Monday, November 30, 2009

Three in a row

I was driving up the Ohio side of the river Sunday and I saw the Linda Reed ahead of me. Then I saw another boat ahead of it; it looked like one of the old Ohio River Co. boats. So I sped up a little to reach a certain spot where I like to get river pictures. As I was shooting the old boat and the new one heading upriver, I saw a Marathon Petroleum canal boat heading down the river toward me.

So I waited and for the first time in years I got three moving boats in one picture.

For the record, these three boats are the Pennsylvania, the Linda Reed and the Speedway.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oldest and newest, so close (Updated)

Today I stopped by Catlettsburg KY figuring I'd see the Ohio River's oldest towboat and its newest, and I did.

The W.P. Snyder Jr. was across the river at South Point OH waiting for its new hull.

And the Detroit was at Catlettsburg harbor on its first trip this far up the Ohio River. It's recognizable by the non-square pilothouse. This was as good a view as I could get without actually getting out on the river.

Oh well.

UPDATE: The Daily Independent in Ashland KY has a story and photos this morning about how the Snyder will be repaired. It's worth a read.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another look at the Bridge of Honor

A blog called Ohio Hiker Photography has its take on the Bridge of Honor between Pomeroy OH and Mason WV. It's worth a look, partly because of a brief history of problems during the bridge's construction and partly because of a couple of nice photographs.

Power plants at night

I was taking the kids to grandma's house the other night. As I crossed the Silver Memorial Bridge, I looked upriver and saw the Kyger Creek power plant all lit up. So on the way home, I made a side trip to get a photo.

That's the Kyger Creek power plant in the foreground and the Gavin plant in the background. The Gavin plant is the one with the cooling towers. They're about a mile apart, both along the Ohio River and Ohio 7 near Cheshire, Ohio. This photo was taken a few miles down the road at the bend in the river at Addison, Ohio.

I'm still learning nighttime photography with a digital camera. After I posted this picture on Facebook, a pro photographer who I formerly worked with gave me a couple of tips.

I took several pictures over the course of two nights. I'll probably use them to illustrate a piece I'm writing about coal-fired power plants.

mv. Detroit

After  months of waiting, I can now say Marathon Petroleum's new boat, the mv. Detroit, is in the Greenup pool. The question is whether it will continue upriver after reaching Catlettsburg KY or turn around. I'll be watching the Corps of Engineers Web site to see. I have heard that this new boat is better looking than the new AEP and Crounse boats. I hope to determine that for myself this weekend if I can manage to catch the Detroit where I can get a good look at it. With camera in hand, of course.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coal-fired power plant canceled

American Municipal Power says it will not build a new coal-fired power plant in Meigs County, Ohio, as the price of the plant has increased significantly in recent months.

The plant was proposed for a site along the Ohio River. Now the company has to decide whether to build a different kind of plant on the site or pursue other strategies of meeting demand.

More, including local reaction, is available here and here. And here.

Happy Thanksgiving, all

As a character said in the most recent Indiana Jones movie, I've reached the point where life stops giving and starts taking away. But tonight I wrestled on the living room floor with a 5-year-old niece and a 3-year-old niece, along with my 10-year-old son. It was fun.

A week ago, I got so down about my employment situation that I started thinking of myself as Job. Then I read the first chapter or two of that book, and I remembered that all my troubles (that I know about) are financial. I and mine are healthy, and despite a few rough spots we get along. If money problems are the worst things in my life, I'm still truly blessed.

Enjoy the holiday.

Another pedestrian bridge over the Ohio

For a while, I've wanted to get down to Cincinnati to try out the Purple People Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River. After that will have to be a big project down in Louisville, where they're turning an old railroad bridge into a pedestrian bridge.

Fundraising is still going on. But it should be something grand when it's done.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Favorite towboats, part 10: the Omar and the Omega

For the final installment on my top 10 towboats, we turn to two boats that are memorable not for how they looked, but for how they sounded. Yes, they looked nice, but if you were in a house along the Ohio River, you knew when one of these boats was approaching. There would be a deep rumble, and loose objects would vibrate.

