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New Jersey Scuba Diving


New Jersey Scuba Diving

Cranford "The Sandbox"

Sea Girt Reef

In life, July 1939. At this time, CRRNJ ferries were painted overall dark green. Notice how it says MEN on one side and WOMEN on the other.

shipwreck, ferry, Central Railroad of New Jersey, USA
( sometimes incorrectly identified as a barge )
All CRRNJ ferries were named for New Jersey towns - Lakewood, Bound Brook, Red Bank, Plainfield, Elizabeth, Wilkes Barre, Cranford, Somerville, Westfield, and Bound Brook
1905, Wilmington DE USA
( 191 x 44 ft ) 1197 tons
Ashley Development Corporation
Tuesday March 30, 1982
40°07.447' -73°56.227'
70 ft

The Cranford was a propeller-driven, steam-powered, double-decker, double-ended ferry belonging to the now-defunct Central Railroad of New Jersey. She was built by the Harlan & Hollingsworth company in Delaware, and was the third of five all-steel Elizabeth II-class sister ships. These ferries carried train commuters from the CRRNJ's combined rail / ferry terminal in Jersey City across the Hudson to points in Manhattan. The tracks dead-ended in the terminal, and the passengers walked through the building and completed their trip to New York on the ferries. At its height in the 1920s, the facility served over 50,000 people per day. Several other railroads ran smaller ferry operations in the area as well.

The Cranford's old home - note the ferry bridges on either side.

The CRRNJ Jersey City Terminal had 20 set of tracks on the land-side, and 5 ferry slips along the riverfront, connecting to several smaller ferry terminals on the New York side. The slips remain, but the huge 1914 sheds that once enclosed them were razed in 1982. The adjoining train station remains as part of Liberty State Park. It is a beautiful and historic old structure of wrought iron and brick dating to 1889. The park also boasts the Liberty Science Center, easy access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and a spectacular view of Manhattan; it is well worth a day's trip.

The front of the 1889 CRRNJ rail terminal in Jersey City, facing the river - once the largest rail facility in the New York City area.

You can find your home town on reproductions of the original route signs in front of the tracks at the back of the terminal. The rails themselves are gone, though.

Inside the terminal, restored and reopened in 1980.

Two of the five old wooden ferry bridges, with the New York skyline beyond.

An unknown ferryboat approaches a slip.

Cranford's closest sister Somerville, docked at the ferry terminal. The ferry shed blocks the view of the train terminal beyond; just the clock tower is visible. Cranford and Somerville were built together.

Aerial view, 1929

Ferry service across the Hudson, then known locally as the North River, began in the 1600s ( not counting canoes, I suppose. ) the Central Railroad of New Jersey operated as many as ten cross-Hudson ferries from the station at Jersey City, as well as several routes from Manhattan to points on the Bayshore - notably Keyport and Atlantic Highlands - with the steamers Monmouth and Sandy Hook. This service foreshadowed the New York Fast Ferry Service of today, which runs almost identical routes. During both World Wars, control of all rail and ferry services was taken over by the government, later to be released back into private hands. The CRRNJ persisted with their ferry operations in Jersey City long after the other operators had ceased - the last competing boat stopped in 1949.

However, in the 1960s the new automobile and rail crossings of the river, both above and below the surface, made the old ferries obsolete. The last ferry from Jersey City ran on April 25, 1967; thereafter the Jersey City rails were connected to the new Penn Station in Newark. The Cranford left the fleet slightly earlier in 1965. Most of the ferries were sold to other companies, and eventually scrapped. Ironically, the eldest of CRRNJ's ferries, the Lakewood, has survived the longest, first as the floating display barge Second Sun for PSE&G, and later as a Hooters restaurant, before finally being sunk as an artificial reef.

A tugboat nudges the Cranford into an icy berth on the New York side of the river.

The Cranford in later years. In the 1950s all the boats received a new modern look, with two-tone green paint, white pilothouses, a shortened tapered smokestack with a Statue of Liberty logo, and radar - the only railroad company ferries to be so-equipped. Now it says SMOKING on one side and NO SMOKING on the other.

photo courtesy Jeff Cavorley

Cranford aims for a ferry slip on the New Jersey side - June 1962.

What the interior originally may have looked like, before the restaurant conversion and later demolition.

