The Dock Shopping Center
Before there were any stores, there was a coal pile, a big one, with a steam engine working the yard. I know how the coal got there: tugs pulling barges of the stuff from somewhere. I just don’t know where it was going. Maybe to the coal dealers around the area. In the middle, that small locomotive puffing away, doing its job.
What interested me, in addition to the locomotive, was a spur track off the main line of the New Haven Railroad. It came down to the dock and what its purpose was always evaded me. Did railcars bring coal? Did the take coal from the pile? Given the track’s direction, I’d say it was leaving the black stuff.
We used to see the tugboats and their barges coming up from the general NYC area all the time with either a row of barges or several of them tied up tightly to the tug itself, indicating it was going upriver. Loose barges could not be controlled well enough to be floated up the twisting river.
The only other steam engines I saw at that time (the New Haven was electrified since around 1910) were coal trains coming from the west – maybe Pennsylvania or West Virginia. Could be they were for the power plant across the river, with a car or two for the dock coal pile. Only those of us with long memories remember.