As the late Willie Wilson, who at the time was manager of Merdie Boggs and Sons at Catlettsburg KY said, these two boats could “talk to the wndows.”

They were the Omar and the Omega. They were built by St. Louis Ship in 1981, and they had two technological innovations, one or both of which produced the rumble and the rattles.

Here was how I explained it in a story in The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington WV on March 21, 1982:

Two new boats are turning the heads of river hands on the Ohio.

They are the M/V Omar and the M/V Omeg, two new vessels owned by Ohio River Co. as experiments in adapting seagoing technology on the inland waterways.

The boats are noted for their engines and their propellers.

The engines are capable of burning No. 6 diesel fuel, a thick liquid that must be heated to be pumped. After being blended with No. 2 diesel fuel, which the boats burn now, Ohio River Co. will spend only about three-fourths as much for fuel as it does for conventional boats. Considering the large amount of fuel a large towboat burns in one day, that amounts to substantial savings.

The other innovation on the boats are the controlled pitch propellers. In layman’s terms, the propeller blades swivel 180 degrees on their hubs. This eliminates reverse gear and also gives the pilot more control over the boats’ movements in tight spots. ...

I boarded the Omega to talk with its steersmen. They both were bothered by the vibration problem. One went about the pilothouse stuffing small pieces of paper into the ceilingtiles to eliminate the rattles. They could reduce the vibration some by keeping the stern fuel tank loaded, which kept the rear of the boat deeper in the water.

As for the propellers, the steersmen praised the boat’s handling.

That was then. The Ohio River Co. is gone, and the boats are owned by Ingram Barge. And the boats have been repowered. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Omar up this way. The Omega has been renamed the Erna E. Honeycutt and spends most of its time on the Mississippi.

They look similar to the Jackson H. Randolph and the W.H. Dickhoner, but the dimensions are a bit different. I try to look at those two when they’re in this area. It’s the closest I get to a visual reminder of what it was like along the Ohio when the Omar or the Omega was in this area.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Favorite towboats, part 9: mv. Charleston

Somewhere in the earliest of my memories are images of boats such as this one traveling the Ohio River in the early 1960s. One in particular was white with a peach-colored pilothouse. Seriously. But I have no recollection of what its name was.

R & W Marine had a boat something like this in the 1980s. It was painted red and white, and the pilothouse looked like it had been raised.

As best as I remember, this boat, the Charleston, seen here earlier this year at the Gallipolis locks, is closest to those old boats that I saw on the river nearly 50 years ago. A former coworker says this is the prettiest working boat she has seen on the river, and I'll not argue with her for now.

I love those curved lines.

Favorite towboats, part 8: mv. Linda Reed

I've written about this new boat before, so there's no need to spend a lot of time on this one, except that I like seeing it. My only problem is that most of the days that I'm able to catch it here in the Huntington area, the weather is less than ideal for photography.

Here Adam and I caught it on a sunny day right below Gallipolis OH, with the Nancy Sturgis on the  hip.

A coincidence and a discovery

Earlier today, as I was preparing to write about the mv. Tri-State, I looked through some of the photos I had taken of the boat in the past two years. In that process, I discovered a coincidence and something I hadn't noticed before.

I knew I had taken photos of the Tri-State and the James E. Anderson encountering each other at Kenova on July 20. The Tri-State was downbound and the Anderson was upbound. 

As I looked through my archive, I found photos I had taken on March 7. On that day, the Anderson was downbound and the Tri-State was either upbound or motionless, waiting for the Anderson to pass.

As I looked at the photo from March, I noticed an AEP boat at the McGinnis dock in the background. If I noticed it at the time, I figured it was either the AEP Mariner or the Chuck Zebula. But as I looked at this second photo today, I noticed the glass on the pilothouse. Although the sun's glare hides most of the name, the boat has to be the Buckeye State.

And here I thought I hadn't seen the Buckeye State until May 22. My son Adam thought he hadn't seen it until this month, but he was with me that day in March.

Not a major discovery, but an interesting one for Adam and me nevertheless.

