Monday, June 26, 2017

Returning soon

It's been a while, and it may be a bit longer.

My computer has died, and I'm trying to get a new one at the same time I'm working a few more hours and other needs around the house keep me busy.

If all goes well, I'll be back on July 1. Realistically, I'm shooting for July 8.

The good news is that I have a backlog of photos to deal with -- towboats, bridges, dredges ... you know, the good stuff.

I'll see you then.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A few pictures from recent days

Between working and trying to get stuff done around the house and dealing with a computer that is about ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge, I've been negligent in blogging. I was planning to give a nonpolitical analysis of President Trump's infrastructure speech in Cincinnati, but who cares what I think, especially at this late date, you know?

I can't say when I can get back on here, so let's share four photos I've taken recently to let you all know I'm still alive.

First, every marina needs a guard duck.

Second, here's an Amherst Madison boat passing Huntington after the sun had set.

The Earl Franklin Jr. and the Lucedale were doing dredging work in the lower approach of the Robert C. Byrd Gallipolis Locks and Dam today. It looked like the Franklin handled the barge and clamshell bucket that were doing the scooping and the Lucedale was dumping the mud where the water coming through the dam could disperse it. I started singing "Sedimental Journey," but Adam groaned. That means the pun worked.

And here's the M/V Tommy H as it was about to exit the lock.

This was the first time I had seen the Tommy H since Adam and I attended its christening in Pittsburgh on May 25. I have a ton of photos, but they will have to wait until I learn whether the Waterways Journal is using any of them.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Two items in the news

President Trump will visit Cincinnati this week to urge investment in rebuilding the nation's lock and dam system.

Meanwhile, up the river, work on repairing and rebuilding part of the bridge connecting the town of St. Marys to Middle Island, the largest island in the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, has been delayed until next year at the earliest. The bridge now in use was part of the original Hi Carpenter Bridge, which was of the same design as the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A birthday party for Charlie Jones

From what I can tell, Charlie Jones of Amherst Madison is the most liked and respected person in the river industry in these parts. Today they had a 99th birthday celebration for him at the company headquarters. I was able to attend, and I wrote about it here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Two from Pittsburgh

Here are a couple photos of The Point as seen from the water on a day that could not decide if it was going to be overcast or sunny for more than five minutes at a time.

More later.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A day in Pittsburgh

Adam and I went to Pittsburgh yesterday to cover the christening ceremony of the M/V Tommy H for the Waterways Journal.

It was a long, tiring day. Tonight he had to be in his high school band to play music for graduation. Sometime this weekend, I might be able to post a little more about the trip. More will come after the WJ decides if it wants to use any of my photos.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Three Crounse boats

So tonight instead of going to bed at a realistic time I figured I would stay up a few minutes and play with some photos of Crounse boats that I have gotten the past month or so. So here goes.

From last month, the Mary Artie Brannon as the sun was low enough on the horizon to light her up real good.

Here is the Enid Dibert. I figured I would see what would happen if I got all artistic. Eh.

And here is the Yvonne Conway.

It's a good thing I like the design and color scheme of Crounse boats, because when I need a boat pushing 15 barges, there's usually one around.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Pledge drive

Tonight and tomorrow there's a pledge drive going on to raise money to help the ferry at Sistersville WV. To pledge you can call 304-771-8835, 304-771-1334, ...or 304-758-9007. You can stream the 24-hour event, lasting until 4 p.m. Saturday, and listen to Greg Goodfellow and Alex King at

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sunset through the wheelhouse

A couple of days ago maybe I saw a photo on a Facebook river group and I got so envious, sort of. It was from an area that was flat -- no hills -- and someone got a sunset shot of the sun through the pilothouse glass. The boat was from ACBL, I think.

I figured I would never get a chance at that shot because of all the hills around here. However, yesterday evening the Coast Guard buoy tender Osage tied up at Harris Riverfront Park here in Huntington. I happened upon it and decided to get some pictures. Then I noticed I could shoot upward and get the sun through the pilothouse windows. Here are a couple of samples. The first is the sun unobstructed. In the second, I think there was a guy walking around inside the pilothouse because the size of the sun was changing.

As long as I was there, I figured I may as well get a photo of some buoys.

It doesn't surprise me the Osage was in the area. From what I have seen and heard, several buoys on the middle and upper Ohio are not where they should be.

