Friday, July 22, 2016

Are you a photographer?

Twice this week I had my camera down by the river, and twice I was asked if I was a photographer.

The first was Monday morning, when I was getting pictures of this flatboat as it tied up at Harris Riverfront Park in beautiful downtown Huntington.

When asked if I was a photographer, I said real photographers -- the ones who shoot weddings and senior portraits and food ads -- would consider me a Walmart photographer instead of a real one. I don't do a lot of heavy Photoshopping. If your eyes are brown, I don't change them to glacier blue. I don't retouch photos to remove skin blemishes or love handles. I don't take six inches off your waist. One guy on the boat pretended to be offended that I don't remove blemishes. I told him it's the old journalist in me. I want my pictures to record the world as it is. He's a recovering journalist himself, so he invited me aboard anyway.

The second time was yesterday evening, by a teenager who saw me trying to get pictures of tracks left behind by people who tried to walk on mud before it had dried out.

I said no, I'm just a guy who takes pictures for fun and manages to sell a few of them for a few bucks. She said she liked taking pictures with her iPhone 5. She showed me some, and she had a couple of decent ones in there. I suggested she email them to the local paper or to a tv station to see if they would be interested in using them.

All in all, I don't care if people consider me a photographer or a photojournalist or whatever. I'm just a guy who likes taking pictures. It's my personal antidepressant, and it's how I keep a record of the people and the world I encounter. I look back at pictures I took with my Kodak Instamatic in the 1960s, my film SLRs in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and my digital cameras in the 2000s and 2010s and am reminded of how much pleasure I got from taking them and how much my descendants someday will enjoy seeing the everyday life of their ancestors.

I've been trying to find old family pictures of relatives who are long gone. At the consumer level, snapshot photography was expensive and time-consuming for a long time. I know some are out there; I just have to find them.

My mother left me a few old river pictures, too, that I will put in that book if I ever get around to writing it.

It may strike some people as odd, but it's what I do.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hydropower, part 3: Meldahl factoids

From the dedication ceremony program:

The Medahl project was developed jointly by American Municipal Power and member community Hamilton, Ohio. The city of Hamilton retains rights for a 51.4 percent share of the energy output while AMP retains rights to the remaining output for 47 other AMP members participating in the project.

Excavation and cofferdam construction began in May 2010, and powerhouse construction began in August 2011.

428 construction jobs (peak) were created over the construction period.

2.45 million labor hours were worked by contractors.

1,141,877 cubic yards of earth were excavated, equivalent to about 100,000 dump truck loads.

114,389 cubic yards of concrete and 12,838,044 pounds of steel were used to build the plant.

More than nine stories of the 10-story powerhouse are under water.

The powerhouse is designed to be overtopped during flood events by as much as 25 feet of water.

The powerhouse crane spans 190 feet across and can pick up a maximum load of 175 tons, which is about the weight of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

At peak flow, nearly 8.6 million gallons of water, enough to fill 13 Olympic-size swimming pools, will pass through each unit per minute.

The facility is fully staffed by Hamilton employees, with nine operators and two management personnel on staff.

Full commercial operation began in April 2016.

From Phil Meier of AMP during a tour of the plant:

The turbine rotates slowly, at only about 60 rpm, which gives them a “very long wear life.”

The plant has 30 miles of cable. It also has about 1,000 monitoring points on 39 different systems.

The turbine blades are variable pitch. They can rotate about 21 degrees maximum.

Turbines are 7.7 meters in diameter.

The plant can operate in two modes: The norm is for maximum megawatt production. The other is for river flow control.

The Meldahl project is built on rock, as the soil there is not deep. Plants AMP has built at the Smithland and Cannelton locks and dams, however, are built where the soil is 100 feet deep or more, so builders had to erect them on stone columns.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hydropower, part 2: Exterior views at Meldahl

Unlike hydroelectric plants upriver, the Meldahl plant is built in a canal next to the dam instead of attached to the landward pier of the dam itself. This is the view from shore, upstream of the power plant.

And one from the fishing area below the dam.

A wider view.

The dam as seen from the roof of the hydro plant.

And here's something you don't see often: an Ohio River dam running zero feet of gate. On this day, the entire flow of the river was going through the hydro plant, and all 12 dam gates were closed.


Up next: Meldahl factoids.

Hydropower, part 1: Meldahl dedication ceremony

One problem with wanting to do write something really good is that it takes a lot of time. In this case, I've been researching Ohio River hydropower, and I've gotten sidetracked several times. There is a lot more research to do, but some of this is getting cold, so let's go ahead and go with some stuff, in this case the new hydroelectric power plant at the Meldahl Locks and Dam about 20 miles above Cincinnati.