Favorite towboats, part 7: the mv. Tri-State

You don't forget the first time you drove a car, the first time someone let you take the controls of a single-engine airplane, and you don't forget your first towboat ride.

In my case, the first drive was when I was 16. The guy who owned the small Cessna let me take the controls as we taxied down the runway toward takeoff for a trip over the Ohio River from Portsmouth OH to Huntington WV and back, and the first towboat ride was about the mv. Tri-State, then of Ashland Oil, now of Marathon Petroleum, in May 1980.

After that, I always enjoyed seeing the Tri-State on the Ohio, and nowadays I look for it on  the Internet when I'm checking boat locations.

As I said in an earlier post, these are not the "best" boats on the Ohio River. They're my favorites.


Top photo: The Tri-State as it heads up the Ohio River, with Lawrence County OH in the background.

Here, the Tri-State has picked up some loads and heads down river past Kenova WV.

Any picture worth using once is worth using twice. This is the Tri-State in the rain passing under the Silver Memorial Bridge at Point Pleasant WV, with Gallipolis OH in the background.


As best I remember from that 1980 trip, the captain was Jack Allen and the relief pilot was Junior Sizemore, who later moved on to the mv. Ashland. An Ashland Oil p.r. guy (Jim Butler, I think) and I joined the boat that chilly, foggy morning at Neale Island near Parkersburg WV. We locked through Belleville that morning and Racine in the afternoon.

We got to Gallipolis in late afternoon. Those were the days of the old, small locks right there in the bend of the river. The lockmaster was putting through boats in the order of three up and one down. I think we were second in line downbound, so we didn't get into the locks until around midnight, I think.

We made it to South Point OH around 8 or 9 a.m., I think.

That was almost 30  years ago. Wow.

Favorite towboats, part 6: Dravo pre-Vikings

Adam calls these boats the "pre-Vikings." They're what Dravo made before it made the Viking line in the 1970s and 1980s. A guy like me, who does not work in the river industry and who does not have access to its reference materials, has no idea what these things are really called.

And I cannot explain why I like them, although the fact they are all over the place here around Mile 310 may have something to do with it. They're almost as numerous as Crounse boats.


Top: The Harllee Branch Jr. at Huntington WV.

Here, the Lee Synnott passes the area of Lawrence County OH between Chesapeake and South Point.

The James E. Anderson prepares to go under the Norfolk Southern bridge at Kenova WV.

About a week ago, the James E. Anderson passed Huntington right before sunset.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cool pics on Flickr

If you want to see some nice pictures of a recent towboat trip on the Ohio River, get on over to the towboatin46 photostream on And you don't have to tell him ohio981 sent you.

mv. Detroit

Marathon Petroleum's new towboat, the Detroit, is operating on the lower Ohio River. As soon as it gets up this way, I'll try to get some pics.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A gray day

After two and a half weeks of dry sunny weather, rain and gray skies returned to the Huntington area today. Man, I missed April in November.

But after enduring a week of December in October, today wasn't so bad.

Here, the mv. Mary Harter prepares to go under the East End bridge.

Rain fell in late morning, creating interesting ripples and such on the surface of the Ohio River.

And here's my favorite bridge under those not-so-great skies.

A new road and a new bridge

In the summer of 1986, I drove both sides of the Ohio River, from Point Pleasant WV to Pittsburgh, down the north side to Cairo IL and back to Point Pleasant. I expected some surprises, but one thing did not surprise me: Some of the prettiest countryside along the Ohio River was along Ohio 124 south of Belpre OH, through a few miles of Athens County and into Meigs County.

Part of that road has been closed for nearly four years because of bank slippage. But on Monday, a replacement road routed farther from the river opened, according to an article in The Parkersburg (WV) News.

Parts of the old road are open as a county road. Somehow, sometime I have to get up there to look at what they did to this wonderful road.


The new Ohio River bridge at Madison IN has moved up on the state's priority list and could be open for traffic in about three years, according to an article in The Madison Courier.

This is one project that I'll have to scrape up the money to go see once it gets started. There's always room on my hard drive for photos of a new Ohio River bridge. Or an old one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Favorite towboats, part 5: The Dravo Viking class

It's funny how there's never a Viking around when you need one.

