Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oil Belt Railway

Ken Pryor Jr. posted two photos with the comment:
The Oil Belt Traction Company, later known as the Oil Belt Railway, based in my home county (Crawford) in Oblong, IL. Incorporated in 1909, this little railroad eventually had 25 mile of track, from Oblong to Bridgeport, IL. They were a poorly run operation that tried to cut corners far too much, resulting in poor performance and derailments. The train became known as the "try-weekly" because it would arrive in Bridgeport and then try all week to get back to Oblong. The OB interchanged with the Illinois Central in Oblong and the B&O Southwestern in Bridgeport. They officially shut down in 1916. Thanks to my friend Terry Ridgley for all the info he's given me on this line.
Not my photos. Dates and photographers unknown.
Richard Mead Lawrence Lore 
Kam Miller That 4-4-0 had to be bought used, too. Not exactly state-of-the-art in 1906.
Ken Pryor Jr. My friend documented in his paper that the locomotive was purchased used from the Illinois Central.



I figured it had to be abandoned a long time ago because I could find no trace of it on a satellite image. A quick look at an old aerial photo was unproductive also.

I know there is oil around Effingham. I wonder if there used to oil in this area also because I noticed the town Oil Center is close by.

L&N Bridge over Green River near Munfordville, KY

Cliff Downey shared
"Louisville & Nashville RR" 4-8-2 2613 performs a photo run-by at the Green River bridge near Munfordville, KY, on October 24, 1959. The excursion was marking the 100th anniversary of passenger service over the L&N between Louisville, KY, and Nashville, TN. In this view the train is headed southbound.
In reality, the locomotive is IC 2613. The L&N no longer had any serviceable steam locomotives of its own, so it turned to the IC, which still had several dozen serviceable steam locomotives in storage. 2613 was pulled from storage in Centralia, IL, given a quick boiler wash and check up at the Paducah, KY, shops, and then sent east to Louisville. Photo from Chris Thompson collection.
Both Google and Bing had trouble rendering a 3D view. Bing did a little better.

Birds-Eye View

Is USA loosing another manufacturing capability?

America lost the ability to manufacture consumer electronics in the 20th century.

I've noticed that companies that make heavy manufacturing equipment such as forging presses have been bought out by either Asian or European companies. Typically the American plants are closed because the foreign companies are interested in just the intellectual property such as patents and equipment design. When you see a company announcing a new plant costing over $100million that will create less than 200 jobs, you know it is highly automated. I wonder how much of the equipment installed in that plant was made in the USA. Could the plant be changed to war production if the new equipment would have to be bought from the countries that we have gone to war with?

Now China and other countries are killing America's, and Germany's, steel industry by dumping their steel on the global market.

Ever since reading about the death of our consumer electronics industry, I have been worried about our ability to manufacture semiconductors, especially military grade chips. I worked at Bell Labs and we used to specify military grade instead of consumer grade microcomputers, memory chips, logic chips, etc. for our telephone switching equipment. Military chips can run with colder and hotter temperatures than consumer chips. I remember when I worked at Magnovox and we lost air conditioning in the computer room, the temperature was closely monitored. It finally got warm enough that they had to turn the IBM Model 40 off to make sure it did not get damaged. The room was not hot enough to make you sweat. One would be sweating long before you would have to turn off a Bell Lab's telephone switch. (But by the 1980s, the requirement for military grade chips was being relaxed because we needed bleeding edge designs and they were not available in military grade. Telephone switching offices have a battery plant to run the electronics. Hopefully, they have a diesel-generator set to run the air conditioning.) In a Facebook posting, Steve OConner added comments that indicate my concerns are well founded concerning the viability of our semiconductor industry.
China is dumping counterfeit electronic parts into the Pentagon's supply chain, two senior lawmakers alleged on Monday.Two Senators, John McCain, Republican-Arizona, and Carl Levin, Democrat-Michigan, said the counterfeits are putting U.S. troops at risk and undercutting the American economy.
One day before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the issue, the Senators offered details of the panel's ongoing investigation.....

