The Early Barge
Little More than small wooden "Box - Shaped" designs, Bages were very similar to "Flat Boats" used in the earliest days of river travel . These beasts - brought about the need for what became known as Towboats. So the Barge - Itself, really invented these boats to handle them in great numbers on all rivers!
The = first river barge, as I said, was probably little more than an old "Gutted" Steamboat - Hull, converted into a barge to continue service to its owners. Or else it was built from a Flatboat - "But Nobody knows for sure?" Few details survive on their earliest designs or whom built the first barges, or how many and when exactly it all started? However, we believe by around 1840, barge designs had become a fairly basic - thing and most everyone copied them to save time & money. Naturally, a barges size depended upon what it was used for, or what it would transport and upon which rivers? For example, perishable goods had to be protected from the elements. So those barges usually always had structures - like Keel Boats, for example. If the cargo was = Raw Materials like timber or coal for example, they were open and basic in shape - much like the above drawing shows.
Small, but still very similar to modern barges, that have grown a great deal But back then, made from hand shaped = timbers, held together with wooden pegs that were tar- pitch sealed to avoid leaks. That meant they only lasted - a short period of time and so most early barges were sold along with their cargo, when they reached delivery points. Then they were broken up for their lumber, which then was used to build homes and businesses among other things like - Conestoga Wagons and even Furniture!
Historic homes and mansions along most of our lower rivers, still have timbers taken from early barges, well recorded and documented in their history. And some written historical reports indicate the Wagons that helped our early settlers - get west, were indeed built from timbers of old barges. Many an old historical home - we've lovingly preserved for historic reasons, has floor joists or wall & roof supports and ceiling beams, reshaped or re-used from barges, And many still show "Hand Shaped" axe marks or painted barge names & owner's numbers still on their beams and braces. Many cut by hand and shaped - back then, then later by steam powered - saw mill and made into fine lumber or furniture - as I said. But history just doesn't cover all of these early stage details, all that well .... Certainly not like it - Should, which i'm sure you'll agree!
To Push - Takes Barges Of Many Types!
Barges come in all sorts of designs & sizes, used for hauling just about everything imaginable on inland rivers. And their even used as short term - storage containers, when converted, for offices for some towing companies too. But the Hopper Barge - is the most common, built to set standards that maximize its usage in restricted areas - meaning Locks. The idea being - to fit as many barges inside the lock as possible - for example, to reduce lockage times and make them easier to handle and more cost effective. Built with One End - Sloped, or Raked = at a sharp angle, to make the Bow, called a Rake Barge or just - Rake. The Box - Barge, which has both ends - flat end in shaped, looks just like a box, thus the term - Box Barge. Shipyards also build "Double - Rake Barges", Tankers and Flats Decks - ( Called Flats ), as well as others, in all sizes, widths drafts & Lengths. The area where cargo is hauled, is called the Cargo - Box, Or Hold, and can be called the Tank, if the barge is designed as a tanker. Note, Colors of barges, can sometimes indicate its usage, depending on the type of barge - it is!
The Standard - Modern Jumbo Hopper
Tap To Enlarge
New Jumbo Hoppers ..... "They won't look - like this, Long! Pushed, bumped & banged around in lots of hard use and treatment, quickly will have these new units, looking like any other barge, after a couple years of service. Lasting often over 50 years - in constant service, if properly maintained and repaired, barges are then sent to the scrap-yard. Empty, one of these barges weighs about 850 tons, and floats with a draft of only 1 foot depth, normally. So you can imagine the effects of winds on barges - when empty, is a real problem!
Loaded Capacity = 1500 Tons .... Materials Commonly Hauled are Coal, Grain, Salt, Fire Clay, Rock, Sand, Steel = Sheets or Coils & Scrap Metals, Logs, Pulp Wood and even Saw Dust. All types of Machinery and Construction Supplies, which includes - Drinking Water for Cities = In Emergencies. NOTE ... Hopper Barges can also be built as Tankers, for hauling most any type chemical. But commonly they carry chemicals like - Alcohol, Benzene, Diesel Fuel or Used Oils, Gasoline, Jet Fuel, Soybean Oil, and Other products, including liquid sulfur and other highly toxic chemicals.
Box - Barge ( See Above - Top Drawing ), meaning the barge is square shaped - at both ends. This is not a barge that's used normally - as a lead barge, in a tow. Because its more difficult to push and better suited for use, further back - in the tow.
Rake Barge ( See Above - Bottom Drawing ), used at the head of barge tows, as lead the barges, because of its - sloped rake shapes in the bow, which pushes more easily. But can also be used anywhere in a tow, which these barges are also designed as Double Raked - End Barges too. Meaning their carry a rake, at both ends. The raked shape, passes through water more freely than and reduces the force that must be applied to push them.
