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Thursday, November 4, 2010

10-11-04 PHOTOS: A Streetcar named RTA - Part 2: Green Cars

In the second two parter in as many weeks we wrap up my trip to New Orelans and its growing Streetcar system. Unlike the Silverliner Farewell two parter, which warranted a "Previously On", this week I will forgo such formalities because the the way the photos turned out actlly did a nice job breaking things up into two distinct narratives. While last week I presented a comprehensive survey of the streetcar renaissance in New Orleans, today we tackle the elder of the two New Orleans streetcar lines, the one that was never discontinued and never lost its original equipment.

The St Charles Line runs from Canal Street at Bourbon through the iconic Garden and University districts before turning north on Carrollton Ave where it passes the Carrollton Carbarn before terminating at Claiborne Ave. The line literally follows the Crescent of the Crescent City which have proved resistant to the sort of poverty that pervaded the rest of the city and therefore it had the clout to keep its streetcar service when the other lines were retired in the 1960's. Despite the higher ground, this line was just as susceptible to Hurricane Katrina and didn't fully return to service until 2008 although the Carrollton Carbarn did not experience the flooding that the Canal St one did.

Like with the Red Car lines I have compiled a very complete survey documenting the line from end to end and you can see the entire set of photos here and also get a feeling of why I needed to split the whole set up int two parts.

We begin our journey at the downtown terminus of the St. Charles line where it spend a block making a loop on Canal between Bourbon and St. Charles and waiting there to greet us is #920, is one of the 35 olive green Perley A. Thomas Car Works cars that were built in 1923-24 out of an original order of 75.

At the corner of St Charles and Canal there are some section breakers that can tie the DC feeders between the two lines. Normally open one wonders if the circuit is ever closed due to beads...

Unlike the new replica cars which are built by a mining equipment concern and have T controllers, AC traction and electric brakes, the original cars have such amenities as an On-Off switch, pneumatic brakes, wooden bench seating, rubber flooring, bulb lighting and windows that go up and down.

After leaving downtown the tracks make a nearly 360o circuit around Lee Circle which has a famous monument to General Lee which depicts him not turning his back in retreat to the North. Hmmm, Germany banned statues of its Nazi war leaders yet somehow this is acceptable. 

Here we see #910 at Terpsichore St. The 2005 hurricane allowed the line to be completely refurbished with new feeder cable and new trolley wire. Fortunately classic style insulators and wire attachments were used.

Here we pass #930 at Polymnia St.

The can-do, party hearty attitude of New Orleans was evident all along the line including this example of a Bead Tree. In face I believe you can find beads in most of the photos I took. Sort of like a Wares Waldo of drunken hedonism.

As the line continued past Loyola and Tulane Universities it began to encounter more and more of what can best be described as "tree tunnels" made from native live oaks like at this one near the super ritzy and gated Audubon St.

Here is another view with car #948.

As we continued on the passenger traffic began to lighten and my railfan sense prompted me to switch to video mode and I was rewarded with a superb express run from Burdette St to Maple, which included the 90 degree turn onto Carrollton at the point where St Charles runs into the Mississippi River levee. Also included is inbound car #951 waiting at the great bend to turn onto St Charles.

Continuing up Carrollton I passed a film shoot that probably had something to do with the HBO series Treme.

Reaching the end of the line I found that the light was perfect to shoot the "changing of the poles".

 Like the Red Car lines there was no shortage of tourists milling about and taking photos.

Looking under the floor these marvels of 1920's technology have such features as resistor grids...

And what is believe is a motor-generator set or air compressor.

I believe this little model of a Streetcar has something to do with the resumption of service to this point in 2008.

Cars departing the terminal take the spring switch and cross over to the inbound track.

Shortly there after we passed car #965 waiting to replace us.

Getting off at Jeannette St you can see an example of the bare bones type of stop used on the line as well as the stop marker that has a cute little Fleur-de-lis finial.

Jeannette St is where cars can access the Carrollton Carbarn which is a block and a half to the west. Here we see the entrance fan for the barn and bays 5 through 13.

Inside is where the Green Car fleet is stored like 962 and 932 seen here. Because the Uptown section of the city is avtually above sea level it did not flood during Katrina and the old cars were not water damaged like the new ones.

While bays 5 through 8 are used for cars in regular there are two extension buildings housing bays 9 through 11 and 12 through 13. I believe these are used for repairs and other maintenance.

The trolley tracks and wire wasn't the only pretty thing at the Carbarn. These typical New Orleans single story houses had been given a very lively coat of paint.

Looking into the other side of the barn we catch #451, which was one of the original cars tasked for the Waterfront service before the new Brookville red cars were purchased.

The exit side of the barn can be considered the "front door".

At Willow Street the cars from the barn ">rejoin the line and the previously encountered #910 passed me heading back to the Carrollton terminal.

I didn't have to wait long for #914 to also show up to take me back toward downtown.

We didn't get far before we passed #930 as a jogger uses the grass lined trackway for her exercise.

I probably could have provided a more comprehensive history of the St Charles Line, but fortunately I exercised the option to take a picture of this historic plaque instead.

If you remember the river bend from the previous video here is a photo. That grass hill in the background is the Mississippi River levy.

I soon got off the trolley again at Tulane to see if I could find a friend who is attending Loyola, but I came away empty handed except for this photo of the departing #914.

I got back on #930 which I would use to complete my ride on the St Charles streetcar.

The service frequency really began to pick up as we entered the peak period. Unfortunately I missed the pull-out moves at Carrollton Carbarn, but here at Octavia St we had another instance of the "Always a Car In Sight" effect.

And shortly thereafter #948 at Jefferson St.

I wanted to use a photo to mentions the frequent turnback crossovers on the line. Here we see the example at Napoleon St, which served as a temporary terminal through 2007 as the line was rehabilitated after the Hurricane. Note how the entire bed of both turnouts are completely swathed in grass unlike the turnbacks on the Canal Line which are set in concrete.

As we approached downtown I was running into some problems with backlighting so I experimented with making use of the operator's side mirror to correct the problem.

Because of how the one-way streets work, inbound streetcars have to use the Lee Circle to "cross over" the outbound track via a 270 degree circuit before exiting on Howard Ave.

Finally reaching Canal St I alighted from #930 and took a video as it pulled away and turned onto Canal. Watch closely as you can see a nice bright electric arc in the arc chute where the 600V DC traction power is interrupted by the control equipment.

#930 again waiting in traffic on Canal St.

And finally we see a video of #930 as it makes the turn back onto St Charles while its trolley pole negotiates the rather rickety overhead wire.

Well I hope you enjoyed this trip to the Big Sleazy. If you are interested in seeing the entire set of photos that spans both parts you can see it here:

Stay tuned next week where we will return from New Orleans on Amtrak's Crescent.

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