A railroad car float or rail barge is an unpowered barge with railway tracks mounted on its deck. It is used to move rolling stock across water obstacles, or to locations they could not otherwise go, and is towed by a tugboat or pushed by a towboat. As such, the car float is a specialised form of the lighter,as opposed to a train ferry, which is self-powered.
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During the Civil War, Herman Haupt used huge barges fitted with tracks to enable military trains to cross the Rappahannock River in support of the Army of the Potomac.
Beginning in the 1830s, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) operated a car float across the Potomac River, just south of Washington, D.C., between Shepherds Landing on the east shore, and Alexandria, Virginia on the west. The ferry operation ended in 1906.The B&O operated a car float across the Baltimore Inner Harbor until the mid-1890s. It connected trains from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. and points to the west. The operation ended after the opening of the Baltimore Belt Line in 1895.
The Port of New York and New Jersey had many car float operations, which lost ground to the post-World War II expansion of trucking, but held out until and the rise of containerization in the 1970s.
These car floats operated between the Class 1 railroads terminals on the west bank of Hudson River in Hudson County, New Jersey and the numerous online and offline terminals located in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan.Class 1 railroads in the New York Harbor area providing car float services were:
As well as the offline terminal railroads:
Car float service was also provided to many pier stations and waterfront warehouse facilities (that did not engage in car floating service personally) by the above-mentioned railroads.
At their peak, the railroads had 3,400 employees operating small fleets totalling 323 car floats, plus 1,094 other barges, towed by 150 tugboats between New Jersey and New York City.
Abandoned float bridges are preserved as part of this history at:
Several other abandoned but unrestored float bridges exist in other locations around New York Harbor. A complete list is available at Surviving Float Bridges of New York Harbor
Freight cars do not run in the East River Tunnels nor the North River Tunnels (under the Hudson River), in part due to inadequate tunnel clearances of the New York Tunnel Extension.
The Bay Coast Railroad formerly operated a 2-barge car float connecting Virginia's Eastern Shore with the city of Norfolk, Virginia across the Chesapeake Bay.
Between 1912–1936, the Erie Railroad operated a car float service on the Chicago River in Chicago, Illinois.
The Alaska Railroad provides the Alaska Rail Marine rail barge service from downtown Seattle to Whittier on the central Alaskan mainland.Additionally, CN Rail provides the Aquatrain rail barge service from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Whittier.
The only remaining car float service in operation in the Port of New York and New Jersey is operated by New York New Jersey Rail. This company, operated by the bi-state government agency Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is the successor to the New York Cross Harbor Railroad. Car float service operates between 65th Street / Bay Ridge Yard in Brooklyn and Greenville Yard in Jersey City, New Jersey.
North River is an alternative name for the southernmost portion of the Hudson River in the vicinity of New York City and northeastern New Jersey in the United States. The entire watercourse was known as the North River by the Dutch in the early seventeenth century; the term fell out of general use for most of the river's 300+ mile course during the early 1900s. However the name remains in very limited use as an artifact among history-inclined local mariners and others and on some nautical charts and maps. The term is also used for infrastructure on and under the river, such as the North River piers, North River Tunnels, and the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The Pere Marquette Railway operated in the Great Lakes region of the United States and southern parts of Ontario in Canada. It had trackage in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and the Canadian province of Ontario. Its primary connections included Buffalo; Toledo; and Chicago. The company was named after Père Jacques Marquette S.J. (1637–1675), a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan's first European settlement, Sault Ste Marie.
For the purposes of this article, the Jersey City area extends North to Edgewater, South to Bayonne and includes Kearny Junction and Harrison but not Newark. Many routes east of Newark are listed here.
A train ferry is a ship (ferry) designed to carry railway vehicles. Typically, one level of the ship is fitted with railway tracks, and the vessel has a door at the front and/or rear to give access to the wharves. In the United States, train ferries are sometimes referred to as "car ferries", as distinguished from "auto ferries" used to transport automobiles. The wharf has a ramp, and a linkspan or "apron", balanced by weights, that connects the railway proper to the ship, allowing for the water level to rise and fall with the tides.
The Michigan Central Railroad was originally incorporated in 1846 to establish rail service between Detroit, Michigan, and St. Joseph, Michigan. The railroad later operated in the states of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois in the United States and the province of Ontario in Canada. After about 1867 the railroad was controlled by the New York Central Railroad, which later became part of Penn Central and then Conrail. After the 1998 Conrail breakup, Norfolk Southern Railway now owns much of the former Michigan Central trackage.
New York New Jersey Rail, LLC is a switching and terminal railroad that operates the only car float operation across Upper New York Bay between Jersey City, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York. Since mid-November 2008, it has been owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which acquired it for about $16 million as a step in a process that might see a Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel completed.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Station was the intermodal passenger terminal for the Pennsylvania Railroad's (PRR) vast holdings on the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, New Jersey. By the 1920s the station was called Exchange Place. The rail terminal and its ferry slips were the main New York City station for the railroad until the opening in 1910 of New York Pennsylvania Station, made possible by the construction of the North River Tunnels. It was one of the busiest stations in the world for much of the 19th century.
The Eastern Shore Railroad, Inc. was a Class III short-line railroad that began operations in October 1981 on the 96-mile (154 km) former Virginia and Maryland Railroad line on the Delmarva Peninsula. The line ran between Pocomoke City, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia, interchanging with the Norfolk Southern Railway at both ends.
