A day in the life of Kaye E Barker - Two Far 2018 - Trailing through the Rust Belt - CycleBlaze

A day in the life of Kaye E Barker

This morning while we were having breakfast we met Kaye E Barker. We were sitting on the patio at our hotel eating omlets, Kay was across the Marquette harbor unloading some gravel.

Kaye E Barker unloading gravel.
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The unloading process was interesting. Kaye is a self-unloader with a 250 foot boom. Gravel was pouring out from the boom onto a growing dockside pile. Kaye must have an elaborate system of internal conveyor belts to bring bulk cargo to the boom. Her bilge pumps were switching on and off, presumably to keep her balanced as she unloaded cargo from different compartments.

By the end of breakfast the gravel pile on the right was almost as big as the white pile on the left. Kerry thinks the white pile is gypsum used in the power plant scrubbers.
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We said goodbye to our new friend Kaye and went to take care of our baggage problems. Step one was to slap some duck tape on our panniers. We hope that keeps the seam separation under control for a while.

Could NASA have made it to the moon and back without duct tape? I doubt it.
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Next we lightened our load by mailing home 4 lbs 13 oz of vital equipment that was suddenly not so importent.

We don't need this stuff. How did it get on our packing list in the first place?
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Viktoriya is researching Ortlieb panniers for a longer-term solution. They look pricey but reliable.

This block in Marquette looked much the same 130 years ago.
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When we got back from the post office Kaye was gone! Where could she have disappeared to? We noticed that the pile of gravel she had left was almost exactly the same size as the gypsum pile. Many of the freighters on the lake must have similar capacities.

Similar size twin peaks.
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We took a ride over to Presque Isle, Marquette's second harbor. What a pleasure to be on the bike without carrying baggage. Presque Isle has a ore loading dock built in 1912 that is still in use today (unlike the ore loading dock next to our hotel). The Presque Isle dock is next to a power plant. Freighters can come in with a load of coal for the power plant, then fill up with a load of iron ore taconite pellets at the same dock.

The Presque Isle ore loading dock.
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The power plant next to the dock. To the right is a mountain of coal.
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The yellow conveyor belt carries coal from the dock to the power plant.
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An ore loading dock is designed to make the process of loading iron ore onto a freighter as efficient as possible. The dock contains a long row of giant bins. Railroad tracks run along the top of the bins. A train of gondola cars parks on top of the bins, and ore dumps from the bottom of the gondolas into the bins.

Gondolas heading across a tressel for the top of the ore loading dock.
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If you look carefully in the earlier picture showing the yellow conveyor belt, you can see gondola cars lined up on top of the order loading dock in the background. The scale of the dock is so big that the railroad cars on top look tiny.

Once the bins have been filled up with ore from the railroad gondolas, ore can be dumped from the bins into a freighter tied up at the dock. Each bin has a chute that can be lowered in order to dump ore from that bin.

We could see a ship tied up on the far side of the dock and went to take a look. It was our friend the Kaye E Barker! So that's where she went after unloading her gravel.

The Kaye E Barker taking on a load of taconite pellets from the ore loading dock.
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I expected everything to happen in parallel. I thought all the railroad gondolas would dump their loads into the bins at once, but they unloaded one car at a time every few minutes.

I also expected all of the bins in the dock to dump ore into the Kaye E Barker at the same time. Instead, only one bin at a time would dump ore, and there were several minutes between each dump. Nevertheless, she took on a full load of iron ore in one afternoon, after unloading a full load of gravel this morning. Imagine doing that with shovels and wheelbarrows.

Kaye is on her way after loading 26 thousand tons of iron ore in just a few hours.
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Making a profit depends on economies of scale. 100 years ago there were lots of small ships transporting goods on the great lakes. Today there are a relative handful of big freighters, but they carry just as much cargo as ever. As channels, docks and locks got bigger, the ships also got bigger.

In most cases this doesn't just mean that older, smaller ships were replaced by newer, larger ships. It means that individual ships litterally got bigger. At some point in their lives, most freighters have been cut in two and been retrofit with an extended mid section between the old stem and stern.

Our friend Kaye offers up a typical example. She was built in a Toledo shipyard and christened as the Edward B Green in 1952. At that time she was 647 feet long with a cargo capacity of 20 thousand tons. She was powered by steam turbine engines.

At some point she was sold to the Ford company and her name was changed to Benson Ford (III). There were a lot of ships in the Ford fleet, named after different members of the Ford family. I can imagine a family gathering where Benson Ford (III) found out that the ship named after him was only 647 feet long, while some sibling or cousin had a 700 foot ship. That wouldn't do! So in 1975 she was extended from 647 feet to 767 feet, and her cargo capacity increased to 26 thousand tons.

In 1980 she was modified again. Her 250 foot boom was added and she was converted to a diesel powered self-unloader. The mechanisms to automate her loading and unloading slightly decreased her cargo capacity, but the time savings in loading and unloading more than made up for the smaller loads.

In 1989 the Ford fleet was dissolved. She was sold once again and got her current name (and gender) as the Kaye E Barker. She's been working the great lakes for 66 years and has no plans to retire any time soon.

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Anne AbbateMario an I drove around Lake Superior ten or eleven years ago. We loved Marquette and Duluth. We saw an ore carrier (don't know if it was Kaye) being loaded from gondolas in the same way. And Duluth was hilly. It was scary to drive in
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1 year ago