Remembering New York Central #16

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.

We maintain this photo gallery to show what happens when not enough people care to help or provide support.


Top five photos by Preston Cook, bottom photo by Charles Schneider.

For some really amusing reading, see the following newspaper articles, which may be available on the respective websites of the newspapers, then return to this site to take another look at the photo of the scrap pile.

"Rotary Tugboat to be Removed, Parts Reused" - Standard-Times 7/26/06

(We were recently informed the S-T now charges for these articles)

"Tugboat's Days are Numbered In New York" - Cape Cod Times, 5/6/08 This article two years after New York Central #16 was cut up (photo above), talks as if the tug still exists in New York. When it appeared some readers who saw it posted letters to the editor asking that the tug be brought back!

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