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Glossary of Terms




Please note:
Terms may differ based on geographical region.
Most of the terms contained herein are indicative to
Rail / Marine Terminal Operations in the New York Harbor Area.

Do not see a term / definition? Contact me for additions & inclusions!


MONDAY, 06 DECEMBER 2021 - 13:00



Apron The portion of a seperate or contained apron transfer bridge that actually connected to the carfloat and was hinged to allow for vertical movement of the transfer bridge and / or carfloat. Pontoon type float bridges did not have aprons.

Breaking Bulk The labor intensive process of unloading a freight car.

Prior to the advent of carfloating in New York Harbor in 1866, and the completion of the Hell Gate Bridge in 1917; freight destined for Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties would be shipped to the west shore of New Jersey. Here it would have to be unloaded, placed into lighters, and floated across to the piers on the shores of Brooklyn & Queens where a consignee would have to come for pick up. For freight shipments further eastwards on Long Island, the freight would be reloaded into freight cars and transported to its final destination.

Following carfloating and the completion of the Hell Gate Bridge, freight cars could now be shipped directly into Brooklyn or Queens without having to be unloaded  and subsequently reloaded, until arriving at the consignee.

Bridge Plate Also called a "dock plate" or "dock board".

A bridge plate was used to connect the open doors of boxcars located adjacent to a platform or another boxcar to facilitate loading or unloading, and in conjunction with a loading dock, freight house or station / platform carfloat.

The bridge plates (shown in yellow in the diagram below right) allowed employees to access the left most boxcar (in red) by using the white, light gray & dark gray boxcars between the freight house and red boxcar as bridges themselves. The white boxcar would unloaded first, with the light gray boxcar being unloaded next. Once a pathway was clear through the white boxcar, both the white and light gray boxcars could be unloaded simultaneously.

Once a pathway was clear to and through the dark gray boxcar, the red boxcar could be accessed for loading / unloading. This method would be applied to the other boxcars stationed on the freight house tracks, so more than four boxcars could be unloaded simultaneously.

This method could be used anywhere the freight cars were located adjacent to a loading dock or freight door that was the same height as the floor of the boxcar.


Bridging The colloquial term used for the action of mooring, connecting and securing a carfloat to a float bridge.

Once a carfloat was "bridged", it could then be "drilled".

Broad Gauge Locomotives or trains operating on tracks more than the US Standard Gauge (width) of 56.5 inches (4' 8 " or 1435 millimeters).

No known industrial or offline terminal railroads in the New York City area utilized broad gauge track widths.

Most railroads operating broad gauge were standardized to 56.5 inches (4' 8 " or 1,435 millimeters) by 1886 with the exception for a few current light rail operations i.e.: South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) systems.

Broad gauge track widths used in the United States include but are not limited to:
58 inch (4' 10" or 1,473 mm), 60 inch (5' or 1524 millimeter), 62.25 inch (5' 2" or 1581 millimeter), 62.5 inch (5' 2" or 1588 mm), 66 inch (5' 6" or 1676 mm)
or 72" (6' or 1829 millimeter).

The opposite of narrow gauge.

Bunker C Fuel Bunker C Fuel is a fuel that was especially popular with many rail-marine operations in New York City. As Bunker C Fuel was used as a fuel for steam powered tugboats in the employ of these rail-marine terminals, it could therefore logically be used as a fuel for their steam locomotives as well.

Many steam locomotives that were originally constructed to burn coal, were converted to burn Bunker C Oil. As this practice developed, railroads could order locomotives ready to use Bunker C Fuel as a fuel directly from locomotive builders. The use of Bunker C Fuel also allowed the railroads to eliminate the fireman's position in locomotive operation, as an employee was no longer needed to shovel coal into the firebox, nor did it produce cinders that needed to be cleared from the firebox.

Bunker Fuel received its name from the containers or tanks on ships which are known as "Bunkers", of which the fuel is stored in. and Bunker C, which got its name from the Navy fuel specification for the type of fuel. In the days of steam power, the bunkers originally held coal, and these bunkers were either converted by enclosing or built from the start to hold liquid fuel as those liquid fuels became more common.

Bunker C Fuel is also known as "Number 6 Fuel Oil", "Residual Fuel Oil (RFO)", or by the Pacific Specification of "PS-400". Bunker C Fuel is a thick residual oil requiring pre-heating to allow it to flow easier. A residual oil is an oil product is what is left or remaining after the more valuable "cuts" of crude oil such as naphtha, gasoline, etc; have boiled off. This oil residue may contain various undesirable impurities including 2 percent water and percent mineral soil.

Bunker C Fuel Oil is quite viscous (thick), and has to be heated before use. This requires a correctly designed system for storage, pumping, and burning. Bunker C Fuel must be heated to 150 F to 250 F before it can be pumped easily. In cooler temperatures, Bunker C Fuel can congeal into a tar-like semi-solid. Keeping Bunker C Fuel flowing is usually accomplished by a recirculating low pressure steam system which pre-heats the fuel to allow it flow easier.

