ASME-Landmark:St. Charles Avenue Street Car Line


The St. Charles Street Car line is the oldest continuously operating street railways in the world and was one of the first passenger railroads in the United States. The electric streetcars now operating on the route are typical of the transportation that played a major role in American cities in the first part of the 20th century.

Incorporated as the New Orleans and Carrollton Rail Road Company on February 9, 1833, the railroad was part of a sophisticated land development scheme. It followed the line of the river, and as New Orleans grew, new streets and buildings followed the river and the railroad, rather than a typical grid system—earning New Orleans its nickname of "Crescent City."

On January 13, 1834, the horse car line to the town of Lafayette officially began service along St. Charles Avenue from Canal Street. The cars were pulled by horses, who used a wooden walkway between the rails. Two steam locomotives, the "New Orleans" and the "Carrollton," were subsequently ordered from England, and steam service began September 1835.

By the mid-1860s, it was clear that steam locomotives were inappropriate for city use. After trying an overhead cable system in 1870—which proved effective but too costly—the railroad tried ammonia and then thermo-specific engines until finally settling on electricity in 1893. The new electric cars made by St. Louis Car Company were closed cars, with open platforms for the motorman. The single truck was for use on 4' x 8½" gauge track and 500 volt direct current.

The St. Charles Street Car line remains in operation today under the Regional Transit Authority of New Orleans. See ASME website for more information