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River Coal: 1910

River Coal: 1910

Circa 1910. "Coal barges at confluence of Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.


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Steamer Tom Dodsworth

Previously seen at Duquesne Incline: 1900, the paddle steamer Tom Dodsworth was the fastest workboat on the upper Ohio River. She held the record time for round-trip between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (4 days, 20 hours, 15 minutes), for which she earned the nickname, Hoppin' Tom, and the gilded antlers on her pilot house. She also proudly displays an unidentified marker between her stacks. Is it a nautical sign? Maybe a Masonic emblem?


It must have been a full time job to keep all of these tired wooden barges afloat, requiring frequent or constant pumping. It appears that this pumping was done by aspirators, operating on the Bernoulli principle, powered from the single-stacked house barge in the center of the raft, complete with three whistles.

Each barge has a rectangular well built into the side of the hold, with a pipe going down to the bilge. A clear example is at the lower left corner, on barge 2277.

The configuration of the top of the pipe, with a smaller pipe from the pump barge coming in the back of the elbow, may be the aspirator, or alternatively, the venturi may have been at the bottom of the pipe, like a modern "jet" water well pump. The multi-jointed pipes would have carried compressed air, or possibly steam in the winter, to operate the aspirators. Note the deflector boards to prevent water from the aspirators from emptying into the adjacent barge.

It's common even now to see deckhands using portable pumps to pump out the bilges of steel barges on a regular basis.

It's going to take a couple hours to see everything in this scene.

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