This necessary pre-heating system precluded this fuels' use in smaller vehicles such as automobiles or boats, as this pre-heating equipment would take up valuable space and make the vehicle heavier. Therefore, Bunker C Fuel was better suited to power steam boilers (for both heat and/or generating electricity), railroad steam locomotives and steamships as well as fixed applications such as factories and generating stations. As these large applications can house the pre-heating equipment necessary for Bunker C Fuel use and could take heat from the combustion process to heat the fuel prior to firing.

Residual oils also contain relatively high amounts of pollutants, particularly sulfur; which forms sulfur dioxide upon combustion. Despite this, Bunker C Fuel is still cleaner burning than coal, and due to those undesirable properties, Bunker Fuels are very cheap. In fact it is the cheapest liquid fuel available.

Bunker C Fuel was used more frequently in the past than now, and predominately in the first half of the 20th Century. In the mid to latter half of the 20th Century, as refining processes were developed and perfected, Number 2 Fuel Oil gained popularity as a fuel. As this occurred, its availability increased and it became more affordable as it became more quicker to mass produce. By comparison, while Bunker C Fuel releases up to 11% more BTU's than the equivalant amount of Number 2 Fuel Oil, but as Number 2 Fuel Oil did not need to be pre-heated, it is better suited for use as a fuel for smaller, more mobile applications; such as diesel-electric locomotives, cars, trucks and smaller marine vessels. As Number 2 Fuel Oil is also cleaner burning as it is more refined, it releases less pollutants than Bunker C; which helped lead to the elimination of Bunker C Fuel as a locomotive fuel.

c/n The abbreviation for construction number. See "construction number".

Cab The location on a locomotive where the engineer / operator / motorman sat, and where the associated controls for controlling the direction and
speed of the locomotive are located.

With steam locomotives, cabs were almost always placed on the rear of the boiler, with some allowances for unique designs such as
the early Steam Dummies a/k/a "All Over Cabs", as well as Camelbacks a/k/a Mother Hubbards (Center Cabs) or Cab Forwards (enclosed End Cab on the front of boiler). In industrial & offline terminal usage, only steam dummies (all over cab) and rear cab style locomotives were used:


The first diesel locomotives were constructed as Box Cab to allow easy access to the engine and controls. As diesel locomotives evolved,
more flexibilty in the placement of the cab was allowed, resulting in various designs.

1 The first designs of End Cab locomotives, the end with the cab was considered the "front". Only in later years was the cab end
considered the rear of the locomotive.

2 Steeple Cab locomotives were electric powered.

3 Open Cab locomotives were primarily used in sheltered / indoor environments or in locations with extremely close clearances, e.g.: tunneling, excavating or mining.

Car ferry /
A powered vessel the contained trackage for the hauling of railroad cars (both freight and / or passenger), and also having a superstructure for the piloting of said vessel. Later designs almost completely enclosed the cars on the main deck much like a modern vehicle ferry.

The use of a car ferry (as opposed to carfloating) was primarily used to connect two sections of a railway route seperated by either geographical unsuitable or financially cost prohibitive bridging of that body of water. Furthermore, the car ferry loading areas were not the terminus of the train in transit.

Car ferries also had personnel on board for navigation, operation of the power plant, mooring and the loading and unloading of the railroad cars. Early car ferries were constructed of wood and steam powered. Later designs were steel and could be steam or diesel electric powered.

Carfloat / Carfloating A unpowered flat topped barge, constructed of wood or steel, that has railroad tracks mounted on the top for use in water. A carfloat was moved and transported by tugboats. There are various designs of carfloats, depending on the need. Freight car capacities varied and depended on length of carfloat and length of freight cars loaded.

Carfloating operations were different from car ferrying, as carfloating would be a service to and from freight terminals along the shoreline. Individual carfloats would be loaded with cars to be transported to a specific location consisting of either a pier station (where the cars remained aboard the carfloat to be unloaded/ loaded) or to offline terminals where the cars could be offloaded and brought to the yard to be loaded / unloaded, then returned to the consigned long distance shipping railroad for further distribution via the mainland US rail network.

In some cases, the carfloats could be used as car ferries (i.e.: from Pennsylvania Railroad float bridges in Greenville, New Jersey to the Oak Point, Bronx float bridges of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad; where New England bound traffic could bridge the New York Harbor without going out of the way by using a more time consuming route (see Selkirk Hurdle) farther north.

Carfloat types There are various kinds on carfloats, depending on the need, and freight car capacities varied and depended on length of carfloat and length of freight cars loaded.

Two track interchange carfloats were uncommon.

Three track interchange carfloats were used for the transport of freight cars from one rail - marine terminal to another.

