Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blogger Appreciation Day

I just read that today was Blogger Appreciation Day. Allow me to say that this blogger appreciates all the people who read this blog. To you six people, thanks.

Yeah, this blog has more readers than that. Compared to topics like movies, politics, sports and celebrity gossip, there are not a lot of us who are interested -- really interested -- in the Ohio River and what's on it, in it, over it, under it and beside it. But those of us who are interested are passionate about it. Through this blog Adam and I have formed long-distance friendships and acquaintances with people I would never have known about otherwise.

And this blog has given Adam, now 12 years old, entry into a world that most kids don't get to experience.

So thanks to our readers. We're coming up on the third anniversary of the Ohio River Blog. I started it when I was laid off from my previous job, where I had worked more than 30 years and had advanced up the ladder. I needed something to do, so we started writing this blog and posting pictures and such. It's fun, and my work and personal schedule -- keeping up with the needs of a wife, a grown daughter, a son who's about to go into the Marines and a third kid who is so much like me that he frustrates me greatly sometimes -- eats into my free time, but we give it what we can.

So we'll keep at it for the foreseeable future, and thanks to everyone who drops by here every once in a while to share what we learn about this great river

Looking for ING 4727

Joe Schneid down in Louisville gave me a reason to go through my photos to see if I can locate Ingram barge 4727. I didn't know it until he sent me this link, but some folks blamed this one barge for a lot of damage in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Now, I don't know what I'll do with such a picture if I find one in my archives -- my digital stuff started around that time, so I'll have to start with photos from the film era that I've scanned -- but I'm still curious.


I've gone by the Ohio River a couple of times this week and didn't see much out of the ordinary. Meanwhile, I'm sitting at work watching the M/V Charleston pass my window, and I'm wondering if Captain Jimmy is on board. The other day I saw the Capt. Ed Harris (I think) and wondered if Todd Rickman was steering.

Oh well. Back to work.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kammer's future

This is the Kammer power plant on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River a few miles below Moundsville, W.Va., as seen from the Ohio side. Notice there's no smoke, if any, coming from the stacks. And there are no cooling towers and no big pollution control equipment.

American Electric Power has announced that Kammer is one of the smaller, older plants it plans to close completely by Dec. 31, 2014. It's one of several along the Ohio River that are closing or have closed through a combination of economic and environmental reasons.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with AEP CEO Nick Akins about the possibility of some of these old coal-fired plants being converted to burn gas. He said that's been studied. The advantage of these site is that they have a lot of the permits and the infrastructure in place already. He would not say whether any will be converted to gas,

So we'll have to wait and see what AEP does with Kammer and Sporn on the Ohio River and Kanawha River on the Kanawha River. Likewise, FirstEnergy is about to shut down the Willow Island station just above the Willow Island Locks and Dam. For the record, that's a small plant. The big one nearby with the cooling towers and such is the Pleasants power station.

Now that I think about it, I had a "duh" moment. A lot of the newer coal-fired plants that I'm familiar with were built close to older ones, probably because the infrastructure to connect to the grid was in place. Gavin was built near Kyger Creek, Mountaineer near Sporn and Kammer near Mitchell. I'm not familiar with others. I don't know how close you could say Zimmer is to Beckjord or another plant, and the ones below Cincinati or above Wheeling will require me to do some research.

Anyway, this is a story I'm following as best I can.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Football bridge

Is it just me, or when the Ohio River at Moundsville, W.Va., is smooth and still, does the bridge there look like a football?

Or maybe a rugby ball. I once knew a Fortune 500 CEO who had played rugby in his younger years. Once when I was interviewing him, the photographer brought along a rugby ball and the two talked about  how some football kickers practiced with rugby balls.

But we'll go with the football here.

Bellaire Bridge update

The Ohio River bridge between Bellaire, Ohio, and Benwood, W.Va., has been waiting to come down for more than 20 years. Here's an update of sorts, published today in my favorite weekly business-government-energy newspaper.

Two more photos from Steubenville

After the demolition of the Fort Steuben Bridge a week ago today, Adam and I drove across the nearby Veterans Memorial Bridge a couple of times so he could shoot some photos of the debris removal work in the Ohio River.

Here, looking at the Ohio side, you can see how the explosion severed the base of the Ohio tower. If you look on the bank, you can see the tower lying flat on the ground.

And here, on the West Virginia side, you can see the anchorage for the mains suspension cables along with the cables themselves.

