Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Towboats near Morris, IL

The I&M Canal in Morris is within a few hundred feet of the Illinois River. While I was taking pictures of a railroad bridge over the canal, I heard a diesel engine running hard. So I trotted upstream along the canal to the park between the canal and river. And confirmed that the diesel engine was on a towboat.

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So I ran past the trees so that I could get a clear view.

I'm glad I did because, looking at the picture, I see it has a pilot house that goes up and down and the rest of the towboat is significantly lower than a normal river towboat. One advantage of taking pictures is that I can later spot things that I did not notice in "real time." I'm very surprised to see a "low rider" towboat this far downstream from the low bridges over the Sanitary and Ship Canal. These towboats can be low because they don't need living quarters because they are normally used just locally. They can return to their home marina each evening.

This picture also documents how high the river was on June 27, 2014. June 2014 had been a very wet June, and all that rain had impacted the rivers. The metal truss is part of the boat launch of the Stratton State Park. The park was closed because of the flooding. Another indication that the river was high and flowing fast was that you could barely hear towboats that were heading downstream. But towboats that were heading upstream were loud. During the time I was in this area, I did not spot a tree limb or other debris floating down the river. So I could not observe the river flow directly.

Later, while taking pictures of the road bridge and what might be an abandoned bridge abutement, I noticed a towboat working downstream. I added a red line to highlight the abandoned concrete structure.

I noticed that the tow was turning around to head upstream.

So I switched to the telophoto lens to catch the action. Or as close to "action" as barge towing gets. I started to use picture captions to record the timestamps. But then I discovered that I can't put two pictures side-by-side with captions. So I removed them and recorded the times in text.

6:41:32, 6:42:44
  6:42:18, 6:43:30
 6:45:02, 6:45:20

 6:45:48, 6:46:14
 6:46:24, 6:46:28
 6:46:50, and then I backed off to get boat-under-bridge shots 6:46:56

And then I switched to taking a video. I am still trying to figure out how to take videos with a SLR camera. Even when my camcorders had LCD screens, I used the view finder. But the SLR forces me to use the LCD screen and I have learned that it is a lot harder to hold it study. But then I learned that YouTube will stabilize the  video. So I include it.

You can tell from the prop wash that the towboat is pushing hard against a flood current.

The barge would have pulled out from one of the following grain transfer facilities on the downstream side of Morris.

Note how four trucks are queued up to unload at the right-most transfer facility. I noticed that the shadow for that facility was very different than the shadow for the other three. And then I noticed the green river vs. the grey river. And the end of the barge going upstream is blurry. The more I looked, it became obvious that two different satellite photos meet along a vertical line. But they do a good job of joining the photos because I did have to look carefully to find the seam.

Looking back at the upstream barge pictures, not that the barge is full. So does that mean the grain is headed to a ship for export through the St. Laurence Seaway? That would explain why a "low rider" is also going upstream. They will probably switch towboats up by the Lockport lock when the barge is in the canal and out of the river's flow. This raises the question of how much of the flow in the Illinois River is due to the Kankakee River vs. the Des Plaines River?

The photo with timestamp 6:43:30 is down by the power lines. The power lines don't show up on the above flashearth image, but they do show on the Bing and Google maps. And those maps have a scale. But Bing indicated 900 feet between the power lines and the bridge whereas Google indicated 1400 feet. The next time I go to Morris, I'll have to drive down Griggs Street to see which one is right. The towboat was at the bridge at 6:46:56. So it took 206 seconds to get from the power lines to the bridge. Using Bing I compute 3 mph, and using Google I compute 4.3 mph.

Since 3 barges fit in a 600 foot lock, each one is 200 feet long. Using the 6:46:28 and 6:46:56 pictures and estimating that it traveled about 220 feet gives me 5.4 mph. Backing off to a traveled distance of just 200 feet gives me 4.9 mph. So my estimate that the towboat was near the power lines at 6:43:30 must have been wrong.

The main reason I took the video is to give me another time-and-distance reference to compute the speed. But I'm leaving that as an exercise for the reader for now.

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