Station or Platform carfloats had a wood or steel deck platform the height of the floor of the freight car running down the center (long axis) of the carfloat. This allowed freight to be unloaded directly out of the freight car onto the platform, where it could be handtrucked to a pier station. In some cases, a station carfloat would be moored alongside a waterfront building, where a bridge plate was placed between the building and a boxcar on the carfloat. Then using the boxcar as a bridge, all the cars could be accessed and unloaded via the platform. These were also known as "Pierfloats".

Centerpipe carfloats were used specifically with covered hoppers, with a waist level pipe running down the center (long axis) of the carfloat.
This pipe had hose connections several feet apart so that hoses may be coupled up to the bottom of a covered hopper and the material "vacuumed" out. This type of carfloat was mainly used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal in servicing the Schaefer Brewery along the Brooklyn waterfront.

Class 1 Railroad A Class I railroad in the United States is a large freight railroad company, as classified based on operating revenue. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) defines a Class I railroad in the United States as "having annual carrier operating revenues of $250 million or more". Smaller railroads are classified as Class II and Class III. (see Class II and Class III for criteria)

The classification of railroads in the U.S. as Class I, II or III was started by the Interstate Commerce Commission in the 1930's.
Initially Class I railroads were defined as railroads with operating revenue of at least $1 million.

The $1 million figure was used until 1956. In 1956 it was increased to $3 million. By 1965 the financial criteria was increased to $5 million, in 1976, to $10 million, and to $50 million in 1978.

The American Association of Railroads typically divides non-Class I companies into three categories:

Regional railroads operate at least 350 miles or make at least $40 million per year.
Local railroads are non-regional railroads that engage in line-haul service.
Switching and terminal railroads mainly switch cars between other railroads or provide service from other lines to a common terminal.

Class II Railroad A Class II railroad in the United States is a mid-sized freight-hauling railroad, in terms of its operating revenue.

As of 2006, a railroad with revenues greater than $20.5 million but less than $277.7 million for at least three consecutive years is considered a Class II railroad.
Switching and terminal railroads are excluded from Class II status.

Class III Railroad A Class III railroad, as defined by the Surface Transportation Board, is a railroad with an annual operating revenue of less than $20 million (1991 dollars). Class III railroads are typically local short line railroads, serving a very small number of towns or industries; many Class III railroads were once branch lines of larger railroads that were spun off, or portions of mainlines that had been abandoned.

The Class III category was dropped in 1956, but reinstated in 1978. In 1979 all switching and terminal railroads, even those with Class I or Class II revenues, were re-designated as Class III.

Common Carrier A common carrier is one who represents to the public that their business is one of transporting persons or cargo from place to place for compensation, and such services are generally open to the public.

Generally speaking; commercial buses, ferries, trains, and airplanes are considered common carriers.

Compromise Coupler A coupler adapter that attaches to the standardized Master Car Builders (MCB) / Association of American Railroads (AAR) coupler profile (as commonly used on standard freight cars and long distance passenger cars) and converts it to a non-standard coupler format, such as those used on subway & rapid transit commuter cars as used by the New York City Tranist Authority and Long Island Rail Road.

A compromise coupler or a transition car would be needed anytime a freight locomotive would need to load or unload New York City Transit Authority subway cars via carfloats (Bush Terminal, New York Dock or New York Cross Harbor Railroads), or transport those subway cars through the subway system (South Brooklyn Railway & NYCTA work locomotives).

There are several different models of couplers used or in use by the various models of subway cars throughout the history of the New York City Transit Authority. A specific compromise coupler would be needed for each distinct profile of special format coupler (allowing for some interchangability between similar profiles).

In regard to the New York City Transit Authority, some non-revenue cars were re-equipped with a MCB/AAR coupler on one end and a specific special profile coupler (usually original equipment for that particular model car) remaining on the other. These cars are known as a "transition car". See "Transition Car".

Construction Number The numerical identification of a piece of railroad rolling stock equipment as issued by the builder of said railroad rolling stock or equipment. Also called build number.
Erroneously called a serial number (when used in reference to railroad equipment and rolling stock).

For comparison, the automobile equivalent of a construction number would be the "vehicle indentification number" or "vin", and the aeronautical equivalent would be "airframe number".

Contract Terminal A freight terminal company that is contracted by the trunk line / Class 1 railroads to perform the final delivery aspects of shipped freight that the Class 1 railroad is unable to deliver themselves.

Since some of the Class 1 railroads (Erie, CRRNJ, NYC, etc.) did not have freight terminals in certain areas of Brooklyn, they would contract with the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, Bush Terminal, New York Dock and / or the Jay Street Terminal to pick up freight from the trunk line / Class 1 railroad facilities in New Jersey, and forward said freight to the respective consignees in Brooklyn.

Covered Barge A barge constructed of wood or steel with an enclosed structure on deck for the transport of freight or goods that needed to be protected from the weather.

Some covered barges were heavily insulated and equipped with ice rooms for the purpose of transporting perishable items, i.e.: meat, fish, fruits vegetables, flowers, etc.

