Ages ago it seems Patty the tug got a refurbishment, as chronicled here.

Recently the esteemed captain and owner of Patty Nolan  received a model of his boat that had been made decades, more than a half century, earlier.  Since Patty received its own livery, the model needed to be patched up and the new livery represented.  Who better to do that than Bob Mattsson.  Check out his YouTube channel here.

For now, enjoy this beautifully refurbished model.

I hope soon to see her in sixth boro waters and beyond.

Thx to Captain David Williams for sharing photos of  this model nicely reburbished by Bob Mattsson.

Now that my towboat v. tugboat terminology is corrected, I will post more Mississippi River photos in the next days.

The barges looked somewhat unusual.

Fortunately I caught it exiting lock 19 in Keokuk IA.

The two barges are Kirby 21853 and 21854.

The warning placard identified the cargo as anhydrous ammonia, which means pure ammonia.  Maybe someone out there has information on uses of this product besides fertilizer.   I also have questions about the temperature and pressure conditions for this product.

For some numbers on this 2016 Kirby boat, click here for the “Birk files.  

The livery on Kirby’s inland fleet and offshore fleet is the same;  boat design, however, is mostly different.

More towboats from the Upper Mississippi soon.

All photos, any errors, WVD.

Note the shift in the title.  I don’t want to be stubborn.  Besides, I’ve resolved this for myself over a decade ago here and here.   Thx for writing me about the title.

While I’m at it, let me suggest you check out this blog written by a river engineer.  I especially like the “secrecy” post from November 2022.

As New Dawn approached the Fort Madison city front the other day, I was hoping for a shot with

a white pelican passing.


the pelican had other ideas,  took wing, and headed away.

Note the silo complex over on the Illinois side by Nauvoo.

Any guesses on the numbers for New Dawn?



All photos, any errors, WVD.

New Dawn.  1974.  140′ x 42′.     6000 hp


I’m still in the SE Iowa area along the Mississippi.  See the “welcome to Illinois” sign just ahead of those BNSF engines?

Guess the numbers on Ronald E. Wagenblast heading upriver here through the Route 61 bridge?

She’s got curves.  She’s pushing 5 rows 3 wide, which translates to 1000′ long x 105′ wide, too.   

The Fort Madison Toll Bridge, aka the Santa Fe Swing Span Bridge–a double decker with automobile traffic level above a rail level–has been operating since 1927! Anyone know the width of the channel with the span open?

Soon after Wagenblast was precision-guided through the opening, 

Lindsay Ann Erickson came through.

She was also pushing 15 barges, making the payload 1000′ x 105′ as well.  

Note that the towboat lacks the curves of Wagenblast.  Take that into account as you guess her numbers, which you’ll find below.

HFL Mariner appears here for the second time now. 

Keokuk IA is about 20 miles to the south of fort Madison, my adopted base for a few days. At Lock and Dam No. 19, there’s a remarkable powerhouse, which I failed to get a good photo of, but you can see one along with lots of other info about the infrastructure here.  If you just want to see an aerial shot, click here.  The lock chamber is 1200′ x 110′ and provides a lift of 38′.

While I was there, yet another Marquette Transportation Company (MTC) tow exited.


Recognize those birds in the foreground?  I got lots of photos, which I’ll post one of these days also. 

The bridge links Keokuk with Hamilton IL.


All photos, WVD, who has a few days in this area before taking segment 8 of 10 of my train journey.

Ronald E. Wagenblast.  1965.   164′ x 40′.  5000 hp

Lindsay Ann Erickson.  1982.    168′ x 40′  6400 hp

Jason W. Nyberg.  1980. 145′ x 48′. 6140 hp


If you’re starting with this post, here’s background:  back in January I bought an Amtrak USA Rail Pass on sale for $299.  Here are the rules and conditions.  I researched and assembled an itinerary, which so far has brought zero glitches.  I’m combining trains with rental cars.  

Segment 7 of 10 begins in Kansas City.  The 1914 Union Station today is much more than a place to board/debark trains.

In one of the great halls of the spectacular station, a  STEM fair was taking place the day I arrived. 

Right across the street from the station is the World War 1 Museum and Memorial. The dedication in 1921 brought together high ranking reps of many nations.

