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Model Towboating, Ain't Expensive .... Till Ya Start Building = A RIVER! ..... 

Welcome to the = BIG MUDDY!

A slightly scaled down version of the ole = Mighty Mississippi, that's "Home Port" for the only "WORKING" ( On-Line ), R/C Model Towboat & Barge - Operation, in the Whole Wide - World!

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Photos ( L to R ) Before & After Improvements with New Dock

    OK! .... Its only 1 - 1/2 Acres in size, but our back yard - lake, serves as a miniature "Inland River" to my r/c model towboats.    And when we bought - this place, in 2000, it needed a major clean-up.... The Lake I Mean.    Not to mention serious landscape work and the lake was in bad shape.    The above photos were taken at the start of spring 2001, showing various stages ( Before to After ) of my work on the lake.    Step # 1 ... Clean-up unwanted "Weeds, Water Willows & Moss", the check the grades and determine the proper height to the dam.    Then repairs to the dam = which leaked, thanks to a family of "Muskrats" the previous owners didn't deal with, had to addressed.    "But me & Mr. 22 = made short work of that problem!"

    So next came the lakes heavily choked "Scum & Moss" problems, and naturally those damned "Water Willows", that hampered the view, as well as the fishing.    Worst of all, the dam was improperly  shaped with a huge = Hump, and its drainage spillway was poorly designed.    But thanks to "Don & Ernie Talbot" ( Our Home Remodeling Contractors ), and their Case 580 Backhoe, we were able to fix all those problems in pretty short order.    Reducing my problems to a more manageable size, my little 8N Ford tractor could handle.    Left-Over Materials = Mud & Dirt and Roots were allowed to dry out, then using the dirt scoop - I dragged out the roots and used the dirt as back-fill on the dam.    The work all done by my lil 8N Ford, which I call = "Fordly", using a 4' Box-Blade/ Scraper.    And finally, I took some dirt out of the field behind & west of the lake, to reshape and fill areas below the dam, so it wouldn't continue to be a swamp and leaking mess.    Altogether, I'd Say I moved probably = 20+ truckloads of dirt & mud with my lil tractor, before the repairs were finished by mid summer 2001.     And that's about when strange things started to jump and happening!

Believe-It-Or-Not, "Moby Dick" = LIVES!

    And he's actually made his home in our Lake and I think - he's got company!!!   After things settled down in the landscaping, we suddenly discovered him & his friends while running one of my scale rc towboats.    And believe me -, floating amid = 8 to 12+ Pound Channel Cats", are like Whales when compared to my rc models!!!!    So we guess they were hiding under all that aquatic overgrowth, cause you couldn't see them feeding until the improvements began to clear the water.    I used an application of chemicals that reduces "Scum & Weeds", but doesn't harm fish.    And they suddenly showed-up = Everywhere, as we threw-in scoops of "Cat Fish Food." to watch the fun.    We also have some real nice sized - Hybrid Bluegill & Largemouth Bass too.     But we didn't know if there were any Grass Carp, Or Not?    So we purchased a few more = Channel Cat & Bass, plus a couple of Grass Carp and tossed them in the lake to keep ole Moby - Company.    Oh Yeah, before we did the "Chemical thingy", we checked details on that stuff and how its used.    And we were assured by the Fish Hatchery People - such chemicals as I used, wouldn't harm the fish.    So we ordered more for future applications, in case the water gets scummy again.    Took about a week after the chemicals were applied around the edges of our lake, before you could see drastic differences in the water clarity and the fish began = Jumping too.    So now Moby & his buddies are doin belly flops and complaining - if we don't feed them enough!    

So I'm considering building an R/C "Whaling Ship" and changing my name to Capt. Ahab, cause ole Moby's - Just Asking Fer-It!!

    But its fun to just "Catch & Release" and watch our friends & their - kids, all fish in Uncle - Old River Bill's = Lake.   And we're getting closer to the point, where improvements are almost complete, except of the = Dock ( See above - Right Photo ), which was just installed July 16th / 2006 by our local decking contractor.    So now the only item left on our list of improvements, is an Aluminum Carport - over the picnic table area, in front of the dock.    Hopefully it will be installed between the fire pit & lawn furniture and we'll have it wired for electric lights and AC Outlets for the coffee Pot    And I'll likely use gravel as the shelter = flooring, with paths extending out towards the dock and our house.    All that will make it more fun to run model boats in our lake, while the real goal is being able to have my model boat club (The St. Louis Admirals ), out for a fun-run .    And as a member of the "St. Louis Admirals",  I'd love to have a small BBQ and R/C Event here at my home.    And unless things get delayed, we hope by next spring = 2008, to have things completed!! 



