Moving Day for the National Park Service

We have all done it at sometime or another. We have packed up our belongings and with the help of a few friends, if we are lucky, or a professional moving company, if we can afford it, relocated ourselves and our family to another residence.

A houseful of items is one thing, but what if you had to move only one item? That would be a dream, right? As it turns out, it can be a nightmare, especially if it is 68 feet long and weighs 120 tons.

16-inch gun #386 aboard USS MISSOURI during the Japanese surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945. The barrel was removed from the battleship turret during the Korean War and put into storage.
Photo credit: Library of Congress

The object in question is a 16 inch gun barrel that was originally mounted in one of the forward gun-turrets aboard the battleship, USS Missouri. According to the National Park Service:

“…The gun barrel was taken off the Missouri during the Korean War (battleship guns are actually removable) when the ship was refurbished. The gun barrel was put into storage at the Naval Weapons Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada, for possible re-use aboard another battleship. It was never remounted, though, and lay in the Nevada desert alongside eighteen other battleship gun barrels for the next sixty years.”

The gun barrel in this story will be placed in Battery Townsley located above Ft. Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands. Named after the former Superintendent of the US Military Academy, Clarence P. Townsley, Battery Townsley was built between 1938 and 1940 as part of the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco. Hundreds of coastal artillery soldiers were stationed in Ft. Cronkhite to operate radar stations and gun batteries to protect San Francisco from enemy attack.

The construction of Battery Townsley in 1938. Photo circa 1938.
PARC, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

When Battery Townsley was constructed it had two 16 inch guns, each of which were capable of firing a 2100 pound armor-piercing shell 30 miles out to sea. Although it was deactivated in 1948 after WWII, Battery Townsley has been restored by volunteers and a replica gun cradle will display the barrel from the USS Missouri when it arrives at the end of September.

So how will the NPS transport this 68 foot, 120 ton historic gun barrel? They put it out to bid and Bigge Crane & Rigging of San Leandro, CA got the job. It turns out that Bigge is the company that moved the original barrels from Sausalito to Ft. Cronkhite in 1939!

This move will be over a much greater distance and this time Bigge will be using a 10-axle trailer that will be simultaneously pulled by one diesel truck as it is pushed by a second. The trailer is one and a half lanes wide and, including both trucks, 175 feet long. Special permission from CalTrans is required for the journey over Donner Summit to Ft. Cronkhite and the move needs to take place before the first Winter snow sets in.

Once the barrel arrives at Sausalito it will be transferred to a shorter trailer with a tighter turning radius for the trip up the Headlands to the battery. A temporary gantry crane will lift it off the trailer and onto the concrete cradle where it shall be prepped, cleaned, painted and put on display.

Details about public-viewing of the gun during transport and installation will be forthcoming from the NPS.

Battery Townsley, just after construction
Photo circa 1939
PARC, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

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