They found about 1,800 cases of suspect counterfeit electronics being sold to the Pentagon.
The total number of parts in these cases topped one million.
The committee hearing will examine three cases in which suspect counterfeit parts from China were installed in military systems made by Raytheon, L-3 Communications and Boeing.

Levin, the committee chairman, told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference: 'Now, a million parts is surely a huge number.
'But I want to just repeat this: We've only looked at a portion of the defense supply chain. So those 1,800 cases are just the tip of the iceberg.'
The investigators found that counterfeit or suspect electronic parts were installed or delivered to the military for several weapons systems.
They include military aircraft such as the Air Force's C-17 and the Marine Corps' CH-46 helicopter, as well as the Army's Theatre High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defense system....

Investigators traced more than 70 per cent of the cases to China.
Nearly 20 per cent led to the United Kingdom and Canada, the lawmakers said.

“Early in the Iraq war, for instance, stocks of precision bombs were so reduced that the Pentagon ordered Boeing to ramp up emergency production. Boeing’s attempts to supply the military’s needs were thwarted by a Swiss company, Micro Crystal, which—angered by the U.S. decision to invade Iraq—ceased delivery of a key part, according to defense officials. Because no firm in the U.S. made the part, finding an American company capable of starting a new production line took the Pentagon seven months. If the most powerful military in the world could run short of a key weapon system against a third-rate military power like Iraq, what would happen if we faced a more powerful opponent such as China?”
In short, USA has lost most of its manufacturing capability that we had when we geared up for WWII production. Perhaps it won't matter because the next war might be a cyber and satellite war instead of a bang-bang, boom-boom war. But even a cyber and satellite war needs a semiconductor industry.

Chicago lost its movie making industry to Los Angeles, but at least that stayed in USA.

Chicago was the candy capital of the world until a sugar tariff caused many of the manufactures to leave the country. So in the end, the tariff did not protect the jobs of sugar producers, it also destroyed the jobs of workers in companies that used sugar.. But at least we still have Bloomers Chocolate so we should be able to make war rations.

Root Street Tower: Rock Island and NYC access to stockyards

(Satellite) This tower controls access to the branch that goes west from here. That branch used to be how the Rock and NYC accessed the stockyards.
Mark Hinsdale posted
Just a few miles out of Chicago's La Salle Street Station, Rock Island's 5:16 PM Main Line to Joliet" Express blasts out of the hole under the Chicago Junction Railway bridge (long gone), past notorious public housing projects (long gone), beneath steam era signal installations (long gone) and past Root Street Tower (inactive but still standing), in July, 1977.
If you have a Facebook account, you can access a photo by Krzyzowski.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hell Gate Bridge

Albert R Brecken posted
Section of the Hell Gate Bridge that spanned the Easr River as viewed without the massive "portal" towers at each end of the span.
Arch bridges push out as well as down on their abutments. I always assumed the portal towers provided mass to help resist the outwards forces. But this indicates that they are just decorative. The bridge was completed in 1916 when railroads could afford to spend money on decoration. I then assumed that this must be one of the places in New York where the bedrock is at the surface so they could easily anchor the bridge to bedrock. But then I learned that caissons had to be sunk 90 feet to reach bedrock. [nycroads] I wonder how much of the expense for building to decorative portals was used to build foundations for all of that masonry.


 Historic Bridges
In fact, the bearing is mounted to the base at almost a 45-degree angle indicating the arch does push out about as much as the weight of the arch pushes down.

