Saturday, May 24, 2014

Variable Height (Retractable) Pilothouses

(Update: I learned in July 2018 that the correct term is "retractable pilothouse." But I'm not going to spend time fixing all of my old posts because Google broke the author's search function on April 3, 2018, so the value of consistent terminology for use in a search has become worthless. But starting with July 2018 posts, I use "retractable pilothouse.")

The following is from one of my visits to Lemont:

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I caught the Mary C lowering its pilothouse in July, 2014.

Note how the pilot house is setting on the body of the boat and that it is low enough to pass under swing bridges that no longer move and bridges that never got converted to lift bridges. But the top of the "stairwells to nowhere" at the front is the height of empty barges that it could be pushing. So the captain could not see the front of a tow very well. For this reason, the pilot house is mounted on vertical hydraulic rams that can be used to increase the height of the pilot house.

In fact, I have caught a towboat pushing empty barges.
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I found a photo of each of Illinois Marine Towing's towboats.  Note that all but two of them have variable height pilot houses. The small fixed height towboat works around Channahon, and the large one works between Lemont and Peoria.

I was shocked to learn that some big towboats also have retractable pilothouses. The first one I saw was Sam M. Fleming on July 7, 2018.
Specifications and a lot more photos
I followed it for a few days. It came back to the area on July 7 and Aug 18, but I wasn't able to get decent shots of it then. I found photos of it working on the Mississippi River, so it is a long haul towboat as it size would indicate.

As it was going upbound on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, it passed a southbound Al Weaver that "parked" on the side of the canal so I was able to get photos of it with the pilothouse up and down.

Digitally zoomed from the above photo

Are there other urban areas that also need retractable pilothouses?  Jeff Cumptan caught M/V Norman at Robert C. Byrd L&D (#10).
Ohio & Kanawha River Photography added, one of thirteen photos

Another of Jeff's thirteen photos
Norman is currently owned by a company based in Houma, LA. But it does get up the Illinois Waterway. Here are this photo at Joliet, IL, is one of 15 locations it has been caught at. The 15th photo shows it running light with its pilothouse all the way down.

Sometimes on my way home from Joliet I revisit the 135th Street Bridge. As I started up the bridge, I saw that a tow was going upstream. So I raced (OK, trotted) up the bridge grabbing pictures as I went hoping it wouldn't get too far before I got to the top. Note that the tow had its bridge in its full, upright position.

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Upbound on the Des Plaines River in Joliet between Jackson Street and Ruby Street Bridges --- Sydney Reese. The largest of Ozinga's Middle River Marine's four towboats: 73'x20', 1200hp. Built in 1965. [BoatDB] (Their web page is out of date. They now have a 77' 2000hp retractable-pilothouse with Z-drives named Kamryn Olivia stationed in Mokena, IL. (But Mokena does not have a waterway!) [WaterwaysJournal]) (Update: MWRD video of Sydney pushing three ACL barges.)
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Cropped even tighter.

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While I was at McDonough Street Bridge, I caught part of a towboat through a fence. It turned out it was the Sydney Reese, and a closeup (below) gives us a good view of the hydraulic ram that raises and lowers the pilothouse.

On the left of the following tow that I caught while I was at the old Bear Trap Dam site is a pilot house in the raised position.

The following takes advantage of every pixel that was in the picture (that is, it is original-size).

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