Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – MV Tommy H

Rechristened towboat set to journey down the Ohio

Perched 40 feet above the water, Joe Gray began piloting a 126-foot towboat down the length of the Ohio River to Illinois after the vessel was rechristened Thursday in Pittsburgh.

The towboat is not new — it was built in 1994 in Jacksonville, Ind. — but it got a new name when it was dubbed the Tommy H. Known previously as the Norman L. Snodgrass, it was owned by American Electric Power until this year, when Campbell Transportation Co. of Houston, Pa., bought it.

It was renamed in honor of Tommy Hitchcock Jr., the grandfather of Campbell’s chairman and CEO, Peter Stephaich. Hitchcock was a polo player and military pilot from South Carolina who served in both World Wars. Between the wars, he married Margaret “Peggy” Mellon, the granddaughter of Pittsburgher William Larimer Mellon, a founder with Andrew W. Mellon of Gulf Oil.

Hitchcock was instrumental in developing the P-51 Mustang fighter plane; he died in 1944 in the crash of a P-51 in England.

The Tommy H. transports barges filled with coal and other material. Moving down the Ohio, the crew of seven responsible for maintaining the Tommy H. — two pilots, four deckhands and an engineer — work in shifts of 28 days, with 14 days off in between. The towboat needs to stop for refueling every five to seven days, filling up with anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

On board, the towboat generates its own electricity to power a fully stocked kitchen, satellite TVs in every room and air conditioning, among other amenities, using two diesel generators. Each crew member, with the exception of those working with trainees and the trainees themselves, has his or her own stateroom.

Powered by two EMD diesel engines, the boat is capable of 3,000 horsepower and can push up to 15 fully loaded barges at a time.

The Tommy H. was rechristened along the Allegheny River behind Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36. Louise Stephaich, Mr. Stephaich’s mother and Hitchcock’s daughter, did the honors with a bottle of champagne as the Tommy H. sounded its horn. Soon after, Mr. Stephaich and the boat’s crew shoved off on the Tommy H.’s maiden voyage.

Alex Weidenhof: 412-263-1969 or aweidenhof@post-gazette.com.