Thursday, July 30, 2009

mv. Mountain State

Through the Internet, I'd been following the mv. Mountain State on its trip up the Ohio River for a couple of days. When I got up this morning, I saw where it had been through the Greenup Locks and Dam and should be in Huntington soon. I caught up with it at Harris Riverfront Park, where an AEP van was parked on the boat ramp. Two men were there for a crew exchange and to deliver some materials to the boat.

The photo shows a small boat from the Mountain State bringing three crew members to shore. Three got off, and two got on.

This photo gives me good pictures of three of AEP's four new 6,000-horsepower boats. All I need now is a good one of the Buckeye State and I can move on.


The AEP Mariner was at the park last year for the Maritime Days celebration, and it was the most popular of the boats there. I watch boats from the shore, so I don't know what all's going on inside the boats. And it had been a while since I was on one.

People were impressed when they heard that the AEP Mariner -- and, I assume, the Chuck Zebula, the Mountain State and the Buckeye State -- have vibration absorption systems. And the size of the kitchen on the AEP Mariner was impressive.

Something else that interested this shore dweller was a display in the pilothouse that identified approaching vessels. Ah, technology.

Sometimes great experiments in technology fail, such as Ohio River Company's use of Number 6 diesel fuel and controlled-pitch propellers in the Omar and Omega in the 1980s.

If "fail" is too strong a word, let me know. As I said, I'm a land dweller who's not on the river to get all the inside info and all the interesting gossip.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Memories from 20 years ago

For now, I’m an unemployed newspaper reporter and editor. Soon, I will more than likely be an u nderemployed journalist, working whatever jobs I can until one or two of my kids graduates from high school and the business model for news and information adjusts to the realities of the Internet age.

This morning, I was putting a load of laundry into the washer when I decided to check into my Ohio River archives to see if I had a certain document that would help me write one or more books that have been in my head for a while. They’re the kind of books that even if they sell a dozen copies, I want for my descendants to have in their hands. As I have the time, I might as well write.

So I looked for that document, and I found much, much more. Among other things, I found a bag containing a dozen boxes of Kodachrome slides from the 1980s.

There were slides I shot of the first trip of the Mississippi Queen this far up the Ohio River, in 1985. There were some of the old locks at the Gallipolis Locks and Dam during dewatering and repair operation the following year. Some showed the old towboat Valvoline, the one in use before the one now bearing that name, in the winter of 1986-87. I saw boats of the old M/G Transport Services and the Ohio River Company.

Best of all were the photos of a weeklong trip in 1986 that I called the Ohio River Road. I drove both sides of the Ohio, from Point Pleasant to Pittsburgh to Cairo back to Point Pleasant.

Those photos include the sternwheeler Donald B at Ripley, Ohio. There was the tree at the mouth of the famous cave at Cave-in-Rock. I wondered if the old store at Golconda, Ill., or the one along U.S. 60 in Daviess County, Ky., are still there. I seriously doubt the one at Golconda is, and I kind of doubt the old building in Kentucky is still there. I hope I’m wrong.

There was Lock and Dam 52, with the wickets up and a boat locking through. There was Lock and Dam 53, with the wickets down and an upbound and a downbound boat taking turns going over the navigable pass.

And there were photos of the Cannelton Locks and Dam up close, as a contact who lived near it took me to the locks in his boat. And there was a view of the Cannelton Locks and Dam from a hill in Kentucky.

One thing I learned from looking at those slides was that I didn’t take enough notes, and I have to match slide numbers with other clues to determine what dam or bridge or part of the river I’m looking at. I had to determine that one of the dams I stopped at was Newburgh and one was Smithland.

If I decide to write that book or those books, I’ll have to convert those Kodachrome transparencies to digital format. For now, as working copies, I could put my Olympus on a tripod and take photos of the slides projected on a screen. Sooner or later, I'll need to get a pro-quality scanner.

There are many, many more slides and prints in my collection. I’ve been shooting with SLR cameras since 1976. Going through them all is going to be a lot of work and a lot of fun.

