Sunday, May 31, 2009

Valvoline at Catlettsburg KY

My son had a pool party in Ceredo WV today, meaning I had two peaceful hours along the river. I spent most of it at Virginia Point Park at Kenova WV. The park is where the Big Sandy River empties into the Ohio River. Usually, you see a lot of activity, but whether it was a Sunday or the recession or whatever, no much was going on.

Downriver, I did see a Marathon Petroleum towboat, so I drove over to Catlettsburg KY to take a look at it. It was one of my favorites, the Valvoline.

The boat itself looked okay, but when I enlarged the photo, I noticed the reflection of the barges in the pilothouse window. Take a look.

On second thought, that doesn't work so well at this size. Never mind.

Heat shimmer

I was standing under the trestle leading to the Norfolk Southern bridge over the Ohio River at Kenova WV today, getting pictures of the repeating patters of steel members. I was kind of disappointed that I hadn't seen a train go over while I was there, but then I heard a train coming from the West Virginia side. I was able to get this shot from below. When I looked at an enlarged version on my computer when I got home, I noticed there is some heat shimmer visible above the locomotive.

Canada goslings

Adam and I went to Harris Riverfront Park yesterday to look for juvenile Canada geese. We saw three. I was disappointed that they were not smaller, but c'est la vie. When they left the boat ramp, we noticed the three juveniles stuck with one adult.

A church with a view

I think this is the Defender United Methodist Church of Bradrick OH, right between Chesapeake and Proctorville OH and across from the Highlawn neighborhood of Huntington WV. It has a great view of the Ohio River, and the Ohio River as a great view of it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

No fireworks in Steubenville bridge demolition

Bummer. The Ohio Department of Transportation is planning to take down one of three bridges over the Ohio River connecting Steubenville OH with WV next year, but it's not planning to use explosives. It will take the old bridge down piece by piece.

Details are in the Wheeling Intelligencer.

When I heard the old bridge was coming down, I was hoping Adam and I could see some explosions of the type we didn't get to see in Pomeroy. But apparently not.


Bridge, backlit

Huntington's East End bridge, backlit by the morning sun, in black and white.

Friday, May 29, 2009


My 9-year-old son, Adam, has been disappointed that we were not able to make it to Pomeroy OH to see any part of the old Pomeroy-Mason Bridge demolished by explosives. The last steel came down yesterday, according to the Point Pleasant Register.

But there's hope we could get to see the concrete piers removed. Prep work will take a few weeks. If I'm still looking for work or if I'm freelancing, we might be able to get up there if we know when the blasting will take place.

Marina moved

Yesterday afternoon, after dropping my daughter and her friend off at Pullman Square, I wandered over to Harris Riverfront Park to look around. I saw this and thought a dredge was about to clean mud from the park dock area.  I looked again and realized it was a marina.

The first thought in my head was that these slips came from the one up at Guyandotte that sank a while back. The boat pushing them was a local boat -- not made for a lot of long-distance trips. This morning on the 6 a.m. news, WSAZ-TV reported that it was indeed from Guyandotte, and that this dock will be added to the one already at the upper end of HRP.

Kid's pics

You hand your 9-year-old son your camera and tell him to take a picture of a towboat, and he might want to get creative. That's what happened this April at Virginia Point Park at Kenova WV when Adam and I went down there to look for towboats. He saw the George King sitting in the water near the shore, and this is what he did.

He also saw the Dreama Klaiber coming out of the Big Sandy turning downriver toward Catlettsburg, Ky., so he got  few snaps of it, too.

That's Catlettsburg behind the boat, of course.

The kid likes taking pictures of towboats. And school buses. And about any other piece of large transportation equipment he sees. Kind of like his father.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ingram closing Huntington dock

There was an article in The Herald-Dispatch this morning that Ingram Marine will close its rail-to-river terminal here in Huntington WV on May 31. The article quoted Ingram officials as giving several reasons for the closing, including lack of long-term contracts and not being able to do continuous blending of coal.

The fact the terminal will close saddened me but it didn’t surprise me. For several weeks, I’ve been watching statistics related to cargo movement on the Ohio River, and they have not been good.