Ironton bridge is down

The last remaining steel of the old Ironton-Russell Bridge came down yesterday. I couldn't be there because I had to work. But the Ironton Tribune was, and it wrote about the event.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Russian interference with the Ohio River Blog

For some reason, this blog has gotten a lot of attention from Russia this week. Perhaps not by coincidence, some malware has been found on my computer. Several pieces of it, actually.

If anyone in Russia hacks me in hopes of stealing my fortune, they will be sorely disappointed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


I've been told this was the original sternwheel to the American Queen.

If so, cool. If not, it's still a big wheel.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


There's a lot of crushed stone that moves on the Ohio River. Some of it is used in construction. Some is used in power plant scrubbers.

Yesterday morning the M/V Eleanor of Crounse Corp. came through Huntington pushing 15 barges of stone. I went down to see it because I couldn't recall having a photo of the Eleanor in my archives. I got few shots, but not a good one.

Maybe next time.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

M/V Pere Marquette

There hasn't been a lot of activity on here lately because I've been trying to earn a living, and that attempt has taken a lot of my time. But I can say I have worked on a couple of things that will make blog posts later. I just can't talk about them now because they have not been published.

Until then, how about something from the 1980s archives?

Here's the Pere Marquette of Steel City Marine Transport.

I don't know when the picture was taken except that it must have been sometime in the 1980s. The last I heard of this boat it was owned by ACBL and called the Joseph Hamilton.

As far as I know, Steel City Marine Transport is still in business, although I have not seen any of its boats in my area down here around Mile 308.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Harris Riverfront Park

I like Harris Riverfront Park here at Huntington. It was built in the 1980s, and it was the prototype for several similar parks that have been built in this area since then.

This is the Robert C. Byrd Bridge that crosses the Ohio River just below the park. Yeah, Byrd got his name on it, but locals refer to it as the 6th Street Bridge, which was the name of the old bridge that it replaced.

This bridge has four lanes with a concrete median wall separating traffic. The posted speed limit is 25 mph, but I don't know of anyone who observes it. I mean, 25 mph on a four-lane bridge with wide lanes and no cross traffic?

The 6th Street Bridge opened to traffic in the fall of 1994. The old bridge, which was immediately upstream, was demolished the following winter and spring.

This was probably the last steel truss bridge built across the Ohio. Unless I'm wrong, every bridge built since then has been of a cable stay design. West Virginia took bids for both a cable stay bridge and a steel bridge for this one. The steel bridge came in at far less than the cable stay, so it was selected.

Here are some evening shots taken from the park with a cheap smartphone camera.

The park is a nice place to hang out on a comfortably warm spring evening. The angle of the setting sun makes it a nice place to get pictures in the golden hour. It's one of my favorite places to get photos of my granddaughter.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A couple of things

About ten years ago, someone decided to recover a rock from the middle of the Ohio River. The rock had some historical interest, but it had been under several feet of water since the Greenup Locks and Dam raised its pool, and probably Lock and Dam 31 before that.

The recovery set off a dispute between Kentucky and Ohio over who owns the rock. At one point, Kentucky insisted the rock be returned to the river.

Now a documentary on the famous -- or infamous -- Indian Head Rock has been produced.

# # #

Another old boat has made its final voyage under its own power. The Fred Way, built by Dravo in 1945, was towed from Henderson WV to the Neale fleet at Vienna WV recently, where it will be used as a landing boat.

It was one of the more distinctive boats on the Ohio. I don't know about anyone else, but I'll miss it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

You can never have too many pictures of the M/V Charleston

As seen from the upstream sidewalk of the Patrick Street Bridge in Charleston WV, the towboat Charleston heads down the Kanawha River pushing eight loads of coal. 

Sorry for the quality. An iPhone was all I had, and I had to zoom in to get this. Maybe I should carry my regular camera with me more often.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Oil and Venezuela

A bit off topic, but an interesting read of how the shipping of oil from Venezuela is collapsing along with that nation's economy.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

AO 102 (Updated)

You never know what you'll see while you're driving on a county road in Lawrence County, Ohio.

In this case, it was a barge at Superior Marine just outside the corporation limits of South Point, Ohio. (As the road marker says, Southernmost point in Ohio. Overlooks two rivers, three states.).

When I saw this, it reminded me of the interview I did with Dale Manns, the founder of Superior Marine, last fall for the Waterways Journal. Then my memory took be back farther.

