H. George Friedman, Jr.

Last updated October 8, 2019 (added Picture 85.1)
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August 14, 1988 saw the inauguration of the first new streetcar line in New Orleans since 1926.  The Riverfront Line used a section of standard gauge track that was no longer needed by the freight railroads that were running on the shores of the Mississippi River.  As configured for the streetcar service, the line ran from Esplanade Ave. on the downtown (downriver) end to Julia St. at the uptown end, with a single passing siding near the middle of the line between Conti and St. Louis Streets.

In order to provide streetcars for the new line, the New Orleans RTA had to locate and acquire a few of the streetcars which had been disposed of when the Canal line was discontinued in 1964.  A fan group called Bring Our Streetcars Home (BOSH) was organized for this purpose.  They were successful in acquiring for the RTA three Perley Thomas streetcars, numbers 919, 924, and 957.  Later, another car, number 952, was also acquired.

Federal law, in the form of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), demanded that at least some vehicles on the new streetcar line be handicapped accessible.  Rather than cut wheelchair doors into the reacquired antique cars, RTA purchased three streetcars which already had doors that were suitable for wheelchair access.  Gales Creek Enterprises in Oregon sold RTA three class W-2 cars imported from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.  These cars had been built between 1926 and 1930, not long after the Perley Thomas cars.  Gales Creek was to paint them and make some body modifications to RTA's specifications.

Car 924 was the first Perley Thomas car to be refurbished for Riverfront service.  In addition to restoration mechanically, electrically, and cosmetically, it was given a new red livery, distinctive to the Riverfront line, and a new car number, 450.  When completed, it was given a test run along the St. Charles line, and then its trucks were changed from the wide gauge of the St. Charles line to standard gauge for the Riverfront trackage.  Car 919 followed, being renumbered 451 in the process, and then two of the ex-Melbourne cars, with Melbourne 626 renumbered 452, and Melbourne 478 renumbered 454.  (The number 453 was skipped, in deference to the antique Brill semiconvertible car 453 which is still in existence.  See the Car 453 web site.  But car 453 was not itself destined to become a Riverfront streetcar.)

In all the pictures in this article, click on the picture for an enlargement.
Pictures 1 through 4.
The first streetcar to return to New Orleans was Perley Thomas car 919, which happened to arrive on September 19 (9/19), 1985.  It had been at the Texas State Fairgrounds since 1964.  It was delivered on a flatbed truck to the end of the St. Charles Line at Carrollton and Claiborne Aves., looking blind behind all the protective plywood covering the windows.  The top picture shows the car on the flatbed truck, from which it was lifted up and placed on the rails.  It was then towed by sister car 907 to Carrollton Station, where it would be refurbished for Riverfront service.  The second picture shows the band which led the parade down S. Carrollton Ave.  (However, due to the extremes of heat and humidity that day, the parade lasted only a few blocks.)  The third picture shows the train arriving at Jeanette Street and turning toward Carrollton Station, one block up.  Note the worker watching closely to be certain that the car takes the curve all right.  The bottom picture shows the train on Jeanette Street at the station. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 5 through 10.
These photos record the arrival of car 924 back to New Orleans from Atlanta.  Notice the red livery which it wore there, together with a letterboard sign reading “Old Alabama & Loyd St.”  In the top picture, we see 924 on the flatbed truck being delivered to the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne.  In the second picture, we watch as the car is lifted off of the truck and carefully placed on the track (third picture).  The fourth picture shows car 905 making the tow to Carrollton Station.  Apparently, the shop crew wanted to have 924 on the Willow Street side of the station, so 905 reversed direction at Willow and pushed 924 up Willow Street (fifth picture) and into the barn (bottom picture). — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 11 and 12.
Here is ex-Melbourne W-2 car 626, soon to be Riverfront 452, arriving from Gales Creek by truck.  Note that the doors on one side of the car have been closed off, resulting in the unusual combination of an asymmetric double-end car.  RTA was not completely satisfied with the Gales Creek work, and the W-2 cars were further modified at Carrollton Station for Riverfront service.  For one thing, the red color is a much darker shade than RTA wanted.  Also, the lights on the car ends were changed from those seen here. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Picture 12.5.
This plaque was mounted on car 451, dedicating it to car inspector A. J. Simoneaux. — 2008 photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 13 through 16.
On July 14, 1988, a month before opening day, car 450 (ex-924) was taken on a test run along the St. Charles line tracks.  On the Riverfront line, it was to be mounted on standard gauge trucks, but on this date, it was still riding on wide-gauge trucks.  Work car 29 proudly led the way for the 450, perhaps as a precaution against breakdown.  We see the two cars here, first on the Willow Street track leading from Carrollton Station to Carrollton Ave.; second on Carrollton Ave., just after turning from Willow, heading for Claiborne (moving away from the photographer); third on Carrollton, with the 29 leading (moving toward the photographer); and fourth at Lee Circle as the two cars round the curve from St. Charles Ave. onto the Circle, followed by a regular St. Charles car. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 17 through 19.
After the successful test run, car 450 was decorated with balloons and brought out to show off.  The top picture shows it turning from Carondelet to Canal, and the second shows it entering Lee Circle from St. Charles Street.  In the third picture, we see the 450 later in the day on St. Charles Ave., heading back to Carrollton Station.  Note the big signs on the sides of the car, which read, “Riverfront Streetcar Celebration / Opens August 14, 1988”. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 20 through 27 and 27.5.
Moving the “new” Riverfront cars from Carrollton Station to the line was not simple, for several reasons.  First, there was no track connection between Riverfront and the rest of the streetcar trackage, and second, no connection was practicable because of the six inch difference in track gauge.  So not only did the streetcars have to be moved, but they had to change trucks to ones equipped with standard gauge wheelsets.  Fortunately, when they were built, the axles and trucks were designed so that changing between standard gauge and wide gauge was relatively easy.

