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18) Fort Tilden's Railroad

Updated: October 21, 2000
Locomotive at Fort Tilden
US Army Photo - Date Unknown
A railroad line was constructed to supply the guns of Fort Tilden with ammunition which was delivered by ship to the fort's wharf. The railroad tracks originally ran along the current site of Shore Road, along the beach. Four 12" Railway Mortars were assigned to Fort Tilden for a short period of time, around 1920, and the tracks were extended to the west end of the post. Four sidings were installed for the railway mortars. Around 1923, the rail line was rerouted to Range Road and was used to facilitate the installation of the 16" guns of Battery Harris.

These tracks ran from the dock area, crossed Rockaway Beach Boulevard, turned west and extended through the three magazine houses and two gun positions of Battery Harris. Since the 16-inch gun projectiles weighed 2,400 pounds each, this rail system, and the trolley system installed in the casemates, were of critical importance to the gun crews in providing an rapid supply of powder bags and projectiles to the guns.

Kevin Hanley recently sent the following message:
"There is reference to the acquisition, in 1929, of an 8-ton, gas-powered, Plymouth railway locomotive for ammo haulage. One photo in the park's files shows such an engine. However, that isn't the only one that was used at the fort.

In August, 1922, a four-wheel drive, gas-powered truck, w/ flanged locomotive wheels, was received from Raritan Arsenal for ammo haulage at Btry. Harris. In fact, the former Balloon Hangar at the post was used as a roundhouse to store this truck/loco.

There is also reference to a 0-4-0, saddle-tank, locomotive, built by the American Locomotive Co. (ALCO) as having operated at the post. This locomotive weighed 28,800 lbs., was standard guage, tractive force of 6,250 lbs., capable of carrying 475 lbs. of coal, and 600 gals. of water. This locomotive was later sold to the St. Lawrence Trading & Supply Co. in February, 1929, and was stored in the post enginehouse awaiting pickup. By August 1932, it was still there!

There is also reference to a 4-wheel, gas-powered speeder as having been obtained".

Thanks for the info!

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