It started when a person asked me why she saw a lot of barges tied up to the river bank in this area. It intensified when I noticed that many of my favorite towboats were not moving on the river. Some of them are idle -- all tied up with no place to go.

This chart shows the change in tonnage at the two locks and dams closest to Huntington. I chose these locks partly because they are the ones I am most familiar with and partly because they are the first ones above and below the mouth of the Big Sandy, where a lot of coal comes out for movement on the Ohio.

Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam 

1/1 to 5/21/06 1/1 to 5/21/08 1/1 to 5/21/09 Pct chg, 08-09 Pct chg, 06-09

Coal 15,591,081 12,070,237 11,361,419 -5.87% -27.13% 

Other 8,122,427 6,953,216 4,992,268 -28.20% -38.54% 

Total 23,713,508 19,023,453 16,353,687 -14.03% -31.04%  

Greenup Locks and Dam  

1/1 to 5/21/06 1/1 to 5/21/08 1/1 to 5/21/09 Pct chg, 08-09 Pct chg, 06-09 

Coal 17,189,381 12,685,718 12,386,497 -2.36% -27.94% 

Other 11,248,337 9,497,345 7,628,744 -19.67% -32.18% 

Total 28,437,718 22,183,063 20,015,241 -9.77% -29.62%  

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

You can see that tonnage is down this year compared to last year, and it’s way down compared to the recent highs recorded just three years ago.

A person who knows the local river industry told me recently that boats are tied up and crews are laid off, but that was before the Ingram announcement.

The Ingram loading dock was formerly owned and operated by Ohio River Co. Ingram acquired Ohio River Co. a few years ago, and I suppose it took over the dock. I remember getting a tour of the place in the 1980s. Around 1980, Ohio River Co. installed a rotary dump. A rail car loaded with 100 to 120 tons of coal would go into the dock and be rotated maybe 150 degrees. Its entire load would fall into a pit, and a conveyor would load the coal onto a barge.

Many times, CSX trains going to the dock would block 5th and 3rd avenues in Huntington. Those are four-lane, one-way streets carrying U.S. east and west, respectively, through town. The trains are annoying at times, but they represented jobs and Huntington’s role as a major shipping point for coal. It’s two or three dozen miles from Huntington to the nearest active coal mine, but the city and this region are important points for moving coal.

By the way, Ingram is one of the largest haulers of cargo on this part of the Ohio River. I don't have the exact stats handy, but you can figure Ingram and AEP are the top two, based on how often I see their boats out there.

Under the East End bridge

I had to go out early this morning to drop one person off and pick one person up. On the way back home, we passed through the Guyandotte neighborhood of Huntington. The clouds were low and gray, and I wanted to get a picture of the East End bridge against that background.

I went to the boat ramp and to the spot between the last land pier and the river and got a few verticals. I turn the camera back around and snapped a couple of horizontals, including this one.

The image has not been altered or corrected. It's how the camera saw the scene before I started playing with the various settings. I was going to get a few more photos, but I happened to look to the west and saw this big gray curtain hanging over everything. I knew it wasn't fog, so I ran up the hill to my car. It was sprinkling when I got inside. A few seconds later, the rain came down heavy.

A few months ago, I got a photo similar to this one, but it was in the fog. All you could see were the bridge deck and the pier, and their reflections in the water. You couldn't see at bit of the Ohio shore.

mv. Tri-State

This is one of my favorite towboats on the Ohio River -- the Tri-State, owned by Marathon Petroleum Co. I rode this boat from Parkersburg WV to South Point OH on May 10, 1980, I think. That would have been 12 years to the day before my daughter was born.

At the time I rode it, the Tri-State was owned by Ashland Oil, which later became Ashland Inc., which later sold its refining and marketing operations to Marathon.

For a long time, I rarely saw the Tri-State around here. This year I've seen it at least three times, with two of them being at the mouth of the Big Sandy River.

This photo was taken along WV 2 near Greenbottom in Cabell County.

First entry

Welcome to the universe of a guy who grew up along the Ohio River and whose earliest memories revolve around it. I'll be writing about and photographing the river, bridges, dams, boats, river towns, river roads and whatever else involves America's greatest river.