Tap here
for menu

New Jersey Scuba Diving


New Jersey Scuba Diving


Cape May Reef

Hooters reef
An undignified end for the sole remaining CRRNJ ferry Elizabeth

shipwreck, ferry, Central Railroad of New Jersey, USA
All CRRNJ ferries were named for New Jersey towns - Lakewood, Bound Brook, Red Bank, Plainfield, Elizabeth, Wilkes Barre, Cranford, Somerville, Westfield, and Bound Brook
1901 Wilmington DE USA, as Lakewood
( 200 x 44 ft ) 1016 gross tons
NJ Coast 2005 Initiative
Wednesday August 3, 2005 - Cape May Reef
38°50.682' -74°43.078'
75 ft

Railroad Ferries of the HudsonThe Lakewood was built in 1901 by the Harlan and Hollingsworth Shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware. Along with her sisters Bound Brook and Red Bank, Lakewood took up service for the Central Railroad of New Jersey's ferry line, which ran from present day Liberty State Park, Jersey City to Liberty Street, Manhattan. These screw-propelled, steel-hulled, double-decker, double-ended boats replaced earlier paddlewheelers in a service that dated back to the 1600s.

In 1949, after an almost perfect forty-eight year safety record, Lakewood was gutted by a fire while in dry-dock for annual inspection and maintenance. The entire wooden superstructure was destroyed. The timing was especially bad for the company, which had recently scrapped two vessels that were actually younger than the Lakewood, and was now short of hulls ! Therefore, it was decided to repair her, when otherwise the burned-out hulk would probably have been written-off.

The old ferry house / train station in Jersey City
The old ferry house / train station in Jersey City. See Cranford for more.

CRRNJ ferry Lakewood
Lakewood in 1938, as originally constructed

CRRNJ ferry Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II

In 1950, the Lakewood began her career anew, with a new name: Elizabeth II. Although she was technically the third Elizabeth and not the second, she was given the exact name of one of the other boats that had recently been scrapped. Notably, this continued the name Elizabeth in service for the CRRNJ, as it had been since the early days of the company's founding. The modernized version of the old Lakewood was completely rebuilt in fire-proof steel. However, the 1000 hp four cylinder triple expansion steam engine was retained, making the Elizabeth one of the very last steam-powered craft on the North River, as that stretch of the Hudson was once known.

In the 1960's, business for the CRRNJ railroad and ferry lines began to decline, the same as they did for other lines, such as the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Ferry Service. As a result, the marine fleet of the CRRNJ began to fall into disrepair. One by one ferryboats were taken out of service, and many of them cannibalized for parts for their sister ships. This process did not provide much financial relief, and finally the old ferry line was down to one boat, Elizabeth, and two boats leased from the City of New York. Finally, in 1967 the CRRNJ went into bankruptcy, from which it could not recover. On April 22 of that year, with Captain Boyle in the pilot house, the Elizabeth made her final crossing with a Coast Guard Cutter following ( No honor guard - the escort was in case of a breakdown, as the boat was in major disrepair. ) Her engine never ran again. Thus ended the 306 year history of Hudson River ferries; thereafter, and until very recently, all traffic ran on bridges and tunnels.

ferry in drydock

ferry Elizabeth reef
Elizabeth in the 1950s, on the New York side of the river

ferry Elizabeth reef
Elizabeth in drydock. This picture shows the broad double-ended hull form and propeller to good advantage.

However, the history of the Elizabeth did not end. In the years after the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the veteran ferryboat took on a variety of careers. First the old Elizabeth was purchased by PSE&G, for use as a floating museum at the Salem nuclear power plant on the Delaware Bay. Here she was renamed the Second Sun, and contained exhibitions on the history of energy from the dawn of human civilization to the present; her car deck converted into an audio-visual center.

ferry Elizabeth reef Second Sun

ferry Elizabeth reef Second SunRight & above: the Second Sun

The boat switched careers again in 1992, when she was towed from her mooring at the power plant up-river to Philadelphia. The 200-foot-long ferry wound up as a waterfront restaurant at the foot of Callowhill Street. It operated as a classy eatery called the Elizabeth for a few months, then spent 7 years as a Hooters ( "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" ) before closing in January 2002.

There was some hope that the Elizabeth could be returned to her old home in Jersey City and restored as a display in the Liberty State Park, but that hope faded when the vessel sank at her pier over the winter of 2003-2004, and remained there for over a year. Finally, in 2005, the old ship was raised, partially stripped, and sunk at sea as an artificial reef.

history by Jeff Cavorley

ferry Elizabeth reef
ferry Elizabeth reef
The old ferry as a restaurant, and a wreck

ferry Elizabeth reef engineDuring the raising and cleanup process, the rare and historic 45 ton compound steam engine and much of her other machinery was removed for restoration as museum pieces. So at least part of this historic vessel - the last Hudson steam ferry - was saved. What a pity that the whole ship could not have been preserved and displayed at her former home, now Liberty State Park, but a year sunk in the Delaware River muck had damaged her beyond any reasonable repair. The engine and other parts will eventually go on display at the Penn's Landing museum. The props and rudders had long-since been removed and sold for scrap.

