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Detailing a towboat... What all is on there?

REMEMBER (click on photos for larger images)

What all do you find on a towboat? Here's a list to go by to have every thing that the real boat has. We know from the boat we're modeling how many stacks, tow knees, and winches the boat has. Let's start from there and make a check list of items in general to check off. Some boats will have a couple of one item while others will have several, so it's good to have photos to detail by. I'm going to concentrate the list mere to the trip and line haul boats since the small harbor boats are usually sparse.

A capstan or two on the bow deck.

possibly a hand deck winch on the stern.

At least 4 life rings

Air intake for each engine and auxiliary generator.

Exhaust pipe for each engine and auxiliary generator.

2 flood lights on 3rd deck facing forward, 2 floods on 3rd deck 1 port & 1 stbd, 2 floods stern 1 port & 1 stbd

Minimum 2 fire stations on main cabin 1 port, 1 stbd.

HALO fire stations next to engine room doors port & stbd.

1 or 2 yawls with yawl crane for each.

Gasoline tank for outboard motor fuel storage.

Horn light (orange), anchor lights (one at front of roof and one on pole on rear of roof), Port (red) & stbd (green) navigation lights on roof

Minimum 2 spot lights and a loud speaker on front of roof.

2 trumpet or 4 trumpet horn ( some boats may have 3 or 5 trumpets).

2 radars, 2 VHF antennas, 1 UHF antenna, antennas for cell, satellite, TV, etc.

Guard lights on cabins to light walkways.

fire alarm lights (red) next to engine room doors port & stbd.

Galley exhaust vent (sometimes same vent used for electronics room), Toilet exhaust vents

Engine room exhaust vents (sometimes on deck, sometimes in stacks)

A ladder used to climb from loaded barges to empty barges.

Fuel hoses hanging on racks on hand railing or stern.

Pennant flags on tow knees.


Aux. generator intakes and exhausts

aux-exhaust02.jpg (111814 bytes)Here is what the auxiliary generator exhausts look like. The vertical "vents" to the side of each stack are the air intakes for each generator.



For a quick fix, you can buy 3/8" x 1 1/4" axle pegs at a crafts store to make aux. gen. intakes. You can use dowel rod or get larger axles, cut the hub off the end, and round off the edge to make the muffler for the exhaust. For the exhaust pipe use smaller dowel rod. For the curved pipe you can use brass tubing, heat plastic rod, or use #12 or #14 wire, depending on the diameter you need.


gastank02.jpg (114644 bytes) The gas tank is for storing gasoline for the yawl. To build one (refer to photo above) is simply a 1/2" dowel rod with a couple pieces of thin bass wood.

Finished items can be viewed on the G. L. Furr page.


Galley exhaust

exhaustvent02.jpg (78948 bytes)A galley exhaust can be made by cutting off the hub of an axle peg and glued onto a thin piece of 1/2" dowel rod. These vents are also used to vent the electronics room on larger vessels. Finished item can be viewed on the G. L. Furr page.


Grid deck

towcomant.jpg (116916 bytes) Several vessels Have a grid deck on the forward upper decks to allow the pilot to see down on the head of the boat. The antennae are for a new "wireless" intercom that sits on the head of the tow.


grid-deck.jpg (60537 bytes) Grid decking can be made the same as a fleet deck explained on the

Construction 101 page.




dwl-capstan.jpg (476145 bytes) Here's a capstan with dimensions.




"H" bitt

dwl-Hbitt.jpg (345824 bytes) Here's an H bitt with dimensions.



H bitt is made from 1/8" dowel rod 2.5 scale feet long, a 2.5 ft. piece of 1/16" brass rod, and a deck plate made from thin wood or plastic. A smaller example is shown next to the finished bitt.



rachet.jpg (52152 bytes) Here's what a ratchet looks like that is used to tighten wires.


Tow lights

strnlgts03.jpg (92391 bytes) sternlgt02.jpg (65784 bytes) strn-lgt-pole01.jpg (125858 bytes) strn-lgtpole02.jpg (114029 bytes)Tow lights on the m/v G L FURR

strnlgt-prts.jpg (80169 bytes)I make my guard and stern lights from 1/8" dowel rod for 1:48 scale boats. In the photo you'll notice the parts I used to make the stern pole and lights for the G. L. FURR. I used two strips of bass wood for the support rods for the lights with a strip of wood for a spacer till the glue dried on the light frames. Brass rod or plastic strip can be used for this also. Finished item can be viewed on the G. L. Furr page.



yawl08.jpg (109187 bytes) yawl05.jpg (124092 bytes) yawl2.jpg (152536 bytes) yawl1.jpg (132058 bytes) yawlrack.jpg (139413 bytes)

jon-boat.gif (15804 bytes) Every vessel has a yawl or two. Here is a drawing for a 12' yawl.