It was the longest steel-arch bridge in the world when built, and it "was named after the narrow channel of strong waters and dangerous rocks in the East River running underneath the structure (known as Hell Gate)." [parachute] "The Hell Gate Bridge would be the last NYC bridge to collapse if humans disappeared, taking at least a millennium to do so.... Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad between 1912 and 1917 for the purpose of connecting the Pennsylvania and New Haven railways, its 20,000 tons of steel spans 1,107 feet from the shore of Astoria to the Bronx's Ward Island." [gothamist]

I've seen both 1916 and 1917 for completion dates. This project finished in 1916, but evidently additional track work was needed before through trains could use this project:
The arch bridge, the two smaller bridges and the viaduct were completed in September 1916. On March 9, 1917, the first Pennsylvania Railroad train - the Federal Express service between Washington and Boston - went over the Hell Gate Bridge, completing the first uninterrupted rail service between the two cities. [nycroads]
Library of Congress: HAER NY,31-NEYO,167--18
I did not realize until I saw some of the HAER photos on the Bridge Hunter site that the approach viaducts are non-trivial structures in their own right.
Library of Congress: HAER NY,31-NEYO,167--16
Little Hell Gate Bridge now spans land instead of water. Historic Bridges notes:
It uses a design that is rare anywhere, but almost unheard of in North American, the inverted bowstring truss. It is a deck truss where the bottom chord takes on an arch-like shape.
The reason this unusual design was chosen was as unusual as the design itself: the engineer wanted to give a greater clearance for boats near the piers. This is odd because boats usually would want to pass under the bridge as far away from the piers as possible.
I was able to manipulate a 3D Satellite image to capture much of the length of the structure. Historic Bridges estimates it to be 3.6 miles long based on a diagram of the East River Bridge Division of the New York Connecting Railroad.

3D Satellite
THE HELL GATE BRIDGE TODAY: The Hell Gate Bridge, which today has the 17th longest main steel arch span in the world, continues to play a central role in rail transportation in the Northeast. Only three of the four tracks are used on the bridge. The two south tracks carry Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains, while the north inner track carries CSX and Norfolk Southern (the owners of the former Conrail routes) freight trains. The north outer track is no longer in operation. [nycroads]
oldnyc has several pictures including a couple of the Randall Island Viaduct and one of a bearing.

Dave Frieder has an interesting collection of photos of this and other bridges in the New York area.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Illinois Watch Company: Springfield Factory

From posting in Lost Illinois Manufacturing
This factory in Springfield was built by Illinois Watch Company. As the watch business declined, the Sangamo Electric Company grew to fully occupy the factory. By 1962 Sangamo "employed 2,800 workers making electric transformers, meters, time switches and speedometers. In 1978 a French company bought Sangamo and closed the Springfield plant." Sangamo's contribution to WWII was "anti-submarine sonar and mica and paper capacitors, as well as watt-hour meters." [Lost Illinois Manufacturing posting]

In case the Facebook "posting" link is not permanent, I include the first two photos from the posting and summarize the posting.

This 1927 advertisement explains why an "electricity" company got started in a watch factory. In the 1920s electricity was unreliable and the 60-hertz frequency was not accurate, so they used electricity to wind a 24-hour mainspring of a clock that used "a precision jeweled lever escapement as the heart of the movement."

As electricity became reliable and accurate, the mechanical escape clock became obsolete. But the company had already started making watt-hour meters and other products and continued to grow.

(One of the first commercial atomic clocks was bought by a power company so that they could make small adjustments in their 60-hertz power so that over a period of time a day would average, with atomic precision, 60cycles*60seconds*60minutes*24hour cycles.)

By 1970, the company had four other plants in the US and 6 other plants in the world. So when Schlumberger bought the company in 1975, they closed the Springfield plant in 1978 by moving its production to other plants.

The factory site now has the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and a McDonalds.

At the end of the posting are the links: county and company.
Update: It is a 52:08 long silent film. The You Tube comments are extensive.

Springfield Rewind posted
Sangamo Electric 11th St - Nov 1967

C&NW Lake Street Tower for their Chicago train station

Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
This is a C&NW company photograph of the approach to the "Chicago passenger terminal" taken some time in the late 1940s. The west end of the boiler house for the station can be seen at the far left of the photo. It still stands and is used as office space today. Busy times on the railroad! Se the photo below this one to see the interlocking board in the Lake Street tower which controls these tracks. Where is the rapid transit bridge over the tracks?
Mark Ratzer The CTA bridge is behind the photographer - Lake Street tower is just north of the bridge, and appears to be the vantage point for this north-northwestward facing view.

Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
This is a C&NW company photo of the interior of the Lake Street interlocking plant which controls (even today) the switches leading into the - now - Ogilvie Transportation Center. See the photo above to see how busy the operators were.
Given Mark's answer, I was able to locate Lake Tower. Zoom out and look at the tracks. The number of double-slip turnouts in that throat to the train station must be a maintenance nightmare.

C&NW Historical Society posted
This is what the inside of the Lake Street "tower" looked like in 1948 on this C&NW company publicity photo held by the C&NW Historical Society. The tower controls the "throat" of the tracks into the old Madison Street Station - now the "Ogilvie Transportation Center." I am told that it still looks like that today!

Carl Venzke posted
Chicago & North Western commuter trains led by 4-6-2 steam locomotives on the big curve just north of the the North Western Terminal in Chicago in the 1950s.
Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
This Christmas Eve 1951 Chicago and North Western company publicity photo shows the Chicago terminal "throat" with kerosene heaters being used to keep the switches thawed. The heaters are now natural gas fed.
See Clinton Street Tower for more information on the location of this tower.

A 1:42 video of tower operations (source link).  Joel Kirchner 16 tracks funnel into 6 leads and you can go from every track into every lead. Just a couple hundred movements a day!

Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria over Spring Creek near Spring Valley

ITS/CO&P was an interurban. I don't normally do interurbans because trying to learn the Illinois railroads is daunting enough. But this is an impressive bridge.

Kerry Bruck posted
Ken Hejl The train in the valley is actually the C&NW. The far grade is the steep hill vehicle road that went from Greenwood down to the mine.

The C&NW served three coal mines on the west side of Spring Valley.
I've written a few postings about BNSF/BN/CB&Q/IV&N in Peru. (Search Towns and Nature with the string "peru, il:" and ignore the results except for the titles beginning with "Peru, IL:") I was trying to follow the IV&N further west, but I had to go back north to US-6 to continue West. I came to a hill that was steep and long enough to allow me to try downshifting the minivan that I had bought just a few weeks earlier. Since the transmission has six gears, it did not have numbers for the lower gears like my older minivans had. So I had read the owner's manual to figure out how to use the "+" and "-" indicators. The manual did not make sense. I used this hill to determine that the van works the way I think it should rather than the way the manual explained.
20150807,08 3923rc+12+12
I'm already significantly down the hill before I took this picture. The BN labeled bridge reminded me that the IV&N climbed out of the Illinois River valley using the Spring River valley.

Looking at a 1939 aerial photo, I'm reminded of another reason why I don't research interurbans --- they were abandoned by the time of these photos. Kerry Bruck added the following comment to his posting:
The CO&P left the streets at the south end of Greenwood Street--one block east of Rt 89. The bridge in the photo is crossing the C&NW yards where the C&NW served Spring Valley Coal Company, Mine #1 (located to the right of this photo-East), an interchange with the CRI&P more or less to the left of this photo-West), and a short spur with a steep grade to access a lumber & coal company (between the trestle and the yard below-ran from the yards a block to the West of Greenwood Street). After crossing the C&NW and then Spring Creek, the CO&P ran a short distance on a grade--the land elevation rises quickly East of Spring Creek. A short distance East on this grade the CO&P crossed over the CB&Q which ran through a cut at that point. The CO&P then ran where a gravel road still exists South of Webster Park and turned to the North on the Eastern most street of Webster Park. It ran North to Route 6 and then East to Peru.

The red line is my current guess as to where the trestle was. Harold J. Krewer confrimed this was correct. (I had posted some earlier guesses that were quite wrong.) Harold adds: "That road extending from the bridge site and making the dogleg northeast appears to be on the old CO&P grade."

