Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Locks and Dam 52, Part 2: Images

If you're used to seeing the big concrete and steel dams that control most of the Ohio River, your first look at Locks and Dam 52 might be ... perplexing.

Unlike those modern structures that can be seen for miles, this one has to be seen close up to get an idea of what much of the Ohio River navigation system looked like from about 1912 to about 1962.

It sounds different, too. Water coming through the Tainter gates of the modern dams makes a roar. Water flowing through the wickets of 52 is more like a soothing waterfall. Not soothing to the pilots who must navigate the locks or to the dam workers who must raise and lower those wickets according to river conditions, but soothing to a visitor, perhaps.

Following are images captured during a visit to Locks and Dam 52 on July 25. I had asked to visit either Locks and Dam 52 or 53, but the wickets at 53 were down that day. I did get to visit 53 back in 1986, before everything was fenced off following 9/11, but the wickets were down then, too.

All these photos from 52 were taken at the top of the bank. For safety reasons, the Corps would not allow me to go down beside the locks while boats were locking. They let me do that in 1986. I even walked out over the locks and boarded the maneuver boat, but that was then. Things change in 32 years.

Here goes:

The dam as seen from down the river. A worker told me the wickets in the center were down to allow river flow to pass through. I thought that normally was done by the beartraps when the dam is up, but the beartraps apparently are in as bad shape as the wicket section is.

And the dam seen from above, as much as can be seen.

In the foreground is the sign on the 1,200-foot lock letting boat workers know how far they are below the upper gates. Then there's a gap, the original 600-foot lock and the dam. It looks like something has taken a chunk out of the old lock wall.

Here's the lower end of the old lock wall.

If you want to catch how the water sounds coming through the dam, check out this video I uploaded to YouTube. It was done with a cell phone. It was hand held, which explains the movement of the camera during the 20 seconds of video.

The land wall of the long lock is made of steel cells filled with concrete. Between the cells are sections of steel to fill the gaps. I didn't county how many there were, but many were like this, but many had been corroded away completely.

In case you're wondering how the lock holds water when the wall has this many holes in it, there is additional material at each end of the lock. Still, it probably increases the time it takes the deteriorating valve system to fill and empty the lock during lockages.

The building where the lockmaster has his office.

And some of the old worker housing.

When the wicket dams were built in the period from about 1908 to 1929, they included places for workers to live. Some of those old houses survive, but many have been demolished. These looked as though they had not been used in a while, and there was driftwood on the sidewalk in front of them, so I'm guess no one lives in them. But, as usual, I could be wrong.

I didn't have time to run up to Golconda, Ill., where Lock and Dam 51 was replaced by the Smithland Locks and Dam in 1980. From what it looked like on Google Maps, the old houses there were saved and repurposed.

There were several boats in the dam area that day.

That would include the mv. Amy Gettle, seen here heading up the Ohio after making the 52 lock. The mv. Chuck Piepmeier helped boats enter the main lock from upriver. It was good to see the  Piepmeier again.

Finally, 52 as seen from the Interstate 24 bridge.

This was one of those shots where I steered with my left hand while watching the road and aimed the camera in the general direction of the dam while hoping I would get one usable shot from about a dozen clicks. I did get one. This one.

Up next: Industry folks talk about the problems 52 gives them. Then a few more photos from 52 to wrap things up before we move on to the 30-year, $3 billion solution at Omsted.