Demurrage The charge for the detaining of rolling stock (freight cars) beyond the time what is normally necessary for the loading or unloading of freight to/from that car:

i.e.: Monarch Wine received a tank car at their siding in Bush Terminal on Monday and it is scheduled to be emptied and sent out on Tuesday. Something prevents that tank car from being unloaded, and therefore the tank car is not unloaded and shipped out empty until Friday. Monarch Wines must therefore pay demurrage from Tuesday through Friday to the owner of the tank car.

Demurrage can also be assessed by a connecting railroad(s), while that car is empty and returning that freight car back to the home railroad is delayed.

In either case, demurrage is a way to encourage the speedy unloading and return of empty rolling stock to improve utilization of said rolling stock.

Diamond Also called a crossing or cross over.

Where one set of railroad tracks crosses another set of tracks, without impeding access to either set of tracks.

Drilling The colloquial term for the act of removing and placing freight cars on a carfloat or in a freight yard.

Float Bridge The commonly accepted and used name for a transfer bridge. see Transfer Bridge

Float Bridge Jack A hydraulic cylinder that was that was vertically mounted to either the center truss or a steel 'A' frame on the outer end of a pontoon type transfer bridge and either manually operated (hand lever pumped) or operated by connecting a hose to a pump on the locomotive. 

The float bridge jack was used to raise the transfer bridge out of the water and to match the rail height of a high riding (light) carfloat about to be affixed to the transfer bridge. As the carfloat was larger and more buoyant, the transfer bridge would rise out of the water instead of the carfloat being pushed down into the water.

float bridge jack on Howe Truss
(W. 26th Street)

float bridge jack on Pony Truss
(Pidgeon Street)

Freight Terminal A broad term used in describing a railroad freight handling facility. Usually denotes a railroad location offering less than carload (LCL) and / or car load shipping and receiving, and usually denotes carfloat service. Also usually meant a location offering  freight storage facilities.

There are two types of freight terminals: Online and Offline.

Online means being located upon or having a physical track connection to a trunk line railroad.
Offline denotes being removed from trunk line connections and being an isolated location with no physical rail connection to a trunk line railroad.

Gantlet Track Also known as a "Gauntlet Track".

A set of rails closely laid and parallel to another set of rails, and used to minimize space (width) usage and / or used to relocate a turnout from an obstruction, inconvenient or hazardous location. (Gantlet rails took on the appearance of wide spaced guard rails).

Gantlet track usage on transfer bridges was preferred by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad facilities, where the turnout accessing the center track of three track interchange carfloat was relocated from the outer end of the transfer bridge onto land.

Girder Rail A type of rail manufactured with a "lip" to protect the flangeway when used in street running applications.
Sometimes erroneously call "trolley track", and its usage depends on the traffic hauled on, and the specific location of the street trackage, as freight trains utilized this type of rail without corresponding passenger trolley service.

Also known as integral flangeway rail.


Harlem River tugboat A type of railroad tugboat intentionally constructed or so modified to a lower profile and be able to be used on the Harlem River and as such, not requiring the raising or swinging open of the numerous bridges spanning the Harlem River.

These tugboats would be used primariy in servicing the four offline terminals located on that waterway: Bronx Terminal (Central Railroad of New Jersey); Harlem Transfer (Delaware, Lackawanna & Western) ; Bronx Terminal (Lehigh Valley) and Harlem Station (Erie).

As the height of a standard railroad tugboat would require that the aforementioned bridges to be opened to permit passage, the "Harlem River tugs" were constructed or modified with a lower profile so as to make bridge opening unnecessary.

The following images denote the easily distinguishable differences between the Harlem River and standard use tugboats:

                                         Harlem River tugboat                                                                       standard configuration railroad tugboat

To the best of current knowledge, the following tugboats were constructed / modified for use on the Harlem River:

Baltimore & Ohio

Central New Jersey

Harlem Transfer


Lehigh Valley

J. W. Phipps, Jr.
(ex-CNJ Liberty)
Sandy Hook

Sound Shore
Johnson City
Black Diamond

The following table lists the bridges (north to south / east to west) that transverse the Harlem River and that are of low clearance, and were so constructed as swing or vertical lift bridges:


c @ mhw..

span type




c @ mhw..

span type


Wards Island 1 55' vertical lift... pedestrian 149th Street 26'  0" swing automobile
Willis Avenue 25'  5" swing automobile Macombs Dam 29'  4" swing automobile
Second Avenue 29'  0" swing automobile (since removed) 157th Street 29'  0" swing elevated subway (since removed)
Third Avenue 26'  5" swing automobile University Heights / 207th Street. 27'  0" swing automobile
Fourth / Park Avenue 25'  5" vertical lift railroad, ex-NYNH&H; now MetroNorth Broadway 25'  5" vertical lift... automobile & elevated subway
Madison Avenue... 25'  5" swing automobile Spuyten Duyvil 2 6'  8" swing railroad: ex-NYC; now Amtrak

1 - This bridge did not require raising for carfloat operations
- All vessels requires the Spuyten Duyvil Swingbridge to be opened. As such, this span used to be kept open to marine traffic and closed for railway traffic to cross.
   c @ mhw = clearance at mean high water
The above mhw figures are taken from an official Lehigh Valley Marine Deptartment document framed in the wheelhouse of the LV "Cornell"

Industrial Railroad A railroad that operated strictly in a specific capacity and  / or hauled a specific commodity (i.e.: construction, mining, excavation, chemical, etc).

