Industrial railway shown on the Gibson's 1838 New Orleans Directory map, extending from the press on Levee St., out Cotton Press St. (now Press St.) for at least ten squares (the map's limit), crossing Good Children St. (now St. Claude Ave.). Further substantiation is an advertisement (B 10/31/1834) “For sale ... 5 turntables ... 4 rail cars ... 210 rails ... and 50 crowbars ... F. C. Cantonnet, Secy.” The purpose of the ry. was to convey cotton to the press, from unloaded floats, lorries, etc. Motive power unknown, but surely animal. At Good Children St. after 1838, an interchange of cotton and other cargo from Mexican Gulf RR easily done. Railcars surely flat or gondola freight equipment. Abandonment date not certain. Press St. became the New Orleans & Northeastern RR's entranceway into New Orleans in November 1882.
Mid 1830s projected long distance RR connecting the two cities, but never advanced from a suburban service/short line RR. Financed partially by investors, partially by the state. The railroad's station in New Orleans was at Basin & Canal St., and extended out Canal St. and undeveloped areas to Lake Pontchartrain, then skirted that lake to a point near Pass Manchac, the water connection between Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. The economic upheaval caused by the closure of the National Bank (“Species Crisis”) ruined chances that enough capital could be raised to build the long-approach heavy bridge across Pass Manchac. The state legislature forced the corporation into foreclosure (“Sale of the New Orleans & Nashville RR”, District Court #21548 — possibly 21598, newsprint very faint — C 8/10/1842).
While the end was sad and swift, quite a considerable construction was accomplished, and railway passenger service operated for over two years. The first annual report (CB 6/21/1836) claimed four miles graded, two locomotives ordered from England and two from the U. S., and that “cars have been ordered”, while obtaining rail (strap, 3" x 1-5/8") was difficult.
The second annual report (CB 1/24/1837) noted three miles of track completed. Passenger service began in 1838 with hourly trains to the Metairie Course, tickets 25¢ each (CB 3/25/1838). The NO&N began also to serve the nearby bath houses (B & C 7/2/1838), five daily trips. Gibson's directory of 1838 (p. 355) also confirms “the six mile service to Bath” (see Bath Railroad, #4 in this section), and that 15 miles further were graded.
By 1839 the NO&N's rails had reached the resort of Prairie Cottage, which became a popular spot for New Orleanians, but the impossibility of raising more investment money to push construction over Pass Manchac and achieve enough revenue to meet bond payments turned the Louisiana Legislature hostile toward any further support (C 4/11/1839, 4/12, 4/15, 4/18). Work ceased on the NO&N (C 12/5/1839) and newspapers immediately began editorials urging popular support to continue the project (CB 12/10/1839). A bad year for the NO&N RR, yet early that decisive year, the brig “Wm. Henry” (Kurtz — Philadelphia) brought “locomotives and iron” for the NO&N (CB 2/8/1839).
Von Gerstner describes the difficult construction challenges facing the road: Across the mushy soil and deep water of the swamps encountered, as the trackwork approached Pass Manchac, hundreds of 20' pilings supported a trestle-like structure. Rocks and dirt, tons of this, were dumped. This formed, with the closely knitted, endless root matrix, a somewhat stable foundation for the heavy wooden sleepers for the strap rail. Trains moving over this construction would slightly “undulate”, surely giving passengers an uneasy feeling. However, while the NO&N operated, this track design held together. Unfortunately, what didn't hold together was the necessary revenue from operations. Von Gerstner comments that besides wood and not a large number of passengers, there was little else. Prairie Cottage was a small structure, and little else to be seen. The small structure, which Von Gerstner referred to as “a solitary little house”, was a restaurant. On certain days, there were boat races and pistol matches. While these diversions attracted people, it was not enough to make the NO&N solvent.