In the 1970s and 1980s, I got all sorts of photos of the Dravo Viking-class towboat on my section of the Ohio River. I was away for nearly 17 years. When I aimed my new camera at the river, it seemed the Viking boats had been replaced by other makes.

Yes, the R. Clayton McWhorter comes around every now and then. By coincidence, I found a photo I took of the boat in the 1980s when it was the Steel Rover, and it was taken in the same spot where I got a photo a couple of months ago.

Sometimes I see the Pamela Dewey or the Capt. John Reynolds or another Viking boat in this area, but not nearly as often as I would like.

My liking of these boats has nothing to do with their power, their handling, their durability or anything like that. Of those things, I know nothing. I only know that the Viking class boat makes for some good photos. I could fill a small book with what I have shot of these boats from various angles.

The down side of all this is that I really don't know much about the Viking class of boats. If anyone can point me to a library or an online resource, I would be much appreciative.

In the meantime, I'll continue looking for new angles and different lighting in which to shoot these boats. Their clean lines do a picture well.


Top photo: The mv. Pamela Dewey prepares to enter the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam earlier this year.

Here, the mv. R. Clayton McWhorter passes Huntington WV downbound this summer. My favorite bridge is in the background.

The mv. Capt. John Reynolds heads upstream past Huntington this past summer. That's the Proctorville OH area in the background.

And the mv. Neil N. Diehl has just left the Ohio River and heads up the Kanawha River, traveling lightboat on Christmas Day 2008. That's the CSX railroad bridge in the background.


One more thing. Where I grew up in the 1960s, most people pronounced Dravo as DRAY-voe instead of Druh-VOE. I remember the Dravo barge line, and I remember when it merged with or acquired Union Mechling and became Dravo Mechling. And now Dravo Mechling is gone, too.


Here's a story about a rescue in the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. A construction worker jumped into the cold waters of the river to pull out a bicyclist who went in.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Favorite towboats, part 4: the J.S. Lewis

I haven't seen this boat working on the river for a while, but it makes an appearance every year at the local National Maritime Days celebrations. The J.S. Lewis started life in 1931 as a coal burner. On the first deck, there's a framed newspaper clipping of the boat receiving a ticket from the city of Cincinnati for violating air pollution regulations because of the amount of smoke it created by burning coal.

The J.S. Lewis is one of the oldest boats on the river. I don't get to see it often, but it's always a pleasure when I do.

Top: The J.S. Lewis entering the old Gallipolis locks a way long time ago.
Here, the J.S. Lewis leaves the old Gallipolis locks.

A boat that entered service in 1931 isn't likely to have a lot of high tech on it. Here are a control panel in the engine room and some of the controls in the pilothouse.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jefferson fire

Funny, isn't it, how if you spend the summer and fall taking pictures of boats, bridges, herons, ducks, geese, sunrises, sunsets, fog, dams, kids. leaves, buzzards and barns, that you look at your computer one day and notice that your hard drive has 3 GB  of free space left. So, you set about to delete the few photos you can live without.

Postings of new photos may be slower while I clear off some space. So allow me to dig way back to late December of 1977 for this photo. I was sitting at home, unemployed and looking for work (sounds familiar) when a newspaper called and asked if I could run over to Winfield WV on the Kanawha River to get a photo of a boat on fire. I did. It was the Jefferson.

The fire charred about everything forward of the smokestacks.

From all appearances, the Jefferson was an old towboat. I think I saw its remains on the bank of the Ohio River a few miles below Point Pleasant WV in 1980. I don't know what happened to it after that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Traffic down

The river has looked quiet here in the Huntington area for a couple of months. The numbers show how quiet it is.

Commercial traffic has been down for a few years. I compared lock numbers for October 08 vs. 09 for Greenup and Robert C. Byrd, the two locks closest to Huntington and the two with which I am most familiar. Total tonnage through Greenup was down about 16 percent. Through R.C. Byrd, 19 percent. Both are down about 27,000 tons of cargo per day. And both are seeing, on average, about 2.5 fewer commercial vessels per day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lost treasures found

I got to digging into my deep Ohio River archives today for the first time in a long time. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found some other treasures from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. Among them were photos of:

Deckhands on the mv. Nancy Sturgis locking through Gallipolis.