The "AO" on the barge ID tells me it was built for Ashland Oil. That means the barge must have been built before Marathon Ashland Petroleum was formed in, what, 1998? Barges after that had "MAP" in their ID numbers.

And that reminded me of a news conference I attended in Jeffersonville, Ind., in the mid-1990s. Ashland Oil was announcing its Ashland Petroleum subsidiary was having Jeffboat build a bunch of double-skinned tank barges. Ashland Oil wanted local media to attend the news conference, so it put a bunch of us on a corporate jet and flew us down to Jeffersonville for the afternoon presser.

That was back when John R. Hall was CEO of Ashland Oil, or Ashland Inc. as it probably was known at that time. It was also when Jeffboat and ACBL were owned by CSX. Yes, that CSX. The railroad company that was into several lines of business at the time. I remember asking Hall at the news conference if his position on the CSX board of directors had any bearing on Ashland's decision to have the barges built by Jeffboat. He said no, there was no connection.

Back to AO 102: I don't know what the barge was doing at Superior Marine. Was it being repaired? Upgraded? Dismantled? Converted into something else? None of the above? I don't know. I just know that the folks at Superior have invested a lot of money in expanding their business in recent years, and it was beyond interesting to see a big barge like that hauled out of the water for whatever work is being done on it.

UPDATE: I've been looking at the pictures of this barge closer up. I noticed that it could just as easily say A-Zero-One-Zero-Two as it could A-Oh-One-Zero-Two. So which is it? I don't know. But my memories about the trip to Jeffersonville stand.

If anyone knows what the numbers really are, please let me know.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A reason to visit Cleveland

In college in Athens, Ohio, I met a lot of people from the Cleveland area. Despite having one or two as good friends, I never really wanted to visit Cleveland. But now I do.

This item on a Crain's blog, which links to this article, talks about how Great Lakes boats must navigate a narrow river to deliver materials to industries along the Cuyahoga River. It makes me want to go up there and see them in action ... if there's a way and a place for a regular guy like me to get a good look.

(The first time I clicked the link to the story, it let me in. The second time, it said I needed to have an account. FYI.).

I've begun following a guy on Flickr who takes some pretty good pictures of lakers, and now I want to see them in action on open water. But watching one in action on a narrow river would be pretty cool, too.

Monday, April 10, 2017

15 barges

For the past two weeks, I've spent my days at the West Virginia Capitol covering the Legislature. It's been tiring, and it has kept me away from the river.

But the 2017 regular session ended Sunday, so this evening I was free to go back down to the river.

About nine months ago I was lamenting how I rarely saw boats pushing 15 barges loaded with coal. But around October, that began to change when I spent a day upriver in the Racine and Belleville pools. This evening I got to shoot a Crounse boat coming down river about sunset pushing 15 loads.

Perhaps coal has bottomed out on the river. We'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Still standing?

This is from March 10, on my most recent trip to Ironton, Ohio, to check out dismantling of the 95-year-old Ironton-Russell Bridge over the Ohio River.

This is the tower closest to the Ohio shore. The last photo I saw, the tower on the Kentucky side is gone. If this tower is still there, it won't be for long. I hope to get down there next weekend or the week after to see how things are going.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Catching up

This week has been an unusual one in that I spent it covering the regular session of the West Virginia Legislature for my employer. It looks like I missed a couple of river-related stories during that time.

First, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said the federal government has spent too much time studying problems at Montgomery, Dashields and Emsworth, and it's time to do something about them, particularly Emsworth.

We also learn that there are plans to build a gas-fired power plant at Hannibal, Ohio, near the Hannibal Locks and Dam, on the site of the former Ormet plant.

The week did have a high point, though, when the State Senate adopted a resolution recognizing the 200th anniversary of the ferry at Sistersville, W.Va.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

M/V Charleston on the Kanawha

My new employer issued me an iPhone 7, so I've been trying it out before I've had to put it to use for creating a photo worth publishing. Yesterday I saw the towboat Charleston of Amherst Madison easing up the Kanawha River at Charleston pushing one AEP barge.

So, I got a few pictures from a bridge. This is one.

This is an iPhone picture that I did a little HDR work to. Not much, though.

The phone seems to take good pictures, but I'm putting it through a few more tests, of course.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

DP&L says Stuart and Killen will close next year

The announcement came yesterday. Here is what I wrote for my employer's website today.

