Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Orleans Street Cars

My fascination with railroads is no secret to folks who know me. Street cars clearly fall within this interest and much of New Orleans Street Car system has been restored since the flood two years almost ago now. We had the chance to ride some of the routes of this street railway before we left. In fact, one of the several lines ran right past our hotel on St. Charles St. One day while driving away from the hotel we chased the street car for a while. They are not in any big hurry, but do exercise their right of way when it comes to turns and intersections.

New Orleans has 32 of these cars operating in all. They were build in the early 1940’s and have been maintained and restored over the years. While they are used by the natives for basic transportation, they are also a favorite attraction with tourists like us. The ride is bumpy but steady and the motormen (and women) are generally friendly and offer guidance to bewildered and slightly lost visitors.

As we moved along the “Canal Street” line from the French Quarter to the Cemetery and back ( about an hour’s ride) I had a strange feeling of familiarity about the experience. During the night it came to me that these cars are very similar to the ones which the City of Rochester used first in its street car trolley lines and then in its ill-fated subway system which. When I was just a tike my dad took me for a ride on Rochester’s subway just before it ended in 1954. The gentle sway of the street car ride through New Orleans reminded me of that fine adventure.

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