And that may be about all we have from the demolition itself, but we have more coming from our trip up the river.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Up and out from under the Weber W. Sebald

A few months ago, I crawled up under and inside the sternwheel of the Weber W. Sebald to get a few photos of how the wheel looked from the inside out looking up. I got quite an education on how those things were put together. The bad part was that the sky was overcast that day, meaning I got red bucketboards against a milky white sky. I really wanted to see how they looked against a blue sky.

This afternoon I was in Point Pleasant anyway and the sky was sunny and clear, so I went back to the Point Pleasant River Museum to get my shots of the Sebald's wheel. I learned that I need to try this again some morning, as the best angles required me to shoot toward the sun. The good part was that I didn't have to deal with a pattern of light and shadows today.

While I was crawling around inside the wheel, some people approached and asked how long I was going to be in there.  They were portrait photographers doing a high school senior portrait session.

The wheel will be there a while longer. I got out, we talked, they left and I got back in and got a few more shots. And left.

I still haven't gotten that shot I want inside the wheel. So I'll try again someday.

Another Mail Pouch barn

Here's another Mail Pouch barn I've found in my infrequent travels. This one is along West Virginia Route 2 in the town of Friendly. But the Mail Pouch sign is only on the side facing south.

Hannibal Locks and Dam

On our trip up the Ohio River last week, Adam and I stopped at the Hannibal Locks and Dam, Mile 126.4. It was a warm, sunny February day. On the West Virginia side, we got a good look at the 1980s-era hydroelectric plant.

On the Ohio side, we discovered that the upper approach to the locks is a good place to get up close to boats, in this case the M/V Nancy Sturgis of Crounse Corp.

And if you go past the dam itself, you can still get a good view of the boats if you're willing to look or shoot through the chain link security fence.

I hope we can get back up there this summer when leaves are on the trees. Or somehow find the money  to get down to Paducah. That would be okay, too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Another bridge demolition shot

Yesterday I wrote a short list of blog entries I could write based on photos I took during my trip up to Steubenville this week to watch the demolition of the Fort Steuben Bridge. It didn't take long to come up with ten things I could write about. Some are long and thoughtful. Some are a picture and a short caption. But I'll get started on them this weekend, now that my winter cold is gone and I've caught up on some sleep.

Meanwhile, one more image from Steubenville, with maybe more to follow. Actually, this was shot from the West Virginia side of the river, at the Half Moon Industrial Park in Weirton. This is a cropped view of a photo I posted the other day.

The first series of charges that brought down the bridge ran along the bridge deck to separate it from the suspension cables. A second set of charges sliced apart the main cables that ran the length of the bridge. As the two towers fell toward shore, the West Virginia tower, here, received another set of charges to cut it into smaller pieces.

This is zoomed in and cropped from the larger image. You can still see pieces of the material that covered the explosives pre-detonation flying off the bridge.

This was the third demolition of a big bridge that I've attended. There was the Huntington 6th Street Bridge in 1995, the Shadle Bridge over the Kanawha River in the late 1990s and this one. This was the first that came off on time, by the way. In fact, I planned our daily schedule on the assumption it would run an hour or two behind, but the Ohio Department of Transportation and its demolition contractor did it at just about the scheduled time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Been down with a bug. Working, but not at full speed until this afternoon. And the Marine recruiter has increased my older son's physical training. And there are several dozen photos to process from this week's trip up the river, plus a lot of prose to write.

In other words, I'm sorry blogging has been light. It should pick up this weekend when I can catch up on a few things, including the news.

Until then ...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Passing Burger

On Monday, Feb. 20, the M/V Champion Coal passed the R.E. Burger power plant across the Ohio River from Moundsville, W.Va.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


That was Adam's assessment of watching the old Fort Steuben Bridge connecting Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, W.Va., being demolished today as the first light of day hit the ridges.

I like how you can see how some of the debris from what I assume are the wrappings of the explosives.

More later.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Two items in the news

The Sherman Minton Bridge is open again. The Interstate 64 bridge at Louisville had been closed since early September when cracks were found in its steel, particularly in its butt welds. I wrote an article about the steel used in this particular bridge and about how several bridges in West Virginia were built with it.  enjoyed getting the phrase "butt weld cracks" into a headline, but I had to make sure they got the order of the words right.

Here's another version of the story.


The woman who designed the Vietnam War Memorial has done a piece called "Pin River" representing all 981 miles of the Ohio River, plus the Allegheny and the Mon. I'm not that much into modern sculpture, so I'll let others pass judgment on it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A ceremony and a towboat

Here are a few photos from Sunday's dedication of the O. Nelson Jones pilot simulator at the Point Pleasant River Museum and the open house of the towboat of the same name.

Here are people gathered for the ceremony.

Among the speakers was Charles Jones, CEO of Amherst Madison and father of the late O. Nelson Jones.