The mv. Tri-State right below the Gallipolis locks.

The L. Fiore locking through Racine.

The J.S. Lewis locking through Gallipolis.

A VW Beetle that had been converted into a pickup truck.

As time and money allow, I'll post a couple of these.

UPDATE: And I just found negatives of photos I took of the mv. Jefferson burning on the Kanawha River in December 1977.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Endangered species

A few years ago, when I worked for the newspaper in Huntington WV, I received notices of permit applications. If the work seeking a permit under the Clean Water Act was in the Ohio River, the notice would say the project was in the known or historic range of the following endangered species: the peregrine falcon, Kirtland's warbler, the Indiana bat and the pink pearly mucket mussel.

Now, five more species have been added to
the endangered species list nationally, and two of them are in the Ohio Valley: the diamond darter and the rabbitfoot mussel. I'll admit I hadn't heard of either of them until today. If I had, they probably wouldn't be endangered, would they?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ohio River macro

Despite all the photos of boats, bridges and other large objects, I point my camera downward, too. Here are a few pics I've gotten in the past few weeks.

Favorite towboats, part 3: The small Crounse boats

(This is the third in a series of my 10 favorite towboats on the Ohio River. They are presented in no particular order).

For a while this past summer, whenever I needed a towboat to fill out a landscape photo of the Ohio River here in the Huntington WV area, it seemed like I just had to wait five minutes and a Crounse Corp. boat would come along.

Yes, that's an exaggeration, but not by much. Crounse does a lot of work on this section of the Ohio, usually pushing coal. And the most distinctive of its boats are those small, one-engine vessels that have been around for a while.

I'll admit I don't know much about them. I can read about them in the Inland River Record, but that's not the same as setting foot on one or knowing someone in the company. The closest I've come was when I was walking along the river bank in the fall of 1983, I think it was. The main lock at Gallipolis was out, and towboats were tied up for miles along the river bank waiting their turn to use the small lock. I came across two guys who said they worked on the Crounse boat tied up across the river. They were sitting on the bank drinking their beer, and we made small talk, but nothing memorable.

The sound made by the engines on these boats was distinctive when I lived along the river. I didn't have to look toward the river to see who was passing when I heard it.

More information on these boats can be found here, including some interesting history of the overall design.

If I ever get the chance to get one of those boats or talk at length with someone who works on one, I'll take it.


Photo at top: The mv. Jincy passes Maysville Ky. That's Ohio in the background.

Here, the mv. Barbara runs lightboat as it passes Huntington WV.

Here's the Jincy again, about to enter the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam on an upbound trip this past April.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Odds and ends, 11/5/09

It looks like repairs to the Markland Locks and Dam might not be finished until next April, The Courier-Journal in Louisville reports.


As I have said before, people are so concerned about the pollution that comes out of the stacks of coal-fired power plants that they overlook what happens on land to ash and other residue. Up the river from Louisville, people are protesting plans by LG&E to build a coal ash pond larger than the one that collapsed in Tennessee last year. The pond would be on the Ohio River flood plain, and some folks are worried about what would happen to Louisville's drinking water if that pond's walls were breached. Here's a story in The Chicago Tribune about it. Here's an earlier story from The Courier-Journal.


Parts for generators at four hydroelectric plants to be built on the Ohio River will be manufactured at an Ohio River town in Monroe County OH, the Wheeling Intelligencer reports.


Here's a cool reproduction of a 1766 map of the Ohio River.


Work on Top 10 towboats continues.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Favorite towboats, part 2: Ohio River Co. 'turtlebacks"

I've already written about one of my favorite towboats -- a group of boats, actually. They're the old Ohio River Co. boats, which I have been told are known as "turtlebacks."

Here's another picture.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Favorite towboats, part 1: The new AEP boats

(This is the first in a series on my favorite towboats or types of towboats on the Ohio River. They are not presented in any particular order.)

