New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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The shortest-lived rail ferry services in Louisiana

The shortest-lived rail ferry services in Louisiana – and one of the oddest
was that of the East Louisiana Railroad on Lake Pontchartrain. Between 1887 and
1892, the East Louisiana constructed its main line westward from the community
of Pearl River – where it connected with the New Orleans & Northeastern – to
Covington, and also built a branch line from a junction at St. Tammany down to
Mandeville on Lake Pontchartrain.

Shortly after it began operating, the East Louisiana obtained trackage rights over the NO&NE between Pearl River and New Orleans. The NO&NE had opened its line from Meridian, Mississippi to New Orleans on 1 November 1883 when it completed its lengthy trestle over the eastern end of Lake Pontchartrain. In New Orleans, the East Louisiana built a depot between the south end of the NO&NE yard and the Mississippi River, at the corner of Press and Royal Streets.

Although the NO&NE trackage rights gave the East Louisiana a quick and convenient entry into the Crescent City, the little railroad wanted a route of its very own; so, on 15 Novenber 1895, it purchased the New Orleans, Spanish Fort & Lake RR. The NOSF&L was a 'street railroad' which ran from the intersection of Basin and Canal Streets (later the site of the New Orleans Terminal Company's Terminal Station) out to Spanish Fort, where Bayou St. John flows into Lake Pontchartrain.

The East Louisiana also purchased a 10-year-old ferry, the CAPE CHARLES, and began service between Mandeville and Spanish Fort. This new operation allowed the railroad to offer its very own service from the heart of the New Orleans business district to Mandeville and Covington, but the 25-mile voyage across Lake Pontchartrain took several hours, and the ferry was more expensive to operate than a train!

While the exact duration of this
service isn't known, the ferry was sold to the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad
in 1986 or 1987 and rebuilt into a dredge for use at Gulfport, Mississippi. The
East Louisiana sold the NOSF&L to the New Orleans & Western Railroad on
1 July 1897, and the line out to Spanish Fort was abandoned in 1904. Based on
the purchase and sale dates of the NOSF&L, it would appear that the ferry
service lasted less than two years.