Last night the rain poured down. This morning it is cold, dark and the rain continues. I attempted to take a ride yesterday, but the winds were impossible. It may be time for me to join you in a virtual ride.
This one will take place in New Orleans, or what is now New Orleans. Reading though my research, familiar names brought a grin or two. Then there was an epiphany when an object out of my long ago past was seen in a new light.
The area of New Orleans involved in our virtual history hunt will be between the Faubourg Mrigny and Milneburg. Not familiar with those places? Read the rest of this and you'll get acquainted.
You know the drill, here comes the background to this one. Don't worry, it'll be painless, one sentence, maybe two.
I sent Everett a railroad schedule. I expected him to return with a dissertation. Surprisingly, he was not familiar with this one. He seemed fairly excited about this little railroad in the same way I get excited when riding an unfamiliar road. I began the search. Suddenly, this obscure little line endeared itself to me as a thread in the fabric of New Orleans history. I've ridden my bicycle and frequented a theater on its old route. Oh, what was the theater? It was the Elysian Fields, where I saw "Bridge on the Rive Qui", a long time ago.
The railroad we'll be exploring was the Pontchartrain Railroad. It was not just a railroad. It was a facilitator. It is mentioned in articles whose subjects range form "The History of New Orleans Jazz? to "Voodoo on the Lake".
Since I knew nothing about it, this will be a presentation of those articles I found. The first will be from "Louisiana", By The Federal Writers' Project, which was a depression era "Writers' Program" done in the mid-1930's. YOU WILL HAVE TO CLICK ON THE FILES BELOW TO ENLARGE THEM. If you are at all interested in New Orleans, this one is going to be fun. This first article is a little primer in hopes of enlightening everyone a bit more. [big grin]
Now you have a little idea of the historic transportation scene. What follows are a few paragraphs on the suburbs of the city. The last section about Milneburg connects the Pontchartrain Railroad with that suburb. I've included them all so you'll understand old New Orleans a little better. It was one of the United States' true European cities.
Now you know a little about the neighborhoods. It's time to know some more. Here's its voodoo connection.
Unfortunately, the next page was not included in the review. Nevertheles, the remainder is intact.
Here's the beginning of the railroad.
Below is a very good history, click it.
Then another good one is Wiki's, below. Redundant? Maybe, think of it as a learning tool :>)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pontchartrain Rail-Road was an early railway in New Orleans, Louisiana. Chartered in 1830, the railroad began traffic of people and goods between the Mississippi River front of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain on 23 April 1831, and closed down over 100 years later.
This 1836 sketch shows the riverfront terminal of the Pontchartrain Rail-Road at left.
The 5 mile long line connected the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans along the riverfront with the town of Milneburg on the Lakefront. When built, the majority of the distance of the route between neighborhoods at either end of the route was a mixture of farmland, woods, and swamp. The route of the railway ran down the center of Elysian Fields Avenue.
Meetings discussing building a railway between the river and lake began in 1828. The Pontchartrain Railroad was chartered on 20 January 1830. The right-of-way was approved by the New Orleans City Council on 15 March, and construction began immediately, with a pair of parallel railroad tracks. Construction of the line was completed on April 14, 1831, and it officially opened on the 23rd, with horse drawn railway carriages. The first steam locomotive, "the Shields", arrived on 15 June, 1832. This first locomotive proved unreliable; a second locomotive "the Pontchartrain" proved better, allowing the line to advertise regular steam service of 7 round trips per day (9 on Sundays) starting on 27 September 1832. "The Shields" was cannibalized, the boiler used to run equipment at the railroad's machine shop.
At first, the passenger fare was 75 cents round trip. For some years both steam and horse drawn traffic ran on the line, with steam only gradually becoming dominant with the acquisition of additional more reliable locomotives. One horse drawn car was kept on the line as late as 1861, although the line at the time also had 5 working locomotives.
For much of the of the 19th century, a significant portion of sea traffic to New Orleans came in not via the river but to Lake Pontchartrain. Thus the railway was important in transferring cargo between ocean going ships docked at the lake and riverboats. Many passenger sea ships also arrived via the lake, and the railway took passengers the remainder of the way into the city.
For decades the passenger fare was 15 cents for a one way trip, 25 cents for a round trip. The railroad had terminals at the two ends of the line; stops would also be made at a small station at Gentilly Road, about the mid point of the line, by advance request.
In 1871 the line was purchased by the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas Railroad.
In 1880 the Louisville and Nashville Railroad leased the line, and the following year purchased it outright.
The Elysian Fields neutral ground, formerly the right-of-way of the Pontchartrain Rail-Road. There is an old mile-stone. It is one of the few surviving physical reminders of the long defunct railway.
The line switches from shipping to recreation
In the late 19th century, the Pontrchartrain Railroad became less important for commerce, as ships too large to use the Lakefront routes became common and the extensive network of long distance railways grew. However at the same time, the line became more important for recreation. Especially during the long summer, excursions from the city out to the lakefront with the cooling breezes and the entertainments at Milneberg became common.
In the early 20th century rates were 10 cents for adults, 5 cents for children one way, and double for round trip.
Generations of New Orleanians fondly remembered the archaic veteran steam engine nicknamed "Smoky Mary" running on the line as late as the 1930s. The somewhat less outdated companion locomotive on the line was called "Puffing Billy".
Thanks to the popularity of recreational excursions at Milneburg, business remained brisk for the Pontchartrain Railroad through the mid 1920s. After this, however, the railroad declined for two reasons. One was less demand for short distance rail passenger service with expansion of electric streetcar routes and growth in automobile ownership. The final straw, however, was the closing of the Milneburg resorts while a land reclamation project dredged earth into the shallows of lake Pontchartrain there in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The last passenger service of the line was on March 15, 1932, the line having been in business for over a century.
Freight runs on the line continued to 1935, mostly servicing the Lakefront land reclamation project work which made the line obsolete.
Here are two excellent pages which further layer the history in which PRR was a part.
This is a great read on what was the lake terminal.
Wiki's description mentions the little railroad's city terminal and more, I suggest you visit it and check the links there.
Very interesting is Wiki's Faubourg Marigny Link.
And, one more link to a time line with a bunch more information. One little railroad meant a lot to a big city.
Here's that schedule. Now you'll recognize the stations.