A railroad car float or rail barge is an unpowered barge with rail tracks mounted on its deck. It is used to move railroad cars across water obstacles, or to locations they could not otherwise go, and is towed by a tugboat or pushed by a towboat. As such, the car float is a specialized form of the lighter, as opposed to a train ferry, which is self-powered.
The only remaining car float service currently in operation in the Port of New York and New Jersey is operated by New York New Jersey Rail. This company, operated by the bi-state government agency Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is the successor to the New York Cross Harbor Railroad. Car float service operates between Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, New York and Greenville Yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. It has been proposed that car float service be transferred from Bush Terminal 50th float bridge to 65th Street / Bay Ridge Yard float bridges.
In order to load rail cars onto car floats you need a “float” or “transfer bridge”. The transfer bridge functions as a movable bridge for the purpose of allowing adjustment between the top of rail elevation on land and on the car float. In New York Harbor, the typical tidal fluctuation is up to 10 feet. As this relative elevation change is due to tide and the car float free board changes, the bridge must adjust to provide the connection between the car float and land. – cf. structuremag.org
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