1939 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
Ken Hejl Followed the entire ROW from Greenwood to Rt. 6 about 3 years ago. 80 years later, it is all intact except for the 2 bridges. Walked from Greenwood to the western bridge abutment and then from Rt 6 to the eastern abutment. In Webster Park, it actually ran behind the homes on the eastern end of Webster, not in the street. People's back yards end at the ROW. It is raised above the yards. Used to work with a guy that lived there. At the south end of Webster it curved 90 degrees west ( a heavy tree line) and crossed Oak St. It continued west where gravel road is now (also called Oak on maps). Where the gravel road turns left, down the hill, the ROW went straight to the IV&N abutments. From there west, it is very grown in, but passable ( I went in the spring) through the dogleg area to the east end of the bridge. Last time I was out there was in the 70's when the C&NW was still in. An old set of stairs and loading area remains at the west end of the IV&N abutments. I might add that I walked with permission of the land owner. It is all owned by Western Sand & Gravel now.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NS/N&W/Wabash Landers Yard

I could not find a posting on Landers Yard to which to add this picture. So I'll write one.
Don DeWald posted
Wabash P-1 Hudson 4-6-4 in Chicago, 1951. These locomotives were rebuilt into Hudsons from 3 cylinder 2-8-2 freight engines at the Wabash shops in Decatur, IL in 1943. They were used on the Wabash Cannonball and other passenger trains.
Steve T Ridge The engineers called them "sports models"
When Richard Fiedler shared it, he added the comment "At Landers in Chicago." His share had the following comments:

Ed Bell Would this require a new frame?
Richard Fiedler Yes the old 2-8-2 frame was not used in the rebuild instead a new one piece cast steel frame by General Steel of Granite City was used. The new frame had the cylinders cast into it. The boiler, cab, and tender were reused. The engine axels had roller bearings. The tender retained friction bearings.
Richard Fiedler My understanding is they were fast and free rolling but a tad slippery.

It looks like the coaling tower was made of steel. Richard Fiedler concurred: "That's what I figured too. The main giveaway was the post war 1950's style bungalows in the background on the other side of what appears to be 79th St. That's the neighborhood I grew up in. I would figure this shot to bd from 1952-3 the very end of Wabash steam and near the end of the building boom in that part of the neighborhood. The area in the yard where the coal chute stood was to become piggyback ramps and a large LCL freight house."

A satellite image shows that much of the yard has been converted to intermodal service. But it still has 10 classification tracks.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The engine servicing facilities where on the south side of the yard. Richard Fiedler provided the following information concerning the closeup of the engine service facilities:
Yes that is the water tower a steel one and just to the right is the pump house that lasted into the 1990's and up to the time that NS converted the whole yard to intermodal. To the right of the water tower was the pump house, the storehouse, and finally the "hotel" or bunkhouse for crews laying over. The bunkhouse was pictured in the book on the 4th district and it was a wood 2 story affair and was quite decrepit from what I remember. The water tower and bunkhouse disappeared by 1960 or so the storehouse later freight house lasted into the mid 80's. To the left or west of the water tower were the ash pits and coal chute and those disappeared late 50's when the area was converted to TOFC ramps and trailer parking.
I see that large rectangular shadow to the far left and that must be from the coal chute. The smaller shadow center just below the sand house area is the water tank and it casts a long thin shadow.  
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
Phillip Ness posted the question: "When was the Landers yard built in Chicago?" Richard Fiedler commented:
The line was built in 1879-80. A Wabash structures book lists a frame depot 16x40' built 1891 and other structures built there between 1893 and 1894. In 1906 a concrete 20 stall roundhouse was built adjacent to 79th and California. The yard was rebuilt in the late 40's and again in the late 50's. The viaduct spanning 79th and Kedzie was put in in the 49's expansion. Prior to that 47th street was the primary Wabash facility for manifests and as that facility diminished Landers increased. All passenger and freight locomotives both steam and diesel were serviced at Landers. Prior to the Landers roundhouse Wabash engines were services at a 19 stall roundhouse at 40th St built in 1879.
Richard indicated pages 137-139 of the 1906 Railway Master Mechanic describes the roundhouse.
Update: Richard Fiedler's posting indicated it was page 409 in the Chicago Smoke Abatement Book.
Albert J Reinschmidt Really cool! I had heard that the B&OCT had come this far north. Later turning east @ 83rd, wonder why the change. Also hard to. Believe that in the 50s there was a sharply curved connecting track between the two yards. Only saw it used a couple of times. Later trains would saw back and forth over Western Ave.