Eight ducklings

This morning, in the middle of a set of errands, my youngest and I stopped at Harris Riverfront Park to feed three bagels and a bag of bird seed to the geese and ducks there. We were surprised by a mama duck and eight little ducklings. Eight cute, entertaining ducklings.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two boats passing Huntington WV

Scenes from downtown Huntington this evening.

First, the Sylvia H heads into the setting sun while traveling downbound without barges. I admit I'll have to look up the insignia on the stacks.

Then, I saw this boat coming downriver, with the East End bridge providing a nice background.

Then the boat passed under the 6th Street bridge. I didn't get its name. I hope to find it tomorrow morning, though. And maybe find out what's going on with it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More on hydrokinetic power

The Courier-Journal of Louisville has an article on hydrokinetic development possibilities on the Ohio River. As noted a while back on this blog, McGinnis Inc. of South Point OH is looking into the feasibility of placing barges with generating turbines in the Ohio and Kanawha rivers.

Two things hit me early on in the article:

The barges, with submerged turbines, would each generate relatively little electricity — enough to power about 260 typical homes.

But as Congress moves closer to requiring utilities to get electricity from renewable sources like water and wind, entrepreneurs think small-scale projects will add up to fill the demand.


“It fits into the grand scheme of things, with going green,” said Bruce D. McGinnis Sr., president of the Ohio company. He said there's a chance to make money not only from the sale of electricity, but from the sale of renewable energy credits that could be created by federal climate change legislation.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jeffboat layoffs

Jeffboat is laying off about 10 percent of its work force at its barge-making operation in Jeffersonville, Ind.

This announcement didn't surprise me, as I have noticed the number of barges tied to the bank in my part of the Ohio River. 

The layoffs don't affect the transportation division.

This reminds me of an old-time story that geezers like me start to tell, and young folks on the receiving end give you that smile like they're thinking, "Finish this boring story, please." So I'll let it go.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two morning photos

I love taking river photos in the morning and in the evening. The light is so much better, and if you park yourself in the right place, you can get some nice effects.

This morning I had to be out on an errand. I stopped by the East End bridge and saw the sun low on the horizon.

Before I left home, I checked the position of the AEP boat Chuck Zebula, which I knew was in the area, and noticed it left the Gallipolis Locks and Dam heading downbound at 4:30 a.m. At 8 to 10 mph, that would put it in the Huntington area around 7 to 7:30 a.m. So I waited and saw the boat come around the bend at old Lock and Dam 27. I waited for it to pass my position on the West  Virginia side -- there are few places on Route 2 in that area where a person can park and shoot the river.

When it passed, the sun came out from behind the clouds and we get this view where the rear-facing parts of the boat are in sun, and the port side is in shadow.

About a year ago, I got a similar photo of this same boat heading upriver past Clipper Mills OH.

As I said, I love shooting in early morning and in the evening.

mv. Tri-State

Leaving Big Sandy harbor, heading downriver.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yvonne Conway again

After I had posted the other photos of the Yvonne Conway passing Huntington WV today, I looked at some of the others that I took from the sidewalk on the 6th Street bridge. I had enlarged one picture to get a positive ID on the boat, but as I did that, I noticed several things about it that I liked.

This picture was taken at the limits of my equipment and my software, but it still works for me. I don't get this good of a photo from this angle very often.

But the best part to me is that the Yvonne Conway, from this angle, is about the same width as a jumbo barge. Thus, you see the boat and the outer two ranks (chess term; I don't know the proper river term) of barges -- timberheads and all. You see how the piles of coal curve. And you see the turbulence caused by the propellers.

Anyway, I like this shot, and it's probably going into my picture album of Top Ten of July 2009. 

Yvonne Conway

The Yvonne Conway of Crounse Corp. passed Huntington today, downbound with 12 loads of coal.

I had to get this shot of how these barges were tied together.

Going under one bridge...