These pictures show the moving and regauging process as it was carried out for car 450.  Very early one morning, about August 1 (two weeks before opening day), the car was towed down to Canal Street by a St. Charles car, over the St. Charles line, using of course wide gauge trucks (probably with the motors already disconnected).  The top picture shows the car's arrival at Canal and St. Charles Streets.  There it was lifted off the tracks, trucks and all (second picture), and loaded onto a flatbed trailer truck, which took it to the foot of Canal Street and the Riverfront tracks (third picture).  There, it was maneuvered into position over the tracks (fourth and fifth pictures).  It was then lifted off the trailer, leaving the wide gauge trucks behind (sixth and seventh pictures), and lowered onto its standard gauge trucks, which had already been positioned on the Riverfront track to receive the car body (eighth picture).  Finally, the car was moved into the little nearby two-track yard (“Canal Yard”), which is seen in the bottom picture after both cars 450 and 451 had been brought down.  Note the simple inspection pit in front of car 450, at the right. — Photos by Earl Hampton, except sixth picture

Pictures 28 through 33.
Opening Day has finally come.  The first four pictures show car 451 as it moved up and down the line.  Notice the incomplete station stops in the first two pictures.  The fifth picture shows car 450 pulling out of Canal Yard, while 451 stands by to the left rear.  In the sixth picture, someone is holding up a microphone on a long pole to capture the sounds of the occasion. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 34 and 35.
The cars were initially reserved for dignitaries, as shown here.  Each car has a small sign, on the front dash of 451, in the front window of 452, which reads:
Car 452 is stopped at the Poydras St. station. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 36 and 37.
Once the cars were opened to everyone, they were thronged!  Crowds rode all the rest of the day.  The top picture shows ex-Melbourne car 452 leading one of the Perley Thomas cars, 450 or 451, up the line.  This illustrates a mode of operation which became typical, with two cars following each other on the single track, one car of the pair being wheelchair capable.  In the bottom picture, busy downbound car 451 enters the passing siding. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Picture 38.
Perley Thomas car 451 awaits departure time for its next upbound trip, at the Esplanade end of the line, February 16, 1989. — © 2001 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Picture 39.
New Orleans Public Belt locomotive 153 heading downriver passes car 451 at the end of track at the Esplanade station, awaiting its next upriver trip. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 40.
Perley Thomas car 450 and an ex-Melbourne car, 452 or 454, await departure from the Esplanade terminal.  The ex-Melbourne can pick up wheelchair passengers, and the two cars will proceed upbound more or less together. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 41.
Perley Thomas car 451 at the Dumaine station stop. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 42.
Looking from Jackson Square, photographer Peter Ehrlich snapped this view of car 450 heading uptown (upriver) on the single track Riverfront Line, February 16, 1989. — © 2001 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Pictures 43 and 44.
The two ex-Melbourne W-2 cars on the Riverfront Line in February 1989.  The upper picture shows the side of car 452 that faces the loading platforms at the station stops, the side away from the river.  This side had two doors, wide enough for wheelchair access.  The river side of these cars had no doors, as can be seen in the lower picture, showing the river side of sister car 454.  Both cars are upbound, i.e., heading upriver.  The freight track is prominent in the foreground of the lower picture. — © 2001 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Pictures 45 and 46.
The only passing siding on the original Riverfront Line was located between Conti and St. Louis Streets.  The upper picture here, looking downriver on February 16, 1989, shows ex-Melbourne 452 and Perley Thomas 450 meeting at the siding.  The lower view, looking in the same direction from a slightly different angle on February 22, 1989, depicts Perley Thomas car 450 and ex-Melbourne 454 in a meet.  Note the doorless side of 454 (the river side). — © 2001 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Pictures 47 and 48.
In the top picture, upbound car 451 has just entered the passing siding.  It will await the downbound car before proceeding.  The bottom picture shows three cars in the passing siding, apparently waiting for the fourth.  Perley Thomas car 450 (at our left) and an ex-Melbourne (452 or 454) are upbound, and car 451 (at our right) and the fourth car are downbound. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 49 and 50.
There was a pair of small sidings for car storage and light maintenance, sometimes called Canal Yard, on the downriver side of Canal Street.  The upper picture shows Perley Thomas car 451 working past the sidings on its way uptown, with Thomas car 450 (at our left) and ex-Melbourne 452 in the yard on Friday, February 17, 1989.  The school bus filled with children on a field trip is from St. Bernard Parish, the next parish down the Mississippi River from New Orleans (Orleans Parish).  The lower picture features car 451 on the inspection track; the reflection shows us that water has filled the inspection pit.  This is a common problem in New Orleans anywhere one digs. — Upper photo © 2001 Peter Ehrlich, used with permission; lower photo by Earl Hampton.
Pictures 51 and 51.5.
Perley Thomas car 450 serves the single track Riverfront Line, passing the old Jax Brewery building.  The lower photo is dated August 19, 1988. — Upper photo by Richard Stockton, lower by G. Sires
Picture 52.
Perley Thomas car 451 upbound at the original Canal St. station stop. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 53.
We are facing the river side of W-2 car 454, the side without doors, as it stops at the Poydras St. station on its way downriver. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 54 and 55.
It is August 14, 1989, the first birthday of the Riverfront Line.  Big crowds have turned out to ride in celebration.  Perley Thomas car 451 (above, passing Canal Yard) and ex-Melbourne W-2 452 (below, at St. Peters Street station stop) are working the line. — Photos by Earl Hampton

Contrary to many people's expectations, the Riverfront line proved to be an immediate success both with tourists and with New Oreleanians.  In fact, it was so successful that the single passing siding in the middle of the line was insufficient to handle the crowds of riders.  So in 1990, Riverfront was temporarily closed, and a second track was constructed over the entire length of the line, which was extended another half mile.  Two additional streetcars were added to the fleet: a third ex-Melbourne car, number 331 renumbered 455, and a third Perley Thomas car, 952, renumbered 456.