Many timely exhibits can be seen. 

Considering KC MO is on the Missouri River,  a must-see sight is the steamboat Arabia wreck museum.

Another is the historic jazz district of KC, where I saw this tribute to hometown hero Yardbird.  I was happy to have watched Ken Burns’ Jazz last winter.

Other features of the 18th & Vine district include Arthur Bryant’s BBQ and so much more like this.   More about this area when I catch up with a tagster post. 

The Southwest Chief, Chicago-bound, was running precisely on time.  I know . . . there are many and differently-scenic parts of these named train routes . . . so many miles and so little time.

Just east of KC, we pass the Sugar Creek barge loading port;  just to the left of those buildings and trees is the Missouri River. A view of this operation from the river would be piers and loading/unloading elevators.

We crossed the Missouri at Sibley, and a club car seat offered an illuminated view of the bends and bars in the river.


Again, riding the tracks gives a good view of places like Hardin MO, which you may not have known before, unless you recall the 1993 disaster . . . 

or La Plata, which still has an Amtrak stop.

We crossed the Des Moines River.

Recall that these are all photos from the train taken with the speed of a cell phone, so excuse the sparse detail.  See that white horizontal band across the middle of the photo?  Those are blades at the Siemens Gamesa wind turbine plant in Fort Madison, the end of this segment of my trip.  Here’s another link.

Just north of the Amtrak station in Fort Madison, where I ended this segment,  is another preserved locomotive, the Santa Fe 2913.  Maybe some train folks could answer this question:  As these steam trains were turned into monuments, was any attention paid to preservation such that these engines could again be fired up?  I suspect the answer might be . . . some were and others not.

From the Kingsley Inn lobby right across the street from the train station and the Mississippi River beyond,  two livestream 5′ x 3′ screens pay tribute to the location.   The screens stream virtual railfan Ft. Madison and streamtime live Mississippi River lock 19. This place seems popular with folks interested in rail and river traffic.

More on this upbound tow in tomorrow’s post.

All photos, any errors, WVD.

As the crow flies, this post covers a 1000-mile trip, and I zagged and zigged enough to double that distance.  More than half the trip was done by train, as accounted for in Traxter 5.

Let’s start by heading south for the Rio Grande, the place of much current attention.

When I was there, the temperatures were in the 80s F.  West of the national park, the flats of the former sea bottom were vast, and strewn with some well-preserved old ferrous metal,

like this one at Jackass Flats and

this at the ghost town . . . making this a ghost car.

With the Rio Grande behind us, this is looking north toward Alpine on  Texas 118.  That’s the Chihuahuan Desert all around,  and Forrest Gump would feel right at home.

This is the rail crossing in Maverick TX, looking west, the view presumably seen at this hour from a locomotive of a New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited  . . . at sunset.

The train portion of the trip was chronicled in Traxter 5, clicketyclacking  on a 24+ hour trip up to Oklahoma, where I rented a car at Will Rogers airport.

This is a must-see, the memorial where the Murrah Building once stood.

Since this post is called “road photos,” I drove NW to Canadian County and chose El Reno to start my way east on remaining portions of the “mother road.”  

I plan to do a separate mural post, but I have to slip a few in here.  Yukon is the boyhood home of Garth Brooks and many others, of course.

I had planned to spend a few days in Tulsa, but then I discovered that the Woody Guthrie et al. center is open only Wednesday through Sunday, and I arrived on Monday.  So I postponed my visit to Tulsa, paid respects to the whale in Catoosa, and kept east and north . . .

I followed 66 through Chetopa and east all the way to Carthage MO,

passing through the border town on Joplin along the way.  A lot of famous and infamous people lived here.

This law car was parked outside Boots Motel in Carthage MO. 

From here, I backtracked west and north to Manhattan KS and Wamego KS, my general destination, home of a former co-worker.  Little did I expect to find the handiwork from the land of my parents.

And here was the end of the trail, a cattle operation on prairie land in the Flint Hills.

An open gate on the grazing ground means that all traffic, human and grazing beast, must pass through that same portal.

The day I arrived was sunny, calm and warm, but the next day, the wind kicked up and brought some very wet snow, and created muddy roads.

