In 1855, Dodd & Tarr Fisheries was started on the tip of Rocky Neck in Gloucester Harbor. As the fisheries business grew to encompass a wharf, a grocery store, warehouses and 15 schooners, the need arose for a way to repair and maintain the fishing vessels. In 1859, the company constructed the first of two marine railways on the northern-most tip of their property on Rocky Neck. From then until about 1970, the Railways used a steam engine to haul up the vessels. One note of interest is that the gears used in the steam engine were produced at the same factory that built the engine for the Civil War battleship, the Monitor.
In 1874, the Tarr bothers of Gloucester took over the firm of Dodd & Tarr and by 1879 the company was listed as “Rocky Neck Marine Railways Association”. The name “Dodd & Tarr & Co.” was reserved for the fishing business only. By 1892, the railways was maintaining 20 first class vessels. In 1907 Capt. Frederick Albert Cook reportedly brought his schooner to the Railways to be sheathed for ice and outfitted for an Arctic expedition. In the 1920s and 30s, schooners participating in the International Fishermen's Races were hauled out at the Railways for painting and last minute repairs. In the late 1980s the Mayflower II came for repair. Recently the privately owned 128 foot Nantucket Lightship was hauled up in dry dock as she received fresh paint and maintenance.
Since 1859 the Rocky Neck Marine Railways, now known as the Gloucester Marine Railways Corp., has maintained and repaired thousands of fishing, commercial and pleasure boats from the wooden schooners of the last century to the present day steel and fiberglass vessels. A modern Travelift has recently augmented the original railways as GMRC keeps moving ahead, from one century to the next, distinguished as the oldest continuously operating marine railways in the country and a well respected member of the marine industry in the Northeast.
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