Monday, April 30, 2012


A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Thursday for the new Ohio River bridge between Ironton, Ohio, and Russell, Ky, to replace the 90-year-old one that's in use now. I wish I could be there.

Locking downbound at Greenup

On Sunday I had to get Adam doing something, so we went down to Catlettsburg to look for boats. None there. So I figured we could go down to the courthouse in Greenup, Ky., to see if anything was around there, as it's a good spot to see boats if any are in the area. None there except for one over on the Ohio side and down far enough that we couldn't get a good ID.

So we went down to the Greenup Locks and Dam to look around. The locks themselves are behind a security fence, but there is a place where you can go down by the river and get close to boats entering and leaving the locks. We had seen a Dravo 3200 or "Steel" boat while we were in Greenup, so we waited for it come come by. Five minutes later, we did. It was the James E. Anderson.

It looks like someone is doing some painting on the Anderson.

One thing about this time at Greenup that is a bit ironic, perhaps. In my post yesterday, I linked to an article about lane closures on the Ohio River bridge at Cairo. The article mentioned that the bridge is used by farm machinery. I commented that I hadn't seen anything like that on this part of the river.

Wouldn't you know that as we watched the James E. Anderson approach the locks, I saw a combine or something like it crossing the bridge over the Greenup dam. How 'bout that.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Photos, news and stuff

I stopped by the river at Huntington yesterday and saw that this boat had already passed me. From the distance, I couldn't identify it, and I was pretty sure I hadn't seen it before. From zooming in on the photo, the name appears to be the Claude R.

So another day, another sighting of a boat I hadn't seen before.


The Fort Steuben Bridge between Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, W.Va., came down in February. A piece of steel from that bridge is in Mississippi, where it's being examined and compared to modern steel.


At South Point, Ohio, it looks like The Point industrial park is moving ahead on plans to become a shipping point where cargo can be offloaded from barge to truck or rail.


It was a small demolition, but still ...

An approach ramp to the bridge between Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky., was taken down last week so a temporary one could be built as part of construction for the new bridge there. The new bridge is scheduled to open later this year.

The scheduling of completion could be fun, depending on the election schedules in Indiana and Kentucky. Here in Huntington, W.Va., a new bridge connecting the downtown area with Ohio was scheduled to open in December and be named for then-Senator Robert C. Byrd. But Byrd was running for re-election and needed an excuse to give a campaign speech in Huntington, so the West Virginia Department of Transportation paid the contractor extra money to finish the bridge so it could be dedicated and opened to traffic before the election, I mean, in time to help Ohioans shop in downtown Huntington. In effect, lots of taxpayer money was used as a campaign donation to Byrd.


Here's video of the Madison bridge ramp being dropped with explosives.


Down at the far end of the Ohio River, the bridge at Cairo, Ill., will have some temporary lane closures this week.What I like about this is something you never see in my part of the river when there are lane closures because of bridge inspections or minor repairs. I like the sentence beginning, "Farmers needing to move oversize equipment across the bridge..." We don't have a whole lot of interstate movement of oversize farm equipment up here.


Not a news item, but Joe Schneid in Louisville has posted some nice photos and a video of the Lelia C. Shearer on Flickr. Here's one. They're all worth checking out.

Meanwhile, Barry Griffith has a nice photo of a boat on the lower river. I like this photo because it shows driftwood on the river bank.


I just looked up some information on the Claude R. It's 100 feet long and 26 feet wide, or less than half the dimensions of any one of the barges it's pushing. Other than the pilothouse, it's one deck. It's probably not a place for a deckhand who needs space.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chasing boats again

Between the demands of my job, commuting and stuff I have to do around the house nowadays, Adam and I don't get to spend much time chasing towboats anymore. But today I was able to be home at the right time, and I noticed on the Internet that the M/V Hoosier State, Adam's favorite boat, was downbound at Mile 288 at 6 p.m. So we finished baking some cookies that we had in the oven and headed out to find the boat and possibly chase it down the river.

We went on the Ohio side to the park at Old Lock and Dam 27. In the evening, you shoot there with the sun over your right shoulder, and the golden light can make decent photos if the boats cooperate by being there at the right time. We figured we would be early, but better early than late.