Ultimately, the automobile was the downfall of the railroad itself, and the Central Railroad of New Jersey, who's lines extended from Wilkes-Barre to Atlantic City, filed for bankruptcy for the last time in March 1967. It was a bad time for railroads everywhere. Despite their best efforts to regain profitability, the company continued to decline, and was eventually folded into the Conrail system. Many of CRRNJ's old rail lines and stations are still in use, notably the NJ Transit's Bayhead line, which serves Jersey shore commuters to this day. As for the Cranford, she made thousands of uneventful river crossings in her sixty year career, bringing millions of passengers to their destinations, on-time in comfort and safely, just as she was designed to do.

After her retirement in 1965, the Cranford was sold to a pair of brothers who brought her to a dock in Brielle on the Manasquan River. She apparently made the trip under her own power. There she was converted to a floating restaurant, which was apparently quite good and very successful for a time, operating until 1979. The brothers then tried to move the vessel to a new location, but were denied permits by the government, who did not want to see a repeat of the Cranford's eventful trip into the river in 1965. At that time, her superstructure collided with and damaged the railroad bridge, through which the big ship barely fit.

It's not hard to see how there might have been some difficulty getting a 200 foot ferry through here. This sailboat can't even seem to manage it. The Cranford's incident closed the bridge to train traffic for several days until repairs could be made. That's thousands of commuters inconvenienced. Needless to say, the railroad was miffed over the whole affair.

"The Ferry" restaurant, seen from the foot of the Route 35 bridge, probably in the late sixties. She appears to be laid-up at the far side of the Seeker's old dock, behind the present-day Shipwreck Grill. You might have to stare at this picture for a while, as the ferry is so much bigger than anything else in it that she merges into the background and appears to be a building on shore. Photo courtesy of Pat Colligan.

An interior shot of the bar area. Photo courtesy of Pat Colligan.


Then and now - more modern views, showing the highway bridge at the bottom, and the old dock at the top, with a new dock built parallel to it where the ferry was.

So the sad old ferryboat moldered and became an eyesore until 1982, when she was finally sold for one dollar to a welding concern who hacked off her entire upper works ( which were mostly wood ) and sold it for scrap. The triple-expansion steam engine, three boilers and condenser were apparently removed as well. The remaining flat barge-like hulk was donated to the Artificial Reef Committee, carefully maneuvered through the railroad bridge and out to sea by a pair of tugboats, and sunk in the vicinity of the future Sea Girt Artificial Reef. The Cranford is today one of the most popular spots on the reef and has been visited by thousands of divers - a fitting end for the old ship. Several of the PATH cars that helped put the ferries out of business are sunk on the Sea Girt Reef as well.

Tugboats Li'l Toot ( bottom ) and Ingrid Ann tow the commuter ferry boat Cranford from the Manasquan River out to sea. These two small tugs work along the river to this day.

Another very poor quality shot of the chopped-down Cranford being maneuvered down the river by the tugs.

The remains of the Cranford are well broken-down. In poor visibility the Cranford seems like a junkyard, but in good visibility it is possible to make out the layout of the ship. Curved sections of the hull jut up from the sand at along either side of the wreck. Parts of the hull ribbing still stick up 10 ft or more. The main hull structure was iron, but most of the decking is wood. The propellers lie buried in the sand at each end, with just one blade protruding, inside tunnels formed by the collapsed hull.

The edges of this expansive wreck can be followed all the way around the sandy interior, giving this reef its nickname - "The Sandbox". Much decking and debris also lies inside the walls, mostly metal, and some wood. In the center of the wreck, the engine and boiler room can be found by a thick layer of fire bricks and iron gratings. Depending on the shifting sands, you can also find the propeller shafts. The Cranford is an excellent spearfishing site; much less good for lobsters. The Cranford makes for a great night dive.

Cranford's elder near-sister Elizabeth in drydock. This picture shows the broad double-ended hull form and propeller to good advantage.

Partial side-scan sonar image. Since the Cranford was a double-ended ferry, you would expect the missing part of this side-scan to be pretty much the same. The 205 ft length that had always been quoted for this wreck is wrong.

Cranford Ferry - Artificial Reefs - New Jersey Scuba Diving Old photos and underwater video of one of the most popular dive sites of the New Jersey artifial reefs - the commuter ferry Cranford.

A diver swims over wreckage on the Cranford.

The outline of the hull is unmistakable

The north end of the wreck. The crooked round object at lower-right is the top of the rudder shaft. The dark arch at the left is the entrance to the tunnel that encloses the propeller. The hull had an extreme overhang here, and the deck beams have collapsed.

The same area from the opposite angle, looking down the keel.
The hull ribs have collapsed into the sand.

