History of the Public Belt Railroad
1890 – Conception of a New Orleans belt line railroad discussed. Municipal Affairs Committee wants to provide railroad service to Port of New Orleans areas to encourage commercial development. At this time, individual trunk lines serve different areas of the riverfront.
1896 – Municipal Affairs Committee proposes the New Orleans Belt Railroad, to be owned and operated by the City of New Orleans. The railroad would provide uniform rail service to the entire area adjacent to the Port, and would handle traffic moving via all of the trunk lines reaching the city. The goal was to provide impartial rail service in an efficient and cost-effective way.
1904 – City of New Orleans Ordinance No. 2683 – amends and re-enacts Ordinance No. 147 of August 7, 1900. This new ordinance provides for operation of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to be vested in a Board of Commissioners, composed of the Mayor and sixteen citizen taxpayers of the City. The Commissioners are to be appointed by the Mayor, by and with approval of the City Council, and are to be duly qualified electors, who have resided in New Orleans continuously for a period of five years. This same ordinance also provides for the $10,000 annual appropriation for acquisition of property and construction of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to be extended to 1915, a total of fifteen years.
1905 – Actual construction of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad begins.
1908 – Actual operation of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad begins. NOPB owns over twenty miles of track, extending from the Monticello Street to Mandeville Street – with one locomotive.
1900 – 1911 – City of New Orleans appropriates nearly $487,000 for construction of the Public Belt. This represents the City of New Orleans’s total investment in the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to date. All subsequent expansions and improvements have been financed from earnings and the issuance of bonds serviced from earnings.
1921 – State of Louisiana Constitution sets forth the present day plan for the control and operation of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, which was adopted as a Statute by Louisiana Act No. 245 of 1976.
1932 – 1935 – Construction of the Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi River begins.
1933 – Car Repair & Mechanical Facility at Japonica Street built.
1941 – Purchase of first diesel locomotive – Number 41.
1942 – 1951 – Purchase of ten more diesel locomotives, numbered 42 through 51.
1943 – Texas & Pacific Railway Co. (TP) interchange at West Bridge is constructed.
1956 – New Orleans Public Belt Railroad extends track to Lake Pontchartrain, with construction of France Yard and tracks along both sides of Industrial Canal.
1956 – Purchase of Locomotives – Numbers 61 & 62.
1957 – Purchase of Locomotives – Numbers 71 & 72.
1961 – New Orleans Public Belt Railroad constructs Bulk Terminal Yard.
1965 – Main office relocates from Carondelet Street to International Trade Mart Building.
1971 – Purchase of 9 EMD locomotives. All other locomotives retired.
1985 – Fifty-year anniversary celebration of Huey P. Long Bridge opening.
1992 – New main office headquarters building completed on Tchoupitoulas Street.
1997 – House Bill 1949 grants the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad the right to transport overhead train traffic across its network and contract with any railroad to provide this service. BNSF Railway and NOPB work together to move additional railcar traffic through New Orleans.
1998 – Cotton Warehouse Yard Office and Car Repair Facility opens.
1999 – Dock Board announces construction of Napoleon Avenue Container Cargo Terminal.
1999 – St. Claude Viaduct deepening is completed, allowing doublestack trains entry onto the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad’s main line.
2000 – New France Yard office facility opens, replacing shack and separate outhouse facility.
2004 – Port of New Orleans’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal is completed.
2005 – Hurricane Katrina devastates the New Orleans area on August 29, 2005. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad gets through the storm relatively unscathed; the main yard and office buildings were not flooded or damaged. Crews begin immediately to assess the damage and bring the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad back to life. Much of NOPB’s equipment and vehicles is confiscated by other agencies for use for emergency needs and debris removal. The main office building houses a large group of National Guard soldiers from San Diego, California, who are assisting in the recovery effort.
2005 – Public Belt resumes operations after Katrina, about two weeks after the storm. However, employees are slow to return to work; nearly 46 of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad’s 160 employees lose their homes, with the remaining number suffering from moderate to severe damage to their property. Many employees leave their families in other cities and return to work for NOPB, living aboard navy ships docked along the Mississippi River and in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). Even though business was slow because of the hurricanes, none of Public Belt’s employees are laid-off. The company makes sure that each employee given $5,000.00 after taxes for living expenses during their first week of evacuation. This is a great help to those in need, as most people evacuated with only a few days of clothing and supplies.
2006 – CSXT interchange reopens its main line and yard in New Orleans, restoring the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad’s daily interchange service with that railroad. CSXT is the last of NOPB’s 6 Class 1 connections to restore service into New Orleans. Financials reflect pre-Katrina revenue and operating ratio.
2007 – In preparation for the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad’s centennial in 2008, renovations begin on roundhouse and engine terminal facility.