... and heading toward another.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tired of tires

Tired of tires in the river? Then check out this site,  which tell of people who volunteer to remove this unsightly debris from their local rivers. If I had a pickup and a place to dispose of these things, I might offer to pick a few from the banks of the Ohio -- but only the ones I didn't have to dig out of the mud. There are a lot that are partially buried, and I'm not as young as I used to be.

For those who don't want to click on links, the site is

The photo above was one I took at the Guyandotte boat ramp last year. I posted it to my Flickr site.

Why coal movements are down

Here's one reason less coal is  moving on the Ohio River: Demand for electricity generated by  coal is down, due in large part because industrial facilities are shut down or operating at reduced hours.

This could be seen coming, though,  considering the cutbacks at Century Aluminum near Ravenswood WV.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

mv Tennessee

So much happened today that it will take two or three entries to get it in. First, I saw the Tennessee a couple times. First, as it passed under the East End bride at Huntington.

A few minutes later, it had moved upriver.

A few hours later, it was entering the locks at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. This photo was taken from about a mile and a half away on Sunnyside Drive.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Traffic still down

So I took a few minutes today to see how cargo traffic is moving at various points on the Ohio River. As I suspected, it's down this year. The slowdown is greatest in the Pittsburgh area and least in the area from Louisville to Evansville.

Anyway, here's the chart of total tonnage through each of the 20 locks and dams on the Ohio River.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


One nice thing about concrete-deck bridges painted white is that they reflect different kinds of light in different ways. In this case, Huntington's East End bridge reflects speckles of light from the river surface.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hydroelectric and hydrokinetic update

A short roundup on what's going on nationally regarding new hydroelectric and hydrokinetic power plants can be found here at the PennEnergy site. It has two paragraphs regarding the Ohio River up high.

And the Gallipolis Daily Tribune has a piece on what American Municipal Power has planned for the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jeffrey A. Raike

So I saw an AEP towboat heading down past Huntington, so I went down to the 6th Street bridge over the Ohio River to get a few shots. I'm pretty sure it was the Jeffrey A. Raike.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Silver Memorial Bridge

The Silver Bridge -- between Point Pleasant WV and Kanauga OH -- opened to traffic in mid-1928 and fell into the Ohio River on Dec. 15, 1967. It was up for about 39 1/2 years. Two years to the day after the old bridge fell, the Silver Memorial Bridge opened. It has been open except for a few weeks in 1977 when some steel members had to be repaired.

So now we can note that the Silver Memorial Bridge has been up longer than the bridge it replaced.

Perhaps sometime I'll relate my limited memories of the collapse of the old bridge -- I was a teenager then -- but not today.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You say 'tugboat.' I say 'towboat.'

According to The Associate Press, there are too many inexperienced tugboat pilots working on the nation's rivers.

I don't work on the river, so I have no idea what's going on out there now. If the AP had done a little homework, it would have asked how the situation is right now, considering the amount of freight moved on the Ohio River at least is down.

When I worked at the newspaper in Huntington WV, I was known as the guy who hated it when people used "tugboat" and "towboat" interchangeably. In this case, if you're going to write an in-depth or investigative news article, at least get the vocabulary right.

We once had a reporter whose first language was not English. It was told to him that he got the names of two fruits mixed up. His reply: "Grape, grapefruit -- what's the difference?"

Or am I too picky?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

South American towboats

A South American towboat pilot named Gustavo Di Iroio has posted photos of towboats on that continent on his Flickr site. What makes it so cool for us Yanks (not Yankees; I can't stand the baseball team of that name) is that most or all of the boats he's posted photos of so far are former American boats that were sold south.

One of them is an old St. Louis Ship-built boat of design similar to the old Ohio River Co. boats I wrote about a few days ago.

Seeing his pictures is a delight.

It reminds me that in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Dravo built some Viking class towboats for delivery to China. That sticks out in my memory. I might be wrong, but I'm sure I'm not dreaming it. There was at least one article in the Waterways Journal, I think. If this is all wrong, someone please let me know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


If my count is correct, six of the 20 navigation locks and dams on the Ohio River have hydroelectric plants: Hannibal, Belleville, Greenup, Markland and McAlpine. Four were built in the 1980s and 1990s. American Municipal Power recently began construction on one at Cannelton.