I wanted to ask the company exactly what unfavorable economic conditions existed. Was it the multiple ownership of the plants? Was it the cost of fuel? Could they not compete with cheaper power on the grid? Was it the cost of repairs to the explosion at Stuart a few weeks ago?

But the company would not comment beyond the state it issued.

All know is that several million tons of coal will not be delivered to the plant by barge 18 months from now. Some people hail that as a victory. Some see it as a calamity.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Catching up, 3/18/2017

Here are a few photos from the past six weeks or so that missed getting on here because I was always tinkering with them.

First, the M/V Steven J. Mason downbound at about Mile 302 or 303.

The M/V Georgetown a couple of miles below the Racine Locks and Dam.

If you want to give someone the idea that a place is dangerous, tell them that it's full of needles left behind by drug users. The thing is, I have heard that about several places, but I had never found a needle until last month, when this one floating was with some drift and trash.

The stacks of the Gavin power plant,

Under the Russell, Ky., side of the Ironton-Russell Bridge, currently in the process of being dismantled.

What was it NBC said back in the 1990s when it wanted us to watch "Seinfeld" reruns? If you haven't seen it, it's new to you? The M/V Chris has been around a while, but this was the first time I saw it here in the Huntington area. At least I don't offhand remember having seen it before.

And here's the M/V Hoosier State passing Huntington one evening as darkness was afalling.

That's about it for now. I've seen where some boats that I'm not familiar with have been passing through my area lately, but not when I've been able to get down to the river. We'll have to see if that changes this spring.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Back this weekend

Things are changing here on the Ross Estate, so blogging has been light. Let's figure I'll be back this weekend once I have the chance to adjust to the changes. Nothing bad. Nothing exceptionally good. Just different.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


I'm no architect, so I can't begin to describe the designs of buildings or dams or bridges without running the risk of using the wrong vocabulary and sounding utterly foolish. But I do notice things sometimes.

Such as the piers of the old Ironton-Russell Bridge. This spring they will be blasted out of the water after the structural steel is removed from them. When I was in Russell, Ky., yesterday to get a look at how the demolition was proceeding, I noticed the bridge piers and found them interesting.

Modern bridge piers feature straight lines and all, but they lack the fine details that designers put into their work a hundred years ago or so. Take a look at the pier closest to the Kentucky shore and gaze at the details that were put into it.

Here is a closeup of the top of the pier.

And here's one at river level.

Remember, the river level is several feet higher than it was than when the bridge opened in 1922. Lock and Dam 30 maintained its pool at 490.5 feet above sea level. The Greenup Locks and Dam raised its pool in 1961 or thereabouts and maintains it at 515 feet, an increase of 24.5 feet.

All that makes me wonder what other details people used to be able to see but are hidden forever now.

That looks like a piece of angle iron or something that's been attached to the pier where the current hits it first. I don't know if it's original equipment or aftermarket.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's quiet now

For many years, when I would come to this spot at Russell, Ky., to look at the Ironton-Russell Bridge, there was this constant rumble of cars and trucks traveling over the steel grate used as a bridge deck. But since this past Thanksgiving week, the bridge has been silent.

Dismantling work has gone slowly for whatever reasons, giving the remaining steel a few more weeks above the river, as it has been since 1922.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

M/V Chris

About 20 years ago, NBC had a promo for its summer reruns. It went something like, "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you."

I cannot recall having seen the Crounse towboat Chris before, so I guess it was new to me.

This was when it passed Huntington the morning of March 8.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

New AEP logo

American Electric Power has adopted a new logo.

From the news release:

COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 8, 2017 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) today unveiled a new corporate logo and tagline as part of its focus on providing innovative energy solutions for customers and communities.
"AEP is investing in smarter energy infrastructure and new technologies to provide better service and cleaner energy for our customers. We’re committed to developing innovative energy solutions that power communities and improve lives. The energy industry is changing, and our customers’ expectations also are evolving, so we must adapt to meet those new expectations. As we become an energy company for the future, it’s time to adopt a new logo and a new tagline – Boundless Energy – to reflect that transformation and our aspirations," said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer.
In addition to the AEP corporate logo, AEP’s subsidiary logos have been updated with the new look. AEP’s seven electric utility subsidiaries serve more than 5.4 million customers in 11 states. Additionally, the company operates separate subsidiary companies that provide competitive electric and gas service in seven states, and custom energy solutions and renewable energy resources nationwide.
The new logo represents AEP’s first logo change since 1987 and is the result of research conducted by engaging customers, employees and other stakeholders as part of an extensive brand review. AEP and its subsidiaries will change logos on their main buildings in the coming months. Full adoption of the new logo will be phased in over the next two years.
The Shipyard, based in Columbus, Ohio, worked with AEP on the brand review and to develop the new logo and tagline.
I have emailed a person at AEP to ask if the new corporate logo will replace the stack logo on AEP's towboats. There has been no response so far. She's usually pretty good at replying to me, so I assume she's pretty busy today with this and other stuff.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Gavin plant