Finished item can be viewed on the G. L. Furr page.


jon-boat2.gif (26566 bytes) Here's a 14' yawl

jon-boat3.gif (28940 bytes) Here's a 16' yawl

Tow knees

furrdeck138.jpg (142296 bytes) details04.jpg (176868 bytes) bowdeck.jpg (165599 bytes) towknee02.jpg (122100 bytes) towknee05.jpg (132401 bytes) towknee06.jpg (122840 bytes)

Photos were taken aboard m/v G L FURR. Original paint (red) in April 2005 and new paint (gray) in Oct. 2005.

I made the main body of the tow knee from thick sign stock. You know, those big ole FOR RENT and FOR SALE BY OWNER signs. Have you ever seen a FOR RENT BY RENTER? or FOR SALE BY THIEF? dumb signs!!! Anyway I have a better use for them. They're the same styrene that you pay big bucks for at hobby shops. All you have to do is sand the paint off before gluing. The steps are Plastruct as is the modified hand railing. Finished item can be viewed on the G. L. Furr page.


Deck Winch used on barges

and a drawing for making your own


brgwchb.jpg (23510 bytes) brgwchf.jpg (18536 bytes) brgwchs.jpg (29644 bytes) dkwnch.gif (62423 bytes)

Common winch used on towboats

dwl-wnch.jpg (299475 bytes) dwl-wnch-rear.jpg (301068 bytes) dwl-wnch-side.jpg (303321 bytes) winch-front.jpg (177080 bytes)

Scratch building a winch (easy technique)

I used some small spools found at a crafts store, styrene, 1/8" basswood, 3/16" dowel rod, 1/8" dowel rod axle peg mentioned above and a couple of gears taken from old broken toys, clocks, tape player, etc. I used the dowel rod for the winch pump and the axle peg for winch motor. You can add more detailing by adding grooves in the axle peg as cooling fins and use some small brass or plastic rod for the cross bracing.

winch-prts1.jpg (60169 bytes) winch-prts2.jpg (36011 bytes)


More details found on deck

dwl-axe.jpg (129454 bytes) Fire Axe needed for cutting lines and wires in case of emergency.

I've looked everywhere to find fire axes for my boats. Bluejacket Shipcrafters used to have them, but was discontinued.

I've found a simple way of scratch building an axe. I use a piece of strip styrene slightly narrower than 1/8" and cut an angle on one end. The other end I rough cut to match the photo and used an emery board to round off the edge and taper it down to a point.

You only need to round it down and cut the edge on one side since the other side will be glued to the cabin. I used a smaller piece of styrene for the handle and used the emery board to round off the edges a little. Then I used tweezers to pinch a little curve on the end.

For 1:48 scale I think it turned out pretty good. For more detailing you can paint the brass brackets on the axe and even fashion the cutting end into the bracket itself.



riggingrack.jpg (132504 bytes) Rigging Racks are used to stow new rigging up off the deck.

Above shows how I made simple rigging racks. I used strip styrene .040" x .060" to make a 4 scale foot square.

I then used nylon screen door screen for the bottom grid work.

Then I used .100" plastic angle 12 scale inches long for support legs.

After that came plastic rod cut 24 scale inches.

Rigging racks are usually painted the same color as the deck, but it's your option what color you want yours to be.

Now all we need to do is make some coils of rigging to put on them.



dwl-pick-bar.jpg (203009 bytes) Cheater Bar and Tooth Pick used when working with ratchets.

mike-ackerman.jpg (111051 bytes) mike1.jpg (108500 bytes) Mike Ackerman going at it with a Cheater Bar and Tooth Pick.

details01.jpg (178778 bytes) Here's a couple of plastic crates full of Cheaters and Picks.

bilgehose1.jpg (124634 bytes) Hose used to pump water out the bilge of barges.

lidpuller2.jpg (14965 bytes) Tool used to lift hatch lids to inspect barge bilges.

deck05.jpg (143341 bytes) Derek Springton checking the barges for "leakers"

line-grapple.jpg (146674 bytes) Line Grapple - Tool used to grab lines and wires over the sides of barges.

details02.jpg (92646 bytes) wnch-cap-butons.jpg (76778 bytes)pennant.jpg (73649 bytes) Winch and Capstan control buttons.

Those pennant flags you see on the tow knees are there for a purpose. The pilot uses them to tell the direction and strength of the wind. Wind is rough with empty barges.


tom-hunt.jpg (145017 bytes) Chief Engineer Tom Hunt checking fuel supply.

trippy-hose.jpg (146755 bytes) Watchman Tom Trippy sooging the deck.

tr-brush.jpg (172050 bytes) Deckhand T. R. sooging the deck with Trippy.

Bill-Boyd-lines.jpg (174086 bytes) Bill Boyd throwing a stern line on a floating bitt at a lock.