Standardized Hopper Barge - Sizes ( Used On All Rivers ), built as Single or Double Raked - end designs, or Box Ended versions ..... Length = 195' to 200' ... Width = 35' ... Drafts = 12' Overall ... Maximum Loaded Drafts = 9' Empty Waterline - Draft = Approx. ... 1.5' Drafts Empty Weight = approx 850 tons, per barge.
Steel & Fiberglass - CARGO COVERS
Types of Steel Tops or "Lid Covers" used on Hopper Barges
Tap To Enlarge Photos
( Photos by Wm. Zumwalt )
THE ROLL- BACK = LIDS ... has two metal top - sections, which half of each unit, rolls over the other, and is locked for removal or after replacement when the barge is Loaded. Requires a crane to lift each section or lid - Off, which is then stacked upon other sections on the ends of the barges - Cargo Box. Notes ... May also have small inspection hatches or entries = on each lid, as the above "Fiberglass Lids" demonstrate in these two - above photos.
LAP-OVER STEEL= LIDS ... consist of many mid sections, but only two end - sections, that lap over and connect to the rest of their middle sections. Each section must be lifted off - by a crane, then stacked on the ends of the barge, in order to reach the cargo. Note ... Lids May also have small inspection hatch entries on each unit or section of the lid!
FIBERGLASS - LIDS ... Similar to Steel types that "Lap- Over" one another, except made of fiberglass and have more rounded - shapes. Their Colors - Also Vary, from Steel version, which are usually the same color as the barge. So Fiberglass tops can be Green, White, Blue, Red and Yellow - in colors which are typical on all rivers, among others too. Notes ... Barges with Fiberglass - Lids, often indicate the barge is used to haul - Grains, as a rule or materials which must be kept - Dry. And each of lid - section, usually carries several small "Inspection Hatches" or Loading Doors or Hatches - as well!
Maximum Tow Size - Above St. Louis
A Typical 15 Barge Tow, which operates on the Upper Miss, Ohio & Illinois, is restricted in size to a Maximum size of 15 Loaded or 16 Empties. This rule applies to all tows - above St. Louis, which must pass through - Locks & Dams to reach upper points, because the rivers is more narrow. Plus the limited space within locks, allows only a certain amount of tonnage to fit within them. A tow of 15 - Hopper barges, lashed together ( 3 - wide ) and 5 - Long ( "Lashed End To End" ), are equivalent to a 1/4 mile in overall length with the boat included, being approximately 1145 feet long. If Loaded, a 15 barge tow carries a "Whopping 22,500 tons of cargo, more than 4 1/2 times what the average Cargo Ship - carries!
Tap To Enlarge
Standardized Hopper Barges .... Thos drawing shows a standard - Rake & Box Barge, which is 35' wide and 12 foot drafts overall. Their lengths are 195 & 200' foot lengths respectively, meaning the box, is a few feet long then the Rake - version is. Typically you find these types of barges sing lids made from Fiberglas, or Steel, which can be placed or removed by cranes for loading & unloading. The Cargo Box, or Hold as its called sometimes, extending a few feet above the deck of the barge, braced with a platform to hold or clamp its lid tops - down upon. These barges can also be built as "Tanker Versions" too, or dry powder cargo barges - like Cement Barges for example. And the term = Rake or Raked Barge, refers to the radius of the bow raked design of the lead barge, in the top of this drawing. And the box barge is used behind it, when tows are made-up. And seldom is a Box Barge, found in use as a lead barge, due to its flat-ends, which are far more difficult to push on the bow of a tow. But occasionally, you see this happen, but its avoided if at all possible by companies, due to the fuel wasted pushing them in that manner. Its like shove'un against a brick wall!
NOTE ..... Tows on the upper rivers are formed into 3- wide tows to allow them to pass through the narrow locks & dams on upper rivers. Most all of these locks are 110' wide, which a 3 wide tow of 35' barges is just 105' wide. Allowing about 2 1/2 feet of clearance on either side for the tow to enter the lock chamber. Most locks on the upper Miss., are still the older 600' long chambers, but there are several new 1200' chambers that have secondary or standby smaller 600' lock chambers = right beside them. On the Ohio, all locks are now equipped with both = 600' & 1200' chambers, that speed up passage times for these bottlenecks. While new locks on the Mississippi are still waiting replacement, they continue service after more than 50 years of service. But are beginning to show signs of wear and require rebuilding to stay in good operational states. And nobody seems to know - when this will change, as our Government finds it tougher to find money to replace these worn out old locks along with the usual objections of most environmentalist that don't like them. But I notice they sure do enjoy using the products these systems provide!