The General James M. Gavin Power Plant at Cheshire, Ohio, formerly owned by American Electric Power, now operating as a merchant plant.

This is the back side, as opposed to the side you see when traveling Ohio 7.

Too late

From what I've seen around the web, I may have been the only person who was not at the Racine Locks and Dam yesterday to see the M/V Austin C. Settoon moved through the dam, captured and taken to safety in the auxiliary lock.

In case you were wondering.

Friday, March 3, 2017

A ferry's bicentennial

The Anderson ferry at Cincinnati is 200 years old this year. Here's an article by my former coworker Scott Wartman, who used to work with me at the Huntington paper and who now writes for the Cincinati Enquirer.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Accident at Racine (updated)

There was an accident at the Racine Locks and Dam this morning when a tow broke apart while approaching the locks from above.

This is the second high-water accident I remember at Racine in the past three years. I don't know if it's a coincidence or if there is a problem with the upper approach in high water or what. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. That's for the experts to figure out, if they feel the need to ask.


This just in from the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

(T)he barges are carrying heating oil. It'll probably be at least 24 hours before they're moved - crews want to let the river crest and drop a bit before they move them. The barges and tow are tied off now and secured to the dam.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

After the storm

I was trying to think of something poetic or profound or humorous to say, but it never came out right, so here without comment are a couple of pictures of the 6th Street Bridge at Huntington, W.Va., this evening.

We had some storms move through earlier in the day. The ground is soaked and the river is up. That's about as deep as I get tonight.

Ingram layoffs

Not surprising, given the drop in coal shipments and the number of power plant retirements, but Ingram has laid off 47 people, according to this article in the Tennessean newspaper of Nashville.

Hunt declined to confirm that the drop in business is specifically related in part to a fall in coal shipments and Ingram Barge's reported loss last year of key public utility client The Dayton Power & Light Co.

The Tennessean references an article on about how the business of hauling commodities on the rivers is hurting. The online version of article was short, but it included this:

Even with record-large exports of corn and soybeans, typically a boon for shippers that haul grain to Gulf Coast export terminals, the collapse of coal shipments to the lowest levels in decades has left the dry bulk barge fleet chasing too little cargo.
In pursuit of rising grain volumes since 2014, many shippers expanded their fleets too quickly.

I did a piece a year and a half ago about how Campbell Transportation knew the coal business was in decline, so it was preparing to move into other types of cargo and services.

As for the future, as editorial writers say, it remains to be seen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

GAO studies problems at the Olmsted Locks and Dam

It's raining here in Cabell County, W.Va., today, which means my internet service is cutting in and out. Let's see if it stays on long enough to post this.

The Waterways Journal has an article this week about a Government Accountability Office report on the Olmsted Locks and Dam, mainly about how it got so far behind schedule and over budget. Basically, the GAO report says what's been said many times before, that the "in-the-wet" method of building the dam, in which parts were build on shore and floated into place and submerged, was far more expensive and time-consuming than the traditional method of building dams in the dry by using cofferdams.

I've downloaded the whole report. Sometime this week when I can read through it carefully, I'll have a followup entry. Skimming through it, I was reminded of a dialogue in the Michael Crichton novel "The Lost World", his sequel to "Jurassic Park". If all you know of "The Lost World" is the movie that came out about 20 years ago, you need to read the book. Most of the characters are different, and it tackles the topic of mass extinctions.

More later.

Monday, February 27, 2017

M/V Vernon M. Weiland

This boat passed Huntington yesterday evening just before the sun set.

As this boat went around the bend and out of sight, I saw another one coming down the river about three miles upstream. I would have stayed around to shoot it but (a) I had to be somewhere to pick someone up, and (b) in the half hour the boat would take to reach me, darkness would be falling. So I left.