Visiting New Orleans and seeing the sights has been an easy task since the first half the 19th century when the streetcar made its appearance on the city’s streets. As an integral part of the city’s transportation system, New Orleans’ streetcar lines have a long history with the city. Long enough that one if its lines, the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, is known as the oldest, continuously operating railway system in the world.
The year was 1831 when planning for a New Orleans streetcar began. Services for the first line, the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, were launched in 1835, with passenger and freight cars being run by steam locomotive power. However, the noise and pollution caused by the locomotive became a problem as the area became more urbanized, prompting a change to cars pulled by horses and mules.
As the years went by, different systems were experimented with in order to find the most efficient means of mass transportation. Not until 1893 was the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad electrified and bulk cars introduced several years later in the 1920s.
Today you’ll find three lines exist in New Orleans. There’s the St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line and the Canal Street Line. Other lines have come and gone, most replace by bus service. However, preservationists have managed to protect the St. Charles Avenue line from future extinction by having it named as a historic landmark.
When Hurricane Katrina blew into town in August of 2005, all three streetcar lines were knocked out of commission. Many of the streetcars were damaged and had to be repaired before service was restored. In some cases, service did not start back up until two years after the hurricane hit.
The few remaining New Orleans streetcars offer a ride not to be missed. Riding through the streets of the city on a streetcar is the best way to see the city and envision how life, long ago, was lived in the Louisiana city.