1915 Smoke Abatement Report
Richard commented on his posting:View from the Landers Yard tower late 50's and to the left you can see curved stub tracks that were the old B&OCT alignment.

Friday, November 25, 2016

IBM System 360

The Vault of the Atomic Space Age posted
The unit on the left is the end of a Model 30 mainframe cabinet. In 1964 IBM introduced its System 360. It was a range of mainframes that all ran the same instruction set and were compatible with the various peripheral units. The two low units in the middle of the picture were disk drives. A disk consisted of 5 or 7 platters (my memory is fuzzy) and were 14" in diameter. I believe they held 7 megabytes. You could turn the unit off, lift the lid and remove the disk with a special cover attachment. The number 2311 is rattling around in the back of my brain as the model number for that type of disk drive.

The Vault of the Atomic Space Age posted
Model 30 was the smallest (and slowest and cheapest) of the models. It was an 8-bit computer emulating the 32-bit instruction set of System 360 with microcode. I worked off hours in the business office of Northwestern University to run some jobs on their Model 30. Basically, I was paid to do my homework. I spent many hours in college setting at that console desk.

Model 40 was a 16-bit computer emulating the 360 instruction set. I worked one summer in the engineering group of the consumer division of Magnavox in Fort Wayne, IN working on Fortran programs. The computer we ran our programs on was a Model 40.

A Model 50 was a 32-bit computer. I presume that Models 65 and 75 were 32-bit computers with additional logic such as pipelining and/or hardwired multipliers to improve their speed. I don't know if there was an 85. Model 90 was considered IBM's supercomputer. It would be interesting to know what generation of smart phones had the computing power of a Model 90. The second picture is obviously one of the bigger models.

The unit along the back wall was another disk drive, I think a 2314. Each "window" was a drawer that held a disk. The disk was twice as high as the disk used by a 2311 so it held 14 megabytes.

When I went to work at Bell Labs in 1973, we had a Model 67. That was a Model 65 with additional instructions added to support the Time Sharing System (TSS) to compete with Multics that MIT developed on a GE computer. That unit was the same red as these units. They quickly ordered a second unit that came in factory blue. I think IBM offered two more colors. When we ordered our next unit, the comp center manager had someone buy cans of spray paint to put a fifth color in the computer room. By this time Unix became mature enough that we started buying lots of minicomputers. So I think we peaked at five colors.

I not only did a lot of programming with the IBM 360 assembly language, I used the COMPASS assembly language for CDC 6400 at Northwestern University and CDC 6500 at Purdue University. When I first started at Bell Labs, we were still using IBM 360 assembly language. I could probably still read an IBM program. I don't know if I could still read a CDC program. Fortunately, I'm sure I'll never have a chance to find out.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Exelon/ComEd asking for the "largest rate hike in US history"

20150714 2708, Dresden Generating Station looking north
[I have no idea why a nuclear power plant has smokestacks.
This is a water cooled plant.]
It is interesting how different organizations spot different issues in a proposed Illinois state legislation bill. Evidently Exelon/ComEd is trying to force a rate change for electricity for everyone in Illinois. BEST puts a value of $24 billion on the rate hike. They focus on Illinois residents and industry keeping obsolete power plants, both nuclear and coal, running.