Maximum Tow Size
Below St. Louis - Or Below The Ohio River,
To The Gulf Of New Orleans on the Mississippi River
Where No - Locks, Restrict Tow Size!
A Typical 40 Barge tow!
Below St. Louis to the Gulf of New Orleans, tows can attain numbers of over 40 to 50+ barges in a single tow. Pushed by a single vessel. which are the largest class of Long Haul - Towboats. Rated above 6000 to over 10500+ horsepower in the biggest vessels, powered by Twin, or Triple Screws ...... These are the "The Big Boys" of PUSH!!! With no locks to restrict - tow-size below St. Louis, the only restrictions or exceptions that reduce things are restrictions by the rivers conditions, depending on safe navigation rules, set by the Coast Guard. For Example - during low water or high water - flooding, or in towing accidents, or when the river channels are being dredged, or during bad weather .... Such things can and often do, reduce barge tow sizes or can halt traffic completely. Otherwise the vessel and/or its Capt, or owners, set the towed number of barges that it will push - safely, naturally following the CG - laws for safe navigation. So occasionally when there's a bottleneck of barges in a fleet, a boat with the power to handle massive tows, gets a chance to show it stuff. The results, a record size number of barges, pushed at one time, which boggles the mind to its massive size!
Other Types Of Barges
GIANT JUMBO HOPPERS = Capacity - 3500 Tons .... Hull Size = 265' x 52' x 12' Draft
Just So You Know - Hopper barges are also built for specific - use on the lower - Mississippi, and for Ocean operations. But due to their larger size, their restricted from use on most upper rivers. To large to get through most - Locks, or because of their deeper - hull drafts, can't be used on shallow rivers. Only occasionally are these barges seen or used "Up - North" - as they say, noting their use on the - Gulf Inter-Coastal Canal way and sometimes the Oceans. Giant - Jumbo Characteristics : typical looking to their smaller - counterparts, meaning the Standard - 1,500 ton Jumbo Hopper, including their = Colors, Structures & Lid Covers - If any. Sizes; can attain 365' x 50' x 16' drafts as a typical size, but can also be wider, deeper and longer in some applications. And use Fiberglass Lid tops, or Metal lids to cover its cargo.
TANKERS = Come in all sizes ( Drafts - Widths & Lengths ), capable of hauling any sort of liquid "Chemicals or Dry Powder" forms of cargo. These include Acids ( All Types ), Asphalt, Diesel Fuel, Jet Fuel, Gasoline, Mineral Oils, Cement ( Dry Powder Forms ) and even Natural Gas and Liquefied Oxygen transported by tanker Barges. Their designs can be either single or double skin designs, depending upon the required safety restrictions of the materials hauled. Typical sizes built, include the same sizes as the Standard Hopper - Barge. And also special designed tankers, with overall sizes that range from - 50' to 52' wide, 100' to 300' lengths and from 7' to 12' drafts.
FLOAT'S or Float Barge = The very smallest types, usually less than 20' across and less than 30' long, with about a 2' to 4; drafts, as basic sizes. Floats are used by small utility boats in all sorts of repair work. Often found around "Locks & Dams" and some can be self powered by their own small outboard motor, in some cases. Note .... Dredges use a number of Floats, to carry their "Discharge Pipe" that trails behind the dredge, used to pump materials out of a channel and off to one side of a river channel in making it deeper.
FLAT DECK or Flat = ALL Sizes ( Drafts - Widths & Lengths ), are types of Work Barges, which may be built for Machine Shops and other usage. This includes the Dry-Dock barge too. The smallest of these types are called "FLOATS", used for work or repairs in a wide arrangement, for example as additions to extend a Dry Docks lengths in repairs.
SPECIAL BARGES = Built for specific uses, such as Floating - Machine Shops, Crews Quarters, Storage Barges and other uses in construction or repair jobs. Including "Dry-Docks, used in ship repairs or for building new vessels. Here also, you find barges with specific uses, such as "Oil Spill" clean-up barges, used when a vessel or another barge - sinks. Carrying holding tanks, pumps and "Floating Spill Barriers" to assist oil removal from the water, or in pumping out - sunken vessels. Can also be used as a = Crane Barge, = to lift off or assist loading or unloading materials into other barges or vessels, along with Salvage, or Heavy Lift - Barges, Many carry "Monstrous Sized - Cranes or Lifting Booms", to lift entire vessels - for example!