It all starts with a track of line that is less than 1.5 miles long, owned by a company called Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad, which was incorporated in July, 1902, in Hoboken, New Jersey. This little line connected their facilities with main lines to the port of New York and became a crucial part and the local rail system.
The company expanded in 1929 when it began the practice of shipping rail cars to Cuba and formed Seatrain Lines, Inc. Two ships were built for the venture, the Seatrain New York and the Seatrain Havana. The ships had four decks and were capable of hauling 100 rail cars at a time. Business was good until the early 1960s when the cold war and relations between Cuba and the USA soured.
The company then attempted to set up port in Puerto Rico but the island had a poor rail infrastructure which hampered the company's export efforts. By 1965 when the company was sold, the ships operated between ports in New York, Savannah, Georgia, city of Texas, New Orleans as well as Puerto Rico and had grown to include the ships Seatrain Texas and Seatrain Louisiana. The company was sold to Transeastern Associates for $ 8.5 million. Transeastern then merged into Seatrain in September, 1966.
In 1967, with loans from the Economic Development Administration of the US Department of Commerce and Chase Manhattan Bank totaling $87 million and another $38 million of their own money, the company announced the establishment of a new shipyard on the location formerly occupied by the New York Naval Shipyard.
Having no previous experience in ship building, the company eventually would manufacture ships for its own use including eight barges, four 220,000 VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers), one ice breaker barge and two roll on / roll off ferries, one of which was never finished and scrapped.
In January 1975, the company began laying off employees as did other ship builders as a result of the Cargo Preferences bill which then President Ford would veto. The company initially laid off half its work force but soon would lay off all remaining employees.
Seatrain Lines finally went belly up when it filed for bankruptcy on February 11, 1981. There were initially over $800 million in claims by creditors but was reduced to roughly $500 million through negotiations with the courts.
Cover Photo - vintage Seatrain Lines, Inc. Stock certificate (no cash value) dated September 4, 1951 and previously owned by E. F. Hutton & Co. which is still in operation today.
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