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Posted 1/14/2013

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By Carol Labashosky

The History Channel television network has aired a nation-wide special the end of December, 2012 of a navigation vignette filmed on location at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville, Ky. McAlpine Locks and Dam. Locks and Dams made number 75 on the list of the Top 101 Inventions that Changed the World. The History Channel began their research in the fall of 2012. The History Channel realized the nation’s economic benefits generated from waterborne commerce traversing through the inland waterways. The philosophy that commerce moving through Locks and Dams on the river saves taxpayers money is a concept the History Channel wanted to explore with an on-site visit to the McAlpine project.

Navigation locks as elevators or a stair step concept to effectively and efficiently move goods is an invention that changed the world, according to story producer Meghan Reese, J.W.M. Productions. The show included an animation of how a lock operates.

McAlpine Lockmaster David Seng and Louisville District Historian John Neville - as subject matter experts - conducted in-depth interviews for the premiere and took the camera crew on a tour of the facility. A 15-barge tow from barge company Crounse Corporation, Paducah, Ky., slipped through the lock chamber as the crew filmed. The crew also caught footage of the McAlpine Lock’s guide walls from the Crounse tow.

Seng’s interview included a little history about the construction of the Portland Canal in Louisville, where the original locks and dam were complete in 1872 at the Falls of the Ohio. The Portland Canal locks ultimately evolved through time to become the McAlpine Locks and Dam completing the Corps’ lock modernization program in the 1960s. In 2009, the McAlpine project opened a twin 1,200 lock chamber upgrading the 600-foot chamber.

As for the choice of the McAlpine site, the producers acknowledged that McAlpine is known nationwide for its smooth consistent operations and its being only one of two twin 1,200 foot chamber sites on the Ohio River. The twin 1,200 chambers are necessary to pass the nearly 60,000 tons of commerce that move through this juncture on the Ohio River. 

The show 101 Inventions That Changed the world has been available at this link since early January:http://www.history.com/topics/inventions/videos#101-inventions-that-changed-the-world

The show may also be available for purchase at the History Channel web site in the future.