ferry Elizabeth reef interior
The ruined interior, with holes cut during salvage of the machinery

ferry Elizabeth reef bridge
ferry Elizabeth reef bridge
Elizabeth takes her final trip downriver

August 3, 2005
Contact: Peter Boger or Katie Smith
(609) 984-1795


New Program Provides Reef Materials as Part of Governor's "Coast 2005" Initiative

(05/106) CAPE MAY --the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today deployed a decommissioned ferryboat on the state's Cape May artificial reef site. The deployment will help to improve New Jersey's artificial reefs and is part of the commitment made by Acting Governor Richard J. Codey's "Coast 2005" initiative.

"The Jersey Shore is one of our greatest natural resources and most important economic engines, " Governor Codey said. "Today's artificial reef deployment improves coastal resources while keeping the shore a quality part of the Jersey experience for future generations."

"Our artificial reef program provides tremendous benefits to fishermen, divers, and our shore economy, while also providing new marine habitat" said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "New Jersey is a national leader in artificial reef management and we remain committed to enhancing these reef sites for the dual benefit of our environment and economy."

The ferryboat, known as the "Elizabeth, " was located in the Philadelphia harbor prior to its deployment and has been decommissioned for sometime, previously having been used as a restaurant. The vessel will be 36 feet tall underwater, as DEP's preparations included the removal of its pilothouses, 60 feet wide and 220 feet long. It will provide two long, open corridors that should attract both fish and divers.

DEP acquired the ferryboat through a $100,000 appropriation for deployment of three vessels on artificial reef sites. Earlier this year, the state sank a decommissioned navy tanker, dubbed the "Helis" after the beluga whale that had recently been spotted in the Delaware River, on the Garden State North artificial reef site. The state will deploy the remaining vessel later this year. DEP is placing the three ships at reefs along the entire Jersey coast so that as many residents as possible can enjoy the benefits of these new acquisitions.

Artificial reefs play an important role in supporting New Jersey's marine fishing and diving industries, whose activities on the reefs alone generate more than $50 million and overall provide more than $850 million to New Jersey's economy. In one study, DEP determined that one out of every five fish caught by recreational anglers in New Jersey's marine waters during 2000 was caught on a reef site.

Earlier this year, Governor Codey announced his "Coast 2005" initiative, which includes a variety of programs designed to enhance coastal water quality and improve coastal ecosystems. Aside from the reef building program, the initiative includes new standards for maintenance and inspection of sewer systems to help prevent spills from polluting New Jersey's waters; $30 million in grant funding to assist municipalities in developing storm water management plans; and strengthening coastal zone restrictions for offshore oil and gas development.

The DEP initiated its ocean reef building program in 1984, establishing over time a network of 14 reef sites from Sandy Hook to Cape May that encompass a total of 25 square miles of sea floor. The state has made more than 3,500 deployments of various reef materials - more than any other state in the country - including ships and barges, massive undersea ridges from six million tons of rock, and thousands of fabricated concrete reef units.

Artificial reefs can provide important habitat for many of New Jersey's marine species, with up to 200 species of fish and invertebrates known to colonize our reefs. Reefs also have 800 to 1,000 times more biomass than open ocean and can form important nurseries for juvenile fish.

In October 2004, DEP issued for public comment the most recent draft of its Artificial Reef Management Plan that covers all aspects of the multi-faceted program, including its objectives, history, benefits, site selection and other considerations. The new plan also establishes a protective standard for the stability, durability and effectiveness of various materials used in reef construction. Currently there is no uniform national standard for the durability of reef materials.

The 4.5-square mile Cape May Reef Site where today's deployment occurred is approximately 8.5 miles offshore from Cape May and is comprised of more than 75,000 cubic yards of vessels, tanks, tire units, specially-designed "reef balls" and other materials. In 2003, it was one of five artificial reefs where New Jersey deployed 250 decommissioned New York City subway cars.

ferry Elizabeth reefSinking of the vessel consisted of cutting a single hole in the ferry's one watertight compartment. Prior to deploying the ferryboat at the reef site, DEP supervised cleaning of the tanker to remove all greases, floatables and other materials that might be harmful to the marine environment. The U.S. Coast Guard inspected the cleanup of the ship prior to allowing DEP to transport it to the reef site.

This vessel is the 135th ship to be sunk on New Jersey's artificial reef sites.

For more information on New Jersey's artificial reef program visit the DEP website at http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/artreef.htm. For more information about the Governor's "Coast 2005" initiative, visit http://www.nj.gov/dep/cmp/czm_zone.php.

ferry Elizabeth reef

The ferryboat " Elizabeth" just before and during its deployment
as an artificial reef in Cape May

ferry Cranford reef
A diver swims over wreckage on the Elizabeth's sister Cranford



I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.

Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted



since 2016-09-11