Friday, February 1, 2008

"Hey, Stella! Hey, Stella!"

Canal Street, New Orleans, March 1964. “Hey Stella!, Hey Stella!” Who can forget the pathetic Stanley Kowalski, crying out for Stella Dubois in Tennessee William’s "A Street Car Named Desire?”

As a young airman stationed at Kessler AFB in Biloxi Mississippi, the lure of the Big Easy was undeniable, if you know what I mean! It was just a few bucks on a Greyhound for a young man from Seattle to be prowling around a one-of-a-kind city.

Here I capture Canal Street 02, car number 942, rumbling along at the mandated maximum speed of 10 miles per hour. The Canal Street line’s history dates back to 1861. Built by Perley A Thomas in 1924, Car Number 942 was terminated with the line in 1964.

The line was reinstated in 2004. Then came Katrina in 2005.

Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Inc. named for its founder, was a 20th century builder of wooden streetcars, based in High Point, North Carolina. The company built many of the wooden electric overhead-trolley powered streetcars used throughout the United States primarily in the first half of the 20th century. Famous for their workmanship and durability, some of the cars built by Perley A. Thomas Car Works in the early 1920s are still operating today in New Orleans.

The Perley A. Thomas Car Works was reorganized as Thomas Built Buses, Inc., and became one of the three principal builders of large school buses the United States. It is still based in High Point, and is now part of the Freightliner Corporation in Portland, Oregon (where I was employed as Media Supervisor for seven years) which was recently renamed
Daimler Trucks, North America.

The wide destruction wrought on the city by Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 knocked all three lines out of operation and damaged many of the streetcars. Service on a portion of the Canal Street line was restored in December of that year, with the remainder of the line and the Riverfront line returning to service in early 2006. As of December 2007, the entire St. Charles line through service has been restored – with the Perley A Thomas cars still in service!

For more photos of these hearty vehicles, check this photo album of New Orleans street cars, including pictures of the “Street Car Named Desire.”

Railroad Stuff: Car Numbers 918 – 972, 55 cars, built Perely Thomas for New Orleans Public Service, 1924, Arched Roof type, OAL 47’8”

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