All Aboard!! It’s A Ride Through The History Of The Streetcars Of New Orleans

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The streetcars of New Orleans have the grand distinction as being the oldest continuously operated street railroad on the planet as well as one of the first passengers railroads in the U.S.A..

Dating as far back as 1835 with the St. Charles Avenue line, it was a simple passenger line from New Orleans to the suburb of Carrollton. And although Carrollton would eventually become part of New Orleans, the St. Charles line exists and operates today much like it did in the early 20th century.

 The first streetcars ran on steam before actually backdating and running streetcars on horsepower. This move, though less efficient, meant quieter streetcars which earned their keep for at least 20 more years before being replaced.

In 1893 electricity replaced horses as power after unsuccessful attempts with ammonia powered engines, steam dummy engines and cars powered by electric batteries. This move proved to be the right one as electricity still powers N.O.’s streetcars to this day.

During the 60s as buses became popular across America, the fate of the N.O. streetcar system came into question. To large extent those fears were realized when in May of 1964 the streetcars were completely removed from Canal Street.

All seemed lost when in 1973 preservations succeeded in adding the St. Charles line to the National Register of Historic Landmarks and it’s because of that, the St. Charles streetcars look and run as they did in 1920.

Next came the Riverfront line which was built in 1988 and was the first new line to be built in New Orleans since 1926. After that came the Canal Street line which was brought back to life in 2004 after being dormant for 40 years! Just in time to witness the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Since then another new addition has been added in the form of the Loyola Avenue line that connects Canal Street with the Union Passenger Terminal and began running just in time for the Super Bowl in 2013.

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All Aboard The St. Charles Avenue Line

Riding along the St. Charles Avenue line is a lot like traveling through the history of New Orleans. The cars still have the mahogany seats, the brass fittings and the exposed light bulbs from a bygone era and before a time of plastic seats and aluminum rails.

The line travels 13.2 miles starting just across the street from The French Quarter at Carondelet and Canal Street. It travels through the Central Business District, the oldest part of the city on that side of Canal Street, and through the beautiful Garden District and the picturesque tree-lined streets of Uptown.

Along the way the line passes by hundreds of exquisite homes, historical monuments and the lush grounds of Audubon Park as well as Loyola and Tulane universities.  In addition to all of this, there’s literally dozens of restaurants and famous hotels along the way making it the perfect laid-back way to see the rest of New Orleans outside of the French Quarter.

 

All Aboard The Canal Street Line

Starting at the Mississippi River and following Canal Street into the heart of the city, the almost 6-mile Canal Street Line brings riders to historic cemeteries and the New Orleans Museum of Art. A popular line with locals traveling to work and tourists exploring the city, it passes by art galleries, entertainment venues, shops and dozens of restaurants.

The first thing you’ll notice about this line is that unlike the St. Charles Line, the Canal Street line is more modern (these cars have air conditioning) but retains that historical and magical charm that is so much New Orleans. On a final sightseeing note, it also brings you within walking distance of the Fairgrounds Racetrack which features seasonal horse racing and is home to the annual Jazzfest.

 

All Aboard The Riverfront Line

For local business owners, developers and streetcar fans the world over, the 1.5-mile Riverfront Line was a dream come true connecting locals, conventioneers and visitors to points along the Mississippi River. The line passes the legendary French Market, the Aquarium of the Americas, the shops at the Riverwalk and the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center.

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New Orleans Streetcars

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Author:The Man About Town

Aaron Cupil (a.k.a. The Man About Town) is an avid traveler and good time thrill seeker. A former trucker and the founder of Partyclique.com, his cross country hauls were the inspiration for this website. When he's not writing or running his company, you can find him circling the globe in search of new adventures to report on.
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