SFSCO Workboats = Running the Big Muddy!

    Please Note = ( SFSCo. ) .... Sink'um & Float'us Salvage Company, is a fictional name given to my rc towboats and barges, by a friend & fellow member of the "St. Louis Admirals Club.    Namely One = Glen Hensley, after he'd seen my rather large scale tow - In operation.    According to Glen, he was so amazed, that he decided my boats & tows -  needed an official company name, so his idea - just sorta stuck.    Well, it was pretty darn unique - I Think, so later when I started designing scale plans of towboats and barges, I used it and gained a lot of modeling notice.    And below you'll find photos of my RC fleet - Working at past events, or on my backyard lake - AKA = Big Muddy!


The M/V Sierra Dawn!

1/4" Scale ( All Scratch ) Replica with 15 Hopper Barges

You haven't met the "Ultimate Challenge", till you've = Wrecked A FEW TOWS!"

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    The real "Sierra Dawn", was built in 1969 by St. Louis Ship with a hull measuring 164' x 40' x 12' Drafts, rated at 5400 horse, with twin GM 16-645E7B Diesels.    Originally she was named the Rose Tranchita, when built for Rose barge Lines, then sold to Wisconsin Barge Lines of St. Louis Mo. in 1979 and renamed.    She's equipped with Falk Gear Reductions of  4.074:1 ratios and Kort Nozzles, with 5 bladed Wheels = Propellers.    Then the company and most all of its vessels & barges - were merged in August of 1988 with "American River Transportation Company" = ARTCO. of St. Louis Mo.    Still in service with Artco - today. the Sierra Dawn continues to operate the upper Mississippi.    And has recently had her main engines - overhauled, sometime around 1998.    Plus a few additional cosmetic exterior changes that were done, and possibly some interior work too.    The last time - I saw her, the original "Life Boat Boom" had been replaced with a modern version.    And she sported a new "Shed Roof" over the "Head Deck" and what looked like a new AC Systems.    According to my sources, she's had extensive upgrades inside too, for example in her staterooms and the galley, as well as the engine room.    And like the real Sierra Dawn, my scale model has 6 rudders = 4 flanking & 2 Stern rudders, which all work.              

More on the Above Model     I built this model in 1990, including all 15 "Hopper Barges" that it pushes easily from scratch.    That includes all the research, the plans to her - which I also created.    The entire tow & boat - over 26+ feet in length, are equal to a 1/4 long tow of real barges.    And were later featured in articles I wrote for "US Boat & Ship Modeler" Magazine, check out the old issues of that magazine, starting with the Fall & Winter 1992  Issue.    Titled - "TO PUSH OR NOT TO PUSH! ...  The Magazine sadly folded a few years later, but continued to publish - both, Joe E. Brown's, as well as my own model works, until its very last issue.    Note! = The Sierra Dawns model, is now on permanent display at the "Mercantile Library" in the University of Missouri at St. Louis Mo.     And if you ever get to visit this museum, please be sure to say hello to "Betty Gordon" the Museum's Curator - for me!



The M/V J. L. Dwight & Barge

A 1/2" Scale R/C Trip boat with a Workshop Barge

Plans by John L. Fryant, Hull Kit by Dwight Hartman

    This Model was developed using the new "Hull-Kit" by "Dwight Hartman" designed for building  "John L. Fryant's" scale plans, called = THE GENERIC TOWBOAT.    The hull kit = like its plans, is designed in 1/2" Scale, but was "Modified" from its original "Tender Boat" class design, into a Trip boat.    This conversion or modification. means the structures shown in John Fryant's - plans, showed a Tender ( which has no - Galley or Crews Quarters ).    But I converted the model into a "Trip-Boat", by adding a 2nd Deck = Crews Quarters, under the helm.    And I also added a Galley" in the forward area on the main deck, by modifying the forward stowage locker into a Galley.    So now the model has = both .... meaning a Crews Quarters Deck & also a Galley = which were fully detailed as well!