The plant is a cooperative project of the city of Hamilton, Ohio, and American Municipal Power. The city had a dedication ceremony on June 2 that they allowed me to attend, for which I am very grateful.

First, a shot of a speaker and the audience.

One of the people at the ceremony was Jack Kirsch, former city manager of Hamilton and referred to by people there as the father of the Meldahl hydroelectric plant.

Here are the two dedication plaques that by now have been mounted inside the plant, I assume.

And here are three displays at the ceremony. One shows how construction proceeded, and two show how the plant works.

Up next: Photos of the plant and the dam, followed by Meldahl hydroelectric plant factoids.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The Ohio River Museum at Marietta, Ohio, has started the process of planning for a possible expansion.

Up in Pennsylvania, the Beaver County Times has begun a series looking at the history of bridges there.

It's only the first page of a PDF, but Mulzer Crushed Stone Inc. has an article on how it trains its boat and dock people on man overboard (MOB) safety and incident response.

And from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "River industry officials hope Shell Chemical’s decision to build an ethane cracker plant on the Ohio River will provide enough of an incentive to get a long-delayed, $2.3 billion lock and dam project off the ground."

Monday, July 18, 2016

A visitor and a flatboat

Rinker Buck, left, is a best-selling author whose most recent book, "The Oregon Trail," described a trip he took on that road with his brother in a mule-drawn wagon. Today Buck and Brady Carr, right, were here in Huntington working on Buck's next book.

And this is what brought them to Huntington.

More on that later.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Another blogger's opinion of the ferry at Sistersville WV

Granny Sue rode a ferry cruise recently. Here words and photos can be found on her blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Gone But Not Forgotten: Jones & Laughlin Steel Co.

Every time I think I have found the first color photo of an Ohio River towboat that I had taken with my first single-lens reflex camera, I find another one that could fit that description. This time, though, I think I have found it. This would have been in the autumn of 1976, probably in November.

You can't tell much from this picture, but when I scanned the negative at my scanner's highest resolution, I could make out the name Titan on the side and what looks like Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation under it. Old-timers can tell me if the color scheme matches what J&L was using at the time.

Here is a closeup with a little color correction. The dots are problems with the negative or the glass plate on my scanner.

From what I can find, the Titan was built in 1953 by St. Louis Shipbuilding & Steel Co. It was owned by Jones & Laughlin until it was sold to Mon River Towing in January 1983.

After a couple of ownership changes after that, it is now owned by Murray American River Towing, which renamed it the Luciana Moore a couple of years ago.

Here is how the Titan looks today, as seen around sunrise.

Murray American had McGinnis Inc. do some updating on the Titan a couple of years ago. The pilothouse was removed and a larger one installed, and it sits higher above the water. I assume the old pilothouse on the Titan and its sister boats such as the Aliquippa were kept low because of low bridges in the Pittsburgh area and/or on the Mon. 

From what I could find on Wikipedia:

The Jones & Laughlin Steel Company was founded in 1852 as the American Iron Company a few miles south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River. It became Jones & Laughlin in 1861. It began making steel in 1866 and expanded along the Mon and the Ohio for the next 60 years.J&L, known to its employees as J&L or Jane Ell, merged with Republic Steel in 1984 to form LTV Steel.

LTV Steel's parent, LTV Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection in 1986. It was the largest corporate bankruptcy case in U.S. history at the time. LTV Steel filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2000. Its assets were acquired about a year later by Wilbur Ross, who merged LTV Steel with Weirton Steel to form International Steel Group.

International Steel Group was acquired by Mittal Steel in 2005, which merged it with Arcelor to form ArcelorMittal in 2006. ArcelorMIttal is the world's largest steel company.

But the Titan and its sister boats were long gone by then. They are from a time when companies controlled every part of steel production. In the Ohio Valley, that meant owning the coal mines and when possible the means of transporting coal. It was the same with US Steel, which owned Ohio Barge Line until 1984 when it sold OBL's assets to Ingram.

Around that time, vertical integration had become an outdated concept and outsourcing (as opposed to offshoring) was in.

As far as I know, this is the only photo I have of a J&L boat, but who knows what I'll find when I dig through my film era archives again.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A sternwheeler and a working towboat

The sternwheeler Sewickley passed by here today, and I was able to get a few pictures of it.

Another visitor to the area was the rebuilt Campbell towboat the Winnie C.

And this being the Huntington area, while I was on the riverbank I found evidence that someone walked away from a night of fishing.