Pictures 56 and 57.
Shortly before double tracking began, with preparations under way.  The upper photo shows car 454 heading uptown, just passing Canal Yard, where 450 and 452 await the call to action.  To the right of 454, we see the freight track, and farther to the right, the row of ties being prepared for rails to construct a new freight track.  In the lower picture, we see car 454 downbound approaching Poydras St., with the active freight track in the middle, and at our left the ties awaiting rails for the new freight track.  The freight track had to be moved over to make room for the second streetcar track. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Picture 58.
The station at Canal Street during construction of the second track, July 1990.  Note the loose rails on the ground in the foreground. — Photo by the author
Picture 59.
The downtown (downriver) end of the line at Esplanade Ave., July 1990, during double-track construction.  The two tracks at the right are active freight railroad tracks of the New Orleans Public Belt RR. — Photo by the author
Pictures 60 and 61.
While the Riverfront line was closed for double-tracking in 1990, the cars were stored at the ends of the line.  Here are cars 450 and 451 in July 1990 behind a chain-link fence near the Esplanade end of track. — Upper photo by the author, lower photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 62 and 62.5.
When the original Canal Line closed in 1964, several Perley Thomas cars were sent to museums and heritage streetcar operations around the country.  The Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel acquired two, cars 952 and 959.  The 959 was renumbered 953, and both were painted in the striking livery seen here.  At first, the 952 was used in service (upper picture), but after it had deteriorated somewhat, 953 (ex-959) was called up as its replacement, and 952 was stored, as can be seen in the lower photograph dated October 17, 1987.  Note the change in roof color from the upper picture to the lower. — lower photo © 2002 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Pictures 63 through 65.
Car 952 returned home to New Orleans in March 1990.  In the top picture, the car has just been trucked to Carrollton Station, and the rig is waiting in Jeanette St. to be unloaded.  In the middle picture, the car has been lifted off the trailer, and is being settled onto the rails.  In the bottom picture, it is being nudged gently into the car barn.  This car would become Riverfront car 456, and still later would be restored as 952 and sent on long-term loan to the San Francisco heritage fleet.  (It is therefore perhaps the most traveled of all the Perley Thomas cars.) — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 66 and 67.
Car 952 has been transformed into 456, and ex-Melbourne car 331 has become 455.  Here we see them on the Willow St. side of Carrollton carbarn, being moved out for transportation to Riverfront. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 68 and 69.
When the line was double tracked, the storage yard at the foot of Canal Street (“Canal Yard”) was removed, and the new Canal Station stop was built there.  A small facility was set up at the foot of Louisiana Ave.  The upper picture here shows the “new” cars 456 and 455 stored there, awaiting the resumption of Riverfront service.  The lower picture shows the 455 being moved down to the line for operation, towed by a little tractor-rail vehicle. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 69.2, 69.4, 69.6, and 69.8.
Eventually, a building marked “Riverfront Streetcar Barn” was set up at the foot of Napoleon Ave. at the corner of Tchoupitoulas, on the old Napoleon Yard property, near the ancient carbarn there.  Light maintenance was performed in this facility, but it was never used as a day-to-day car storage facility, presumably because the cars could not get to it under their own power.  (For heavier shop work, the cars had to be trucked to Carrollton Station Shops.)  A trolley wire was erected over the tracks, but as far as is known, it was never energized.  Cars to be serviced there were towed back and forth by the little trackmobile seen in Picture 69.  These pictures were taken in June 2008.  By this time, the trolley wires had been removed, and the tracks had been disconnected from the Public Belt Railroad, as can be seen in the bottom picture. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Picture 70 and 71.
Two views of ex-Melbourne W-2 car 452 on the double-tracked Riverfront Line.  Note the pair of wide center doors, which can accommodate wheelchairs.  The upper view, dated 1993, shows the car downbound, with the freight track behind the car.  The lower picture, from about the same time, also catches the car downbound, viewed from the other direction, with the freight track in the foreground.  The cars now have doors on both sides. — Photo by A. D. Saleker (upper), Ken Raveill (lower)
Picture 71.3 and 71.6.
The upper view of ex-Melbourne W-2 car 454 shows it running downbound (downriver) approaching the Toulouse Street stop.  The lower picture, possibly taken from a window of the Westin Canal Place Hotel, shows the same car upbound approaching the Bienville Street stop, with the Toulouse Street stop in the background.  In both pictures, the freight track is at the far right, and the old Jax Brewery is in the background.  The pictures are both dated November 17, 1992.
Picture 72.
Perley Thomas cars 450, upbound (at our left), and 456, downbound, are stopped for passengers at the Julia St. station.  The freight track is glimpsed at the right. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 72.5.
Car 450 is downbound at Poydras Street, May 22, 1993. — Braun Bros. photo, in the author's collection
Picture 73.
Ex-Melbourne W-2 car 455 is upbound, approaching the Julia St. station stop.  The freight track is again glimpsed at the right center. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 73.5.
Car 455 is downbound at Canal Street, May 22, 1993.  The freight track is just beyond the streetcar. — Braun Bros. photo, in the author's collection
Picture 74.
Perley Thomas cars 451 (in front) and either 450 or 456 at the Convention Center stop, heading upriver.  The downbound track is in the center, and the freight track is at the far right. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 74.3 and 74.6.
The setting sun illuminates cars 451 (above, downbound) and 456 (below, upbound) near Moon Walk on May 22, 1993. — Braun Bros. photos, in the author's collection
Picture 75.
It is August 1995, and Perley Thomas car 456 and ex-Melbourne W-2 car 454 are passing on the line, with a station in the background.  The trolley wire is noticeably bowed in the August heat. — Photo by the author
Picture 76.
Perley Thomas car 450 approaches the station at Canal Street, downbound, in August 1995.  The track at left belongs to the freight railroad.  At the left corner of the station platform, closest to the camera, we have a good view of the raised wheelchair platform, reached by a ramp in the station, that matches the height of the center doors of the former Melbourne cars.  Unfortunately, it is useless with the Perley Thomas cars. — Photo by the author
Pictures 76.3 and 76.6.
In the upper photo, car 451 is at the Canal Street stop, heading upbound, on March 4, 1991.  The lower picture features car 456 near the Bienville Street stop, also upbound, February 8, 1992. — © 2015 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Pictures 77 through 79.
Three of the cars on the line, August 1995.  The top picture shows Perley Thomas car 456.  The middle picture features car 450 just leaving a station.  At the bottom, ex-Melbourne car 454 is just approaching a station (at the photographer's back). — Photos by the author
Picture 80.
Perley Thomas cars 456 (at left) and 451 pass along the line in July 1997, toward the end of standard gauge operation. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 81.
Perley Thomas car 451 at Esplanade station, the downriver terminal, near the end of standard gauge operation. — Photo by Earl Hampton

The ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility came to be applied to all cars of the Riverfront line, not merely some of them.  RTA decided to create a series of accessible Perley Thomas cars.  As a prototype, car 957 was stripped, and a wheelchair door was cut into the side of the car.  The main problem was the fan reaction: fans were horrified at the idea of making such a major modification to the antique streetcars, and they let RTA know it!  Rather than put the earlier cars through this process, RTA then decided to build entirely new car bodies at the Carrollton Station shops.

At the same time, it was decided to regauge the Riverfront line to wide gauge to conform to the St. Charles track gauge, and to build a connecting track down Canal St. 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.

To equip the new cars, nine PCC cars were acquired from Philadelphia, which uses almost the same wide track gauge as New Orleans (¼" less than the 5'2½" of New Orleans).  The plan was to use the motors, controls, and trucks from the PCC cars in the new “Perley Thomas replica” cars being constructed.  Car 957, now renumbered 457, and new car 458 were so equipped.

RTA also investigated the possibility of buying new-looking, modern streetcars from the Czech builder CKD Tatra.  A loan of a demonstrator car was arranged, and the car was actually run briefly in New Orleans.  Ultimately, it was decided to equip all seven of the new cars (457-463) with modern trucks and controls from the Czech Republic.  All of the Philadelphia cars and equipment were sold or scrapped.

The last day of standard gauge operation of Riverfront was September 6, 1997, after which the line was again closed and the track gauge changed.  This also marked the retirement of cars 450-452 and 454-456.  The former Melbourne cars were sold to the Memphis Area Transportation Authority (MATA) and rebuilt by Gomaco before being put into service in Memphis.  (Car 452 was destroyed by fire while in service in Memphis, November 4, 2013.)  Cars 450 (924) and 451 (919) were stripped of many parts, used in building new cars 458-463.  Car 456 was restored to its historical form, and was again numbered 952, then was sent to San Francisco on long term loan to the Municipal Railway.

Riverfront was reopened December 7, 1997 with wide gauge track running the new cars 457-463.

Pictures 81.2, 81.3, 81.4, 81.6, and 81.8.
The NORTA Melbourne cars 452, 454, and 455 (originally Melbourne numbers 626, 478, and 331, respectively) were sold to the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) and restored by Gomaco Trolley Company before entering service in Memphis using their New Orleans numbers.  The top picture shows restored car 452 in service on Main Street in Memphis.  The second picture again shows car 452, in Riverfront Line service at the south end of the Main Street Line, followed by ex-Rio de Janeiro open car 1794, and a former Oporto, Portugal single truck car.  Car 1794 was also an ex-New Orleans car, although it never ran in New Orleans, and has been rebuilt as a closed car for Memphis service.  The next two pictures show streetcars 454 and 455 in their Memphis livery about to be shipped from the Gomaco factory in November and December 2003.  They have not yet been equipped with pantographs, which the Memphis cars use in place of trolley poles.  Gomaco also constructed for Memphis a new streetcar, a replica of a double-truck Birney, which was given Memphis number 453.  This car is shown in the bottom picture in service in Memphis in February 2004, at the north end of the Main Street line, where the track branches off to the right to the Memphis Riverfront Loop line.  MATA cars are painted in various colors, but share a characteristic pattern of striping, as seen here.  Note also how the configuration of the doors of the Melbourne cars has been changed from two on each side to one. — Top two photos by Earl Hampton, others by Gomaco Trolley Company, used with permission
Pictures 82, 83, and 84.
Car 957 had its own odyssey after its retirement in 1964.  Though records are scanty, it appears that it went initially to the Trinity Valley Railroad Club in Weatherford, Texas, west of Fort Worth.  But that group was unable to continue to house the car, and sold it to the Spaghetti Warehouse Company for use in their spaghetti restaurant chain.  However, it was discovered that the car was too tall to fit into the intended building, and the plan was abandoned.  The McKinney Avenue Transit Authority in Dallas entered the picture, and traded the Spaghetti Warehouse two Dallas streetcars for the 957.  MATA workers then rushed to the scrapyard where the trucks and operating equipment were standing on a flatbed trailer waiting to be unloaded and dismantled.  Fortunately, the truck had gotten stuck in mud, and the equipment had not been unloaded.  MATA was just in time to save it.  When New Orleans RTA asked to buy the car back, MATA agreed, and used the proceeds to buy another streetcar and spare parts for its fleet.