The Port of New York and New Jersey is the port district of the New York-Newark metropolitan area, encompassing the region within approximately a 25-mile (40 km) radius of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. It includes the system of navigable waterways in the New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which runs along 650 miles (1,050 km) of shoreline in the vicinity of New York City and northeastern New Jersey, as well as the region's airports and supporting rail and roadway distribution networks. Considered one of the largest natural harbors in the world, the port has become the second busiest port by tonnage in the United States as of 2019, and the busiest on the East Coast.
The Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel is a proposed freight rail transport tunnel under Upper New York Bay in the Port of New York and New Jersey between northeastern New Jersey and Long Island, including southern and eastern New York City.
Weehawken Terminal was the waterfront intermodal terminal on the North River in Weehawken, New Jersey for the New York Central Railroad's West Shore Railroad division, whose route travelled along the west shore of the Hudson River. It opened in 1884 and closed in 1959. The complex contained five ferry slips, sixteen passenger train tracks, car float facilities, and extensive yards. The facility was also used by the New York, Ontario and Western Railway. The terminal was one of five passenger railroad terminals that lined the Hudson Waterfront during the 19th and 20th centuries, the others were located at Hoboken, Pavonia, Exchange Place and Communipaw, with Hoboken being the only one still in use.
The Selkirk Hurdle is the term used by urban planners, railroad employees, politicians, and others to describe the route that must be taken by freight trains traveling between New York City and other points in downstate New York that are east of the Hudson River, and locations in the United States to the south and west. There are no rail freight bridges or tunnels that cross the Hudson River south of Selkirk, which is 10 miles (16 km) south of Albany and the home of Selkirk Yard, a major CSX classification yard. As a result, trains from Long Island and New York City must travel 140 miles (230 km) north to cross at Selkirk before continuing on their way. Advocates claim that this detour and the inefficiencies that result force New York City to rely more heavily on relatively inefficient trucks than most parts of the United States, where freight trains are more common. However, at least for traffic to and from the west, this route was touted for its efficiency as the "Water Level Route" by the New York Central Railroad because trains using it did not have to climb over the Appalachian Mountains, and it is still used by the New York Central's successor, CSX, for traffic to both sides of the Hudson River.
Greenville Yard is a freight rail yard in the Port of New York and New Jersey. It is located on Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, New Jersey adjacent and north of Port Jersey. Originally developed in 1904 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was later taken over by Conrail. It has been owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey since 2010. It takes its name from the former municipality of Greenville, now part of the city.
Weehawken Port Imperial is an intermodal transit hub on the Weehawken, New Jersey, waterfront of the Hudson River across from Midtown Manhattan, served by New York Waterway ferries and buses, Hudson–Bergen Light Rail, and NJT buses. The district lies under and at the foot of Pershing Road, a thoroughfare which travels along the face of the Hudson Palisades, which rise to its west. The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway runs along the shoreline and is abutted by recently constructed residential neighborhoods, Lincoln Harbor to the south and Bulls Ferry to the north.
The tugboat is a New York City icon. Once all steam powered, they soon became iconic, starting with the first hull, the paddler tug Rufus W. King of 1828.
From the start of railroading in America through the first half of the 19th century, New York City and Long Island were major areas for rail freight transportation. However, their relative isolation from the mainland United States has always posed problems for rail traffic. Numerous factors over the late 20th century have caused further declines in freight rail traffic. Efforts to reverse this trend are ongoing, but have been met with limited success.
The 65th Street Yard, also Bay Ridge Rail Yard, is a rail yard on the Upper New York Bay in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Equipped with two transfer bridges which allow rail cars to be loaded and unloaded onto car floats, the last of once extensive car float operations in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Located adjacent to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, it provided a major link in the city's rail freight network in the first half of the twentieth century. It was later used as a conventional railroad yard at the end of the LIRR/NY&A Bay Ridge Branch. The new transfer bridges were constructed in 1999, but remained unused until the transfer bridges were activated in July 2012.
Due to its unique geography, being made of two peninsulas surrounded by the Great Lakes, Michigan has depended on many ferries for connections to transport people, vehicles and trade. The most famous modern ferries are those which carry people and goods across the Straits of Mackinac to the car-free Mackinac Island but before the Mackinac Bridge was built, large numbers of ferries carried people and cars between the two peninsulas. Other ferries continue to provide transportation to small islands and across the Detroit River to Canada. Ferries once provided transport to island parks for city dwellers. The state's only national park, Isle Royale cannot be reached by road and is normally accessed by ferry. The largest ferries in Michigan are the car ferries which cross Lake Michigan to Wisconsin. One of these, the SS Badger is one of the last remaining coal steamers on the Great Lakes and serves as a section of US Highway 10 (US 10). The Badger is also the largest ferry in Michigan, capable of carrying 600 passengers and 180 autos.
ExpressRail is a rail facility network of on- or near- dock rail yards supporting intermodal freight transport at the major container terminals of the Port of New York and New Jersey. The development of dockside trackage and railyards for transloading has been overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which works in partnership with other public and private stakeholders. As of 2019, four ExpressRail facilities were in operation, with a total built capacity of 1.5 million lifts.
The North Shore Branch is an abandoned branch of the Staten Island Railway in New York City, which operated along Staten Island's North Shore from Saint George to Port Ivory. The line continues into New Jersey via the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge to Cranford Junction.