England, so the first year of the trains were horse-driven. After a year, the steam engines arrived and the train system continued sometimes pulled by horses, sometimes powered by the steam engines.
When the trains first opened to the public, a round trip fare was a mere seventy-five cents.
By the late 1800’s, there were several streetcar companies operating multiple lines in the city. The six companies were: New Orleans and Carrolton Railroad Company, New Orleans City Railroad Company, Crescent City Railroad Company, St. Charles Street Railroad Company, Canal and Claiborne Streets Railroad Company, and Orleans Railroad Company.
The first electric powered streetcars appeared in 1893 on the Carrollton Line.
During this time the line was also extended, and renamed St. Charles. It didn’t take long for the other streetcar companies to electrify their lines. The Girod and Poydras lines which remained horse-driven were discontinued.
Following the electrification of the streetcar lines, many of the railroad companies began to merge.
By 1902, New Orleans Railways Company took over operation of all of the city streetcars, and in 1905 they changed their name to New Orleans Railway and Light Company.
There were many strikes by the streetcar workers in the early 1900s.
The most notable was in 1929 when transit workers went on strike, demanding better pay. During the strike, sandwiches served on long baguettes were given to the "poor boys" on strike, and many believe this is the birth of the "po’boy" and the origin of the name.
From 1924-1940, many of the streetcar lines were converted to bus routes.
The last four streetcar lines in New Orleans at the time were: S. Claiborne and Napoleon lines (which converted to buses in 1953), Canal (converted in 1964 and then back to rails in 2004) and the St. Charles Line, which has remained a streetcar line and is a historic landmark.
In 1988, the Riverfront Line was created, making it the first new streetcar line in New Orleans since 1926.
In 2004, the Canal line was restored back to railway status and runs the entire length of Canal Street. And then in 2013, the Rampart/St. Claude Line opened.
New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) took over ownership and operations of the streetcar system in 1983.
And they continue to operate and maintain the streetcar system today.
There are currently five operating streetcar lines in New Orleans.
The St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, The Canal Street line, the Loyola Avenue Line, and the Rampart/St. Claude Line. It's one of the best ways to get around the city. For only $1.25 (exact change only!) you can ride the historic streetcar and take in all the sites.
Do you remember the first time you rode the streetcar? Share your memories in the comments below!