In the past ComEd has indicated that some of its nuclear power plants are not profitable at the market rate.

Several years ago they went to the legislature to try to force Illinois electricity users to pay a premium because their nuclear power plants don't emit CO2. First of all, global warming is a global problem, and I don't think only Illinois people should pay for CO2 reduction. Secondly of all, I never did see why some plants were unprofitable whereas others still made money. I remember when they were being built that they were designed for a 40 year lifetime. In the 1960s, that seemed like forever. Surely the bad plants have been paid for, so close them. Zion has already been removed. It is a shame that this nation never did get economical, modular nuclear power plants off the ground. Having 50% of our power generated by nuclear plants was nice back when the nation had a major coal strike. Now it would be nice to have some modern nuclear plants because of global warming.

After 2014, ComEd tried to get a premium charge for nuclear generated electricity because of its dependability in the winter. 2014 was a severe winter and many coal plants were below capacity because their coal froze. And plants that had converted to natural gas were below capacity because the gas pipelines could not handle the additional demand of gigawatts of boiler capacity being switched from coal to gas. Fortunately, people fight the construction of new oil pipelines, but seem to ignore new natural gas pipelines.

In terms of saving Illinois coal plants, I have never understood why Indiana and southeastern US plants could afford to add sulfur scrubbers and continue to use Illinois Basin (high-sulfur) coal whereas Illinois coal plants could not afford to add the scrubbers and thus switched to Wyoming Basin (low-sulfur) coal.

But PVtech explains that the new bill would not be a classical rate hike, but a fundamental change to how the usage is computed in an attempt to keep the solar industry dead in Illinois. The cost of solar power has been decreasing, and it must be getting close enough to being competitive that Exelon/ComEd is now scared of it taking off in Illinois. Instead of measuring the power you use during a month, they would measure the power you use during the worse (highest) 30-minute period of that month.

So if I turn on the air conditioning during ab abnormally hot day in May, I'm going to be billed that month as though I ran the air conditioner during every hour of every day that month! Since even in July and August we run the air conditioner just a few days of the month, this change would kill our summer electric bill. (In contrast, it would be no big deal if I lived in Houston where they run the air conditioner every day during the summer.) The good news is that I no longer would have to worry about the parasitic power used by all of my "boxes" (DVR, VCRs, TVs, stereos, microwaves, stove, desktops, laptops, etc.). More significantly, the last few years I have run my furnace blower continuously to help reduce the humidity in the basement. I also run a dehumidifier in the basement. This currently has a significant impact on my electric bill during the summer. Much more than the few days I run the air conditioner. Since I will run the blower and dehumidifier for at least a half-hour each month during the summer, the new usage measurement will allow me to run them continuously with no increase in my bill.

Can you imagine steam locomotive manufactures going to a state legislature to try to keep them alive? The disruption of disruptive technologies is that the old technologies loose. Our state legislature should allow old generating plants to die. If that rate change goes through, I may have to buy an engine+alternator set not only for power outages, but to also run during my peak power demands. But getting one big enough to run my central air conditioner would be expensive.

Maybe the coal plants can switch to bio-coal. Especially since I found an article that claimed old tires and plastic can be used as feedstock, not just wood scraps.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Laying Pipelines

CIVIL Engineering posted
Pipeline Laying.
Because new gas fields are being tapped, gas has become cheaper (and is already cleaner) than coal so there is a need for more pipelines to carry the gas from the new production fields to the new markets. So many power generating plants had been switched from coal to gas that during the severe 2014 winter some of the gas-powered plants could not run at full capacity because the pipeline infrastructure could not supply the needed gas. [I remember this from a Chicago Tribune article explaining Exelon/ComEd wanted a rate increase for its nuclear power plants because of the dependability of their fuel supply.]

Unfortunately, a link I saved for a video of a pipeline being laid was temporary and I can no longer access it. Fortunately, it is easy to find other videos for the laying of big pipelines, for example: 36" in Tazewell County, IL and northeast Nebraska. This video illustrates the various stages of laying a pipeline.

