Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Barge Fleeting and Leo G. Lutgring Pushboat

The US-6 Bridge is one of my more regular stops when I make a photo trip to Joliet. South of the bridge, I've noticed there are almost always some barges parked on the east side and some barges being unloaded on the west side by Ozinga. If you look at a satellite image, this is where the river widens into the pool behind Brandon Dam.

Below is an example of several barges parked on the east side of the river. It looks like 11 barges are parked there. The bridges in the right background are for I-80. The blue handrail in the foreground is part of the US-6 Bridge.

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This satellite image catches a 3x2 tow parked there. I have learned that this is a fleeting area for Illinois Marine Towing (IMT). I put a red rectangle around their office building. Their headquarters is in Lemont.
During a trip to Brandon Dam, I caught a big pushboat and several barges at Ozinga's Materials and Logistics from the I-80 bridge. Fortunately, I was getting off so I was in the exit lane. And considering that I was taking the photos without looking at the camera, they came out rather level.

In addition to a local pushboat that has a retractable pilothouse, we see a big pushboat.
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There are several barges in front of the big pushboat.
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Including at least a couple of coal (or pet coke) barges.

Zooming in on the first photo, I could read the name of the pushboat --- Leo G. Lutgring. It is 160'x35' and built in 1978. It is a reminder that Alco, formerly a steam locomotive manufacturer, still makes diesels because it is a twin screw with 12-251F engines with 4370 hp. [TowBoatGallery] (Actually, I think Fairbanks-Morse bought that brand and makes the diesels. But since Google's blog search function broke April 3, 2018, I can't find my posting about Fairbanks-Morse making Alcos.)

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A Google search quickly verifies that this pushboat operates on the Mississippi as well as this part of the Des Plaines River. It has docked a 15-barge tow here so that it can be taken apart and smaller pushboats deliver the barges to their destination industries upbound from here. (I have learned that I should use the terms upbound and downbound instead of upstream and downstream.) Likewise, the smaller pushboats will be returning with barges that have a downbound destination, and they will assemble them into a new 15-barge tow for this big pushboat to transport down the Illinois River and, perhaps, the Mississippi River.

These videos confirm that the Leo G. Lutgring can handle a full 15-barge tow on the Mississippi River.
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This video makes it look like a triple-screw towboat. But it does have just two exhaust stacks. I wonder if the engines drive alternators and electric motors are used on the prop shafts. That would allow two engines to easily power three propellers.
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I've learned that disassembling and assembling large tows is called fleeting. Each of the local marine services such as Ozinga's Middle River Marine and Illinois Marine Towing have fleeting areas, including this Joliet area south of the US-6 Bridge. These fleeting areas are similar to local freight switch yards for railroads such as Eola and GM Yard. Specifically, they are big enough that they can hold a long tow/train and have enough area that the towboat/locomotive can store barges/cars while it sorts out what goes where along the river/track.

The analogy continues with big pushboats/road locomotives being used for long distance travel, and smaller pushboats/switching locomotives being used for the local movements. In the case of the Chicago area, local pushboats must have retractable pilothouses because, except for the South Branch Bridge, none of the movable bridges are operated for barge traffic. The barge traffic is expected to fit under the 16.5' clearance of the bridges. Since the level of the Chicago River, the Cal Sag Channel, and the CS&SC are controlled by locks, a powerhouse, and a gate structure; rain storms should not reduce the 16.5' clearance.

Continuing the analogy, fleeting/railyard capacity is used to store empty barges/cars until another customer needs one. And there may provide additional services such as cleaning and/or repairing barges/cars.

A retired professional brown water mariner from tugster
Since there are no locks downstream of St. Louis, that area has fleeting operations that build huge tows from the 15-barge tows that come down the Missouri, Upper Mississippi, and Illinois Waterway. There would be more fleeting areas around the confluence of the Ohio River to build large tows for the Lower Mississippi River. Tows on the Lower Mississippi are normally 42 barges. 7x6 when going downbound, and 6x7 when going upbound. The challenge going downbound is control so a shorter tow is preferred and the challenge going upbound is fuel consumption so a skinny tow is preferred.