While we waited for the Hoosier State to arrive, we saw this boat approach us upbound.

We tried to guess what boat it was. Adam guessed the Winnie C. I guessed the Champion Coal. Both were more or less semi-educated guesses, as we didn't know what other boats were in the area. As it turns out, we were both wrong. It was the Carrie Mays of Campbell Transportation.

As we watched the Carrie Mays pass our position, we noticed it was moving toward our side of the river. We could think of only two reasons for getting this close to the bank: to get out of the current or to position itself to meet the Hoosier State, which we could not yet see.

We didn't know about the current, but in a few minutes we saw the Hoosier State approaching us downbound.

Adam suggested we run down to the Guyandotte boat ramp to see the Hoosier State again. Before we could leave the park, we were approached by a stranger asking us if this was a good fishing spot, hjow clear the water is normally, if there is a lot of large boat or pleasure boat traffic on the river here, and so on. We chatted for a while. I showed him some photos that I keep in a small album in my camera bag. He left, and so did we.

We got to Guyandotte in time to see the Hoosier State approach as darkness was falling.

As the boat passed under the East End bridge, a sprinkle started to fall. It was raining, it was getting dark, Adam had homework to do ... we had to go.

But we did have fun like we haven't had in a while. Adam took one last look at the Hoosier State as we left and said it might be a long time before we see it again. Maybe, I said, and maybe not. We'll just have to see how it plays out.


Two more thoughts:

The Hoosier State was delivered to AEP on Nov. 2, 2009, if I recall correctly. That was the same day we saw the Buckeye State at Lock and Dam 27.

While the Hoosier State is fairly new and, in terms of horsepower, one of the most powerful boats on the river, the Carrie Mays is older and weaker. It was built in 1951 and has about 1,800 horsepower, compared to the Hoosier State's 6,000 or so.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coal dock or not?

Local authorities in Paduah want to build a rail-to-barge coal dock, but folks acoss the river in Metropolis, Ill., aren't too hot on the idea. Story here.

A contest that never happened

A while back, Adam and I had one of those ideas that sound good when you're kicking it around, but you don't know if you want to live with the consequences. Plus, we would be unable to make a decision on one part, so we put the idea aside. Except I want to bring it back to talk about the decision we would be unable to make.

We were thinking about a series of faceoffs to determine which towboats we like to get pictures of. Not which boats would win a shoving contest or a race, or which ones would be the most comfortable to live on, or which ones have the best paint schemes -- just which ones make the best pictures.

We would have had a modern division -- boats like the Omar, the Tennessee Hunter, the Dravo Viking, the old Dravo "steel" boats and the like -- and a classic division -- the Aliquippa, the D.A. Grimm, the Oliver C. Shearer, the Lelia C. Shearer and the O. Nelson Jones, among others. But the hardest choice of who would advance in the tournament would have been one that would have disappointed or upset the most people we know. Plus, I couldn't have decided which I prefer, and splitting my vote in half would have been a copout.

The decision would have been between the modern AEP boats -- we'll go with Adam's favorite of the group, the Hoosier State -- and the new Marathon boats, which we will refer back to by using the name of the first boat of that group, the Detroit.

We have a lot more pictures of the AEP boats than the Marathon boats, mainly because there are ten of one and four of the other, if you include the Nashville Hunter, and because the AEP boats are in our area a lot more frequently.

First, four photos of the AEP boats.

We like how tall they are, and we like the pilothouse glass. They have a distinctive silhouette day or night. And they look good from so many different angles.

Then there are the Marathon boats.

They lower and wider so they can go under lower bridges. They don't have the horsepower of the AEP boats, but they obviously do they job they need to do.

The color schemes are even. The AEP boats look good most of the time, but the shade of white and the red stacks of the Marathon boats look particularly good in the early morning and early evening hours.

So would it have been the Hoosier State or the Detroit? Adam has his preference, but I can't decide. It's like when people ask me for my favorite song or my favorite color. I don't have one. It depends on my mood. Most of the time I prefer purple, but for some things I prefer red or blue. Sometimes I want to listen to Bach's Bradenburg Concerto No. 3, and sometimes I feel the need for Johnny Cash singing "Sunday Morning Coming Down" or the Annoying Orange's version of "Friday."

