Looks like an accident 'bout
to happen at the locks! While the main chamber is down for maintenance,
boats have to use the smaller chamber. They have to do what is called a
"double lockage" meaning they have to cut the first three strings of
barges, lock them through, then lock the next two strings with the boat
on the second. What looks like turmoil here, in reality, is the Sandy
Drake, background, holding the first three strings of the tow pushed by
the A. N. Prentice while the Prentice is now facing up to recouple her
tow. This is the "buddy system"
now used by towing companies when having to double lock on the Ohio
River. They take turns assisting lockages, usually six tows up then six
tows down. The Enid Dibert is tied off on the lock wall awaiting to
"turn a boat" meaning she's waiting on another boat to lock through and
she'll take that tow on up river while the other boat takes the hopper
barges loaded with coal back down river. For modeling realism notice
that a lot more coal can be loaded in a hopper than gravel ( shown in
the Prentice tow) because gravel is much heavier than coal.
DOES A TOWBOAT TOW?
A jumbo hopper barge 195'
X 35' can carry 1500 tons. That is equivalent to 15 jumbo hopper rail
cars or 60 semi dump trucks. A 15 barge tow carries 22,500 tons
equivalent to 2 1/4 100 car trains or 900 semi dump trucks. Lengthwise a
15 barge tow is 1/4 mile long, 2 1/4 unit trains are 2 3/4 miles long,
semi trucks spaced 150' apart equal 3 miles long.
boats travel the rivers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Crews usually
work 30 days on and 30 days off. Some companies work 20 days on and 15
days off. Working hours for the crew is divided into six hour shifts.
The shifts are as follows;
6:00 AM to 12:00 PM and
6:00 PM to 12:00 AM
12:00 PM to 6:00 PM and
12:00 AM to 6:00 AM
For local towing
companies men usually work twelve hour days, four days a week
There are many types of
workboats on the rivers today. I have categorized them into four groups,
utility boats, harbor boats, trip boats,
and line haul
Utility boats range from 18' in
length to over 50'. They perform specialized tasks such as crew boats,
supply boats, tenders, bow boats, and truckables. Crew boats are used to
transport personnel from boat to shore, boat to boat, or to barge
fleets. They are also used as inspection boats in harbors to check
barges for "leakers" and check the lines to be sure the fleet is secure.
Supply boats deliver goods to the larger boats or to work barges.
Grocery delivery boats are in this class. Tenders usually work in a
specified area like a dam or a "mother ship" such as a dredge. A bow
boat is used at the head of a tow for maneuvering. They can be piloted
from a command station in the mother vessel's pilot house. Truckables
are vessels that can be disassembled and placed onto trucks to be
transported overland to remote locations.
are vessels you'll find all up and down the
river. They range from 24' in length to over 60'. Their job is to assist
in making and breaking tows for line haul boats, shifting barges around
for drop off points along the route, and dropping off or picking up
barges at terminals. Some harbor boats don't have a galley on board and
the crew has to bring their lunch with them. That's where they get the
name "lunch bucket" boats. Day boats are called such for they have no
Trip boats range from 55' in
length up to 120'. They are called trip boats for they make trips of
three to five weeks and return to their home port. Their horsepower rate
from 850hp, for the small boats, to 3000hp for the larger boats. They
push an average of fifteen barges, except for the ones below 1000hp,
they usually push no more than nine. The smaller boats have galleys and
sleeping quarters for a crew of four to nine people. The larger boats
have quarters for nine to fourteen people.
Line haul boats
photo courtesy of Barry Griffith
Line haul boats
range from 120' in length to 200'.
Horsepower for these vessels range from 3500hp to 10,500hp. They run 24
hours a day 365 days a year. The only time you'll see one of these
docked is when they're in for repairs and/or maintenance. The largest
towboat to date was built in 1993 for the Corps of Engineers, called
m/v MISSISSIPPI V,
it is 241' long by 58' wide and is 7000hp.
A typical fifteen barge tow, the maximum amount
of regulations on the Upper Miss., the Illinois, the Ohio, and the
Tennessee Rivers, would be built with three rakes abreast facing forward
leading each string, and three abreast facing rearward at the stern of
each string if loaded. At the first, second, and third (or break)
couplings, itís anything goes, depending what you have to work with
(squares or rakes). At the fourth (or steering) coupling, loaded rakes
face rearward. When possible, two loaded rakes are placed back to back
(box ends together) making a unit. A regulation box may also be put
between these making a three piece unit. In the winter, rakes are placed
nose to nose to make an ice coupling across all three strings at the
break coupling. This is so that when you break the tow for lockage, the
ice will not hinder facing the second cut (six barges and the boat) to
the first cut (the nine barges that have already been locked through).
With square (box) ends, the ice keeps the cuts from touching (about 1 to
2 feet apart) and even if it can be wired together, its not a safe
Ever wondered how
locks work on the river
Locks use the law of gravity to
raise and lower the water level. No pumps are used except to pump out
debris from behind the gates. As you can see in the animation, valves
are opened to allow water to rush in and equalize itself with it's upper
level, gates are opened and the tow pulls into the chamber. The upper
gates are closed and the valves are turned off and the other valves are
opened to allow the water to equalize itself with the lower level. Then
the lower gates are opened and the tow goes on it's merry way.