Here's the upgraded simulator.

Jones stands outside the simulator, next to the door bearing his son's name.

Jones with Jack Fowler, executive director of the River Museum.

Over at the riverfront park, the M/V O. Nelson Jones accepted visitors.

Another angle.

The stack logo.

 Here's the lounge on the second deck. If you look closely in the center, at the ceiling, you can see where you walk through a door and up 17 steps to the pilothouse.

And here's Charles Jones talking with the boat's captain.

Sorry to have been away so long. It's been a combination of the demands of work, the needs of family and fewer hours in the day. Time to catch up on some Ohio River news:

Here's something different. Ohio still plans to bring down the Fort Steuben Bridge at 7:15 a.m.Tuesday. But instead of bringing down the whole bridge, the Ohio tower and approach will be left in place for an observation platform. That will be interesting and different.


OSHA is ready to levy some fines against Jeffboat's yard at Jeffersonville, Ind., after three fatalities there in recent months.


Covington, Ky., is considering three proposals to develop its riverfront.


Needed infrastructure project or black hole? That's the question about the overdue, over-budget Olmstead Locks and Dam on the lower river.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A day aboard the M/V O. Nelson Jones

It started in 2004 aboard the M/V Capt. John Reynolds. Later there would be the J.S. Lewis, the Mountain State, the Hoosier State, the Charleston and now the O. Nelson Jones. So now Adam has been between the sticks (steering levers) of three of his four favorite Ohio River boats. The only one missing is the R. Clayton McWhorter.

We had a good time talking to the crew while we were aboard during the open house. We were told the boat had to leave the park at Point Pleasant so it could be at the repair dock a mile away, with the engine cooled down by 6 p.m. After an 18-hour job to replace part of a turbocharger, the boat was to depart upbound with 15 loaded coal barges.

One of the deckhands told us they mop the floors at least once a day. Even then, people track in coal dust on their boots almost immediately, he said. He showed us the sole of his boot, and it was obvious the tread would pick up quite a bit of dust from the barges.

Although the O. Nelson Jones is owned by Amherst Madison and is crewed by Amherst employees, the boat is leased to Ingram. It pushed Ingram barges, and it gets its orders from Ingram.

More to come later, including photos.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Good day

Adam and I had a great day in Point Pleasant. He got to board -- at last -- his second-favorite towboat, the M/V O. Nelson Jones. He got to meet several river people, including one of the heads of AEP's Ohio River operations. That person and the president of Ingram barge got into a good-natured bidding war for Adam's services when he gets his pilot's license. But the owner of Amherst Madison didn't want to join in. Adam got another lesson in piloting on the simulator. And we had some chats with deckhands about life and work on the O. Nelson Jones.

We have about 300 photos to go through. Given all else going on this week, it may take a few days. But we should have a dozen or so decent ones.

This and that

Adam and I are headed to Point Pleasant in a little bit for the ceremony at the river museum. And if the open house of the M/V O. Nelson Jones is still on, we'll be there, too.


Another indication of how much people and institutions rely on bridges: Universities on each end of the Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville say enrollment is down since the bridge closed for repairs.


And here's an article that lists several places to get good barbecue, including one in Owensboro, Ky. I think it was in Owensboro one time that I was driving along looking for a good local, non-chain place to eat, as it was into the afternoon and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I was about to pull into the parking lot of one place when I noticed the marquee advertising something like "fresh brain sandwich," so I drove on to the next city and got a fish sandwich at McDonald's.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Adam had an all-night birthday party to attend yesterday evening. I was supposed to pick him up at noon, so I left early to go down to the river to get a picture of something interesting. It was cold and windy. I didn't see anything I hadn't shot before, so I stayed in the warm car.

I've stood out in wind chills of below zero to get a shot worth shooting. But today there was just a thin layer of snow. The light wasn't unusual. There were no boats in about ten miles of river that I looked at. Just ... nothing interesting today.

Tomorrow, however, we're going to Point Pleasant for the dedication of the O. Nelson Jones towboat simulator at the river museum and to attend the public tours of the boat itself if those are still on, considering the weather.

Pictures tomorrow evening, we hope.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Doing the math

Hmm. Central Appalachian thermal coal (the kind used in power plants) is selling for about $70 a ton.  So if 15 barges loaded to 9 feet goes by, that's 1,500 tons per barge times 15 barges times $70, which equals $1,575,000 worth of coal.

The last time I priced a coal barge was decades ago, but I think the going price was about $250,000 each. So, 15 times $250,000 equals $3,750,000.

And a new 6,000-horsepower towboat will run you about $13 million.

