Sunday, July 29, 2012

Water Quality Overview

The table below displays the Q value results from the three water quality experiments on the Greenbrier River during the Forest and Rail project. I expected the the quality to diminish as we moved downstream, but the outcome from Cass is likely incorrect due to the dissolved oxygen sensor needing re-calibrated and the pH reading lower than expected. The last test followed a night of heavy rain and a DO sensor that after calibration indicated lower DO than others in the group.

Look at the water test results.
  • Are there any trends in the data?
  • Other than the dissolved oxygen, did the remaining tests show that the river was changing as we moved downstream? Why?

Friday, July 20, 2012

C&O Museum

614 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive
The last stop for the Forest and Rail Project was the C&O Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge, Virginia. The center is a non-profit organization housed on the Smiths Creek Yard that has contains structures restored by volunteers. It originated from the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society as a way to tell the stories and contributions of railroads to the United States.

Tom Hefner explains RR traffic

Caboose on Little C&O
Controls on 614
The museum includes the number 614 steam engine, a diesel locomotive, and assorted rail cars including a George Washington dining car. 614 is painted currently green and is adorned with The Greenbrier Resort logos. Our group enjoyed a personalized tour of the facility from Tom Hefner that included Number 614, the PD building, combination car, caboose, and the Gadsby's Tavern dining car. The dining car also hosted our lunch before wrapping up with the heritage museum that contains many models and representations from C&O. We departed a little before two o'clock to travel home to Cabell County.

Think about the following:
  • Compare 614 locomotive to the Shay locomotives at Cass. What are some differences? Why are they different?
  • Why would air conditioning in 1932 be considered a luxury? Do some research on air conditioning and discover when it reached consumers as a common convenience (this will surprise you).

Greenbrier Water Test #3

First stop today was right outside of Lewisburg near the beginning of the Greenbrier Trail. The group avoided rain by testing the water under interstate bridge near Cat's Rock swimming area. Rex Dillinger suggested the area from previous visits to the river.

Rain had been falling since the previous night which would influence water quality since runoff and particulate would be agitated. After crunching the data and analyzing the quality overall, the water at this point rates medium at 57.67. Weather dropped the number ten points from Durbin.

Some questions to think after three test sites.
1. How would calibration of equipment test to test affect outcomes?
2. Why does water quality change as you move downstream?
3. The Greenbrier empties into the New River. What do you think the water quality will be in the New?

Durbin Rocket and Water Quality

In the afternoon on Thursday, the group visited Durbin to take another water quality check of the Greenbrier River and to ride the Durbin Rocket. The test location was about 100 yards from the train depot near a campground. The river flow rate here was brisk. After calibrating the probes for our Vernier equipment, David Williams and I determined that the water at this location was in the upper end of fair. This correlates to our expectations from historical data that Steve Beckelhimer and Pat McKee discussed with the group earlier. We are collecting one more water quality point today near Lewisburg to observe the differences.

Durbin Rocket

The second part of the stop involved researching and riding the Durbin Rocket. The Durbin Rocket is a Climax Locomotive built in 1910 for the Moore-Keppel Lumber Company and weighs 55 tons. The excursion lasted a couple hours and covered rail ways along the Greenbrier River. The locomotive remains coal-powered and operates June through October.

William Strait and the Durbin Rocket

Think about the following:
  • How would testing the water quality downstream of a data point affect the outcome?
  • Why would the lower weight of the Climax create a faster engine compared to a Shay?

Piston on Climax Locomotive

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gaudineer Knob

Thursday morning had us departing our overnight home at the Inn at Snowshoe and making the way up to Gaudineer Knob. The main feature of the region is a virgin forest of fifty acres. The area contains a limited variety of species of spruce, maple, and beech. The forest differs from our visit to Cathedral State Forest in that the forest is much wetter and the floor of the forest contains much more growth of smaller plants. It was hard to determine an exact ratio, but spruce trees were a majority specie in the forest in number, but the hardwoods species are taller in the forest.