The tunnel nearby that contains the propeller ...

... and the artifact itself, mostly buried

Wooden decking

Metal hull braces

The brick floor of the boiler room

Sea life on the Cranford

from the Asbury Park Press - March 31, 1982

Dismantled Brielle Ferry Scuttled 4 Miles off Coast

The Cranford, later the Ferry Boat Restaurant, sits dockside
in Brielle last year awaiting salvage operations.

Press Staff Writer

Brielle - the Cranford, a once-proud commuter ferry reduced to a bare and rusting hulk, sailed her last voyage yesterday under the power of a pair of tugboats named Ingrid Ann and L'il Toot. The two tugboats, their diesel engines spurting black smoke, pushed, pulled and prodded the Cranford from her muddy berth of 17 years at the Brielle Yacht Basin at about 11:45 AM.

A handful of spectators watched from the Route 35 bridge and the North Coast Line railroad bridge, as the tugs negotiated the ferry through the Manasquan inlet. Of particular interest was the ferry's passage through the railroad bridge opening. The Cranford struck the bridge on April 21, 1965, as she first entered the inlet. The Coast Guard escorted the vessels through the Manasquan Inlet at high tide.

Four miles out, under an overcast sky, valves to the 205 foot hull were opened, and it sank in about 65 ft of water to become part of an artificial reef, said Petty Officer Roy Lindner of the Coast Guard station at Manasquan. The Cranford sank bow-first in about an hour and a half, according to David Bogan, captain of the party boat Paramount that is based here. Bogan helped the tug boats locate the artificial reef, commonly referred to as the Sea Girt Artificial Reef, using an electronic position-finding device.

The sinking ended a dispute between borough officials and the Cranford's owner over removal of the rotting ferry, which had become an eyesore after serving more then a decade as a restaurant. George Mauro, a Dixieland musician and showman, purchased the ferry in 1965 from the old Central Railroad of New Jersey, which had used it for 60 years to ferry commuters between Jersey City to Manhattan. Mauro sailed the ferry from Jersey City to the Brielle Yacht Basin and converted it into the Ferry Boat Restaurant. Mauro sold the supper club to George and Alexander Kalivas, principals of the A.G. & S. Corp., Oradell, in 1971. The brothers operated the restaurant through 1979, when they decided to relocate the ferry.

But the state Division of Marine Services, with the 1965 accident in mind, insisted on a meeting among owners, Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The meeting was never held, and the boat stayed where it was. In 1979, about 2 1/2 acres near the ferry and the ferry's liquor license were sold to Ashley Development Corp., Brielle. The ferry remained at the hands of the Kalivas brothers.

The unused ferry became an object of vandalism, and borough officials began pressing for it to be moved. The Kalivases said they could not find a buyer for the ferry. Ashley foreclosed on the boat about a year later and took responsibility for about $40,000 which the Kalivases still owed creditors.

Ashley sold the boat a year ago yesterday for $1 at a borough auction. The new owners, Robert Hager, owner of H & R Welding, Brick Township, and Richard Hazelet, owner of Security Fence Co., Point Pleasant, cut and sold much of the superstructure for scrap. Yesterday, they used two tugs to dispose of what was left.

Although still a tight fit, the ferry cleared the 48-foot-wide railroad bridge opening. In 1965, the 1, 129-ton terry, while traveling under its own power as it approached at high tide during a full moon, struck the north span of the bridge. The accident caused an eight-hour delay in rail traffic.

Arthur Dixon, a principal of Ashley Development, said the removal of the ferry is important to the corporation's plans for development of the waterfront area. By May, he said, the company wants to remove the deteriorated ferry boat walkway and rebuild an existing dock underneath. The dock will add about 40 slips to the Brielle Yacht Basin, he said. Within a few years, Dixon said, the corporation hopes to have existing docks replaced with floating docks.

The Eggers Group and the Grad Partnership, both architectural firms, have prepared site plans for 8.6 acres Ashley owns on the waterfront. Dixon said the plans include a 400-car underground parking area with a park on top, about 70 housing units consisting of luxury condominiums, penthouses and duplexes, and another structure with 50 suites for club members. Planned for the roof of the suites, overlooking the ocean are a restaurant and cocktail lounge, he said. If the plans are approved by Ashley as presented by the architects, the corporation may present the plans to borough officials in two to three months, Dixon said.

An undignified end for the sole remaining CRRNJ ferry Elizabeth.
Sunk as a reef in 2005

Historic photos courtesy of Liberty State Park



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since 2016-09-11