In April, the State of Illinois will take delivery of the new river ferry for crossing the Illinois River
between Grafton and Brussels Township in Illinois' Calhoun County
. A 120- by 35-ft. barge, capable of carrying 24 cars, a couple of legal-highway-limit tractor trailer rigs or the equivalent, will be moved by a towboat. The 56- by 18-ft. tow boat will be powered by a pair of Cummins 6CTA-8.3M main engines each delivering 250 hp at 1,800 rpm.
An interesting ball and socket system will link the tow boat and the barge. Extending out from the mid point of the downstream side of the barge, a structure is linked to a similar structure from mid-ship on the towboat's bow. The tow boat is made up to the barge by a ball and socket on these structures. A secondary air piston-controlled hook on the tow boat's stern quarters secures the stern. The barge is pushed across the river so that cars can disembark directly to the landing ramp. When the return load is aboard, the tow boat backs into the stream then, disengaging the stern hook, it swings on the ball and socket then locks its opposite side to the barge to face the direction of travel.
Currently building at the Serodino Shipyard in Chattanooga, Tenn., the boat and barge were designed by naval architect Timothy Graul Marine Design of Sturgeon Bay, Wis.