We measured the soil pH level in the virgin forest and it showed a relatively acidic 4.25. This compares to the 3.5 we observed in Cathedral State Park. Cathedral did however contain hemlock trees that are absent at Gaudineer Knob. The tannins in spruce are not as acidic as those in hemlock. The forest floor and decaying matter was covered in moss and ferns were present. It is a region that must be visited to see unique and rare forest that has avoided harvesting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beverly Wood Manufacturing: Colonial Millwork & Armstrong

Knives for moldings
The group started the day by visiting Colonial Millwork in Beverly, WV.  Colonial Millwork makes mouldings for cabinets and floors. Typically the mill has 800,000 board feet of lumber on hand of various species that includes exotic woods from around the world. They purchase lumber from the eastern U.S. and distribute directly to retailers. The company has over 4,000 knife profiles to create mouldings for up to 9,000 SKU.

         CNC Machine for cutting shapes from panels

Our next stop was was Armstrong Products. The division in Beverly is the hardwood flooring for Armstrong. The products manufactured are pre-finished floors that are ready to shipment to retailers for ultimate consumption by consumers. The plant has the largest kiln operation east of the Mississippi River and operates 38 kilns for drying wood. The kilns are fueled by sawdust from the plant, but even with the kiln sawdust burning, Armstrong removes four full truck loads of sawdust each day from the facility. They focus on the traditional flooring lines the utilize oak, maple, and ash species. Unfortunately, photography and video was not allowed in the plant which is by far the largest wood manufacturer we visited while in Randolph County.

Think about the following:
  • What are the benefits of focusing on only a few species of wood for Armstrong?
  • Why would Colonial Millwork store so many knife profiles? How would this affect future mill work?

Hamer Fuel Pellet Visit

The first stop on Monday for the Forest and Rail was Hamer Fuel Pellet in Elkins. WV. Jim Dearing provided the group with a tour of the facility that manufactures fuel pellets for heating. Hamer uses sawdust, a waste product from milling lumber, to fully utilize the complete resource of the tree.

 The process starts with truck delivery of sawdust from a mill. The dust is sorted according tree species before being loaded into the dryer. The 110,000 pound drum is heated by a 55 million BTU furnace that maintains a drying temperature of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Each load of 30 tons dries to a weight of 15 tons before entering the extrusion process.

The dry sawdust has vegetable oil infused before entering the extrusion machine. The machine uses a system of rollers and a die to press the dust into cylinder shapes before being cut to roughly 1/2 inch lengths that are 1/4 inch diameter. The pellets are used in a pellet stove to provide efficient heating with minimal waste and ash.

Questions to think about:
  • Research trobology. How does pellet fuel meet the concept?
  • What are some benefits of using pellet fuel? 
  • Why would wood product manufacturers benefit from pellet fuel?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Presentation on Randolph County with Whetshell

Robert Whetshell spoke with the Forest and Rail Project on Monday evening on how Randolph County and Elkins have changed over time due to the influence of railroads, timber, manufacturing, and other economic factors.

When most people think of the mountainous regions in West Virginia, they think that the trees were mostly untouched until settlers arrived in the late 1700's. In reality, the Native Americans removed trees to before then to access larger flat regions. The settlers of Randolph County then continued the practice of girdling, used by Native Americans, to create mountain homesteads and cutting to build homes.

At one time, Randolph County was estimated to have close to 400,000 acres of virgin forest before the 1880's. When the harvesting of timber started in earnest, the axe and cross-cut saw where the modern tools for falling trees. When the tree was milled, the Pit or Whip Saw was an arduous process that required two men to complete the milling of lumber.

The 1880's brought water-powered mills that known as a Sash Sawmill that limited the use of man power, but the process was slow only able to cut 500 feet per day. Animals, horses or mules, were used to drag lumber out of the forest to mills or as the power for hauling along primitive rail systems. Other options were Splash Dams, Log Slides, Floating Log Drives, but the most influential was steam power. Not only for transport on railroads, but as a machine to mill lumber using circular saws and band saws. Randolph County had close to 30 band saws operating during the rush of timber operations from the 1880's to the 1920's.

