Sunday, 17 May 2009
Illinois River Lock
Last weekend, Craig and I had a lovely get away at Starved Rock State Park. The park is right on the shores of the Illinois River. Craig and I brought old Leaky and ended up canoing on the mighty Illinois, barge traffic and all. But that's a different story. On one of our afternoons, we spend several hours watching all the barge traffic going through the locks.
Barges, two wide and three deep are stuffed into the lock. The tow boat has to wait until the next water flow to go through. There is no room in the 600' lock. These babies are huge!
The science behind these locks is really ancient technology. The doors actually float so they are relatively easy to open and close. They are shaped so that the water in the lock holds the door closed so very little energy is needed to run the whole operation.
Craig and I had a short chat with one of the barge workers. We asked him how the traffic moves thorough the lock if the tow boat has to wait outside. He said the whole gaggle of barges is pulled along with a chain, that sits just above the water line next to the barges. If you look up and down the river, there can be many barges waiting their turn. Sunday was a busy day for the lock tenders.
Barge traffic is a very efficient way to move goods. One full barge carries the same pay load as 58 large semis and 15 jumbo hopper train cars. This is all good news for global warming and new leaner balance sheets for businesses.
Anyone else live near locks? Please feel free to add links in the comment section so we can "visit" you local lock.