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May 1, 2013

Marine Railways steps back for its future

Marine Railways moves forward with nod to past

The 158-year-old set of marine railways now known as the Gloucester Marine Railways Corp. has undergone a series of changes over the years, notably taking on at least three different names.

But the newest alteration will not only increase efficiency at the railways, but will also restore the pier construction depicted in photos from the 1800s.

Construction on the new pier, to be topped off with a 60-foot dock, began six weeks ago and will continue for another six, according to general manager Viking Gustafson. The pier and dock were designed to match the 100 plus-year-old dock that was torn down in 2004 after it had become “derelict,” she said.

“It’s fair to say that we’re re-establishing the old footprint from the 1800s,” Gustafson said.

While people might recognize Gloucester Marine Railways as the location where the Boston Tea Party boats receive repairs and where schooners are restored, the railways continues to serve an ever-expanding variety of boats, including fishing vessels, ferries, tug boats, barges and some yachts.

“As the number of fishing boats declines in Gloucester, we’ve got to find ways to use our space efficiently,” Gustafson said.

The rebuild of the torn down dock will create space for boat work associated with a crane or fork lift. The end portion could also act as a ferry landing, and creates extra space for docking vessels.

In 2006, Gloucester Marine Railways added a travel lift to their arsenal, meaning they could for the first time pull boats from the water to land for work. That meant suddenly instead of two boats out of the water, one on each dock, the property would host 23 boats onshore by the end of April.

“Ever since we’ve established our travel lift operation, space has become a very big issue because now we have boats out of the water all over the place,” Gustafson. “Space is a premium so getting space back and being able to separate the crane activity from the travel lift activity from the fuel activity will make a big difference in efficiency.”

Sea and Shore Contracting, Inc. out of Randolph is working on the construction, while Rockport National Bank and MassDevelopment have assisted on the funding side.

“We’re very proud that they believe in us,” Gustafson said.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.

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