Restoration Of New York Central 13

By James Donahue

There is a report that a historic century-old iron tugboat, the old New York Central 13, is moored at Piers 62 and 63 on North River, in New York City, where she is being restored for possible listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

If it happens, it will be a fitting end for this unique old workhorse that probably never left New York's harbor after steaming there in 1887 from the John H. Dialogue Ship Building Works at nearby Camden, New Jersey.

The 82-foot-long tug was built for the New York Central Railroad to push railroad cars on barges across the harbor. At that time, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels did not exist, and heavy container truck service was not yet invented, so marchandise for New York and the surrounding area depended on the barges that were pushed around by a busy fleet of tugs.

In later years, as alternative and quicker methods of moving freight were developed, the tugs were phased out.

New York Central 13, however, was unique for some interesting reasons, which helped single it out for restoration.

The very fact that she had a riveted iron hull and was among the few remaining vessels manufactured at the historic Dialogue works was perhaps reason enough. But the tug, which for many years was nick-named Hay-De, starred with Hollywood actor Bruce Willis in the final scene of the 1991 movie "Billy Bathgate."

Even though the old tug's hull was in very good condition, and still floated without leaking, plans were in the works in 2002 to sink it as an artificial reef before Fischer managed to grab onto the vessel and launch his restoration project.

To bring the ship back to its original state, the diesel engine installed in the 1950s must be removed and, if one exists, an original two cylinder Dialogue steam engine put back in its place. This engine was oil fired, which was perhaps unusual in its day.

Also the midsection of the deck house must be rebuilt. This part of the vessel was removed in 1980.

For a while the tug was in imminent danger of being sunk as a reef. The vessel was owned by the Kosnac Floating Derrick Co. which threatened to sink the vessel rather than pay insurance, dock fees and upkeep costs.

Plans to sink the vessel, however, were set aside because of news articles and an effort by marine historians to try to salvage Hay-De.

We understand, however, that a buyer did appear at the final hour and rescue the old tug. It has been moved from Staten Island to a temporary mooring at Manhattan, and will be returned to Staten Island this fall for a full restoration.

The tug is expected to be shown at the Hudson River Maritime Museum when restoration is completed.


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