Sunday, March 20, 2011

Road Trip to Townsend

PhillipsConoco is replacing Coke Drums at their refinery here in Billings, MT.  The drums left Lewiston, Idaho in February.  The shipment travels approximately 40 miles a night.  It has been a controversial trip and its movement was postponed waiting the court outcome.  It has also been delayed due to weather.  Last Wednesday it was in Helena.  We thought it would be in Lewistown today.  Not so.  They were in Townsend about 30 miles from Helena.

Dan had itchy feet and was craving a road trip.  He also was curious about the "Megaload".  We made some calls and tracked it down.  I took a bunch of pictures of the coke drums.  The trip was a little over 200 miles one way.

The ice on the rivers has been breaking up.  In some spots the ice is almost completely melted.  Yet in places the ice-flows protruded above the water a couple of feet.  The road between Townsend and Three Forks is a two lane paved road.  There was quite a bit of traffic on the road today.  On the way home I was driving when I passed a body of water that was just breaking up.  It was a pond running into a creek/ditch that ran alongside the road.

It was then that I saw something I have never seen before.  There were two magpies sitting on the edge of the ice drinking the ice cold water.  I wanted a picture in the worst way.  Unfortunately there was no place to pull over or turn around, to much traffic.  It was a memorable glimpse in time.


  1. Interesting slideshow, but what is a coke drum? I can see it's a really large tubular barrel, closed on both ends, and that it's massive. But what does it do?

    What I love is that your post made me think and wonder about something not a part of my universe.

    I love watching these kinds of things--spent the better part of a day once on the Columbia River, watching boats and ships go through the locks.

  2. Interesting that your road trip was about the drums being moved but what grabbed you were the magpies. We make plans but never know what is really going to take place for us until it happens. Why is it that when nature shows its beauty so often the camera is home or we can't pull over to open the shutter?

  3. According to the fact sheet I have -
    "Coke drums are the integral part of a refining unit known as a coker, which applies heat and pressure to convert heavier, less-valuable components of crude into lighter, more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. This process also produces coke, a solid, black industrial fuel resembling charcoal."

    It also says the two pieces per shipment are put together once they reach their destination. The drums were made overseas and shipped 5,200 miles by ocean freighter, 300 miles to Lewiston, ID. The final leg is 700 miles the distance from Lewiston, ID to Billings, MT.

  4. Link to the map that shows the travel route.

  5. Thanks for all the information. At first I had no idea what coke drums were, but then I looked it up. Hurrah for google! It's great to hear about your trip, all the things you saw, again spring signs I think. I appreciated the slideshow; it met my curiousity about the drums. And it was nice to hear that others take off to do a 'little' road trip, just to see what they can, just for fun.

  6. It was good to get out of town and just relax.


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