Also, a private railroad that interchanged with a common carrier, but only transported freight cars holding mixed cargo within their own facility. Mainline railroads handled the long distance transport of freight cars to and from the industiral railroad.

Usually but not in every case, an industrial railroad operated equipment of narrow gauge i.e.: 30 inches or 36 inches.

The opposite of a common carrier railroad.

Within this website, the following companies operating locomotives in a dedicated industrial, construction or other private capacity with private operation of a float bridge:

 Procter & Gamble     Independent Subway Lines / New York City Transit Authority 207th Street Yard


Companies operating locomotives in a dedicated industrial, construction or other private capacity without private operation of a float bridge:
Astoria Light, Heat & Power Degnon Contracting / Degnon Realty Improvement Goodwin - Gallagher Sand & Gravel
Brooklyn Ash Removal Company G & R Packing Queens Subway Apartment & Loft Building Corp.

LCL Abbreviation for Less than Car Load or Less than Carload Lot. See Less than Car Load.

Less than Car Load /
Less than Carload Lot
Any type of shipment that does not occupy or warrant the leasing or hiring of a entire railroad freight car. A Less than Car Load shipment of freight was insufficient to command the lower shipping rates that would apply to full carloads or multiple carloads.

The freight from several Less Than Car load consignors would occupy a single freight car.

Abbreviation: "LCL"

Lighter A piece of marine equipment with a tall derrick or boom equipped with a hoist and a cabin on deck. Used for the transfer of oversized or bulky loads.

Two types of lighters existed: Self Propelled and Towed, a/k/a Stick Lighters.

Self propelled lighters in most cases resembled a tugboat with a tall derrick and long foredeck. Usually steam powered, the self propelled lighters usually had a lifting capacity in the range of 30 tons and greater than that of towed lighters.

Towed or Stick Lighters took on more of a barge type appearance with a tall derrick and hoist and a small control cabin. Hoisting mechanisms for the generation of stick lighters from circa 1870 until 1900 used hand powered winches. Around 1900 small steam engines began to be used, which were rather maintenance-heavy. These in turn gave way to small internal combustion engines. Stick lighters were usually rated under 10 ton lifting capacity.


self propelled

 towed or stick

Lighterage Carriage of cargo by a barge or lighter within a ports waters, such as from a ship to the docks. In most cases, this term was used to define short haulage within a harbor or port, not port to port or over long distances.

Mule A very small electric, battery powered or internal combustion locomotive used in a lightweight switching, mining or hauling capacity.

In most cases a "mule" was of open design (no cab for operator), and were used in sheltered or indoor applications. Depending on customers needs and applications, some designs utilized narrow gauge trackage (24" or 30" being common) for both mule and cars, or the cars remained on tracks while the mule was on tires, and yet other designs had the mule and cars trackless and resembled tow carts familiar to airport luggage handling.

Narrow Gauge Locomotives or trains operating on tracks less than the US Standard Gauge (width) of 56.5 inches (4' 8 " or 1,435 millimeters) .

Common narrow gauge track widths for light industrial and construction operations in the United States include but are not limited to:
24 inches (610 millimeter), 30 inches (762 millimeter) and 36 inches (914 millimeter).

The opposite of broad gauge.

Offline Terminal A railroad terminal utilizing locomotives, transfer bridge, team tracks and yards, and that is not physically connected to the trunk line "Class 1" rail network of the United States.

The only method of transferring freight cars to and from an offline terminal is via waterborne equipment, typically a carfloat.

Also called a pocket terminal.

Within this website, the following companies operating locomotives and an offline freight terminal, with marine - rail interchange (carfloating) capacity:
Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal
Brooklyn Dock & Terminal

Brooklyn Wharf & Warehouse
Bush Terminal
Jay Street Connecting
New York Cross Harbor
New York New Jersey Rail
New York Dock
Harlem Transfer
Pennsylvania Railroad North 4th Street Freight Station
New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad North 1st Street Freight Station
Central Railroad of New Jersey Bronx Terminal
Erie Railroad Harlem Station
Lehigh Valley Bronx Terminal
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad West 26th Street Freight Station
Lehigh Valley Railroad West 27th Street Freight Station
Erie Railroad West 23rd and West 28th Street Freight Stations
Pennsylvania Railroad West 37th Street Freight Station