Aerial cables were used to remove logs from the forest to ready for transport to mills. The geared locomotive was the answer due to the ability to navigate mountainous terrain. The Shay, Climax, and Heisler locomotives used gears for moving up slopes that would stop rod locomotives. West Virginia Central & Pittsburgh RR was started by H.G. Davis and S.B. Elkins, influential business and political figures from the era, utilized geared locomotives. The railroads helped establish rapid growth of boom towns along the rail lines. As the timber was harvested and the resource gone, the boom towns lost significant numbers in population and the economies of the towns stagnated and declined.

Some quick facts about West Virginia's Forest:
  • 30 billion board feet were harvested between 1870 and 1920.
  • 10 million acres of virgin forest were harvested
  • Only 140 acres were spared as a result of survey error
  • Hemlock trees will be lost due to the wooly adelgid infestation
  • Erosion occurs quickly after deforestation
  • Siltation from erosion in streams causes flooding issues

Think about the following:
  • How have things changed in timber operations? Do different regulations apply today? 
  • Why is protecting watersheds from excess runoff important? What evidence do we see to protect water ways?
  • How were the National Forests established in West Virginia? 
  • How did the Civilian Conservation Corp contribute to forestry? 
  • What can be done to maintain and improve the forests?

Whetshell, Robert. (2012) Forestry in Randolph County. Elkins, WV. July 16, 2012
Shay Image from used under Creative Commons.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cathedral Forest - Virgin Hemlock Forest

Day 1 of the Cabell County Forest and Rail visited Cathedral State Forest in Preston County, West Virginia. This 133 acre park is a virgin hemlock forest that has never been harvested. The previous owner sold the land to the state under the provision that it never be touched by saw or axe.

What makes the the forest unique beyond the stipulations for remaining uncut is the appearance of the forest from under the canopy. When in the forest, the first thing noticed will be the lack of a thick undergrowth on the floor. The predominantly hemlock trees create an atmosphere that is considerably different than forest at lower altitudes or forest that were harvested for the timber content. Follow the link below to see a 360 degree view from the forest.

Cathedral Forest 360 from 7/15/2011

Questions to think about:

  • Why do you think the forest floor appears so much different than a harvested forest?
  • How do new trees compete with the old growth trees?
  • The bark of hemlocks was used to tan leather in the past. What would this tell you about how the tree affects the pH level of the soil? 

The group measured a hemlock tree while in the forest. We also computed pH for the soil. The data below shows the outcome from that field experience.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Water Quality Sample for Four Pole Creek

As a part of the WV Forest & Rail Project, we as teachers were responsible for assessing the water quality of Four Pole Creek at Ritter Park. Our field outing in April provided us time to collect water, but many questions had to be answered for the other group present in the shelter on that afternoon. After reviewing the data I had acquired, I decided to retest the water due to some missing information and to practice the procedure.

On June 24, I went to Ritter Park to collect a water sample from the creek and to take a few pictures. The results of the water quality testing are shown in the table below.

For this sample on this day, the water quality overall is at the low end of the medium spectrum. I was surprised by the Turbity outcome for the sample as even with agitation of the sample water before collection, that number seems low based on what my eyes told me. I calibrated the sensor and the number stayed the same.

To test water quality, follow the procedures listed here from Investigating Environmental Science.

1. Collect water sample.
2. Using Vernier Labquest, test temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, turbidity,  using the appropriate sensors or probes.
3. You will also need DO tables to determine dissolved oxygen for the conditions on the day of the test.
4. Once the data is collected, it will be entered into the spreadsheet. You will need to compare the data to the chart to determine Q values for each parameter.
5. Check outcomes on spreadsheet to make sure no errors are present.

Think about the following:
  • How does the water quality vary with changes in temperature?
  • Why would water flow rate change quality?
  • Would changing the collection point alter the results? Why or why not?