Brought back to New Orleans in March 1986, car 957 was placed in storage.  In 1997, the decrepit car was brought out of storage and trucked to Carrollton Station, as seen in these pictures.  The second picture shows it passing the Riverbend corner of St. Charles and S. Carrollton Aves., where it had once operated along the rails.  Now, it is crossing them!  The third picture shows its arrival at Carrollton Station, after it had been unloaded and placed on the tracks. — Photos by Earl Hampton

Pictures 85 and 85.1.
Three generations of streetcars peek out of the door of Carrollton Station car barn, the upper in August 1995, the lower on October 30, 1995.  At the left is work car 29, which was built as a passenger car to the Ford, Bacon & Davis (FB&D) design in 1896.  At the right is one of the Perley Thomas cars for the St. Charles line, built in 1924.  And between them is Philadelphia PCC car 2166, built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1948, and bought by RTA from the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for parts. — Photo by the author (upper)
Picture 85.5.
On January 5, 1995, SEPTA PCC car 2147 made a single non-revenue experimental trip down the St. Charles car line from Carrollton Station to Lee Circle and return.  This blurry copy of a snapshot is the only known photo of that trip.  It was the only time a PCC car has ever operated in New Orleans. — Louis Hennick Collection of The Historic New Orleans Collection
Picture 86.
Three of the new cars are unveiled at Carrollton Station. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 87.
Car 462 is being tested along the non-revenue trackage on Howard Ave.  Here it passes St. Charles car 953, which is on its way from Lee Circle to Carondelet St.  Note the Not In Service sign hanging from the front window of 462. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 88.
Two modern streetcars share the French Market station stub track in December 1997.  We see the Czech demonstrator car at the right, and Von Dullen “Perley Thomas replica” car 461 at the left.  Both cars are equipped with the latest technology in motors and controls, but the body styles are certainly different!  The French Market station building is mostly hidden behind the streetcars.  The Old Mint building is in the background. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 89.
The new cars were housed at Carrollton Station, their birthplace, and operated deadhead between the station and the Riverfront trackage at the start and end of each operating day.  (They were not allowed to carry passengers along the St. Charles line because of legal complications with wheelchair access.)  Here is car 463, seen from the left front window of an approaching St. Charles car, August 6, 2003. — Photo by the author
Picture 90.
Upon reaching Canal Street, a Riverfront car coming from the car barn would cross over from the St. Charles track to the connecting track, as the 460 is doing here.  It would then follow the tracks on Canal to the Riverfront tracks at the Canal St. station stop. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Picture 90.5.
Car 460 is seen on St. Charles Street at Lafayette Square on its return trip from Riverfront service to its home base at Carrollton Station, August 1, 1998.  It is followed in the distance by a green Perley Thomas 900-class streetcar on the St. Charles Line. — © 2001 Peter Ehrlich; used with permission.
Pictures 91 and 92.
Here is the interior of car 460, August 6, 2003.  The upper picture shows the seating arrangement.  The seats are the same as those in the Perley Thomas 900-series cars, except that the old Perley Thomas cars have cross seats on both sides.  We see that the 460 has longitudinal seating on one side, to provide more room for standees.  The lower picture shows the control console at one end of the car, with the operator's paraphernalia in place for the car's next run. — Photos by the author
Picture 93.
Car 460 passes the old Jax Brewery, August 6, 2003, on its way downriver.  The track in the foreground is the freight track.  Compare Picture 51 in single track standard gauge days. — Photo by the author
Picture 94.
Downbound car 458, August 6, 2003.  The upbound track is at the right, the freight track at the left. — Photo by the author
Picture 95.
Car 457 is stopped at the Canal station stop, downbound, August 6, 2003.  The curved track in the lower left corner of the picture is the connecting curve from the Canal St. tracks.  This is the only Perley Thomas car to have had wheelchair access doors cut into it, and to have been rewired with modern controls in place of the old K-controllers. — Photo by the author
Picture 96.
Car 463 is downbound, approaching the station platform on which the photographer is standing, August 6, 2003.  The upbound track is at the right, and the freight track at the left, with the grassed levee beyond the tracks.  The Mississippi River is just out of sight on the other side of the levee. — Photo by the author

On April 18, 2004, the long-sought rebuilding of the Canal Line opened for service with 24 new “Perley Thomas replica” cars built at Carrollton Station under the direction of Elmer Von Dullen.  The route of the restored Canal Line included a segment of the Riverfront trackage.  Canal cars at the foot of Canal Street turned downriver onto Riverfront tracks, and used the Riverfront terminal at Esplanade, which was rebuilt with three stub tracks and renamed French Market.  (Not all Canal runs went through to French Market.  Some terminated at the pocket track at the foot of Canal Street.)

