Monday, January 31, 2011

Loving the ride

Husband Walter’s photo of a favorite San Francisco ride
San Francisco has been cropping up in husband Walter’s conversation lately. We haven’t visited that city since June 2008. Guess it is about time to put riding those San Francisco cable cars back on the travel agenda.

In addition to being an image that is distinctively San Francisco, the cable cars have been a National Historic Landmark since 1964 and are the only "moving landmark" on the list. The San Francisco system is also touted as the only remaining manually operated cable car system in the world that has been in continuous operation since its inception.

Our San Francisco activities include more than the iconic and historic cable cars, but the sometimes stomach-dropping rides are a must. One of the first things we do is buy a seven-day passport offered by Muni, the city-run transportation system. The passport means unlimited rides on the cable cars, the vintage streetcars and buses.

Closer to home, however, we hadn’t taken advantage – until recently – of another historic mode of transportation, the St. Charles streetcars. A ride on a St. Charles streetcar was one of our top priorities for a December 2010 two-night visit to NOLA.

Our streetcar operator on the St. Charles Avenue line goes through the “end-of-the-line” routine at South Carrollton and South Claiborne.
Streetcars have been part of New Orleans’ people-moving strategies since the 1800s. Three lines are in operation today. According to Wikipedia, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers accords the St. Charles Avenue line, the longest of the New Orleans streetcar lines, the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.

Similar to San Francisco’s cable cars, a mix of tourists and residents fills a St. Charles Avenue streetcar.

A streetcar pass that husband Walter purchased for each of us soon paid for itself as we took the Riverfront line and the Canal street line to reach the starting point for the St. Charles Avenue line.

We started our streetcar tour at the French Market stop.

One of the bright red Canal Street cars was our next ride.

We caught the St. Charles line just off Canal Street and rode it to the end of the line. On the return trip, we hopped off for a lunch break at the Trolley Stop Café. For husband Walter’s impressions of that experience, click here.

Lunch break at the Trolley Stop Café

The New Orleans streetcars don’t have the thrill of the steep hills of San Francisco that the cable cars have. On the other hand, in New Orleans we encountered no huge lines and cars came along much more frequently. There never was a long wait.

A St. Charles line operator
All of the operators we encountered on our streetcar travels were friendly, helpful, patient and seemed to take pride in their city, traits their San Francisco counterparts share.

It was an entertaining way to hit some spots we wanted to visit. Summer would be another story. There is no AC on the historic St. Charles streetcars with New Orleans temperatures soaring far above the cooler San Francisco weather.

But for this December visit, cool temperatures prevailed.


  1. I LOVE steetcars and trolleys!! I used to live in Washington D.C. back when streetcars were common. But I always got sick on them and my mom had to take me off! Those cable cars in S.F. must have some HILLS to go up and down, I would say they would be not so much thrilling as scary.

  2. i am with ginny, love the trolley and street cars. i especailly like your inside shot of the people in the street car. we have a streetcar out at our local beaches that is free to the public and runs 10 miles of beaches and I have never ridden on it. see it a lot though. thanks for taking us on a trip to NOL

  3. The trolley cars in San Francisco are easily recognisable from lots of films. When I was a child towns and cities in the Uk were getting rid of trams. Now they are laying new tracks and going back to them. Everything comes around, or so it seems. Incidentally, the modern trams in Montpellier (S France) are excellent.

  4. Thanks for the memories of my Hubby and my times of working at the Convention Center in NOLA. We often took the street car out just to see some different scenery after being inside for so many hours everyday.