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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Carrollton Transit Station

Carrollton Transit Station
words and photography
by Cadet Tom, Autumn 2006

Canal Street streetcar 2018 was the victim of vandals who broke into the Canal Station in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck. The streetcar was tagged with spray paint and remains so. A remaining vestige of the disorder that Katrina threw the RTA into, it is now housed along with many other Canal streetcars at the Carrollton Transit Station.

       Hurricane Katrina threw the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and its streetcar system into disarray. Tracks and electric lines were torn apart, streetcars were flooded and rendered unusable, and a dispersed population and payroll left the RTA in a dreadful financial position. They are only now slowly getting back on their feet, and their most famous icon—the New Orleans streetcar—is making its return slowly but surely. The Carrollton Transit Station in the Carrollton neighborhood of Uptown is the epicenter of its revitalization.
       Dozens of streetcars from all of the New Orleans lines fill the storage floor and general assembly floor in the station. Some, most of the green St. Charles streetcars for example, are in great condition. Others—the 24 red Canal streetcars and six of the seven Riverfront streetcars—have varying amounts of damage. The Canal Station flooded during the storm, putting the streetcars inside out of use. They were eventually taken to the Carrollton Station.

The Canal and Riverfront streetcars now lie empty, devoid of passengers and oftentimes even of seats and other essential hardware. They are being kept in storage at the station until they can each receive the individual attention required for their nearly $1 million reconstruction.

       They now lie waiting. Some cars are entirely gutted, others still full of scrap and trash from the flood. Still others are in better condition, although occasionally vandalized. One Canal streetcar has been graffiti tagged with the words “GET ME BACK ONLINE.” The artist might not have realized that he was not helping in realizing his request. Another is entirely covered on one side with more intricate graffiti. These are all remnants of Katrina’s troublesome effects.
       The RTA is working on remedying all of these troubles and getting everything back in working order. They are depending on their skilled engineers and well-equipped facilities to reach this end.

Raymond Perossier takes a break from a day of hard work to answer a personal telephone call along side a line of Canal streetcars on the storage floor. Perossier “has done it all,” and knows the station and the streetcars inside out. His day is busied with projects all over the station.

       The engineers of the Carrollton Station are especially important. Many have been working on New Orleans streetcars for over 25 years. They are highly skilled at their work, which covers anything a streetcar could possibly need. There are carpenters, upholsterers, welders, mechanical engineers, painters, metal workers, electricians, and machinists. Raymond Perossier, a man who has done it all, busies himself with all aspects of streetcar maintenance at the station. He was trained by the last man whom he considered “knew everything” about the streetcars. Perossier is an integral employee at the station.

Sparks fly at Raymond Perossier as he welds a streetcar truck component on the general assembly floor. The trucks are being refurbished as part of the Saint Charles streetcar restoration project. They are important as they contain the engine and wheel assembly. Perossier came to share his expertise after Larry McKenzie couldn’t finish the project.

       The facilities at the station are almost equally important. They range from tools used on the original streetcars that Perossier says are “older than your grandfather’s father,” to computerized machines that can complete a job that used to take a week in a matter of hours, to hydraulic lifts that can push up an entire streetcar ten feet into the air. Thanks to a thorough modernization in the 1990s, just about anything can be done with ease. Any part required for a streetcar can be manufactured right in the station. Several shops, including an electric shop, a millshop, an upholstery shop, a welding shop, and a metal shop are astride the storage floor and general assembly floor. There are also two painting chambers (called “spray booths”) where painters can paint anything from a chair to an entire streetcar.

Mr. Dours (left) and Mr. Brewin (right) work together with a large saw in the millshop. The millshop can fashion from scratch any wooden piece needed for a streetcar.

       Workers already had a lot on their hands before Katrina. There is an ongoing restoration project for the Saint Charles line, the home of which is the Carrollton Station. Day after day, workers have been taking apart and putting together the Saint Charles cars again. Right now, there is a special emphasis on the trucks of the cars—the assembly that contains the massive engines and wheels. Work takes place on the general assembly floor with welding and construction, and in machine shops with individualized attention to each component of the truck.

Anthony Maggio uses a heavy-duty antique drill to cut through the dense steel plates that support the streetcar’s massive engines. Maggio works daily in the heavy machinery shop on tasks related to the Saint Charles streetcar restoration project. Some of the machinery he uses has been in use for decades; oftentimes used on the original streetcars.

       Everyone is hard at work at the station. Many are occupied with projects for the restoration of the Saint Charles streetcars, including Larry McKenzie and Allen Santee who have been working with the trucks on the general assembly floor, and Anthony Maggio and Lenny Reyes in the machine shop, who are working on perfecting individual components. In the spray booths, Mr. Stampley and Eric Blasch are painting everything that needs to be painted in that trademark green or red coat.

Machinist Lenny Reyes uses a machine to shave off excess metal from components used in the trucks of the Saint Charles streetcars.

       There are also several independent projects happening. In the metal shop, James Kimble has been making barbeques from scratch for the company picnic; a humorous reprieve from the serious work elsewhere at the station. “It’s actually a pain the ass,” he says. Nevertheless, he is proud of his final products, especially with the little metal “smokehouses” he has welded onto the top of every chimney.

It’s not always serious work at the station, where James Kimble puts the finishing touches on a homemade barbeque (including a small “smokehouse” at the top of the chimney) in the metal shop. Kimble has made several such barbeques on his time at the station for the company picnic. “It’s actually a pain in the ass,” he says.

       Things are flowing smoothly at the Carrollton Transit Station, and service is being restored slowly but surely. In late November, the RTA decorated its streetcars for the holidays. Service is also set to be restored to the downtown section of St. Charles Avenue past Lee Circle by the end of 2006. The cars that lie in waiting now will soon be rolling out of the Carrollton Transit Station and into service.

Dozens of streetcars from the St. Charles, Canal, and Riverfront lines are lined up on tracks on the storage floor. Through individual projects and federal grants, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority vows to restore each streetcar so they can roll out of the station and back into service.

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These are beautiful exposures! My favorites are the first one and also the one of the Kimble fellow. The lighting is beautiful and the welding torch looks rad. Post more!
James, the bbq pit maker, makes me giggle.
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