The NO&N struggled through two years, but in 1842 the end came. The District Court order #21548 (Sale of NO&N RR) was published (C 8/10/1842) and the following was offered at auction (SS 8/20/1842): 23 miles of track, including land (50' from center of track, each side); one locomotive built at Newcastle [Delaware] by Mr. Young and one at New York by Mr. Dunham (three locomotives listed by Von Gerstner in 1839, the two above and the “P. H. Caldwell”, 4-2-0, Baldwin #122, sold before foreclosure, unk. to whom); six “6-wheel passenger cars” (this type not rarely seen, Belgian National Rys. had some in service for 3rd class as late as 1950, ridden by the author); one 8-wheel passenger car, five 6-wheel burthen (freight) cars...and forty slaves (!). The 6-wheel cars' center axle had flangeless wheels.
There was one 6-wheel car to house the slaves who were working on the RR (Von Gerstner notes 44 at work), actually building it where manual labor was required. There was one 42' 6-wheel car for them, with a cross section 8'x8'. As work was completed, the car would be moved. The NO&N used a steam-powered pile driver, built in New York, supposedly the only one in the U. S. A. at the time doing railroad work.
Disposition of this interesting equipment unk., even though re-trucking is not a difficult mechanical problem. Much track equipment, strap rail, ties, etc., according to retired Pontchartrain RR Co. Superintendent Capt. Grant (DP 4/7/1884), was sold to the Mexican Gulf RR Co., which was still under construction.
An interesting envoi to the lamentable end of the New Orleans & Nashville RR was the replacement of its Metairie Course rail passenger service by ... canal barges (not “an only” or unique fact — Toronto and Amsterdam both have transit authorities that operate motored ferries and barges)! The Bee of April 13, 1844 announced that “two passenger barges, built at Cincinnati” were due to arrive by the end of the month. They arrived early and began trips on the 23rd, “city to lake”, from the toll gate at New Basin (Triton Walk's lake end), passing the Metairie Course, 20¢ fare each way.
This RR is a research challenge. There is a firm account of this RR opening its books to record sale of stocks (CB 4/13/1838) — “New railroad to the baths ... without having to go to a lower faubourg” (suburb or section of the city). There was a town of Bath, between Metairie Road and the lake. The New Orleans & Nashville RR had announced plans to build a depot there (CB 12/17/1836), a year and a half before the Bath RR opened its books. When the RR's promoters asked the legislature to incorporate the road in 1838 (Act 97 pp. 99-100, 2nd Legislative Session), the opinion was, the RR was “already constructed ... running to the lake” (see the New Orleans & Nashville RR, #3 in this section).
New Orleans' hot, humid weather conditions, with the absence of a water distribution or energy supplier (natural gas or coal gas plant and pipes to homes) saw many bath houses established. They were public houses where hot water, even steam, and running water were provided. Besides the ones close to the cemeteries on the lake side, there were some at Prairie Cottage on the New Orleans & Nashville RR and at Milneburg. A popular one in the Vieux Carré was the “Louisiana Thermes” on Conti between Bourbon and Dauphine (C 6/19/1840; most aptly named!).
The French edition of the Bee, March 18, 1840, stated that the New Orleans & Nashville RR did reach Bath. Whether it was running much later is unknown, for it depended on the NO&N to bring traffic to its junction with that road. The NO&N was abandoned in 1842. The construction of the road's trackwork was similar to the NO&N, wooden sleeper and strap rail, but lighter (2 by 3/8). Its junction was 6 miles from the NO&N station at Canal & Basin, and the distance to Bath was 1¼ miles. At its end on Lake Pontchartrain there was a log building bath house and Chinese pagoda-like building with a restaurant.
The bath RR had one car, perhaps similar to the 6-wheel NO&N cars. The road was probably 5'6" gauge and the car leased to the Bath RR by the NO&N. Power was animal, horse or mule. Using von Gerstner's mileage figures, the NO&N-BRR junction today would be approximately where Bonnabel Blvd. now runs, between Causeway Blvd. and Lake Pontchartrain.
In an attempt to bridge the gap between Basin & Canal Street and the Mississippi River landings, the New Orleans & Nashville RR looked to this company to lay the track. The Navigation Co. asked permission to build such a RR (B 3/29/1836), but was unable to get an ok to the project. This was an early “nail in the NO&N's coffin.”
Copyright © 2008, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 Louis C. Hennick. All rights reserved.
Previous Page | Next Page
Appendix III Title Page & Contents
Computer Science Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Home Page
H. George Friedman, Jr. Home Page