by Kevin Walsh

LEHIGH Valley Barge Number 79, a 30’x90’ railroad barge built in 1914 with a wood exterior, is the last of its kind still in existence. During New York’s era as a world class port it transported goods across the harbor. It lay idle for three decades off the coast of New Jersey, but since 1994 it has served as the Waterfront Barge Museum, a floating classroom, art exhibition and concert space, and center for parties and weddings. It can tour the harbor with aid from a tugboat.

David Sharps, a Maryland native who has worked as an entertainer and cruise director aboard Carnival and Sun Line Cruises, rescued Barge #79 in 1985 after it had sunk in 8 feet of mud after abandonment near Edgewater, NJ in the mid-60s ; it took eight years of toil to repair it and make it seaworthy once more. Marine pests such as the shipworm (really a mollusk) and gribble worm (really a crustacean) had taken a severe toll. After having it towed from Edgewater up the Hudson to a dry dock near Albany, Sharps and crew had to practically rebuild the barge, pulling out wood practically eaten away by the parasites, install new wood planking across the entire bottom.

New York City is not connected by freight rail to points west of the Hudson River. Tugs and barges moved cargo between tracks in New Jersey and waterfront rail systems in New York City; these waterfront rail systems have declined over the years as trucking and containerization has taken over. The Lehigh Valley Railroad, which operated this barge, incorporated in 1846 and at its peak in the 1920s operated 1300 miles of passenger and freight trackage in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was acquired gradually by other railroads and finally Conrail took it over in 1976.

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Raymond H Perry January 7, 2023 - 8:16 am

As a former ocean going sea hand I will visit, thanks

Edward P OBrien January 7, 2023 - 8:56 am

Growing up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn I remember the barges tied up to the Noble St. Pier.

Mike Olshan January 7, 2023 - 10:25 am

The barge hosts catered affairs and produces theatrical events in its big open space. Captain David is a skilled clown and juggler who has worked in the Big Apple Circus and is well connected to the circus arts community. So he frequently produces shows featuring circus arts performers. The barge is also his houseboat and he has enjoyed v free docking privileges from the owner and free power from con.ed as enhancements promoting community development

chris January 7, 2023 - 5:27 pm

And that must be Cap’n David’s yacht tied up next to it

Andy January 7, 2023 - 9:11 pm

One correction should noted. New York City is indeed connected by freight rail to points west of the Hudson River, albeit circuitously. Freight trains leaving NYC (Brooklyn and Queens) travel over the Hell Gate Bridge to the Bronx and continue north to Albany, where a railroad bridge crosses the Hudson to provide access to points west of the river. That’s fine for trains that need to go north anyway, but any freight traffic between New Jersey (and states to its south) and NYC must be routed via Albany, adding many miles. In addition, tugs and barges still move rail freight between tracks in New Jersey and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, where LIRR contractor railroad New York and Atlantic provides local freight service. There is no more rail freight service on Manhattan island. Staten Island still has a rail freight connection to New Jersey across Arthur Kill, but that too has declined in usage over the years.


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