New Orleans streetcar

This week’s #frifotos* theme is cars, and I’ve had fun playing with Alexandra’s photo of a classic New Orleans streetcar on Canal Street.

New Orleans streetcars have rambled through the city for almost two centuries. This one, the Canal Street Line, began operations in 1861 and provided horse-drawn service to the people of New Orleans. Couldn’t have been easy being a horse in those days.

New Orleans streetcar - Canal street
Photo by Alexandra Redisch

The most famous New Orleans streetcar

The most famous streetcar line is probably the one that for a few decades at the beginning of the 20th century plied through the French Quarter down to Desire Street. Somewhat sadly, this New Orleans streetcar was replaced by busses in 1948. But it lives on in people’s minds, thanks to Tennessee Williams. In the words of Blanche duBois:

What you are talking about is desire – just brutal Desire. The name of that rattle-trap streetcar that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.

Tennessee Williams is also reputed to have said the following:

New Orleans

I expect that didn’t make him especially popular.

I’ve never been in Cleveland, but I’ve been in quite a few American cities. From my days living in the USA, I remember these three as the only cities where I saw people outdoors: out and about, doing their shopping on foot, walking to work, to school, to play….

I imagine things might have changed since Tennessee’s days – and even since my days. What do you think?

Are people out walking in your city? Or is the famous author’s statement still valid?

*#FriFotos is a weekly Twitter chat founded by @EpsteinTravels where travellers share their favourite photos. Each week has a different theme.

Disclosure: In New Orleans, we were guests of New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. As ever, we’re free to write about anything we, well… desire.


22 Responses to “New Orleans streetcar”

  1. Mette - Italian Notes 15 March 2013 1731 #

    I suspect that Tennesse Williams loved knocking against the glass menagerie, but he has got a point. I’d hate to live in a city with no outdoor shopping areas, even if it may just be a habit of thought.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0952 #

      I don’t think I could ever get used to living life entirely indoors.

  2. Leigh 15 March 2013 1917 #

    Despite our long winters I find Calgary to be a very walkable city – and people are always out at least in the downtown core. I would agree that NYC & San Fran are great walking cities – but they seem to be few and far between in the US. I suspect that is slowly changing.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0953 #

      I’ve only been to the eastern side of Canada, but remember walking – and seeing people out and about – in Ottawa and Halifax and Montreal. Things are probably changing in many cities in the USA, too.

  3. Cathy Sweeney 16 March 2013 0301 #

    There is something so romantic and intriguing about old streetcars – no matter what city they’re in. San Francisco has the F-Line with vintage streetcars from cities around the world. About Tennessee Williams and his view on cities — maybe that was true back then, but couldn’t be further from the truth now. We’ve got many awesome cities here in the U.S.(such as Chicago!) — all distinct, even Cleveland. 😉

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0956 #

      I love street cars, too – they’re very romantic. And I should probably have a look at Cleveland, shouldn’t I…

  4. Marlys 16 March 2013 2205 #

    Totally agree with Tennessee Williams. We visited pre-flooding New Orleans and loved it. Hope to go back again.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0956 #

      Hope you do 🙂

  5. Turtle 17 March 2013 0143 #

    New Orleans certainly feels like a whole different country to much of the US. I can understand what Tennessee Williams meant, in that respect. When I was there a year or so ago it felt quite depressing, though. There’s the busy central touristy area but then there’s also just lost of impoverished suburbs with very depressed-looking people.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0957 #

      Sadly, there are still visible scars from the flooding, physical and otherwise. In time, though…

  6. Mary {The World Is A Book} 17 March 2013 0805 #

    Beautiful photo! I love the street cars in San Francisco and New Orleans. I live in car centric Southern California so we’re not a very walkable city. Our public transportation isn’t the greatest and it’s really a shame since the weather is perfect for walking year round.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0958 #

      Yes, that’s odd really. Perhaps it’s a question of habit more than anything else.

  7. Andrea 17 March 2013 1617 #

    Those are three of my fav cities, haha, but I’m sure that didn’t make him too popular… =)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 March 2013 0958 #


  8. Alouise 22 March 2013 0318 #

    I found New Orleans to be a great city for walking. In fact around the French Quarter and some other neighbourhoods I felt bad for anyone trying to drive. The streets were so narrow, the roads uneven (lot’s of potholes) and there were so many pedestrians it just seems like walking would be less hassle. I’m from Edmonton and while there are some great areas for walking a lot of the city is pretty sprawled out, so most people seem to drive.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 March 2013 1701 #

      Edmonton is on the great Canadian prairie, if I remember correctly… not exactly walking country perhaps…

  9. InsideJourneys 23 March 2013 0634 #

    Interesting quote from Tennessee Williams.
    That’s quite a beautiful streetcar. I love cities with street cars — it’s the one thing I look forward to see when I visit Toronto.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 March 2013 1702 #

      Street cars in Toronto, I didn’t know. A bonus that.

  10. Paul 27 March 2013 2131 #

    I love the street car photo, looks so cool and vintage. Love the literary reference, too. New Orleans seems so mysterious and exciting. I keep going to Florida, but I think it’s time to spread out a little.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0956 #

      New Orleans is truly a unique city – and not that far from Florida, so next time, perhaps?

  11. David Bennett 27 April 2013 0950 #

    Doesn’t the weather have something to do with it? To feel that three-dimensional quality of life when the sun is playing on everything. That energy that makes you want to get up and get outside and splash in the sunshine.

    I love the Paris neighbourhoods with their outdoor feel in summer –

    Ah, sun.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0957 #

      You have a point. Up here in Northern Europe, people are out walking no matter the weather, but it’s an entirely different attitude once the sun comes out.

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