Freight barges aren’t something we think about all the time but did you know there’s a floating train barge that crosses the Hudson River twice a day? It’s known as the New York New Jersey Rail car-float operation and just last week, the Port Authority approved a $356 million contract that will upgrade the system. The current floats transport 14 train cars at once, an equivalent of 56 semi-trucks, but the new cars will be able to accommodate 18 train cars. By crossing the Hudson, the floats take trucks off the highways and give freight a more direct route between New York and New Jersey. In fact, as Gizmodo pointed out in a piece earlier this year about the marine-rail operation,”the only two options that freight trains have for accessing the east side of the Hudson River are to cross a bridge in Albany—140 painstaking miles North of New York City—or to ride a rail barge across the Hudson.” There used to be more of these types of transfers, but this is the last of those left connecting Sunset Park to Jersey City in 45 minutes.
A locomotive pushes the freight cars onto the barge and a tug boat pulls the floating barge across the harbor, where it reaches a Lift Bridge, similar to the transfer bridges and grantries you still see around the New York waterfront. And a fun fact from Gizmodo: “The Jersey and Brooklyn crews like to send messages to one another via the barge throughout the year.” Read more from our Cities 101 series about how stuff works in the city. Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.