Part of the project of restoring the Canal Line was the construction of a Service, Inspection, and Storage (SIS) facility at Canal Station behind the A. Philip Randolph building.  After the Canal Line reopened, the seven Riverfront cars were stationed at Canal rather than at Carrollton.  Major repairs, repainting, etc. were still to be done at Carrollton Station.

Pictures 97 and 97.5.
Once the Canal line and its carbarn (called the Service, Inspection, and Storage, or SIS, Facility) were opened, the Riverfront cars took up residence there.  In the upper photo, we see the front of the barn on March 18, 2005, with a Canal car at the left outside of the building, and then (left to right) four more tracks with Canal cars (the left of these is in shadow), and finally at the right, near the center of the picture, a Riverfront car.  In the mild climate of New Orleans, the doors are usually open, but we see at the right that they can be closed.  The lower photo, taken in April 2004 a few days after the reopening of the Canal line, shows Riverfront car 458 and an unidentified Canal car basking in the sun at the side of the barn. — Upper photo by the author, lower by Charles Sullivan
Pictures 98 and 99.
Riverfront car 458 is pulling out of the Canal Station access tracks to head in on the Canal line to its own route at the foot of Canal, March 18, 2005.  The access tracks are not in N. Gayoso St., but are on Canal Station property.  A special traffic light stops outbound automobile traffic on Canal while the car crosses the traffic lanes.  The A. Philip Randolph building is in the background. — Photos by the author
Pictures 99.3 and 99.6.
Cars 462 (upper photo) and 457 (lower) are inbound on Canal Street from the Canal Station SIS car barn to their day's service on the Riverfront line.  We see 462 passing the Radisson Hotel at LaSalle Street, and 457 turning from the foot of Canal Street into the Riverfront trackage, with Harrah's in the background.  These pictures were taken in April 2004, shortly after the reopening of the Canal line. — Photos by Charles Sullivan
Picture 100.
It is April 18, 2004, the first day of the restored Canal Line.  Von Dullen Canal car 2023 is on the Riverfront trackage, operating between the City Park terminal on N. Carrollton Ave. and the French Market terminal at Esplanade.  It is stopped here at station 3, Dumaine Street, heading downriver toward the French Market terminal. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 101 and 102.
The control console of a Von Dullen Canal car.  The equipment for cars 2002-2024 was provided by the Brookville Equipment Co., while that for the Riverfront cars and Canal prototype car 2001 was from the Czech Republic.  Compare this console to that of car 460 in Picture 92.  Among the differences, the new Canal cars have a cover (note the handle) that can be pulled down over the controls to prevent unauthorized use, such as when the car is being operated from the other end.  Note also that there are defrosting vents on the front windows; foggy windows during New Orleans' frequent rain showers are a long standing annoyance to operators on the older streetcars.  In the bottom picture, we look over the operator's shoulder as she proceeds down the Riverfront tracks toward the French Market terminal.  These pictures were taken March 18, 2005. — Photos by the author
Pictures 103 through 106.
The terminal of the Riverfront and Canal lines at Esplanade Ave. was renamed French Market and rebuilt with three stub tracks, as seen here on March 18, 2005.  Signs were posted designating Track A, closest to the freight tracks and the river, at our left, for Canal cars running to the Cemeteries terminal; Track B, in the center, for Riverfront cars; and Track C, at our right and farthest from the river, for Canal cars running to City Park and Museum at Beauregard Circle.  However, operations did not always live up to the signs, as these pictures show.  In the top picture, Canal-City Park car 2008 has arrived on Track C, and the operator has both trolley poles up momentarily as she changes ends.  In the second picture, we see the layout of the terminal, with large lettered signs showing passengers where they should stand to board cars for the three different destinations—if operations were going to follow those signs, which is not being done on this day.  The third picture shows Riverfront car 460 just after pulling in on Track A, rather than on Track B.  In the bottom picture, 460 is pulling out of the terminal on its next upbound run. — Photos by the author
Pictures 107 and 108.
A freight train of tank cars passes by on the right, March 20, 2005.  Riverfront car 462 (upper picture) has just left downriver from the station stop on which the photographer is standing.  Moments later (lower picture), car 459 approaches the station, upbound. — Photos by the author
Picture 109.
Car 459 is proceeding upriver in this March 20, 2005 picture.  From left to right, the three tracks are the upbound Riverfront track, the downbound track, and the freight track. — Photo by the author
Picture 110.
Riverfront car 462 has paused at the Canal Street station stop on its way downriver to the French Market terminal.  It is loading passengers from its left front door.  Many, but not all, of the station stops along the line are located between the tracks, and so require use of the left-hand doors.  The operator has control of all four doors from the console.  Note the two signs on the station.  There is the regular one, similar to that on all Riverfront station stops, with the stop number and name (“6 Canal St.”), mounted on the station building.  And there is another sign, mounted on the nearest overhead support pole, saying “Canal Station”.  (But the name “Canal Station” historically belongs to the carbarn and bus garage facility on Canal between White and Gayoso Streets.) — Photo by the author
Picture 111.
Just one more!  Here is Riverfront car 459 at the French Market terminal on Track A, boarding passengers for another trip uptown, March 20, 2005. — Photo by the author

Hurricane Katrina was very hard on the New Orleans streetcar system.  When it arrived on August 29, 2005, most of the Riverfront cars were tucked away at Canal Station, along with the cars of the newly restored Canal Line.  The floods that followed drowned all thirty cars (24 Canal cars and 6 of the 7 Riverfront cars), ruining their motors and electronic controls.  Car 461 had been at Carrollton Station for repainting.  It and the 35 St. Charles cars escaped damage from the storm and flooding.  However, the overhead lines and power system for St. Charles were severely damaged, and had to be rebuilt before streetcars could again run on St. Charles.  On the other hand, the Canal and Riverfront lines escaped serious damage, although replacement power had to be found for Canal.  A timely loan from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority solved that problem.  Permission was solicited and received to use the venerable Perley Thomas streetcars on Canal and Riverfront, despite their lack of wheelchair facilities.  Operation of the green St. Charles cars on Canal and Riverfront began December 18, 2005.