Ideas have been floated for using the Ohio River current to generate power without attaching a power plant to a dam. One of the more recent is by McGinnis Inc. of South Point OH.

According to records at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, McGinnis has filed applications to study the feasibility of three “hydrokinetic” generating facilities in the Ohio River below the Robert C. Byrd, Newburgh and McAlpine locks and dams. All information is copied and pasted from the FERC Web site.

At Robert C. Byrd (formerly Gallipolis):

The proposed Robert C. Byrd Project would be located just downstream of the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam in an area of the Ohio River approximately 9,500-feet-long and 1,100-feet-wide and would consist of: (1) a single barge suspending up to 10 axial flow turbine generators into the river with a total installed capacity of 350 kilowatts;  (2) a new 300 to 8,000-foot-long, 13.5-kV transmission line; and (3) appurtenant facilities. The project would have an estimated average annual generation of 1,533  megawatt-hours. 

At Newburgh: 

The proposed project would consist of: (1) a 100 to 300-foot-long by 20 to 52-foot-wide barge spudded down to the riverbed; (2) 10 6-8-foot-long by 6-8-foot-diameter turbine-generators mounted in line along the side of the barge; (3) one armored, high-voltage cable transmitting the generated power to the existing transmission line located adjacent to the proposed project area; and (4) appurtenant facilities. The proposed project would generate about 1,533 megawatt-hours. 

At McAlpine:

The proposed project would consist of: (1) a 100 to 300-foot-long by 20 to 52-foot-wide barge spudded down to the riverbed; (2) 10 6-8-foot-long by 6-8-foot-diameter turbine-generators mounted in line along the side of the barge; (3) one armored, high-voltage cable transmitting the generated power to the existing transmission line located adjacent to the proposed project area; and (4) appurtenant facilities. The proposed project would generate about 1,533 megawatt-hours. 

Whether any of this is feasible I have no idea, of course. That’s what engineers are paid to decide. And the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard will have to get involved, along with other federal agencies, as impacts on the environment, navigation, recreation and other uses are considered.

This is one of those times that I miss being a full-time newspaper person.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Water quality

For a Pittsburgh writer's take on water quality issues with the Ohio River, click here.

The old Ohio River Company boats ... with updates

One warm, sunny morning in late 2007, I found myself at Virginia Point Park at Kenova WV staring at the towboat Ohio making a tow. It appeared to be picking up loaded coal barges. Thanks to how barges are tied close to the bank there, I was able to shoot several wonderful photos of the old boat and its crew.

A few months later, on a sunny day at the mouth of the Guyandotte River, I saw the Ohio coming down the Ohio River. It slowed as a motorboat was lowered into the water and came to shore to drop off a crewman and his suitcase. I followed the boat down the river and got some good shots of it passing under the 6th Street bridge.

For a couple of weeks, I followed the Ohio as it traveled up and down the Ohio and onto the Monongahela, hoping to catch it in this area again. You see, the old Ohio River Co. boats with their curved lines and distinctive pilothouses were some of the earliest that I can recall from having grown up on the banks of the Ohio.

Earlier this year, I noticed that some of the boats were appearing less frequently in the lists of those using Ohio River locks. In April, I found them tied to the shore of the Kanawha River about a mile above its mouth, victims of the slowdown in river traffic. This photo was taken from the berm of old U.S. 35 near sunset.

I miss those old boats. The Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and others were instantly recognizable as Ohio River Co. boats, and many times as I lay in bed at night I could recognize them by the sounds of their engines.

I don’t have the time or resources to do a definitive history on this particular class of boat, but I do remember many of them: The Orco (now the Ohio), the L. Fiore (Pennsylvania), Robert P. Tibolt (Indiana), Wm. H. Zimmer, Bob Benter, John Ladd Dean and City of Huntington among them. If I recall correctly, the Bob Benter made history by being the first to use the new locks at the Greenup Locks and Dam in the late 1950s as the dam was being built.

