Two engines owned by the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad
pulling a mixed-consist freight train along the New Orleans Riverfront.
Even before the storm, many folks began to forget just how significant the Port of New Orleans
is to the United States. While other ports along the Gulf Coast have taken away business from New Orleans, the city's port is still the one at the mouth of the biggest river in the nation. As such, it's the largest port for rubber and coffee imports, and a major port for grain exports. a
The NOPB Railroad connects rail traffic from the major carriers with port facilities. Hopper cars carrying grain use NOPB to access elevators on the river, and the railroad connects a number of cargo wharves and a large container/intermodal facility with the rest of the nation.
NOPB is owned by the City of New Orleans. It was established in 1904, operating over 25 miles of main track including the Huey P. Long bridge across the Mississippi) and 75 miles of yard track.
These two engines are approaching the "Moonwalk," which is the walkway in front of the river across Decatur St. from Jackson Square. It's a tricky area to navigate for both streetcars and trains, because tourists are crossing over from Washington Artillery Park and the French Market parking lot to the Moonwalk. Still, the trains must roll, servicing the wharves on either side of the French Quarter.
Because of its location, New Orleans is still quite the train city, in spite of the general decline of passenger rail in the last 50 years. Three Amtrak trains terminate at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal: The Crescent, the City of New Orleans, and the Sunset Limited. Additionally, several railroads have significant facilities and operations in the metro area, on both sides of the river. The city government in the early 20th Century was aware that the interests of competing railroads might not coincide with those of the city, hence the creation of the Public Belt.