Companies operating locomotives and an offline freight terminal, without marine - rail interchange (carfloating) capacity themselves, but were provided with
freight service via carfloating service from an above railroad and/or interchange with a mainline railroad (service connection in parenthesis):
Atlas Terminal  (Long Island Rail Road) Degnon Terminal  (Long Island Rail Road) Pouch Terminal  (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad)
American Dock & Trust   (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) Port Jersey  (New York New Jersey Rail / Conrail Shared Assets Operations) South Brooklyn  (Bush Terminal);


A waterfront location owned by a railroad or railroads that accepts freight via carfloat, lighter or barge, but does not have track, float bridge or facilities for the loading and unloading of the freight car itself. Most pier stations had long freight sheds built on top of and extending the length of the pier for the storage of that freight and protection from weather.

Freight is transferred directly out of the freight car while still loaded upon the carfloat, to the pier.

Pocket Terminal A colloquial term used in the same context and definition as offline terminal.

See Offline Terminal.


Poling Bar

Poling Pocket

A method of moving freight cars short distances from an adjacent track, without the locomotive actually being on the same track as the freight car.

This method was used often in the tight confines of an offline terminal, where switching the locomotive to the freight car track might have been prevented by other freight cars blocking the turnout.

A poling bar is a pole made of hardwood, about 8 feet long, 6 inches in diameter at the center, tapering very gradually to about 4 inches.
About an inch or two from the end, was a metal band to prevent splitting with another band located about a foot in from the ends.

On the front and rear facing corners of freight cars and locomotives were dish shaped pockets, about 6 inches in diameter and about 1- 1 inches deep. They could be made of cast iron or pressed steel and affixed with bolts to the body of a freight car or cast directly into the frame. These were called poling pockets.

The locomotive would be on one track, and the car on another. The engineer would stop diagonally opposed to the freight car. Two trainmen would take the poling bar off the locomotive, (usually hung on hooks below the running boards), and while one trainman held the bar in the pocket of the freight car, the other trainman would hold the poling bar in line with the poling pocket on the locomotive. Then the engineer would slowly and gently bring the locomotive up until the poling bar was snugly in both poling pockets and held by force. The engineer would then move the locomotive pushing the poling bar thereby pushing the freight car to the desired location.

This method of moving freight cars has been replaced by using a reinforced sling (tow rope).

Pontoon When used in reference to a transfer "float" bridge, it is a watertight box of wood sheathed in copper, or of riveted or welded steel. Pontoons were built to varying sizes, but for the most part pontoons for wooden Howe Truss float bridges were approximately 41 feet in width by 44 feet in length and 9 - 10 feet in depth.

Pontoons for steel float bridges measured 38 feet in width, 30 feet in length and 6- 8 feet in depth.

All were mounted to the underside and outer (the non-hinged or floating) end of a transfer bridge. It provided buoyancy to keep the transfer bridge from sinking.

Pontoons need periodic maintenance in salt water due to corrosion. If a pontoon began leaking, it needed to pumped out, raised out of the water, patched and welded, to regain water tightness.

Some designs of pontoons had pumps which would either load or empty the pontoon with a certain amount of water, to bring the transfer bridge "down" or "up" to the appropriate level to meet the incoming carfloat. This design is not known to be used in New York Harbor area.

Property Map Legend The following legend denotes the different types of structures found on the G. W. Bromley Property Maps.

Reacher Car A railroad car, typically a modified flatcar or gondola; used in conjunction with a locomotive to facilitate the removal of freight cars off a carfloat. In some designs, a small shanty or cabin was installed in the center of the reacher car for protection of the train crew during inclement weather.

The reacher car was used to keep the full weight of a heavy locomotive away from the outer end of the transfer bridge; or,
the reacher car could be ballasted with additional weight to help a light locomotive push a transfer bridge down into the water.


flatcar with cabin

 modified gondola

Scow A barge with broad square ends used in the marine transport of bulk materials, i.e. sand, crushed stone, ore, coal, refuse.

New York Harbor Railroads used these flat deck scows for the transport of large crates of equipment, and similar oversize objects being transferred to and from ships such as: vehicles, trucks, trolley cars, and all kinds of packaged freight that had little fear from the weather.

Selkirk Hurdle
A circuitous and time consuming rail route for railroad travel to and from the southern, midwestern, and northwestern portions of the United States that needs to cross the Hudson River, for rail traffic in and out of the New York Metropolitan Area without having to use carfloating.

Prior to the construction of the Alferd  H. Smith bridge in 1924 connecting Selkirk and Castleton, trains had to enter Albany and Rensselaer, both major passenger hubs, and causing even more delay (and both 10 miles north of Selkirk & Castleton respectively).

When referring to the waterfront terminals along the New Jersey shore (where most of the northeastern railroads had a terminus and shown as the elongated red oval), sending freight into Manhattan would require routing trains northwards, on trackage paralleling the west shore of the Hudson River (New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad, later the New York Central Railroad) to Selkirk.

