delivering stuff to build Iowa-class battleships

D. Scott Chatfield

Brian Chapman wrote:

For some time I've wondered about railroad transportation and the building of the last battleships ever built -- the Iowa Class (Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri, and Wisconsin -- because of their great speed, also known as super-cruisers).
A colossal project. The railroads had to be intimately involved. Mustn't there have been marshaling yards for the big east coast building docks? Logistics must have been pretty carefully orchestrated, wouldn't you think?

In Iowa's and Missouri's case, I'd guess much of the material arrived in New Jersey ports and were shipped to the NY Navy Yard?

For some time I've thought that the story of building these ships would be interesting. Anyone have thoughts or information to offer?

I'd guess that much of the heavier steel plate came in by water, not by rail. I gather the big guns were made at Bethlehem, PA, so they would have traveled by rail to the shipyards, and I think there are plenty of photos of that. Certainly lots of smaller parts came by rail, but in terms of total carloads you didn't need a big yard to hold them before they were used. If the parts were manufactured well before they were needed at the shipyard they were probably warehoused to free up the boxcar for another load, and the government built many warehouses on both coasts during the war to stage material.

As for calling them "super cruisers", one could call the Iowas and South Dakotas that for several reasons, although speed isn't one of them, and they were generally not used in traditional cruiser roles. Air power made cruisers vulnerable, a lesson learned early in WW2 by both sides, and the fast battleships spent most of their service lives working in concert with fleet carriers. In this role they excelled.

Scott Chatfield

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