Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Battery Townsley Revisited


Visited 24 Nov 2012 - Battery Townsley (1940-1948) - We first visited Battery Townsley on Fort Cronkhite back in August 2009. We briefly mentioned the Battery in a blog post back then but things have changed and we revisited it on this trip.
Battery Townsley Casemate #2 From Below
Battery Townsley Casemate #2 From Below

Battery Townsley was one of two World War II 16" gun batteries protecting the Golden Gate and San Francisco Harbor.  The Battery is located on old Fort Cronkhite on the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco.  Much of this area is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) administered by the National Park Service.  Private donations and volunteer labor have brought the battery back from an abandoned graffiti covered relic to a great attraction for the GGNRA.  The recovery has been a slow process and it has a long way to go.  The volunteers scored a big find this fall when they were able to acquire, transport and install a huge  16" gun tube for the Battery.  This gun tube is similar to to the ones that were originally installed in the Battery and has the added benefit of having been on the USS Missouri during WWII.

16" Gun Tube on Display
16" Gun Tube on Display behind Casemate #2 of Battery Townsley

Matt Kent blogged about the arrival process in September with some great pictures of the gun tube arriving at Fort Cronkhite.  The gun tube has been moved up the hill to the Battery and placed on temporary concrete mounts behind casemate #2.  The plan is to create some type of display mount inside the casemate that simulates the original gun carriage.  The success of this group in getting the gun tube on site bodes well for creating the full display.
John Martini and Me
John Martini and Me

The other reason for my visit was to view the work that has been done to the inside of the Battery.  The battery is typically open only one weekend each month to visitors and my visit did not coincide with that weekend.  Volunteer John Martini was kind enough to show me around during a work weekend for the group.  John has a great website with many historic pictures of Battery Townsley.


Lighting System in the Main Corridor
Lighting System in the Main Corridor

I've been in several 16" batteries around the country and this one is in great shape.  You could probably characterize the inside as looking like it would have been just prior to the installation of the original guns and support equipment.
Generator Room Ready for Equipment
Generator Room Ready for Equipment










There is no AC power to the Battery and the wiring system had been stripped out long ago so just recreating the lighting system was a major effort.  The volunteers installed solar panels on top of the battery and recreated the internal lighting system using that solar power.  Anyone who has been in one of these batteries with no lighting knows that they are pitch black and dangerous to navigate. Lighting the battery is an important first step.
Shell Room with Replica 16" Shells
Shell Room with Replica 16" Shells






Internally the Battery is cleaned up and ready for public view.  One of the shell rooms contains a quantity of replica shells and there are interpretive displays in several locations.  You can still see original chalk notes on some of the walls noting inventory and movement details. 
Overhead Shell Tracks
Overhead Shell Tracks








Parts of the overhead track system for the movement of shells from the magazines to the gun casemates are still in place.  One of the original shell hoists has been returned to the battery by someone who removed it years ago and it awaits refurbishing and mounting. 




Overhead Track Shell Hoist
Overhead Track Shell Hoist


The Battery Townsley volunteers, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), work on restoring the battery and they conduct the open house interpretive tours.  The NPS provides funding and support for major projects like the gun move and graffiti removal as well as for some ongoing operations.  Individual donors have stepped forward and provided sizable donations and bequests.  The volunteers themselves chip in for supplies and needed equipment on a regular basis.  So this all comes together as a great collaborative effort to restore this important WWII battery.

This was a great visit with special insights, hats off to all the volunteers who have worked so hard on Battery Townsley.

For more info on Fort Cronkhite and Battery Townsley follow the links to FortWiki.com

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