These young steers greeted us as we brought more hay.

Let’s hold it up here, because early the next morning I headed back for the train.

All photos, any errors, WVD.

Related:  A week after I left Big Bend, a half foot of snow fell there, and the warning were no longer for heat but rather icy curving roads.  Here’s a video of snowy Big Bend just after I left.


A few days ago I’d posted “Random Nola Tugs 7” and asked what type of tugboat I’d omitted, and you came through.  As I address that omission, I realize it’s misleading to call these vessels “Nola tugs,” since they –like all vessels and other machines of transportation–move.  Period.  Even “Mississippi River tugs” is misleading because they can and do move into other waterways, other inland waterways like the Ohio, Missouri, Illinois . . . and more.   

Another complication is that many would call these towboats, not tugs.  For that reason, I added the *.

Let’s start in Nola and then, since I’m moving also, rejoin the river many miles upstream. The 1969 Carol McManus,  180′ x 50” 9000 hp, is an example of a line haul boat often  pushing a dozen or two or three barges up and down the “line” stopping during the long haul to drop or add barges at fleet ports.

In contrast, the 1972 Hiawatha is 60′ x 22′ and 800 hp.

The 2011 Orange is 78′ x 34′ and 2000 hp.  Hiawatha and Orange could be considered “local” boats.

Susan Johnson is another line haul boat, built 1975, 180′ x 52′ and 9000 hp triple screw.

That’s the froth of all those horses.

The boats above I saw from a 75-degree cityfront New Orleans two weeks ago;  the next set I caught yesterday in 18-degree weather from the southernmost port in Iowa, Fort Madison, which will be my base for a few days.  

The 2010 HFL Mariner is 166′ x 48′ and 6000 hp.

The 1967 Coral Dawn is 164′ x 40′ and 5400 hp.

Part of that lack of clarity is snow flurries AND a dirty window.  Yes, I mostly stayed indoors.

The 1977 Aubrey B. Harwell Jr comes in at 170′ x 45′ and 6120 hp.

All photos, any errors, WVD, who expected March to stay warm.  A few days ago, five inches of snow fell at the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park.


I hope you’re enjoying my juggling of alternating author persona:  in this post, I’m back to tugster retrospectives.

Remember this sixth boro boat?  It carried a powerful Norse name.   It was a favorite of mine too. Back when I took the photo in 2008, I thought I’d never see a pushboat with variable height wheelhouse in the boro again.  Little did I know a lot of things.   I didn’t suspect that she’d be modified such that her variability of height was removed.  Isn’t that like removing the wings of Pegasus?  She might appear back in then sixth boro one of these days as Matty T.

I never imagined what fate was in store for Peking!  I hope some day to see her in her restored condition.

I never suspected these two would be sold south, nor did I know the namesake of Patrick Sky beside fleet mate Scotty Sky.   I didn’t even know these little tankers had worked the Great Lakes or that they came from the Blount shipyard or that I’d someday work for Blount.   It’s possible that the little tankers are now gone.

I was astonished by the two submarines that sailed into the sixth boro, this one and a Dutch sub.  So far as I know, none have been in the boro in the past decade now. 

In 2009, I started going to work in Elizabeth NJ early to watch scenes like this along the Arthur Kill.  

I sailed through the Highlands in the crow’s nest of Half Moon, never envisioning it would be sold foreign.  Lookouts were posted in both crow’s nests that day, so as not to take chances past Anthony’s Nose and Dunderberg Mountain.

Who ever expected that an airplane would be fished out of the Hudson, and that that misplaced aircraft felled by misplaced birds would be safely immersed in a frozen river with no loss of life or even serious injury. Is there a historical marker praising Sully’s landing anywhere along the riverbanks?

In September 2009 a veritable Dutch invasion by craft traditional and highest-tech lethality would make its way upriver. 

Let’s hold it up here.  I was just learning about the sixth boro with camera in hand back then, and I’m glad now what I recorded then, because otherwise my memory would have left out a lot.  I wish I’d started photographing years earlier.

Of all the possible tugster variants, I’d never expected this mutation, but I hope you’re enjoying this traxcentric report on a journey as much as I’m enjoying the journey.  This part 5 is based on three [technically two] Amtrak segments from Alpine TX to Oklahoma City OK, i.e., Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle and Heartland Express.  