Car 461 had ridden out the storm at Carrollton Station, awaiting repainting.  Eventually, it emerged from the paint shop in a unique blue and yellow livery, and was put back to work on Riverfront.  This did not last long; when a problem arose with its controls, it was sent back to the station, and was withheld from service.  It was planned to repaint the car in the red livery before returning it to service.

In early December 2007, it was reported that Brookville Equipment Co., the company which had provided the trucks and control systems for the Canal cars, had been given the contract for the components necessary to rebuild all 31 damaged streetcars: the 24 Canal cars and all 7 Riverfront cars, including the 461.  Installation, including rewiring of the cars, was to be done on site at Carrollton Station shops.  Repainting of the cars at Carrollton was already under way.  It was stated that the trucks would be remanufactured at the BEC facility in Brookville, PA.  The project began in early 2008, and was expected to take three years.  As of mid-January 2009, cars 2004 and 2008 through 2015 were all available for service, and were being used on the Canal and Riverfront lines.  By mid-June, the last few cars were the 2003, 2005, and 2006.  Cars 457-463 were scheduled to be refurbished next; by the beginning of July, that work was under way.  Perley Thomas cars were no longer seen in service on Canal Street or Riverfront, although they were still housed at Canal SIS, and the St. Charles car line was operated from that facility rather than from Carrollton Station.

The result of the rebuilding is that all of the red “Perley Thomas replica” cars (2001-2024 and 457-463) have the same trucks and controls: Brookville trucks with upgraded Saminco drives and TMV control systems.

In July 2009, streetcar service on Canal Street was shut down (with bus replacement) for what was expected to take two months, while underground electrical lines damaged by Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters were replaced.  During this period, the St. Charles and Riverfront cars were housed at Carrollton Station, and those two lines were operated normally from there.  After the return of the Canal Line to service, St. Charles cars continued to operate from Carrollton Station.

On January 3, 2010, car 462 became the first of the 457-463 series cars to return to active service, followed by 457, 458, and 459 on March 8, 15, and 14, respectively.

