and Lehigh Valley No. 79
return to Brooklyn after Tug & Barge in the Park Tour 2011. Photo Credit: Will Van Dorp
I visited the museum a few years ago for a WorkBoat story and owner David Sharps is still going strong telling the story of barge traffic on the Hudson River during the so-called Lighterage Age from 1860 to 1960, before container operations took over and led to the abandonment of the waterfront railroad system.
His teaching tool is a 1914 railroad barge that he bought for $1 in 1985 and spent two years refurbishing into a museum. It is parked along the river in Brooklyn where it has an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty.
The railroad barge Lehigh Valley No. 79 is the last covered wooden barge of its time and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Sharps lives on the barge with his family and hosts regular programs that include a circus, pirate shows and river song performances. He occasionally takes the barge out on the river with the assist of a tug.
Of special interest is a photography exhibit by artist Stephen Mallon about the salvage operation led by Weeks Marine of the US Airways flight that made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in 2009 after colliding with a flock of geese. Pilot Sully Sullenberger III became a national hero when he successfully avoided a crash, saving 155 people. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 18.
If you need to escape the city, drive 90 miles north to Kingston, N.Y. The Hudson River Maritime Museum, founded by steamboat and tugboat enthusiasts in 1980, is showing an exhibit on "Tugboats: Workhorses of the Hudson River."
And if you are planning to be in New York state the weekend of Sept. 5-7, head up to Waterford, outside Albany, for the annual Waterford Tugboat Roundup. The largest tug roundup in the Northeast, the festival brings hundreds of working tugs to the town's historic waterfront. This is a beauty pageant for tugboats, as they will be spiffed up and ready to receive curious visitors. In years past, 30,000 people have attended the event to celebrate the history of the inland waterways and their importance to the region and the country.
This year's "Tug of the Year" is the Burlington, Vt.-based C.L. Churchill, a 33' representation of steam-powered tugs that moved canal boats carrying iron ore, bricks, lumber and coal through Lake Champlain during the 19th and 20th centuries. The vessel is currently on public display at Pier 25 in Manhattan before it journeys up the Hudson to Waterford.