Steam tug New York Central No 27

by Hans | May 26th, 2014

The just-launched New York Central No 27 at the outfitting dock. Built in 1910, she was 98 feet long and powered by a 950 horsepower steam engine. She was a railroad tug, expressly designed to transfer railroad cars from one side of New York to the other on big barges known as car floats.

Railroad tugs almost always tow barges alongside, with one car float on each side, so they have guards along their sides and use single posts instead of H-bitts. Railroad tugs are characterized by long houses, because there is no need for towing space aft. At the time these tugboats were built, the railroads were among the richest of companies, so they could well afford the expense of luxury. Directly under the pilothouse would often be a cabin for the maritime superintendent or railroad officials, yet their usually were no accommodations for the crew, since railroad tugs were run as day boats. The crews operated around the clock on three 8-hour shifts.

The New York Central No 27 was a typical railroad tug of her period. She had a high pilothouse to give the helmsman visibility over the car floats alongside; the big, open wheelhouse allowed the maximum view in all directions. All that glass would be a liability on a coastal tug, which has to face big seas, but railroad tugs hardly ever left the harbour. In this photo, note the gilded eagle on the wheelhouse roof and the fire monitor just abaft it. She has fairly narrow guards for a railroad tug, because at the time she was built, most car floats were made of wood and caused less damage when side towed. Later, when the floats were built of steel, the tugs required much wider guards for protection. Her side fenders are yet to be fitted.

On the dock just behind this tug’s wheelhouse is a Scotch boiler, ready to be fitted aboard a ship. Off the tug’s port quarter is a shear legs derrick used to install the heavy engines and boilers in new hulls.

Much of the weight in a steam tug is made up of machinery. Typical weights in percentages of the entire power plant are: engine, 23.5 percent; boiler, 60 percent; funnel, 5 percent; lagging, 2 percent; auxiliaries, and floors, 5 percent; stern tube, shaft, and propeller, 4.5 percent. Barely visible behind the shear legs is another tugboat, the Patience

(Source: On the Hawser by Steven Lang & Peter H.Spectre)

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