It's the same with boats. I was looking at some photos of the Omar recently, and I was thinking about how those boats are at or near the top of the box-on-a-box design, although I probably prefer the Vikings in that group.

We know who would have won in the classic division. It's just in the modern division that we wouldn't have had a clear winner. But we did have fun coming up with the brackets and talking about our favorite boats and how designs have changed over the years.

Delta Mariner pilot talks

The pilot in charge of the Delta Mariner the night it hit the Eggner's Ferry Bridge, causing one span to collapse, give his account of what happened that night on the final day of hearings in Paducah. The story is here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Slow-motion video of bridge demolition

I just found this. Here is video of the demolition of the Fort Steuben Bridge over the Ohio River between Steubenville, Ohio (birthplace of Dean Martin, you know), and Weirton, West Virginia, back in February. Catch the slo-mo replay about 25 seconds in.

There's also a still photo under the video taken by yours truly and lifted from The State Journal website. Whether this particular website received permission to post that photo and whether they're making money from it, I don't know.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eggner's Ferry Bridge hearings

The Coast Guard is holding hearings in Paducah about the Eggner's Ferry Bridge accident back in January. The hearings began Monday. Here is a news story from the first day, and here is one from the second day. According to the second article, the hearings are expected to continue through Friday and could extend into Saturday morning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Corps web changes

In case you hadn't noticed, the Corps of Engineers' vessel locator web site is undergoing some changes. In fact, they're hardly updating it, as they're making some changes. I wrote to the corps to ask what was going on, and this is what they sent back:

 A new publicly accessible web site called Corps Locks is now available. The website contains lock and vessel specific information derived from the United States Army Corps of Engineers Lock Performance Monitoring System (LPMS). The information contained here represents hourly and daily snapshots of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data on U.S. flag vessels and foreign vessels operating in U.S. waterways that transited a Corps owned or operated lock structure. This site has the traffic and hydrologic information submitted by the locks via LPMS. This data replaces the same data formerly on the Navigation Information Connection.  Information on detailed company or commodities is considered privileged information and is precluded from the Corps Locks website. Additional features are planned for future release. The URL is
Also, available to assist the public are .com and .us URLs, a Facebook page and Twitter page.

Now I'm in the process of changing the links on the lefthand rail on the page. If I get something wrong, please be kind and point it out to me.

An evening at Harris Riverfront Park ...

... here in Huntington WV.

After work, I had to wait for my older son, Joey, to finish up his PT session at the Marine Corps recruiting office, so I went down to the river. I didn't have my good camera, but I did have a phone with a camera. I took these pictures. I did no editing to them. This is how they came out of the camera, except that I added my name to them.

The river had almost a metallic color to it.

Feeding the birds before dad gets there with his fishing gear.

Where mud meets concrete.

Where layers of silt have fallen away.

It wouldn't be the Ohio River without a log in the water.

It wouldn't be the Ohio River without some trash on the shore.

It wouldn't be the Ohio River without some tires in the water.


One last look at the bridge.

And the tree-lined sidewalk at the top of the bank.

Wickets, iron and wood

Sometimes you don't do something right away and it seems like it doesn't get done. This is one of those things. That's why the trees in the background have no leaves.

This was taken at the Hannibal Locks and Dam back in February when Adam and I were on our way to the bridge demolition at Steubenville, Ohio. In the background is the dam, which was finished in the 1970s, I believe. In the foreground is a reconstruction of an old wicket, or low-lift, dam of the type that the modern dams replaced.

These moveable dams served the Ohio River from the 1910s up through, well, the modern day, as locks and dams 52 and 53 remain in service on the lower Ohio. These old dams were raised into position when needed to maintain the nine-foot channel in the Ohio. When the river was high enough that the dams weren't needed, they could be lowered to the river bottom, wicket by wicket.

In 1980, the lockmaster at Hannibal -- I think his name was Bob Loar or Bob Lohr -- showed me how the dams worked, and how the maneuver boats like the one below raised and lowered the wickets.