At this location, trains may cross the Hudson River east and immediately turning south at Castleton on Hudson, and utilizing the New York Central RR route to the Harlem River. At this point, trains may cross the Spuyten Duyvil bridge and down the west side of Manhattan or head southeast into Mott Haven and Oak Point. Traffic out odf Manhattan and destined west and south naturally need to travel the reverse of this.

Considering an average (at that time) freight train speed of 40 miles per hour, the distance involved 130 miles from New Jersey north to Albany, 1 miles across the Hudson, and back south 130 miles to New York City, plus the priority given to passenger trains, crew changes, speeds restrictions for bridges, railyards, signaling, plus refueling & servicing the locomotives; utilizing the Selkirk Hurdle could add anywhere from 12 to 36 hours to travel time, sometimes even more.

Carfloating (depicted by the web of thin yellow lines) cut down on this transportation time significantly, especially in terms for expedited, perishable cargoes such as: fruits, vegetables and livestock.

Sett Also known as Belgian Block.

Rectangular granite blocks used for street paving, averaging 4 inches wide x 4 inches high x 9 inches long up to 6 inches wide x 6 inches high x 12 inches long, and weighing 15-20 pounds each.

Setts were originally used as ballast on ocean faring vessels returning to the United States (after offloading their cargo). Then upon offloading, the setts were used to pave streets. This allowed horse drawn (and later internal combustion) vehicles to use the thoroughfare, and in those cases with street trackage, to share that thoroughfare with the railroad.

Paving setts with asphalt patches

Setts are often erroneously called "cobblestones", in which true cobblestones are rounded and irregularly sized.

Standard Gauge In the United States, standard gauge railroad track is 56.5 inches (4' 8 " or 1,435 millimeters) in width between the inside of rail heads. This standard was adopted progressively throughout the United States, and by 1886 almost every railroad in the United States was operating on this gauge.

In certain cases of tight radius curves, i.e.: the 90 foot radius curves of the Central Railroad of New Jersey's Bronx Terminal; the track gauge was widened by " to bring the track gauge to 57" (or 4' 9") to prevent premature flange and rail wear due to the tight curves, but this was not considered broad gauge.

Steam Dummy Also called "Street Dummy", "Dummy Engine" or "All over cab".

A locomotive with a false carbody over the boiler and reciprocating machinery. The intent of this false carbody was to prevent the frightening of horses in the streets where the locomotives operated. As the horses were accustomed to horse drawn and electric powered street cars of similar appearance, it was hoped that the horses would not panic around the steam dummies.

When the internal combustion engine was created, applied to vehicles and gained widespread usage, horses became obsolete and steam dummy designs were no longer necessary. Steam Dummy locomotives were either converted to, or replaced with, standard saddle or side tank locomotives.

Harlem Transfer #1
as Steam Dummy

Harlem Transfer #1
without false carbody and with cab

Switch see Turnout

Tank Locomotive Commonly called "saddletanker" or "sidetanker" or "docksider". A type of locomotive that was used primarily for switching duties and carried its own fuel and water and therefore was without the need for a tender. Tank locomotives used by the freight terminals, had extremely short wheelbases (6.5 through 11 feet) for the negotiation of sharp radius curves, as well as short in overall length (30 feet).

The sidetank has two individual tanks that held water mounted on either side of the boiler.
The saddletank has a single steel tank that held water that draped over the boiler.

All carried fuel in a small rectangular bunker behind the cab:

Terminal Railroad There are two types of terminal railroads:

a) Companies operating a freight terminal, with marine - rail interchange (carfloating) capacity; or,
b) Companies operating a freight terminal, without marine - rail interchange (carfloating) capacity.

Transfer Bridge Also commonly called a "float bridge". This is the technical term used in the engineering literature, while "float bridge" is a more colloquial term.

A wood or steel bridge with wood deck anchored to land on one end, and supported on or over the water on the other end, with two pairs of railroads track laid across the top (lengthwise) for the purpose of loading and unloading railroad freight cars from a carfloat.

Due to its floating or suspended nature, a transfer bridge adjusts or can be adjusted in height between carfloat and water level heights.

There were four main designs of transfer bridges: Separate Apron, Contained Apron or "French Type", Swivelling Head Block or "Mallery Type" and Pontoon.

The Separate Apron type had dual independent overhead gantries and electric hoisting mechanisms controlling the two parts of the transfer bridge: the two track wide main bridge and the two track wide apron.

The Contained Apron or "French type" (so named for James B. French) has a single overhead gantry and electric hoisting mechanism, that controlled two independent and parallel single track bridge spans; and each bridge span had a hinged self contained apron that was embedded into the outer end of the main bridge.

Both electrically controlled types of these transfer bridges were adjustable through the electric hoisting mechanisms for list (left to right) and inclination (front to back) variances and the aprons were shock dampened to compensate for the shifting loads of the carfloat to the transfer bridge.

