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Governors Island Railroad - Fort Jay - Military Railroads of the New York Metropolitan Area

MILITARY RAILROADS
OF THE NEW YORK METROPOLITAN AREA:


GOVERNOR' S ISLAND / FORT JAY
Governors Island, New York

BNY NYNY

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updated:
SATURDAY, 12 JUNE 2010 - 09:30

update summary

date

photo of enginehouse, scans of contract added 06/12/10

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   It has been said, in many discussions, the the Governors Island Railroad consisted of 1 ¾ miles of track, which originally and three flat cars carrying coal, machinery and supplies from the pier to shops and warehouses.

  After reviewing track maps and photos, I came to the conclusion that the Army expanded the trackage to cover almost the entire length of the island, with many more cars (primarily box cars) present in the Fairchild Aerial Survey Photographs below.

   However, it also occurred to me after reading an email letter from Steven Delibert (whom I knew casually from his interests in Ulster & Delaware County, NY railroad history and personal friend of my uncle), that original trackage was 8 miles, reduced to 1 1/2 miles. Another comment from and unidentified source doubts the eight mile figure.


email from Steven Delibert containing excerpt of April 1931, Railroad Mans Magazine
courtesy of A. Audley
added 11 June 2010

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   The following commentary disputes that figure:


http://www.govislandarmybrat.com/IslandHistory4.html
courtesy of A. Audley
added 11 June 2010

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   So where does this figure of 8 miles come from? Well, I think I have figured it out:

   First, the the length of the island is about 2.2 miles, and reviewing the map below, trackage ran completely to the northeast end. A single track running from the enginehouse to the northeast end of track would be approximately 1 ½ miles. But careful review of the map and Fairchild Aerial photos below, shows THREE tracks running parallel to each other up the center of the island, from the enginehouse to the northeast end of the island.

   1½ miles multiplied by 3 tracks equals 4½ miles. Factor into this figure the yard stubs AND the spurs in the alleys between the storehouses and tracks in the storehouses, and you would arrive at a figure very close to the 8 miles.

   Therefore it is my hypothesis that the concluding figure of 1½ miles of trackage probably denotes the over all length of the layout, not the cumulative amount of trackage laid.

   The trackage that can be seen in the 1918 Fairchild Aerial Survey Photograph below (looking southwest) with authors annotations, show a rather modest sized railyard built on the curve to the east leading to a pair of wood Howe Truss floatbridges (very difficult to see in this photo), and what appears to be an enginehouse on the southern tip of the inland.

   On 24 May 2010, I receive an email from Art Audley who furnished the following items. His emails contained some very interesting images and scans pertaining to both the construction and demolition of the Governors Island Railroad.

   The first item, is a map denoting the locations of construction contracts. It is referenced in the documents below as a plot plan. However, it doubles very nicely as a track map!


courtesy of A. Audley
added 25 May 2010

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   The following, also furnished by Art Audley, appear to be a construction summary by the Constructing Quartermaster, Major E. A. Simmons: 


courtesy of A. Audley
added 11 June 2010

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   The following is a copy of the photo of the completed enginehouse:


November 14, 1918
courtesy of A. Audley
added 11 June 2010

   Three tracks heading up roughly the center of the island (running north / south) from the enginehouse, with the outside two tracks splitting off to the east and west and into alleys between the Quartermaster Supply Buildings.

   (For your viewing pleasure, there is an non-annotated photo in photo section below.)


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   In the picture below, taken ca. 1927 (and looking due north) we clearly see in the close up at bottom right; the two Howe Truss float bridges (the southern one already with a sunken pontoon) and the northern float bridge with a carfloat moored.

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   That car float by the way, appears to be a New York Dock carfloat. I believe this to be on several counts:

  1. the sign boards are approximately of equal size, and the words in: | NEW |   | YORK |   | DOCK |  are equal in length, and no other railroad in New York City area had a name that was of relative equal length in three words, and;

  2. the Atlantic Terminal was just a short tug haul away: approximately 2000 feet across Buttermilk Channel!

Unfortunately, any attempts to "zoom" any closer on the photo only pixelates the image worse.

   You can see all too well in the regular view (top left) that: all the east side as well as some of the west side Quarter Master Buildings, the enginehouse, and most of the yard trackage has already been removed.  

   Strangely, for all intents and purposes, this railroad did not last long.
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   Now, ascertained from the locomotive pictures below; it is seen that:

   Never-the-less; many questions abounded at first, which some of which were answered over time.

   Extensive research of authors H. K. Porter builders records, reveal numerous locomotive entries for US Army and QMC, but none show conclusively they were assigned to, or operated at Governor's Island.

UPDATE:

   This author has discovered in the ALCo builders records, four 0-4-0T steam locomotives built by ALCo Schenectady, that fit the numbering sequence, loco type, corresponding with the date that the GIRR was built and the fact they were ordered by the Quartermaster Division. (QMD). I now believe that the locomotives are ALCO products not H. K. Porter, and the roster below has been changed to reflect this. Unfortunately, build specs are not listed, (cyl size, driver dia).

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Governors Island - Southern Portion - ca. 1918
Fairchild Aerial Survey Photograph

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Governors Island - Northern Portion - ca. 1918
Note the track "wye" in front of bottom left storage building.
Fairchild Aerial Survey Photograph

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   The last two significant items, were also furnished by Art Audley.

   The first is the newspaper article from the February 12, 1931 issue of the New York Times concerning the scrapping of the Governors Island Railroad.


New York Times - February 12, 1931
courtesy of A. Audley
added 11 June 2010

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   The last item, is a Rogers Map dated 1934, and was located in the Library of Congress. It is my intent to secure a better copy in the future, but we can see that the storehouses in the center of the island have already been demolished, but the railyard, enginehouse and it appears the float bridges are still in place.

   Therefore is seems highly probable that the railroad was used to transport demolition material to the yard, possibly the float bridges; to be removed from the island. But, this is not confirmed.


Rogers Map -1934
Library of Congress
courtesy of A. Audley
added 11 June 2010

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Governor's Island Rail Road Locomotive Roster


builder

c/n
build
date

gauge
wheel
arrangement
wheel 
dia

cylinders

acquired

number / name

disposition

notes
ref
Baldwin 25743 5/05 36" B     new     20 hp electric [2]
ALCo
(Sch)
56991 12/17 std. 0-4-0T       #1   US War Dept QMD [1]
ALCo
(Sch)
56992 12/17 std. 0-4-0T       #2   US War Dept QMD [1]
ALCo
(Sch)
59407 6/18 std. 0-4-0T       #3   US War Dept QMD [1]
ALCo
(Sch)
59408  6/18   std. 0-4-0T       #4   US War Dept QMD [1]
Plymouth 4134 1/23/41 23 5/8"           to Fort Dix, Post Utilities #999
unknown date
DLB 6
8 Ton
[6]
Plymouth 4135 1/23/41 23 5/8"           to Fort Dix, Post Utilities #13
unknown date
DLB 6
8 Ton
[6]


Military Railroads of the New York Metropolitan Area - Main Page

New York Navy Yard
Brooklyn, NY

Fort Hamilton|
Brooklyn, NY

Fleet Supply Base
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Army Terminal
Brooklyn, NY

Governors Island / Fort Jay
Manhattan, NY

Fort Wood / Bedloes Island
Manhattan, NY

Fort Schuyler
Bronx, NY

Fort Tilden
Queens, NY

Fort Wadsworth
Staten Island, NY

Fort Terry
Plum Island, NY

Fort Hancock
Sandy Hook, NJ




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