New York Central #16 was a non-condensing steam
engine powered tug built in 1924 by the New Jersey Drydock &
Transportation Company of Elizabethport, NJ. The vessel operated
in carfloat service in New York harbor for almost five decades.
She was finally retired and sent to her fate in the Witte Marine
scrapyard on Arthur Kill along the west side of Staten Island
in the 1969.
In the early 1980s, restaurant
owner Howard Shaw wanted an unusual and attention getting attraction
for Grandma's Restaurant, located at the gateway to Cape Cod,
the Belmont Circle at the mainland end of the Bourne Bridge in
Buzzards Bay, Massacusetts.
Several retired tugs at the Witte
Scrapyard were inspected, and New York Central #16 was considered
the most suitable for conversion to a landbound display. The tug
was refloated and moved from the scrapyard to the McAllister shipyard
to make her ready for an open water tow. She was then towed to
Boston then cut at the waterline and placed on a barge with her
deckhouse and pilothouse removed. Transported on the barge to
Buzzards Bay, she was moved to the site with house moving flatbeds
and installed as a permanent display vessel mounted in a concrete
slab next to the restaurant parking lot.
At her new home next to Grandma's
Restaurant, New York Central #16 was used as an ice cream vending
shop and a tourist attraction. The tug was clearly visible from
Route 28, the main Highway to Cape Cod from New York and the Southcoast
Area, and became a well known local attraction associated with
the ride to Cape Cod.
New York Central #16 served in
her role as a tourist attraction for more than twenty years, but
by 2006 her time had run out. Grandma's Restaurant had closed,
and CVS was negotiating to purchase the site for building a new
pharmacy in a highly visible and accessible location. They hired
a consultant who declared the tug hazardous and announced that
the vessel would be demolished.
At this point, several efforts
developed to attempt to save and partially rebuild the tug for
further use as a historic display. One effort mounted by Charles
Schneider of Raynham, Massachusetts, proposed to move the tug
to a waterside park location in Bayonne, New Jersey, adjacent
to the waterways she originally worked. Another plan was also
developed which would have moved the tug to Portland, Maine. Meanwhile
representatives of a tug collection in Kingston, New York, asked
permission to salvage parts off the tug to assist in rebuilding
another vintage vessel. While these projects were being discussed,
parts from the tug began showing up on the internet auction sites.
While efforts were still underway
to move the tug, CVS allowed the folks from Kingston to remove
the pilothouse and stack from the tug and transport them to New
York. This effectively torpedoed the efforts to move the vessel
to one of the other locations for display. The local newspapers
then ran a series of increasingly incorrect and misleading stories
proclaiming that the tug was being moved to New York and would
return as a freshly rebuilt vessel and visit Bourne the next year.
One of the amusing aspects of this were "photo op" pictures
of the proprietor of the Kingston collection standing in the pilothouse
of the New York Central #16, which CVS had declared to be structurally
unsound. The tug restoration would never happen. However, it was
a convenient way to cover up the fact that the tug was being scrapped,
and giving the pilothouse and stack away just speeded the scrapping
process. It was subsequently published in the local newspapers
that the Kingston Tugboat collection had become the centerpiece
in a court battle between its proprietor and the site landlord,
and the parts removed from NYC #16 were likely to be scrapped
to pay the bills.
The real fate of New York Central
#16, contrary to the misleading reporting in the newspapers, is
shown below. That is the forward bulwarks with the name board
on the left, a section of the hull sides is in the center of the
pile, and the panels with parallel stringers used to be the crosswise
bulkheads in the hull.
Today the former display site of
New York Central #16 is a paved portion of the parking lot at
the CVS pharmacy. It is entirely possible that if CVS had contributed
the money that they eventually spent having the tug cut up to
the Bayonne group, the tug might have ended up being preserved
on the shores of New York Harbor. That outcome did not seem to
suit CVS. On the other hand, the tug existed for more than 20
years in one of the richest per-capita income areas in the country,
and very few people from Cape Cod or the islands pitched in to
help. And the coverage by the local newspapers, which could have
brought some public support to the cause, turned out to be extremely
memorable for its deluge of disinformation and distortion.
A piece of history was lost and
only a small group of people cared enough to pay attention.
this photo gallery to show what happens when not enough people
care to help or provide support.