Streetcars Return To New Orleans

Two streetcars move along the Canal St. line on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005. New Orleans on Sunday resumed its streetcar service, which had been out of commission since Hurricane Katrina wiped out the utility poles and metal tracks used to propel the city's unique mode of transportation. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma) AP

The clackety-clack is officially back.

New Orleans on Sunday resumed its streetcar service, which had been out of commission since Hurricane Katrina wiped out the utility poles and metal tracks used to propel the city's trademark mode of transportation.

Car number 930, adorned with holiday garland and red ribbon, was the first to roll out from the French Market post at 7 a.m.

"It has taken so much to get here," said Regional Transit Authority spokeswoman Rosalind Blanco Cook. "Evaluating the cars, trying to get the cars on different routes and getting the operators back — it took a lot of work."

Six of the 35 historic New Orleans streetcars that before Hurricane Katrina ran along St. Charles Avenue — the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world — operated Sunday along the Mississippi Riverfront line and part of the Canal Street line. There were two backup cars on the tracks as well.

The newer red cars that usually travel those routes were severely damaged by floodwaters and are not in service. The New Orleans City Council had to pass an ordinance allowing the RTA to move the older green cars, which date back to the 1920s, to the new routes.

The RTA is providing free bus service on the St. Charles route, whose infrastructure is not yet ready for streetcar service, Cook said. She said it's unclear when the service, which runs through the city's Garden District, past mansions and Audubon Park, will resume.

The riverfront line was added in 1988 and the Canal Street line, which was abandoned 40 years ago, was restored in 2004.

Clarence Glover, who has driven streetcars for 22 years, was instructing conductor Jerry Duplessis on Sunday's first run. Before Katrina, Duplessis drove the newer cars, which had more automatic features. He had to be briefed on the older cars' manual components, such as a foot pump that drops sand on the tracks for traction as the car comes to a stop. The newer cars drop sand automatically, Glover said.

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