Friday, August 15, 2014

Tow #1 at Newburgh Lock, 2014 Aug

When I arrived at Newburgh Dam, I noticed that there seemed to be some tows upstream. Since I hadn't seen anything in the river when I drove in fromt he downstream side, this was indeed good news. This is the first visitor center I have been to that has a playground. What a great excuse to go check out the dam for tow activity---taking the kids to the playground.


When I was there, I noticed the first tow in the background and something interesting past that tow. What is an equivalent term for railfan? Towfan? Seeing an incoming tow is the towfan equivalent of a railfan seeing a headlight. Zooming in, you can see the first two of four tows that will go downstream while I was in Newburgh.

The tow on the right is going upstream with vigor judging from the propwash. Judging from the gate heights of the Newburgh Dam, the river flow was low.

One advantage of digital photography is that pictures are cheap. I have plenty of memory and battery power so I killed time by taking some more pictures as the tow approached.

I thought the tow was small because it had only four barges.  And then I took a sequence of photos as it went along the guidewall so that later I could try to determine the speed. It was slow. I could easily walk as fast as it was moving. It seemed to be floating with the river flow. I did not see or hear any evidence that the engines were working. Nor, with one exception described below, did I see any propwash.

When it got to the guide wall, I could see that it was half-empty and half-full. This is not unusual for a mixed-product tow, but this was obviously a single-product tow. (The equivalent of a unit train if you speak railfan.) Normally a single-product tow is either full or empty. During the approach, I heard only one short scraping sound. I didn't hear any scraping sounds after the bow reached the lock.

The white sign below just beyond the tip of the barge indicates 900. Each white sign is 50 feet. The tip in the above photo is the at 1300. These numbers would be feet from the upper gate of the lock.

By now I realized that each barge was 50% larger in each dimension so this tow was equivalent to a 3x3 tow of standard barges. Zooming in, we see there are deckhands on each side of the tow being additional sets of eyes for the pilot. The starboard winch on the lower barge is clearly being used to cable to the upper barge by looping around a binding post on the lower barge to handle the lateral (side-to-side) froces. At first, I thought the port winch was also being used. But I believe the starboard winch on the upper barge is connected around the binding post to a tie-cleat on the lower barge to handle the longitudinal (front-to-back) forces. Note that the barge is flying a Marathon flag.

A closeup of the middle shows that each barge has its own engine and pump. Probably for off-loading. I assume the terminal or refinery equipment provides the pump pressure to load a barge.


The towboat is also owned by Marathon. The white sign at the bow of the towboat indicates 1100.


The Marathon owned towboat explains why the barges can be bigger than the standard size---they are used only in Marathon tows. And maybe the tow is half full because they ship some product downstream but more product (or crude?) upstream.

Finally, the tow enters the lock.

And then I took a picture of the towboat because the engines started making some noise.

And then there was exhaust, but still no propwash.
 Finally, a little ripple by the side door. So this unit does have side thrusters.
 And more water movement an the side. The side thrusters must be inefficient because not only is there a lot of exhaust, I remember there was a lot of noise for not much water movement.
 As the front goes into the lock.
It is done thrusting to the side. If it was content with just floating until now. Why would it start pushing when it will soon need to stop? So that it can use the rudder? Or is this water churn from using the props in reverse to slow down?
I took quite a few more pictures as it alternated between using the rear props and floating. I include three-quarters shot from the stern.
As Murphy's Law would have it, when it came to a stop in the lock, the superstructure was on the other side of the superstructure pillar. So this is the last look I had from upstream.
I waited to time the gate closure. The tow has to be tied up to the slip ties before they close the gates. So the wait was long enough that I missed the start of the closure by a little.

And I could not see exactly when they closed, but this would be close.


And then I started running back to the parking lot because a serious wind started blowing all of a sudden and the sky was dark to the West. Fortunately, I grabbed a shot on my way back...

...because by the time I took shelter under the eve of the bathroom for visitors, it had already started going down.

It was pouring rain by the time I got under the shelter, so you get a nice view of the chain-link fence and barb wire that this visitor center uses. (Some visitor centers use vertical steel bars on about four-inch centers so that it is a lot easier to take pictures. On the other hand, some visitor centers, e.g.
Marseilles Lock, don't even allow pictures! It just occurred to me, I think Marseilles is one of the centers that has the vertical steel bars. Our government at work---let's spend more money to allow better pictures, and then outlaw taking pictures.) Note the bluish stripe behind the second barb wire. That is the radar antennae.

In case you are a rain storm fan, I include a shot of the rain front that had blown over me. I won't get too many of these shots because I normally avoid being out in weather like this. And, unlike Florida, it takes a while for an Indiana storm to blow through.

And now the radar antenna is below the top of the control tower. It rotates, so catching the blue side was luck in these pictures.

But then I deliberately waited until the blue was visible.

Having nothing else to do while it rained, I took a few pictures of the blue bar. I did not catch the antenna at the correct rotation on this one, but I include it because it was the last picture I took before the towboat moved. Fortunately, the rain had slowed down so that a white antenna is visible.

I did a quick grab shot of a lockhand driving his cart across the gate of the auxiliary lock. He is to the left of the SUV.

And finally, a shot of the towboat moving.

But not for long. I took three pictures before I realized it had stopped moving. Once they untie and open the downstream gate, I have no idea why they would stop. And since it had finally stopped raining, I was not willing to see how long the wait would be. I left after these pictures.



OK, so maybe it did move a little in the third picture. I still have no idea why it would slow down, let alone stop, after it started moving.

As I left, I saw what looked like a pilot house, so I took a picture. But it was still spitting rain, so I was in no mood to investigate further.

I then went back down Newburg road and found a place to park so that I could access the trail on the river side of the road where the trees have not yet blocked the view. It took me a while to find a place to park, but it also took the tow a while to leave the lock. I'm really glad I did not wait while it left the lock. 

When I saw how small the tow was, I ran back to the car to switch to the telephoto lens.

But there was no need to switch, because I needed to crop anyhow to get a good view of the tow. This picture is a digital zoom of the first exit picture showing that there was plenty of resolution for web work.

I took lots of pictures, but I'll limit myself to an overview with showing bow chop against the front loaded barge and propwash. I've never seen bow chop before today. Probably because I normally watch tows from a visitor center where they are creeping in or out of a lock or on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, where they are also going rather slow.

When the tow got down by me, I tried walking with it. I could not keep up with it walking since I was not willing to try speed walking. Even then, it would have been a stress. The one closeup that I'll include is of the propwash.

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