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Above Photos, Show Model & Barge, Actually Operating On The Edge or Bank of the = Mississippi .. "REALLY!!!"

    Several years ago my friend "Dwight Hartman", designed a really great looking 1/2" Scale HULL KIT, for Fryant's set of model plans, called the GENERIC TOWBOAT.    And Dwight asked me to build-it and write an article that was - to have been covered in "Scale Ship Modeler magazine."    And John Fryant had already covered this - model and its plans, in a previous much earlier issue of SSM magazine, but the new kit hull - inspired a revisit - Dwight & Thought.    A popular model with work boaters, which the new "Hull Kit", was great news and inspired everyone.    Sadly however, SSM is no-longer published, and when we lost the magazine, it left a pretty nasty taste in some readers - mouths.    That, was because its publisher / owner, Mr. Edwin Schneff tried several times to change its format without success and readers - complained.    So the magazine finally failed, due to a lack of interest, partly due to his - not listening to his readers.    So the magazine closed before my article on Dwight's new hull kit, could be published.    And I tried to get it published in another magazine for him, but the whole thing just never got off the ground.    So I've Felt like I owe Dwight - a great deal, and at least something for his first hull kit.    So using my PC & Sills, I developed this website.    Sort of my own way of "Desktop Publishing", without all the hassles of magazines going under.     And it seems =  I was right, as Towboat Modeling has now becoming as popular as any other branch of this hobby!

    Back to the model - A Generic Towboat Model, is naturally something - imagined, so its not a true replica.    But only a model which depicts the general designs of such things - In the Real World.    And while the model is very close to a replication of several - vessel that I know well, it needed to stay a Generic and help Dwight & I widen the knowledge on these boats.    So the difference's between a TENDER & TRIP BOAT = is pretty simple to understand .... A tender has No- Crews Quarters or Galley, so its used locally around harbors and home ports.    And their crews work-it, in shifts usually, so it needs only the basic comforts of a Tender.    But a Trip Boat, provides more, despite its small size, and cramped space.    And their just miniature versions of their larger counterparts = in Line & Long Hauler's.    So a "Trip Boat" is able to make short runs away from "Home Port",  just like  larger ones.    But its small size, allows it to work smaller rivers and its perfect, because they're easily adapted to all sorts of uses in towing.

Inside The Model

    Simply Put, I just added a few details and made a couple of changes to the model, "Its STRUCTURES" I mean.    Adding the 2nd deck = Crews Quarters, then I made a change in the width of the = Helm, so it would fit nicely atop the 2nd deck without changing the model overall looks - To Much.    This is what shipyard's do, if buyers wants a small vessel redesigned or upgraded.    And a hulls can accommodate various structure changes or additions, provided its "ROLL-OVER Ratings", aren't pushed beyond its limits.    So my goal = of simply widening possibilities for how someone else might build the Generic Towboat - Hull Kit, gains more interest from guys wanting to build with Dwight's - New hull kit    And / or using  John L. Fryant's - Generic Towboat Plans, as the basis to create several versions form the plans or hull kit.    Here, I spared no limit to details, adding a fully detailed Helm, just like John Fryant said, in his original SSM article. ..... "Right Down to The Butts - In The Ashtray Details!"

    Then I added more details inside the new "Crews Quarters" = "Double Bunks" in both staterooms, plus Dressers, Shelves and Table Lamps = THAT All WORK!    "Shucks.....I even put "Curtains on the Stateroom Windows" and "Bed Spreads" on the Bunks and added Carpeted floors too.    Then started doing similar things to the "Galley", located forward on the Main Deck.    Inside the galley, you'll find the Cook -  setting on his foot stool, trying to figure out = why, his last "batch of cookies" on the table before him, taste like "Bilge Water?"    And beside he's got a detailed = Stove, Fridge, Microwave, Spice Racks, TV Set and a whole bunch of other items, typical in any Galley on workboats.    And inside the Hull - I pretty well, went nuts there = As Well.    Installing working - Deck Winches ( operated by switches on either side of the lower rear structure ), and they look like = Fuel or Waste Oil Pipe Caps."   Plus Duel = RAM, Diesel Engine Sound Effects, and I even tuned the Sound systems  - twin horns, so they blow with a slightly different pitch & tone.    Then added a pair of my own homemade - Electronic Speed Controls, operated by a Futaba 4-Channel Radio system.    And its control  functions - consist of All Lights, Engine Sounds, Duel Rudder - Steering controls,  and oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that all the models - Hatches Open too.