In 1986, I was allowed to visit Locks and Dam 52 at Metropolis, Illinois. I had arranged my visit with the public affairs office of the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with whom I had had many dealings previously. The lockmaster at 52 allowed me the run of the place unescorted -- something that probably would never happen in the post 9/11 world. The dam was up, and the maneuver boat was tied to the shore. I boarded it and felt the heat coming off the steam boilers. As I walked near the dam, I could hear the water running through the gaps between the wickets.

A lot of good photos were made that day -- photos that should have ended up in an article or book that I never wrote but will have to someday. The dam's lift is only a few feet, and the lock walls barely stick out above water, so I was able to get up close to boats locking through.

Later that day, I stopped at Locks and Dam 53. Darkness was setting in, and my cameras has 25 speed Kodachrome in them, so the pictures weren't so good. But the dam was down, and I did see an Ingram boat sail over the lowered wickets. I think the boat might have been the one now called the R. Clayton McWhorter. The date would have been July 1, 1986, if anyone wants to check the boat's logs going back that far.

Today you can see remains of some of these old dams, mainly because of the powerhouses and other buildings that remain at some sites. I've written about those before. One at Chilo, Ohio, right above the Meldahl Locks and Dam, is a museum whose interior remains similar to what it was when the old dam was in service.

The best man at my wedding was the son of the last lockmaster at Lock and Dam 21 (mile 214.6) near Long Bottom, Ohio., John said his father was the last person to leave the property and locked the gate after the last boat locked through 21 as the Racine Locks and Dam was raising its pool.  By 1980, the buildings at 21 were in pretty bad shape. A few years later, I went back to look for them and couldn't find them. I assume they had been demolished.

Perhaps if I live a good life and sufficient money shows up in my bank account, I will make it back down to Paducah and see 52 and 53 again. The two dams are scheduled to go out of service when the new Olmstead Locks and Dam, now under construction, is finished. From what I've  been reading, though, we might see the Cubs win the World Series before we see Olmstead finished. And maybe the Corps will let me get close to the dam again so Adam and I can hear the rush of the river and enjoy sights and sounds that could disappear from the river forever.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Backup coming at Greenup

There should be some towboat traffic backups at the Greenup Locks and Dam this summer when the main lock is shut down for 13 weeks to replace the upper gates, the miter and the quion blocks. I know what the miter gates are, but the others, no. There should be some good opportunities to get photos of boats along the banks waiting their turn to double-lock through Greenup. Work begins June 4 and is to be completed by the end of August.

Then the small lock at Robert C. Byrd is scheduled to be out for 16 weeks immediately after that for repairs that will require the lock to be dewatered. The impacts on navigation probably won't be so much, though.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When Wally met Harllee

This is from two or three years ago. The M/V Wally Roller, foreground, and the M/V Harllee Branch Jr. meet at Huntington, W.Va. It's hard telling how many times these two boats have encountered each other on the Ohio River over the years.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

An evening at Big Sandy harbor

This evening I was feeling pretty low. No matter how hard I try with a certain something, things don't get better. They only get worse. So I did what I normally do when I need to straighten my head out -- I head for a body of water. This evening I chose the Ohio River. Big mistake. I went to Virginia Point Park at Kenova, and the ACL towboat Mary Ann was there in great position for some pictures. So instead of trying to work through my problem, I spent my time taking a lot of pictures.

This is how it looked from across the Big Sandy River at Catlettsburg, Ky. There were a lot more barges tied up to the bank at Kenova than I'm used to seeing.


Looks like some of that towboat primer gray on the stern there. While I was in Catlettsburg, I saw a lot of empty coal barges tied to the bank. I counted 29, most or all of them Crounse barges. I assume they'll be moved when the coal docks on the lower nine miles of the Big Sandy get busy again Monday.

Back to Kenova. I got a couple of shots of deckhands working on the tow.



And one more before I left. This barge was tied up to the shore. It looks like it's seen better days.


And I never did that thinking on my problem. Oh well. It will be here next week for me to deal with. And the week after that. And the week after that, probably.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Inside Amos

My most recent blog entry dealt with a couple of coal-fired power plants along the Ohio River. Last Tuesday, I got to go inside the John Amos power plant along the Kanawha River when U.S. Senator Joe Manchin was there to talk about coal.