Add it all up and it comes to, what, $18,325,000 floating past you as you aim your $100 point-and-shoot camera at it.

Don't ask me to divide that $18 million-plus by my annual salary. The only way I could feel good about that would be to express the answer with a logarithm.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eggner;s Ferry Bridge and other stuff

The Delta Mariner is free of the Eggner's Ferry Bridge as of Monday. This article explains why the ship takes such a long, roundabout route on its normal travels.


I grew up around enough farmers to know that they're always worried about or complaining about the weather. Some farmers in the corn and wheat belt of Illinois and Iowa are worried about what this warm winter will mean for their crops this year. And since a lot of grain moves on the rivers ...


Demolition of the Market Street Bridge at Steubenville, Ohio, has been postponed a day to Feb. 21. I hope it doesn't get pushed back much more. Ash Wednesday is Feb. 22. My boss says she will pay for me to go cover the demolition, but while I'm in that area I have to buy her a couple of boxes of a Polish pastry that is available only before Lent, she says. The pastry is called a paczki, and it's a big deal in Polish-American communities such as those in northwest Ohio where she grew up.


Back to Eggner's Ferry: Inspectors will rappel down the bridge piers today.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Folks up in Ambridge and Aliquippa, Pa., will have to deal with some longer commutes as the bridge connecting those two cities is closed most of this year and part of next for repairs. When a bridge falls to a sufficiency rating of 2 on a scale of 100, something has to be done, of course.

Not mentioned in the article is whether Pennsylvania has plans to replace the old bridge. I assume so, but when new bridges cost $50 million to $80 million minimum, it probably makes sense to keep the old ones going as long as possible.


Let's see. There's the Ambridge-Aliquippa bridge closing for repairs. You have the Sherman Minton bridge at Louisville closed for repairs. Any more?

Here's an article on the cost of bridge inspections in general. While not specific to the Ohio River, it does mention Sherman Minton and the cost of inspecting the bridge connecting Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Eggner's Ferry Bridge stuff

About 1,900 people took advantage of the opportunity Saturday to eyeball the damage for themselves. Authorities had been keeping people out of the area. Meanwhile, nine days after the collision, salvage efforts began to remove the bridge structure and the asphalt roadway from the Delta Mariner.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Asian carp and Eggner's Ferry

Should the connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system be severed so as to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes? Some people think so.


And it looks like salvage operations of the Delta Mariner and the section of the Eggner's Ferry Bridge that it knocked over could begin this weekend.

Frat foolishness in Huntington

Off topic, but my coworker Andrea Lannom wrote something about a lawsuit filed in Huntington, W.Va., and it is getting good play on our circle of Facebook friends as it keeps getting picked up.

Please remember that the behavior described in this lawsuit is not typical of that engaged in by most of the good people of the city of Huntington in the great state of West Virginia. At least, we like to think that's the case.

Her story is here.

Bridges in Louisville

Kentucky and Indiana have plans to build two new bridges over the Ohio River at Louisville. Each state is to build one of the bridges, and each bridge is expected to cost $1.3 billion. According to this article in The Courier-Journal, Indiana has set aside a bit more than $400 million for its bridge, with the rest to be financed by tolls and a public-private partnership.

Using private money for a bridge would sound strange to most people nowadays, but the first bridges across the river, in my area at least, were built by private companies that used tolls to pay them off. If memory serves, a lot of the companies had trouble during the Depression, and the states took over ownership of the bridges.

But states have to find other revenue streams for bridge projects nowadays. A replacement or other bridge to ease congestion in Cincinnati is also expected to hit the billion-dollar mark, and even a smaller bridge in a smaller community can top $80 million.

Nobody likes tolls, but that may be the only way to go nowadays.

Or maybe not. Another source of money might be found. We'll have to see.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

More on Eggner's Ferry

The authorities can try to lock down a place, but public curiosity must be satisfied. Thus, people will have a four-hour window on Saturday to look at the Eggner's Ferry Bridge. I'm guessing they will have to open up the area more eventually. If nothing else, people will want to see it from the river and from other angles. You can't stop people from looking at something like this.


And here's some on-the-scene video from a couple of days ago.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nightime on the Kanawha

I was on the bank of the Kanawha River tonight, trying to get a picture of something reflected in the smooth surface of the water, when the M/V Charleston came by and messed up the reflection. There's always a boat around when you don't need one. But it was interesting to have one pass so close by me in the dark. On the Ohio, boats pass by pretty far out from shore normally. They may come in close in some places, like the downbound channel at Manchester Island, but usually they're pretty far out. On the tributaries, you can get a little closer, I guess.