Yesterday morning, as I woke Adam for another day of fourth grade, I knew he would be disappointed with the news. The mv. Buckeye State of AEP was in the Greenup locks upbound. It could pass Huntington before he got home from school.

Adam was crushed. He has wanted to see the Buckeye State since June, when I found it in a photo I took on May 22. I was on the Ohio side of the Ohio River at the Gallipolis Locks and Dam. Darkness was setting in, and I saw a new AEP boat across the river getting ready to lock through upbound. I thought it was the AEP Mariner or the Chuck Zebula. It wasn’t until several days later, when I looked at the photo more closely, that I realized it was the Buckeye State.

The Buckeye State is one of five new towboats AEP has in service, with the others being the AEP Mariner, the Chuck Zebula, the Mountain State and the AEP Leader. Adam had seen three. He was at his grandmother’s when the newest, the AEP Leader, was in this area. He really, really wanted to see the Buckeye State.

He faked a sore neck, but I didn’t fall for it. So off to school he went. Later in the day, I noticed that the Buckeye State hadn’t finished its lockage until 9:40 a.m. or so. We live about 30 miles above the Greenup Locks and Dam, so if the Buckeye State did maybe 5 mph upstream, we could see it. I caught Adam as he got off the bus. He didn’t even want to come in the house. He threw his bookbag into the car and off we went.

We didn’s see the Buckeye State until it had already passed under Huntington’s East End bridge. There are a couple of spots up the river on the Ohio side that we use when we chase towboats, so we hit both of them. We took the Ohio side because evening was coming, and the sun would shine on the boat if we viewed it from that side of the river.

It did, and we got some good photos and good views.

Adam was pleased. Now he just has to see the AEP Leader and the Hoosier State when it hits the river, and he will be satisfied.

The new AEP boats are on our Top 10 list because they are new and because they look so different. They’re tall, but they also have those large pilothouses that make them stand out from, say, a Dravo Viking.

I got to tour the AEP Mariner with my older son, Joey, last year during an open house in Huntington. The crew told us the boat has shock absorbers or some other system that dampens vibrations so much that if you wake from sleep on the boat, you can’t tell if the boat is moving.

This year, Adam and I toured the Mountain State during its open house in Point Pleasant WV. That particular boat has moved to the top of his list of favorite boats, although he does want to see the J.S. Lewis on the river some day. (Hint: It’s possible that boat is on my personal Top 10 list).

I’m in no position to judge a boat by its handling, its fuel economy, its power, comfort for its crew or anything that might matter to a person who works on it. I can only judge them by they way they look on the river. And, in some cases, how they sound. And by what they have meant to me as I received my river education.

The new AEP boats definitely make my Top 10.


Top photo: The Buckeye State upbound passing the Lesage and/or Cox Landing area of Cabell County WV in the background. Photo taken from Rome Township in Lawrence County OH.

Here, the AEP Mariner has just passed under the West 17th Street Bridge between Huntington WV and Proctorville OH. The pilot aligns it to pass under the 6th Street Bridge.

Here, Adam puts his hands on the controls of the Mountain State. The AEP Mariner and the Chuck Zebula have a bit of a blind spot for the pilot, who has a hard time seeing the area between the tow knees. The Buckeye State, Mountain State and AEP Leader have pilothouses  where the control area has a gap so the pilot can have a better view of what's below and immediately in front of him.

And here's the Mountain State.


These boats spend much of their time on the lower Ohio, usually in the Newburgh pool and below. We try to see them when they get up this way. One hope is to see them when they stop at the AEP port in Lakin WV. We can't get in on the West Virginia side, but there's a boat ramp across the river at Cheshire OH that we can use to get some shots.


One more thing. In recent weeks, Adam has become a fan of Dick's Towboat Gallery. Sunday night, as he was going to bed, his momma came to wish him good night. As she did, Adam told her he was on that site and saw that the  Chuck Zebula is 166 feet long but the Mountain State is only 157 feet long. As she often does, she shook her head and said, What a kid.