Yesterday, my sons and I saw the Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana tied up at the same spot on the Kanawha. The Pennsylvania and the Indiana may have been out recently, but I think the Ohio has been there for a while. It’s a shame. I prefer the Ohio over the other two because its pilothouse has not been raised and it retains its original lines.

I look forward to shooting these boats again when they’re back on the river.

Here are a couple of photos of them on the river.

First, the Indiana last December as it approached the Gallipolis Locks and Dam:

And the Pennsylvania on Memorial Day weekend as it headed upriver, approaching Gallipolis OH:

Update 1: The photo above was from Memorial Day 2008, not this year. Sorry for omitting the year.

Update 2: This from a contact who goes by the handle towboatin46:
These two boats are sisters but the Pennsylvania was repowered and the pilothouse raised along the way. The old Ohio River Company boats and their unique design by St Louis Shipbuilding are some of my favorites. Madison Coal has kept a similar paint scheme as ORC originally had.

And this from wvtowboater:
... Of all the times I've seen these boats, I never realized some of the subtle differences between the sisters, having never seen them tied up side by side like this before. You may have been able to recognize these boats before by the sound of their engines, but that probably won't be the case anymore since MCS finished repowering all of their Fairbanks Morse powered boats with EMDs near the beginning of the year. 

Comments from a photo on my Flickr site that I did not run here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A new friend

Adam and I had to make a grocery run this morning. On the way to the store, we stopped at Harris Riverfront Park at Huntington WV to give some bread and bird seed to the ducks, geese and pigeons. No geese today. But we did make friends -- more or less -- with this little gal.

She was exceptionally aggressive in beating the adult ducks and pigeons to the food. She tried to get to the river a few times with her mama, but always returned when we tossed more food her way.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Population changes along the river (updated)

It's been 23 years since I spent much time along the lower Ohio River. The journalist in my blood makes me want to return. Reviewing some data from the Census Bureau makes that desire stronger.

Today the Census Bureau released its population estimates for cities and minor civil subdivisions such as townships. I checked the population estimates for about 20 cities along the Ohio, and almost all of them have fewer people than in 2000. Now the estimates are based on a lot of data that are collected, and the further you get from the actual head count every 10 years, the more chance the estimates are off.

I found six cities on my list that have more people now than in 2000: Maysville KY, Cincinnati, Louisville, Henderson KY, Owensboro KY and Madison IN.

So I checked the population estimates for each county along the Ohio, and it's clear that counties near the major cities are gaining people, while those elsewhere are losing people. The losses are greatest at each end of the river. That's particularly true in the lower end. Alexander and Pulaski counties in Illinois -- closest to the mouth of the Ohio -- have seen population losses of about 15 and 13.2 percent, respectively.

In fact, no Illinois county along the river has seen its population increase since 2000. Massac County comes the closes to being stable, with a loss of less than 1 percent, which could be within the margins of error of how the Census Bureau makes its estimates.

Counties at the other end of the river also are losing people, from Pittsburgh to both sides of the river along West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.

I'm not familiar enough with either area to assume to know the causes. The lost of heavy manufacturing in the Northern Panhandle has affected that area. I have read some things about the lower river, but not nearly enough to speak with any hint of expertise.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

AEP Mariner

So I learn through the Internet that the AEP Mariner is heading my way. I go up the river, find the boat between Crown City and Miller OH and park myself at the boat ramp at Athalia OH to get some snaps.

While there, rain starts falling upriver. It falls for maybe two minutes where I am, but much longer a mile or two up the river where the boat is.

The boat is moving very slowly. Eventually it gets down to where I am. There's enough rain up the river to cover much of the surrounding countryside with a gray curtain, providing a solid background.

Later, the boat passes the upper end of Huntington WV.

A very wise man once said that any boat worth photographing is worth photographing passing under Huntington's East End bridge. Okay, that was me. But I got the photo anyway.

And it heads downriver. I have to leave because I need to drive my daughter to work. So it's good-bye to the AEP Mariner for this trip.