The Swiveling Head Block or "Mallery Type" (so named for Arlington H. Mallery) had two parallel single track bridges but was not electrically powered. The spans were counterweighted via a sheave and cable system for each span. This design did not meet with initial success for the heavy carfloat traffic in New York Harbor.

Pontoon supported float bridges were supported with an enclosed watertight steel pontoon (box).  There were four distinct styles of pontoon transfer bridges:

Howe Truss

Constructed with heavy wood timbers and wood decks that were creosoted for protection against decay.
Threaded steel rods bound the upper and lower horizontal beams together and cast iron angle irons bolted to the corners of the diagonal truss works added additional strength.

Early designs used a "rocker" log as a hinge point on the bulkhead. This evolved to a cast steel pivot anchor and socket.

Pony Truss

Pony Truss and Pony Plate Girder types were constructed of riveted steel construction, with wood plank decks.
Trusse were approximately 8 feet tall and two deisgn varients: a two truss and three truss. A two truss design means the float bridge had a truss on each of the outer edges of the float bridge. A three truss type had an additional truss running up the center of the float bridge between the tracks.

These designs used pin and plate hinges or steel pivot anchors on the bulkhead.


Pony Plate Girder

Pony Plate Girder also had two design varients: a two girder and three girder. This means the float bridge had a plate girder on the outer edges of the float bridge. A three girder type had an additional girder running up the center of the float bridge between the tracks.

Also, the ends of the bridge varied by builder. Pony Plate Girder float bridges could be found with tapered ends, rounded ends, square ends:

Composite (Plate Girder & Truss)

The fourth type of float bridge, was a hybrid design. It was composed of pony plate girders on the outer edges, with a single tall steel truss down the center. To date, only the Jay Street Terminal used this type of composite design..

Please note the above illustrations do not show winches, jacks and other equipment, and minor aesthetic differences varied by builder.

In some designs of pontoon type transfer bridges, an overhead gantry with a manually operated hoist would be used to raise the pontoon transfer bridge out of water for a high riding carfloat or for maintenance. These overhead gantries were mostly replaced with float bridge jacks. See "Float Bridge Jack".

Transition Car Some non-revenue cars employed by New York City Transit Authority were re-equipped with an MCB/AAR coupler on one end and a Form 70 Walton, Westinghouse H2 or Westinghouse H2C coupler on the other.

These were known as "transition cars" and allowed a standard freight locomotive to pull subway type cars, with the transition car being placed between the subway cars and the locomotive. The end of the transition car coupled to the lcomotive would be equipped with the MCB / AAR standard format coupler. The end of the transition car coupled to the subway cars would have the special format coupler matching those on the subway cars (Form 70 Walton, Westinghouse H2 or Westinghouse H2C coupler).

Trunk Line Also called "Class 1" railroads.

A large railroad company with long distance and interconnected routes with through train traffic. This term in not used to much extent anymore and the term "Class 1 Railroad" is used preferentially in describing currently operating railroads meeting that criteria.

Prior to formation of Conrail in the Northeastern United States in 1976, the following trunk line railroads operated in the New York Metropolitan Area:

Baltimore & Ohio; Central Railroad of New Jersey; Delaware, Lackawanna & Western; Erie; Lehigh Valley; Long Island, New York Central; Pennsylvania; New York, New Haven & Hartford; New York Ontario & Western; New York, Susquehanna & Western; and Reading.

Turnout Correct terminology for a railroad track "switch". Can be manually operated or electrically operated by remote location.
In regard to industrial and offline terminals on this website, turnouts were manually operated.

Depending on direction of travel, where two diverging routes meet ("trailing point" - from right to left in diagrams below) or one route splits into two ("facing point" - left to right in diagrams below).

The basic components of a hand thrown turnout are as follows:
1: points  2: frog  3: guard rails  4: flangeways  5: switch point rod  6: switch machine a/k/a ground throw or switchstand  7: hand lever

Moving the hand lever (7), in turn moves the switch point rod (5), to which the points (1) are connected, and thus changes the route that the train will take (yellow line).

In the left diagram, the train will take the straight track.                    In the right diagram, the train will take the curved track.

(Double Point)
The most common type of turnout encountered on railways.

A pair of moveable points connected by a common rod or plate which is connected to a switch machine which can be electrically or manually powered. The point not used moves out of the way so the flange of the wheel on that rail has clearance to progress to the alternate route.

Single Point
Also known as a tongue & nape switch.

A type of turnout often used in paved street applications with girder rail and common to streetcar / trolley operation. A single moveable point was located on the inner rail of the curve.

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Development of Car Float Transfer Bridges in New York Harbor

Comprehensive List of Float Bridges located in New York Harbor

Railroad Operated Pier Stations of Manhattan

Miscellaneous Freight Railroad Images of New York City

Double Ended Wreckers of the New York Area


Glossary of Definitions Indicative to Rail / Marine Terminal Operations in New York Harbor