Six Restored Red Streetcars Roll

NEW ORLEANS — Six of the 24 candy-apple red Canal Street streetcars that fell victim to the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina’s levee breaks are rolling down Canal Street, on North Carrollton Avenue to picturesque City Park, and along the majestic Mississippi Riverfront.

On Dec. 12, the Regional Transit Authority held a re-dedication ceremony of the red streetcars Friday morning and when the ceremony concluded, the streetcars were put into revenue service.

Mary E. Peters, Secretary, United States Department of Transportation, was among those enjoying the first ceremonial ride on the red streetcars.

“In the case of New Orleans’ streetcars, seeing red is truly a cause for celebration,” Peters said. “The return of the red streetcars is just one of the many steps in the ongoing recovery process,” said the Secretary in her welcoming remarks before boarding.

“The repair of New Orleans’ red streetcars and their return to the Canal Street tracks mark yet another significant milestone in this city’s recovery process,” said Doug Whitmer, chief of staff of FEMA’s Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office. “And the timing couldn’t be better to bring back this splash of red to Canal Street during the holiday season. FEMA is extremely proud to have worked closely with the RTA and the state to provide the funding to make this possible.”

Six of the red streetcars are now in operation. RTA is restoring all 24 of the candy-apple red Canal Streetcars that were heavily damaged in the floodwaters. These new streetcars had just been introduced to Canal Street in April of 2004.

Of NORTA’s 66 streetcars, only 35 withstood the storm. Fortunately, the historic St. Charles Perley Thomas models, which were stored before the devastating Hurricane at their home base at the Carrollton Street barn, were safe from the floodwaters. The famous green streetcars have been operating on all three streetcar lines—a 25-mile streetcar system.

Six of the seven Riverfront streetcars, in addition to the 24 Canal streetcars, were also engulfed in the five feet of murky, brackish water that inundated the storage facility. One Riverfront streetcar was at the Carrollton barn for repairs at the time of the Hurricane.

All major components of the streetcars were completely destroyed due to the fact that the streetcars soaked in the five feet of water for over two weeks. Consequently, the streetcars had to be completely restored. The cost to rehab each car is estimated at $1 million, and the total price tag is covered, in part, by a $27 million FEMA appropriation. RTA craftsmen lovingly disassembled the entire cars, reinforced and fixed the flooring, reassembled the interior of the car, restored the mahogany seats, and painted the cars to their original glory. Brookville team members restored the undercarriage of each car, including the wiring, and the electronics to their original functionality.

Determination paid off. The beautiful, shiny red streetcars are now rolling on world-famous Canal Street and the beautiful Riverfront.

“I am so very pleased that the shiny candy-apple red streetcars have returned to the streets of New Orleans. The RTA team and the Board are excited to be able to bring these wonderful cars back to the people of New Orleans and all those who come to visit us,” said Cesar Burgos, Chairman of the RTA Board of Commissioners. “As Chairman of the RTA, I am very proud of the craftsmen of the RTA and of Brookville Corporation who have worked long and hard, and have succeeded in bringing back the streetcars for the holidays.”

— Special to Railfanning.org News Wire