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New Orleans Streetcars

Arch-Roofed Steel

They got their money's worth out of their rolling stock. They kept the cars in good repair. Yes, lots of cars with years behind them. I can recall no double truckers with sagging platforms or shabby bodies, and but very few of the old single truckers with a "humped body" or sagging platforms. I rode the St. Charles and Canal Lines when last in New Orleans in 1953, and the fact cannot be glossed over: the relaxed feeling experienced riding the cars over the smooth track of the neutral ground with no noise, no vibration and no motion except the smooth forward glide, is indeed the ideal method of street transportation. Satis verborum.

E. Harper Charlton, April 1955

Prior to 1914, streetcars purchased for service in the Cresenct City represented a wide variety of wheel arrangements, car builders, and even propulsion systems -- including horses, steam, compressed air, and even ammonia gas. Before 1900 most cars in use in the city were of the single-truck (4 wheel) arrangement, but even with the introduction of more stable and powerful double-truck electric cars, early 8 wheel versions still depended on large amounts of wood in their bodies and underframes. But in 1914 a new conception of car type was introduced in New Orleans, one that would prove to be the standard arrangement for NOPSI throughout the 20th century. The arch roof, steel body design, riding on double trucks, quickly proved itself to be a stable, powerful, and durable design, largely because the only wood in use in the car was in the floor, roof, and some interior trim -- depending on the series. Instead of a "Palace" type roof of earlier classes, these cars featured a closed, arch design roof utilizing wood and canvas for form and covering. All steel bodies, supports, and underframes made for a more durable car that required less maintenance and fewer overhauls. All three classes featured double-ended operation, convenient drop down steps, seating for 52 people, and a closed body-type for greater protection in inclement weather. All in all, 233 streetcars of this type would carry untold numbers of families, commuters, and tourists over the course of several decades. By the late 1960s, only the 900 series and a handful of 800 series cars remained, but by then the design had secured itself in the public's imagination as the archetypal NOLA streetcar. The steel cars were constructed by four different builders and were numbered by NOPSI in three classes, as follows:

numbers qty builder year length height weight scrapped
400-449 50 Southern Car Company 1914 47' 8" 11' 3" 34,898 1948
800-831 32 J. G. Brill and Company 1922 47' 8" 11' 4" 41,148
832-851 20 Perley-Thomas Car Works 1922 47' 8" 11' 4" 41,148
852-894 43 J. G. Brill and Company 1922 47' 8" 11' 4" 41,148
895-899 5 Perley-Thomas Car Works 1922 47' 8" 11' 4" 41,148
900-972 73 Perley-Thomas Car Works 1923-24 47' 8" 11' 4" 42,036
1000-1009 10 Perley-Thomas Car Works 1928 48' 2" 11' 4" 40,300 1949
1010-1019 10 St. Louis Car Company 1928 48' 2" 10' 8" 40,900 1949

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