Looking back through my Joliet visits, I found that I had seen the Leo G. Lutgring before. It was pushing this 11-barge tow that included a bow-steering pushboat upbound through Joliet.

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Since the Jackson Street Bridge was already up when I arrived, I focused on videoing the tow.
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At the time I saw this tow, I wondered where this 3x3+2 tow was going because the canal is the width of four barges, but many places have two adjacent barges docked along the canal.
While researching where this tow may be headed, I discovered the ACL Transportation Services  shipyards. (ACL owns Leo G. Lutgring) Lemont is one of their three terminals. The other two are in Memphis and St. Louis. The capabilities that they list for their Lemont terminal are:
- Bulk, non-bulk, and break-bulk warehousing and stevedoring services- 70,000 square feet of indoor warehouse space- Temperature-controlled warehousing- 7 acres of outside storage- Electronic inventory system- Transloading from truck to barge and from barge to truck
I learned that ACL owned Leo G. Lutgring because I saw the following in their moving banner on their home page.
Looking at the information for the pushboat on the bow, Mike Planche, I see that it is also owned by ACL Transportation. That is a large pushboat (2000hp, 85' long) to have a retractable pilothouse. My current theory as to the destination of this tow is that thye will use their shipyards as a fleeting area to build a tow that the Mike Planche delivers to the Calumet River area via the Cal Sag Channel and Thomas J O'Brien Lock.
I wonder what the protocol is for using the Chicago Ship & Sanitary Canal (CS&SC) for docking vs. shipping. To get to their shipyards, the tow would have to go through this stretch that has barges "double parked."
That allows only double-wide tows on the canal, but this tow is triple-wide as we see in this view taken from the Jackson Street Bridge of the tow headed to the Ruby Street Bridge. Furthermore, when this tow is headed upbound in the canal, only small tows can travel downbound, if at all. The complexity of using the skinny canal to get to their shipyards is probably why they are fleeting a tow at Ozinga's dock as we saw above. Or all 15 barges are for delivery to Ozinga.
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I say bye-bye to the 11-barge tow and turn my attention back to fleeting.

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Illinois Marine Towing almost always has some barges parked on the east side of the river when I visit, but Ozinga normally only has the barges that they are unloading. But on this day I noticed there are three abreast south of the I-80 bridges (see below). I wonder if they are barges to be unloaded by Ozinga or if they are a fleeting operation.

Note in the closeup that there is a shuttle pushboat next to the barge. I don't have enough resolution to read the name.
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3:07:51  During another visit to the US-6 Bridge, I noticed a little pushboat was upbound under the I-80 bridges. So I moved to the south side of the bridge and stuck around to see where it was going.
3:10:11  It is almost easier to see the white plume than the boat itself down near the end of the third tier of barges.
 3:10:39  The boat is really leaning into its turn.
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15:11:19  I recognize Alivia Faith as one of pushboats in Ozinga's Middle River Marine. So Ozinga and Illinois Marine Towing share this fleeting area. It looks like this pushboat always leans to port.

In the closeup above, I can see there is a deckhand at the base of the port knee. In this photo, I see that the captain is leaving the pilothouse...
3:12:02  ...to climb the starboard knee. I find it interesting that the crew member was wearing a life preserver, but the captain does not have one.
3:12:24  The captain is back in the pilothouse, so he evidently got on the knee, not because he was going to help tie up, but because he was just verifying that he positioned the pushboat at the middle of the barge. Since he did not get on the barge, that would explain why he didn't have a life preserver.
3:12:42  This next sequence of photos shows the pilothouse being raised. Note the pilothouse was retracted when it was running light because there was nothing to see over.
3:13:25  But even a loaded barge blocks the view of the pilothouse unless it is raised.