Picture 112.
Car 463 was spotted at the Brookville plant in Pennsylvania in 2006, where it had been sent for evaluation.
Pictures 113 through 116.
Car 461, the only Riverfront car to survive the flooding after Hurricane Katrina, was painted in this blue and yellow livery and run for a while on its proper Riverfront route.  These pictures of it were taken on May 23, 2006.  The second and third pictures look upriver, and show car 461 downbound, with a freight track to our left.  In the fourth picture, which looks downriver, car 461 shares the French Market terminal with its older cousins, the green Perley Thomas cars borrowed from the out-of-service St. Charles line. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Picture 117.
Perley Thomas cars borrowed from the St. Charles line, which could not run due to its ruined overhead wire system, provided service on both the Riverfront and Canal lines.  Here, on the three stub tracks of the French Market terminal, are four Perley Thomas cars, including 947 at left and 930 at the right.  It is December 26, 2005, and the cars are wearing Christmas holiday garlands. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 118 and 119.
Perley Thomas cars 915 and 923 on the Riverfront line, December 26, 2005.  The upper picture captures car 915 downbound, with a station stop behind it.  We can see the freight tracks to our left.  The lower picture shows car 923, also downbound, at stop number 9 John Churchill Chase, with the freight tracks now to our right.  This stop, originally intended to serve the Convention Center and the cruise ship terminal, has never been opened to the public, because of security concerns by the Port of New Orleans.  Nevertheless, upbound cars operate past it with no passengers, in order to get to the switches that allow them to reverse direction for the return trip downbound. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 120 and 121.
It is a bright sunny day on January 15, 2006.  The upper picture shows car 920 upbound just after leaving a station, which can be seen in the background.  The track at our far right is the freight track.  The lower photo features car 947 downbound at the International Trade Mart station, with the freight track in the foreground at our left. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 122 and 123.
These two photos of car 947 were taken on October 7, 2006 along the Riverfront trackage.  The car is actually operating on the Canal Line from the French Market to the City Park terminal at Beauregard Circle, but you can't tell that from the central roll sign, which is blank.  The run number, 30, tells those in the know that it is a Canal-City Park car.  The upper picture shows the car upbound (outbound).  In the lower picture, car 947 is downbound (inbound).  In both photos, the track at the far right is the freight track. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Pictures 124 and 125.
These two pictures show Perley Thomas car 905 downbound on May 24, 2007 in its traditional green livery, pulling into the Canal stop on Riverfront.  The upper picture looks upriver toward the approaching car, and the lower photo looks downriver, showing the car stopped to load passengers.  Since they were reconfigured for one-man service several decades ago, the Perley Thomas cars no longer have operator control over the left front door.  This is a problem on both Riverfront and Canal, where some stops must be serviced from the left.  Operators compensate either by stopping where passengers can cross the track in front of the car to board on the right, or by using the left rear door (which of course would be the right front door if the car were going in the other direction).  Car 905 here is about to use the left rear door.  The car does not display a valid route sign, because no one ever expected these cars to serve Riverfront, and so that name is not found on the roll sign. — Photos by the author
Pictures 126 through 129.
When Katrina hit, retired cars 450 and 451 were partially dismantled, with plans very vague for their future.  As of early 2008, the condition of the two venerable cars is as seen here, in storage at Carrollton Station.  The upper pair of views shows car 450, ex-924, stripped down to its ribs, and the lower pair shows 451, ex-919, not quite so completely disassembled.  No work on either of them is currently contemplated, at least until the 457-463 and 2001-2024 groups of cars have been rebuilt and placed back into service.  That's 2011 next to 450 in the top view; it has since been repainted.  The third picture shows repainted car 2002 next to 451, with some 900-series cars visible at the left. — Top photo by the author, taken May 23, 2007; second and fourth photos by Earl Hampton, taken Feb. 12, 2008; third photo © 2008 Peter Ehrlich, taken Aug. 9, 2008, used with permission.
Picture 130.
Carrollton Station Shops, June 20, 2008.  Riverfront cars 459 in fresh paint (but as yet without dashboard details), 461 in blue, and 458 awaiting body paint.  The blue paint must be considered a failed experiment. — Photo by Earl Hampton
Pictures 131 and 132.
Refurbished and rewired Von Dullen car 2012 in Riverfront service at stop no. 3, Dumaine St., January 7, 2009.  The Von Dullen car uses its left front door for passengers boarding from the center platform.  In the second picture, Perley Thomas car 962 on the Canal line has stopped at the sidewalk so that his passengers can use the right front door of the car, since the left front door is not usable. — Photos by the author
Pictures 133, 134, and 135.
As of July 21, 2009, repair and repainting of the Riverfront cars 457-463 were well under way at Carrollton Station Shops.  The first picture shows one of each type of car in NORTA's fleet: Perley Thomas 921 at the left, Von Dullen Canal car 2007 in the center, and Riverfront car 457 at the right.  Car 457 has been repainted, but has not yet had lettering, numerals, and stripes added.  The middle picture shows the front end of Riverfront car 460 (and Perley Thomas car 923).  Car 460 shows off the rearranged markings to be applied to all seven of the Riverfront cars, the same arrangement of long standing use on all the other streetcars in New Orleans.  The third picture shows blue car 461 with its blue paint sanded down in preparation for a new coat of red. — Photos by Earl Hampton
Picture 136.
By the end of February 2010, the rebuilding of cars 457-463 was virtually complete.  Here we see the front end of car 458 at Carrollton Station, showing its markings now in the standard New Orleans arrangement.  The route sign above the center window is fixed; note its light colored background, rather than the usual white-on-black of a roll sign.  Sister car 463 can be glimpsed behind car 458. — Photo by the author
Pictures 137, 138, and 139.
On February 19, 2010, RTA workers were busy on the Riverfront trackage, replacing wooden ties.  The top picture shows the work at the Poydras Street stop.  The work was limited to one track at a time, with work in progress on the upbound track.  There was also construction on Canal Street, blocking the connection between Canal Street and the Riverfront tracks.  Two cars, 2004 and 2018, were at work on Riverfront, isolated from the rest of the system until the Canal Street construction would be finished.  Each car was isolated to its own track: 2004 on the normally downbound track, and 2018 on the normally upbound track, each car operating in both directions on its own track.  Car 2018 was limited to the Canal Street to French Market portion of the line, while 2004 ran the complete length of the line, since its track was not blocked.  The departure times for the two cars were coordinated so that they complemented each other, even though only 2004 was able to serve the portion of the line up from Canal Street.  The second picture shows 2018 downbound, heading the “wrong way” on its track, and the third picture shows 2018 at its terminal at the French Market while 2004 departs upbound running “wrong way” on its track. — Photos by the author
Pictures 140, 141, and 142.
Car 461 has now been painted in three different liveries.  The top picture shows it in the original Riverfront livery, with the name of the line in large letters across the front of the car, and the car number painted on a plastic panel above the front window.  We see the car as it deadheads along St. Charles Ave. from Carrollton Station to its assigned Riverfront run, with a Not In Service sign hanging from the center front window.  The middle picture displays the experimental blue and yellow livery the car wore briefly in 2006, with the car number on the front of the car above the headlight; the panel above the front window was left blank.  (Presumably, if the blue livery had been adopted, the route name would have been added above the front window.)  The bottom photo, taken May 8, 2010, illustrates the latest livery, similar to that on the 2000-series cars, with red paint to justify its name as one of the Ladies In Red.  The car number is on the front above the headlight.  The route sign and RTA logo are painted on plastic panels above the center and right-hand front windows. — Photos by Earl Hampton

Effective Sunday September 30, 2018, service on the Riverfront line between Canal Street and the French Market end of the line is being provided by Canal Street cars.  Due to construction on the World Trade Center building, service is suspended between Canal Street and the Julia Street end of the Riverfront line.  Riverfront cars are seen from time to time serving the Canal Street line.

Text, captions, photos by the author, and photos by Richard & Joseph Braun (the Braun Bros.) © 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2019 H. George Friedman, Jr.  Photos by Earl Hampton © 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 Earl W. Hampton, Jr.  Photos by Peter Ehrlich © 2001, 2002, 2008, 2015 Peter Ehrlich.  All rights reserved.  Permission is hereby given for the QUOTATION of SHORT excerpts, as long as credit is given to H. George Friedman, Jr.

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