Why New Orleans has a cable car from San Francisco in its streetcar barn

Imagine my surprise, as a visitor from California, spotting a red San Francisco cable car in a barn full of green New Orleans streetcars. I had to know its story.

On Monday, during a trip to the Big Easy, I gallivanted around with my friends Jenny and Matt, guided by local pals Tom and Cheryl Roche. We missed visiting the streetcar barn in the Carrollton neighborhood they recommended, but on Tuesday, we made the stop before our flight.

We first hit up the iconic Camellia Grill for a greasy-spoon breakfast and then went searching for where the streetcars "sleep." After winding our way through narrow streets, we eventually came upon the Carrollton Transit Station, where we spotted the historic No. 59 O'Farrell, Jones, & Hyde cable car.

Now that I'm back home, I've been able to itch my curiosity about the cable car's presence in New Orleans and learned that the city traded an early 1920's streetcar with San Francisco in the late 1990s. The San Francisco streetcar was named "Desire," a nod to playwright Tennessee Williams, a longtime New Orleans resident, and author of "A Streetcar Named Desire." As far as I can tell, "Desire" is still running on Muni's F-Market & Wharves line to this day.

Meanwhile, New Orleans received this beautiful 1907 cable car. Its fate is less than desired, as it seems to have been decommissioned and sequestered indefinitely in this barn at 8201 Willow Street.

photo by Rusty Blazenhoff