Friday, April 18, 2014

Old pier, new life

This is a pretty nice idea. They took a pier from a demolished bridge and made an observation platform out of it.

If you want to see photos of the old bridge being demolished, check out this one and this one.

Where did the boats go?

Lately I've noticed there have been fewer and fewer boats on the Ohio River when I've just wanted to watch one go by. With the hills turning green again, it's a good time to get some new pictures, too. But the opportunities seem to be scarce nowadays.

So I ran some numbers. I knew CSX was reporting its coal volume was fairly stable in the first quarter, which was a bit of a surprise, and Norfolk Southern said its coal loadings were down, so why not check the numbers of tonnage going through the locks?

Here is what I got for selected locks and dams on the Ohio and Kanawha rivers in the first quarter.

Lock20142013ChangePct change
Ohio River

Pike Island 3,853.18 4,193.52 -340.34-8.1%
Hannibal 5,310.03 5,185.89 124.142.4%
Racine 5,047.30 5,088.04 -40.74-0.8%
R.C. Byrd 3,806.08 4,803.66 -997.58-20.8%
Greenup 2,941.35 4,203.69 -1,262.34-30.0%
Meldahl 3,747.14 5,061.08 -1,313.94-26.0%
McAlpine 6,311.86 6,690.60 -378.74-5.7%
JT Myers 3,597.04 4,950.56 -1,353.52-27.3%
L&D 52 3,202.69 4,915.27 -1,712.58-34.8%

Kanawha River

Winfield 1,298.50 1,775.70 -477.20-26.9%
Marmet 1,096.20 1,410.38 -314.18-22.3%
London 266.34 327.23 -60.89-18.6%

I spend most of my time in the Greenup and RC Byrd pools, and you can see from the numbers what's happening with coal traffic. I've written some in the past 12 months about how coal from the Illinois Basin is taking market share from Central Appalachia (southern WV, eastern KY, western VA, northeastern TN) mines. The chart shows what's going on in that regard.

Northern Appalachia, which includes northern West Virginia, is holding fairly steady, as you can tell from the Pike Island and Hannibal numbers. Pike Island is north of the big mines and docks in the Wheeling and Moundsville WV areas, while Hannibal is south of them.

I chose Racine because it's the first lock north of the mouth of the Kanawha, and RC Byrd is the first lock south of the Kanawha. Greenup is the first lock south of the Big Sandy. I don't have recent numbers on the Big Sandy, but the last ones I saw indicated a big decline there, too.

I don't know if one has to do with the other, but Adam and I were at Catlettsburg last weekend to see if any boats were there, and the one thing I noticed was that there was a big empty space where Crounse Corp. normally park two to three dozen empty coal barges.

The numbers for the Kanawha speak for themselves. And it could address why Campbell no longer has an operation at Point Pleasant.

There's more analysis to do. Hey, in theory I have a weekend coming up, so there will be a little time to play with more numbers in more detail. But this should help answer the question of why I haven't run many pictures lately of boats pushing coal barges. It's because there are fewer boats to shoot.