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HILLMAN TOWBOAT by Pat Matthews - Radio - Towboating in 1:32

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Using information provided by John Fryant, I was able to create a set of plans for the 115' towboats from Hillman Barge Co., five sisters built between 1949 and 1959. More discussion of all that in the Plans area:


I'm attracted to these boats because of the unusually graceful styling. Several still operate today, and rivermen still acknowledge their attractiveness.
The design, I suspect, results from the pent-up yearnings of a 1940's designer, Elmer Easter, who still recalled the "streamline moderne" styling of the 1930's.


Now it's time to build a model! Which will be R/C in 1:32, making for a nice sized model that should operate stably. 




Edited by Patrick Matthews
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My original CAD model only represented the "skin", enough to show lines and detail placement. More recently I drew up model frames and a 3d-printed Kort nozzle set. On towboats like this, the nozzles are flat bottomed, and the tops are blended into the curvy tunnel portion of the hull. It was just easier and more precise to print this as an assembly to splice into the wood hull model.





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The frames are designed with tabs reaching "up" (down?) to the build board datum surface. The board is marked out, and the frames are simply hot-glued in place.
The hull has a "model bow", as opposed to the simpler scow bow used on many towboats. Looks nice, but it's debatable if it's of any use behind a raft of deeply loaded barges.




Hull is sheeted in 1/16" basswood. The real boats weren't planked, and there's no reason to use planking on a model.




3d-printed nozzle set attached to the frames and sheeting blended in.




After a bit of filling and sanding, the hull is cut free, and the tabs are cleaned off the frames. Ready to deck and for installation of prop shaft tubes.


Edited by Patrick Matthews
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  • 2 weeks later...

Prop shaft tubes and motors in place. While it's a cheat on my part to run the tubes out to the struts/nozzles, instead of the headache of aligning an exposed shaft, I do have a couple photos of real boats that had enclosed tubes like this. 

Motors are MFA-Como from the UK, with 6:1 gear heads mounted conveniently on 500-sized brushed motors. They'll spin the 2" props at the correct model speed.
Couplings connecting the 6mm motor shaft to the 5mm prop shaft, and the modified prop tube parts, are from Raboesch.







Edited by Patrick Matthews
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Main cabin is built up from frames and stringers, and sheeted in 1/16" basswood. The tricky corners are "planked" or covered with steam-bent sheet, depending on the radius.


Traditional ship models are built from wood, often in a fashion that follows the prototype build method. If I wanted to keep that link to the prototype, I'd be rolling sheet metal skins here. It is possible- many modelers have built ships from soldered tinplate in the past. Today, modern ship modelers in Europe make use of thin phosphor bronze sheet. It's stronger than regular brass, allowing very thin gauges to be used... it works nicely enough and solders like a dream. But that's a bridge too far for me! I'll stick with simple wood. 








Edited by Patrick Matthews
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The cabin walls, be sheeted in basswood, are subject to splitting over time due to humidity changes. So they receive the same fiberglass treatment as the hull. It's easy to deal with here, as the large surfaces are flat or simple convex.

Windows are cut after walls are installed to ensure correct location. A simple template aids in marking out, and holes are opened and finished by Dremel, files, and sanding sticks. The aluminum sliding window frames will be installed later, likely made by printing.

A sheet of 1/16" plywood covers the lower house... it seems big enough to double as a boogie board.

The bulwark around the pilot house is basswood sheet again, this time being sheathed in 0.010" styrene.








Edited by Patrick Matthews
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Nice work Patrick

You do realize that if you want to build a barge to go with this boat it will have to be something like the size of your car!:stunned::P


On 10/30/2020 at 2:01 PM, Patrick Matthews said:

The hull has a "model bow", as opposed to the simpler scow bow used on many towboats.


I was surprised to see the hull design as well. I would have thought the hull would be much flatter and the bow more river boat style. This hull is much more graceful than I would have expected.  

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These boats have to not only be fuel efficient but highly maneuverable as well.  You often see one of these boats pushing a huge collection of barges flanking- moving sideways, as it moves through a turn.  This gets even more complicated if there is a bridge within the turn as there is on the Ohio River. The effect of this maneuver is to shorten the turning radius of the tow.


This requires careful design.  When I was a student at the University of Michigan in the early 1960’s I used to see model towboats with tows of model barges being tested in their large towing tank.



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