The 835 pm Sunset Limited was delayed, in part by wild weather in its starting point, LA.  It was dark through to San Antonio, where my coach was rebranded the Texas Eagle.

It took me a while to “get” the landscape, but when we passed a HUGE hobo camp along the rails just south of Austin, my focus returned.  I’d heard of homelessness in Austin; I’d also recently read Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker article on booming times in the same city.  The dissonance provoked reflection.  Were hobos ever called homeless?  Do we just rename things generation to generation and miss any sort of fix?  Is there a fix?  What ended the Hoovervilles and hobo camps of several generations back?  The train moves quickly, and now I wish I’d snapped pics of the elaborate hobo complexes along the tracks that appeared and then were gone.

By the way, the building is Block 185. The river is the other Colorado, not the one that created the Grand Canyon.  Lots of kayakers enjoyed the warm day.

As the Texas Eagle soars northward, we pass Hutto and 

Taylor. Remember, this is a traxcentric perspective, and I was pleased by the amount of old iron on display in stations. 

Also, I snapped photos using subjective impulse.  So these are from Moody

McGregor [which has a SpaceX presence], 


and the outskirts now of Fort Worth.  Someone else would have snapped other views. Taking this trip is obviously illustrating the vastness of this country past and present.  Check out that “Fort Worth” link for a hint of what I mean.

Here I debarked the Texas Eagle to board the Heartland Flyer.  Hat tip to the folks at Amtrak who came up with these evocative names.

For those who watch, sights abound at the transfer points. So ends segment 5 for me;  once I’m aboard the Heartland Flyer, it’s segment 6 of the 10 max allowed by the railpass.

The population of Haslet has grown 700% since 1970.

As the sun descends, we arrive in Ardmore, which means we’re in Oklahoma.  Along the track, the town features grain elevators with murals and 

oil industry.

Night falls, the Heartland Express has reached its terminus . . . the heart of the heartland, I suppose.  I walked across the street to my lodging, fatigued after a 24-hour jaunt station-to-station, ALP to OKC in Amtrak-speak.

Thanks for riding along and perusing my subjectively chosen set of snapshots.  I appreciate your comments here or in email. In late summer 1986, I had a Eurail Pass and did something similar–although sans social media–from Greece to Norway and then back to Amsterdam.

I will get back to tugsterfare at some point soon, with some exciting plans for the late spring and summer. 



“What do you like about New Orleans?”  A friend asked me that recently.  Different answers exist: ubiquitous and diverse music, unique architecture, history and present through all the senses, spicy and delicious food, free spirits, bons temps roulants…  this list can be even longer.  But for me, the traffic on the river is without rival .  . . that I know of.  That’s what calls me back.  I can even skip the music, merriment, and tastes, but the river always attracts and satisfies.  From my recent stay, here are some photos.

I’m thinking this may be a formerly Bouchard boat, but I really don’t know who this is getting spa treatment.

Any help?

Mary Moran was there too.  She’s of the same general class as Miriam and Margaret.

A. Thomas Higgins is not as new as I thought, but still, she’s not yet at the 5-year mark.  

Here’s a recent article on her from ProfessionalMariner, which among many other things mentions her namesake.  It makes me wonder if this Mr. Higgins is related to Andrew J. Higgins, the “new Noah”

Turquoise Coast, formerly Barbara E Bouchard, was in.

Rodney, the former Sheila Moran, came through with a barge, heading upstream.

Michael S I thought was newer, but she’s from 2009. 

More info can be found here

Know this unit?

A clue is the name . . . well, number . .  of the barge, 1964.

It’s Millville, the WaWa . . . THAT WaWa, tug, which I saw under construction in Sturgeon Bay in 2017, which seems like a lifetime ago.  My friend Jack caught the unit in Nova Scotia here,  as she was first headed into salt water.  Take a close look at the last photo in this post from 2017 . . . yup that was what would become 1964

All photos, WVD, who wonders if you’ve noticed what type of tugboat I’ve omitted here.  This is not-so-random a selection, as you’ll see in an upcoming post. 


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March 2023