One advantage of going down a "You Tube rabbit hole" is that you learn new things. They can now ram big pipes under roads and other obstructions. I guess a big weight is pushed back and forth with compressed air in that "tube" they connect to the "cotter segments" and the weight is allowed to bang against the pipe end of the tube. Then they use water to wash out the dirt that is in the pipe after it is rammed under the road. Unfortunately, I could not find any information on this installation in their referenced link. I did find some more examples: a large diameter pipe and ramming through a landfill. An 18" ram can install pipes up to 56". But it seems like just one big rock in the wrong place would defeat this technology.

While driving west on US-20, I drove past a pipeline laying operation. So I found a place to park and walked back to check it out. This is an overview of the operation. In the background, you can see two excavators lifting a pipe. By the power pole in the middle are two men that are welding one segment to another.

20151102 5499c 1:41:42
When I got down by the welders, I took a closeup that included their specially equipped truck.

As I got closer to the excavators, it turns out they were not putting pipe into a trench but were moving a segment west past the farmer's driveway.

I switched to video to record the speed of their movement and the flexibility of the pipe.

Below is a screenshot I took from another video to show that the eastern (the one on the right) excavator is going past a trench that they have dug east of the farmer's driveway. I assume that is where the pipeline currently ends. They are moving the segment that will go across the farmer's homestead. They built it east of the property and are now moving it into position.

When the lead excavator reached a power pole, they lowered the pipe, unattached it, and...
...reattached it on the other side of the pole to continue moving the segment to the west.
When the segment cleared the driveway, they put it down.

As I walked back to the van, one of the workers told me to make sure I stayed on my (south) side of the road because they are X-raying a weld. I include two pictures to show that the man in the blue shirt is rotating something up the side of the joint. I guess the X-rays are pointed at the pipe (and me) and not the workers because they are not wearing a lead vest.

As I left, I took another overview shot.

Looking further west, I see they have dug another trench.

I did not see any horizontal drilling equipment, so I assume they are going to cut-and-cover across the farmer's driveway and lawn. They have delayed digging that trench until they are ready to put the pipe into the trench to minimize the impact on the farmer.

Update: They don't have to cut-and-cover for large diameter pipes.. They are pulling a pipeline under an airport. At the end of the video, you see they drilled a pilot pipe under the airport with regular horizontal drilling equipment, and then they used the smaller pipe to pull the big pipe under the airport. They use the rotating function of the horizontal drill to spin blades in front of the big pipe that enlarges the hole for the bigger pipe.

Natural gas has become cheaper and more abundant

I knew natural gas was becoming cheaper than coal because of horizontal drilling and fracking, but I thought the new gas was coming from North Dakota and Texas shales. I learned from my brother-in-law, Will Fleckenstein, that there are huge natural gas deposits in shales in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Not only are these deposits relatively close to several major urban areas, there is estimated to be a several hundred year supply! Not only is gas cheaper, it has a smaller CO2 footprint (about half) and none of the nasty impurities like sulfur and mercury. The two shale beds being explored and developed are the Marcellus and the Utica. Other shale plays include the Antrium under much of the lower penensula of Michigan. The New Albany play is probably why I saw so much well drilling during my trips to Evansville a couple of years ago.

In a Bing aerial, the western well had yet to be drilled:
I was hoping to catch the drilling platform still in operation, but I was not able to spot it.

Page 12 of the February, 2017 issue of Trains provides the following facts:
Natural gas prices per million British thermal units --- a measure of thermal content --- slid from more than $10 in 2008 to $1.49 in March before reaching $2.26 in November, the U.S. Energy Information Adminstration reports.
CSX Transportation, after losing $2 billion in coal revenue during the past five years. would prefer gas at $3.50, says Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer  indy Sanborn.
In 2016 "natural gas unseated coal as the top source of U.S. electricity." [TIME, April 10, 2017, p. 8]