Here's Manchin during a news conference. The big stack you see was taken out of service when the scrubber system was added. The precipitators on the stack still work, but rather than the smoke going up the stack, it goes from the precipitators to the scrubber. Behind Manchin you can see smokestack emissions that are heavy with water vapor.

And here, if I put my camera on the right object, is a scrubber. I was told the metal in this contraption is a very expensive alloy, possibly nickel, because it has to withstand a lot of corrosive material.

I first met Manchin in 1996, and our paths crossed a few times until the 2004 governor election. One day he was making a campaign stop in Huntington, and I was waiting for him outside a restaurant. While I was waiting, a bird delivered a package on my forehead. Someone went inside the restaurant to get a couple of paper napkins so I could wipe the stuff off. I don't remember anything else about that day.

Six days later, I was sitting on a concrete wall at Harris Riverfront Park along the Ohio River when a bird got me on my pants leg.

What a week.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The power plants of Cheshire, Ohio

The other day while I was in Cheshire, I decided I needed to update my photos of the two power plants there. The first one is the Gavin plant. It was built in the early 1970s, and it's one of the largest plants on the AEP system.

It also used to be one of the dirtiest. In the 1980s it was blamed for a good part of the acid rain problem in the Northeast. Gavin used to have smokestack that was maybe 1,300 feet high. The yellow-brown plume that came out of it drifted high into air an far off into the distance. In 1984, a couple of protesters from Greenpeace got inside the plant property and climbed to the top of the stack and unfurled a banner.

Most of that stack is gone now. Scrubber systems produce a smoke plume that is much wetter, and the old concrete stacks are too tall. Normally, AEP leaves the old stacks in place because the cost of removing them is so high, but I've been told by folks on the inside that the Gavin stack interfered with the air flow around the two new stacks, so they had to take the old one down part of the way.

By the way, whenever I'm on the back road getting pictures of Gavin from the rear, I feel as though someone is watching me for fear I'm a a terrorist or worse, an environmentalist. This past weekend, I think someone in an unmarked car was following me. I would stop in the road and wave them around, but they never went. I had discussed this sort of thing with an AEP p.r. person a few days before my photo expedition. I told her that the next time I plan on getting photos from the public right of way from a certain spot that's closer than this, I will let the AEP people know ahead of time.

This next photo is of the Kyger Creek plant.

Back in the late 1960s, about all there was to this plant was the orange brick building that's now buried under all the other stuff plus three smokestacks. Those stacks poured out some thick, dark smoke. And at night, the "Kyger Creek" sign was all lit up nice. In the early 1980s, the smaller stacks were replaced by the big stack you see here. And lately, with the scrubbers added, the big stack was replaced by the shortr one.

IIRC, Kyger Creek was one of two plants built by a consortium of electric utilities to supply electricity to the uranium enrichment plant at Piketon, Ohio. That's why I chuckle when people refer to nuclear power as being much less of a carbon dioxide emitter than coal power. Making the fuel for a nuclear power plant takes a lot of electricity, and unless you have another nuclear plant dedicated to doing just that, you're burning coal to make nuclear power.

Both plants get most if not all of their coal by barge, by the way. The AEP dock at Lakin, W.Va., is maybe a mile up the river from Gavin. Again, IIRC, the AEP river operations at Lakin were formerly owned by the O.F. Shearer Co. AEP bought out Shearer's river operations, and for several years the M/V Oliver C. Shearer and the Lelia C. Shearer wore the old AEP oval on their stacks.

Zebra mussels

It took a while, but I finally found a formerly submerged object that had been colonized by zebra mussels. Or, I think they were zebra mussels.

Funny, they don't look the end of the world ecologically speaking from this angle.

Note to self: Next time, get out of your "take only pictures and leave only footprints" mode, get a little water and wash the mud off these things so you can get a better look at them.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Poor scores

It's a good thing this is a bridge pier and not a panel of expert judges giving me scores on my photography performance the way they do in gymnastics or figure skating, or I would need to find some other way to make a living. Oh, wait ...

M/V Tennessee up the Kanawha

The other day I got to see the M/V Tennessee of Amherst Madison come down the Ohio River and slowly make the sharp turn to head up the Kanawha.