Wednesday, May 3, 2017

An Existing Chicago Bypass for Coal

(Update: BNSF also bypasses Chicago by transloading taconite to Lakers at Lake Superior.)

I've discussed railroad traffic bypassing Chicago before. And GLBR is still trying (Update: the STB said no.). But I have discovered there is already a bypass for Wyoming low-sulfur coal going to power plants near Detroit --- use railroads to Duluth, MN and then use boats like the Paul R. Tregurtha to plants along the St. Clair River.
Jim Banke posted
The Paul R. Tregurtha departs Duluth for St. Clair, loaded with coal. The questions of the day, however, are does this screen grab from include Jane Herrick, or was she on the opposite pier, and did she get some great video? (OK, the last question was rhetorical. Of course she got great video if she was there!)
I added a comment asking if this satellite image is the destination and if it was carrying coal that came from the Wyoming. Other comments confirmed it was low-sulfur western coal that is going to this destination. Then I noticed that several power plants are at this unloading facility: Detroit Edison, St. Clair Power Plant, and DTE Belle River.

Note the destination has just a hopper and some conveyor belts. To unload, the boom on the boat that is in front of the pilot house is swung to the side so that the end of the boom's conveyor belt dumps into the hopper. Bulk transport boats on the Great Lakes changed to self unloading equipment a few decades ago.

Jane Herrick's video of the boat departing Duluth. Evidently it is tradition for a boat to blow a sequence on their horn and then for the control house of the lift bridge to reply. As the boat moves pass Jane, you can get a good view of the unloader and hear the bridge salutes. Then you can hear the bell on the bridge warning that the span is being lowered. Unfortunately, Jane is not a bridge fan as well as a boat fan, and she doesn't catch any footage of the bridge span going down.

Sue Bob Kruse posted
Paul R Tregurtha heading out into Lake Superior after departing the Twin Ports (Duluth/Superior.)
There is a website that allows tracking the boats by name.

It doesn't always go just to the power plants because currently (7:40 5/3/2017) it is in Lake Erie. If this laker is back hauling another material from a port on Lake Erie, I wonder what that material would be. Or maybe it had to go to a Lake Erie port to refuel for the return trip.
When I put the mouse over the SMET destination, I got a popup of "Destination Port not Recognized." The popup for SCL is "ST CLAIR [US]."

Update: The top photo of it leaving Duluth was April 29, 2017. This photo of it returning for more coal was May 4.

Paul Scinocca posted
Paul R Tregurtha arriving Duluth this Wednesday late afternoon, after fueling at Calumet off to MERC to load coal.
Jane Herrick's video of the 5/4/17 arrival with two salutes. You can hear the announcement from the visitor center explaining that it was built in 1981 and it is the longest boat operating on the Great Lakes, 1013'. The unloading boom is 250'. Unfortunately, the propwash of the boat drowned out her description of the engines.

Coal handling facilities are usually pretty east to spot because they have a big, black pile. So is this the MERC? It looks like a converted ore dock. (Update: it is an ore dock.)

3D Satellite
Or maybe MERC is here. (Update: this is a coal loading doc.)

Another boat that keeps coal trains out of the Chicago area. 68,000 tons would be about 6 or 7 trains.
North Shore Boat Watcher posted
Have the family visiting this weekend, and I was finally able to go back down to canal to catch my first boat this week!
The American Integrity (1004') owned by the American Steamship Company departed the Twin Ports through the Duluth shipping canal after loading over 68,000 tons of western coal at the Midwest Energy dock in Superior, WI. The next stop for the Integrity will be the coal dock in Presque Isle, MI.
That was boat #1 of a two-fer this evening with the Algoma Enterprise arriving shortly after the Integrity's departure.

M/V James R. Barker also carries coal from Duluth, MN to St. Clair, MI. Each load keeps several more coal drags out of the Chicago area.

Todd Shorkey posted
Indiana Harbor unloading at Consumers Energy in Essexville. June 20, 2017

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