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.