In the meantime, the deckhand has tied the pushboat to the barge and untied the barge from the other barges in the fleeting area because the barge is moving.
3:14:04  Between the pilothouse going up and the barge moving, there is enough action that I was probably thinking of switching to video.
3:14:15  But instead, I have found a photo viewer app/program that will display seconds in the timestamp. Even though there is a lot of action as far as pushboats go, the action is still slow as far as video action goes since we have become accustomed to skyscrapers being destroyed every few seconds by superheroes. Furthermore, it is much more effective digitally zooming a 6000x4000 photo.
3:14:46  I wonder if this is full height for the pilothouse because it would be hard to see over an empty barge with covers.
3:15:02  Note the unloading area at Ozinga is currently empty.
15:15:14  There is propwash behind only the starboard propeller. That is because the port propeller is in reverse. This is why pushboats have two engines and the two propellers are near the edges of the stern. By running the propellers in opposite directions, it allows them to twist the barge around.
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3:16:21  Here we can clearly see he is running the port propeller in reverse.
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3:16:30  Even at full power, the propwash is small compared to what we have seen in some photos of line-haul pushboats because the Alivia Faith is just 650hp.
3:19:34  I noticed a downbound tow is coming from the north. This creates a race --- will I see this barge docked at Ozinga's unloader before I have to get off the bridge because it is going to be raised for this downbound tow?
3:20:23  So they position the front of the barge at the dock first.
3:20:36  The other tow is getting closer. Also note on the left that they have just started loading a barge with grain. And the barge behind it has already been loaded. I've never seen a shuttle pushboat there. I wonder if they use the excavator to push (or pull) a barge as well as handle the covers.
3:22:07  The rear of the barge is swung over to the dock. (Does one talk about the bow and stern of a barge? I have not seen examples to read about handling individual barges.)

3:23:06  I saw the barge docked before I had to get off the bridge.
15:23:22  There is another downbound tow under the Cass Street Bridge.
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3:24:04  I now have to get off the bridge. Both downbound tows look small. I wonder if they will be able to lock through the Brandon Lock at the same time. (We will see shortly that they are not going to the lock.)
After I watch the bridge go up and down for IMT's Illini Courage shoving a 2x1 tow, I saw...
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...that it is delivering its two barges to the fleeting area:
Illini Courage was one of six pushboats acquired from an ADM subsididary. Even though the name has been changed on the boat, it is not yet listed on IMT's web site.

I included the Ozinga barge that we had just seen moved to show that the pushboat is no longer attached to the barge and that they have removed some covers from the barge.
The gates are going down for the next downbound tow, so I have had to get off the bridge, but we can see these two barges, one empty and one loaded, are almost "parked."

Again I cheated and went back just to the land rather than to the gates so that I could see the tow as well as the bridge.
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Because the bridge goes up long before the tow has approached the bridge, it backs up traffic on US-6 as far as I could see.
With its fixed bridge, the Lemont Trader is obviously a line-haul pushboat. It is 90'x30' and 3200hp and has Cummins generators as well as QSK50 engines. I was not aware that Cummins made generators as well as diesel engines. That shows how big the market is for backup electricity and electric transmissions. I wonder whose motors are used on the propeller shafts. Since this was built in 1974, I also wonder if it uses DC instead of AC. [IMT-boat-position]
As I leave the bridge, traffic is still tied up. I used side streets to go south to checkout the Brandon Lock and Dam so that I could avoid that mess.
It is obvious that they will be assembling a 15-barge downbound tow for the Lemont Trader.
LMT Towing-Fleeting
Southbound "Lemont Trader" Joliet Harbor with 15 barge tow
In fact, here is an example of the Lemont Trader heading downbound from this area.
Note that Logston Fleet and Tug Services is just upstream from here at Bearston, IL.
When the current is strong on the Mississippi River, adding barges to the upstream part of a tow can be dangerous.
(new window)  You may want to mute this video. The captain that is making the video makes quite a few worried sounds. The first words spoken are at 4:35: "There she goes." And you don't want to hear the next words he says. (It doesn't go under.) I have no idea how they managed to tie the ropes to the hitching posts that were under water. The other towboat must have delivered the guy we see running into the second story door at 8:10.

Note that the doors on the first floor are under water because the current has pushed the towboat so far under the barges. That is why they are watertight and why the crew should keep them shut. I've seen videos of twoboats sinking because the crew had not shut the doors.

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