Two locomotives sat abandoned along 1st avenue in Brooklyn for many years, from roughly the late 1990s until 2006. This is their story.
They belonged to the New York Cross Harbor Railroad – a company that would place rail cars on barges to move them between New Jersey and Brooklyn (The Cross Harbor went bankrupt, though the tracks and barge operation still take place today under the ‘New York New Jersey Railroad‘ – which is owned by the Port Authority).
Technically speaking, the locomotives were an Alco S1, #21, and EMD NW2, #58. #21 was originally built for the Union Railroad in 1947, and #58 was built for Southern Railway in 1946. Both were acquired used. Both of these locomotives were really old by the time the 2000s rolled around. Most locomotives require a major overhaul after 15-20 years of use, and have been recycled by the time they’re 30. Both had mechanical failures and were being kept by the railroad to potentially be converted to what is called a ‘slug’.
A railroad ‘slug’ is a locomotive that has ‘trucks’ (powered wheels) with traction motors but is unable to move about under its own power, as it does not contain a prime mover to produce electricity. Instead, it is connected to a locomotive, called the mother, which provides current to operate the traction motors. They basically give the mother locomotives significantly more traction when pulling a train. Cross Harbor apparently bought some larger old alco locomotives to use as ‘mothers’, but never took delivery of them, much less performed any conversion of the S1 & NW2. In recent years the cross harbor has only needed 2 locomotives, so it’s hard to imagine why they thought they’d need larger locomotives with slugs to boot (even if that would have been interesting to see).
Thus they sat parked along first avenue in sunset park, rusting away for many years until the railroad sold them for scrap metal.
(Of Note: Today (2014), one of NYC’s other freight carriers – the NY&A – has been holding onto a similar derelict locomotive which is rumored to be awaiting conversion to a slug or a ‘genset’)