About The Barge

     With so-many details and effects, I decided the lil towboats - barge, had to have a few details and special effects all its own to even come close to matching it.    The Barges hull, made from 1/4" Pine boards, and plywood decks and bottom plates, with fiber glass cloth and Polyester resin coverings to build and seal its hull.    Even the fittings were scratch built from plastic & dowel rods.    And the various model, Trucks, Trailers, Dozer & Other Equipment, were all built from AMT / Ertle, Monogram or Other brand name plastic truck kits.    And I used a lot of spare parts too, left over from those kits and old ones - I did years ago, to build things like the Welder Trailer, a Portable Generator on wheels.    Note!..... There's a crewman = Actually Welding" on an old diesel  engine block, thanks to a gear driven motor with a small off/on momentary paddle switch.    When the gear rotates, the teeth slowly turning, operating the paddle switch and its flashing light bulb o the welders - Welding Stick, looks like he's = REALLY WELDING!     All this is hidden under the main deck, below the garage workshop - Floor, which the entire building lifts off, to gain access to the inner hull compartments,    The barge also has many other special effects & details, like its own WORKING = Interior Shop Lights, And a "Diesel Auxiliary" Generator, that has "Sound Effects" like one.    The Deck - flood lights all work and so do the Navigation Lights.    And the "Forward Loading Ramp - On The Bow, also operates by a small gear driven dc motor, hidden inside the barge.    And everything on the barge, is in 1/25 scale, including all its trucks, trailers or machines you see on the barge.   Most were heavily modified to depict something realistic, but not originally designed as their kits were entended to build.    In Other words, everything on this model = Boat & Barge, have been modified in some way, to make a highly detailed - Generic Mode l.... Of what could easily be a dozen different - real boats & barges = In Reality! 



Lock & Dam #19! ...... "On a Small Back - Yard Lake?"

 "Why Not? - I Figure, its a Neat Lil = Idea!" 

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    This idea's been in the back of my mind, ever since we bought the place.    So if I get the rest of our home remodeling & grounds improvements done, I just may build myself a miniature scale Lock & Dam!    A great idea - especially for fun RC Boating Events, or testing piloting skills with r/c Tows.   The plan is to keep things simple and it will be built from - Treated 2 by 4 lumber, designed to be easily setup & removed when not in use.    That's because I like to fish and it would be in the way, if left on the lake.    And since my fellow club members ( The St, Louis Admirals ) occasionally drop- by to visit me, I thought the idea was also - well worth adding as a challenge to them too.    Designed to depict a typical 600' Lock & Dam in 1/4" = equals 1 foot scale ...... Note = The above drawing shows - The Lock Gates, at each end of the Chamber can be operated from the banks.    But that option could be - omitted, because they are difficult to make operational, but not impossible - Mind You!    Since twin lock - gates, can be operated by using "Flex-Cables" and Control Rods like those used in model aircraft to make them functional.    Then they could  "Open & Close" on each end of the lock chamber, very realistically by the use of lines attached to control levers on the bank.    Levers or Handles, would operate them. just like a lockmaster would do at a real dam when a tow wanted to pass.     And the miniature Lock & Dam could also be given "Lights" without great difficulty, using a small dc power supply and waterproof wiring to small light bulbs, located along the dam.   Maybe in miniature Street Lights - for example that would be great for Night Runs.    Now wouldn't that make a realistic looking photo, with a model towboat & barges going through my scale lock & dam!!! ..... HMMmmmmmmmmm!

    Why Not - Mooring Cells & Channel Buoys too!    As decorations for my above miniature Lock & Dam idea - Why Not!!!     Well, maybe they sound like a bit of over kill to some, but these items are easy to make items.    So I figure - What The Heck!    Placed along the edges of the lake and around the miniature = Locks, they'll serve as mooring points for rc boats.    Made from "White" 4" Dia. PVC Pipe, cut to 6" lengths, each mooring cell also needs a = 2 foot long length of 1/2" Dia. dowel rod, mounted inside to place the cell in position in the mud.    

    HOW BOAT - SOME BUOY'S AS A FINAL - IDEA = made from 1/2" -  3/4" and 1" Dia. = Dowel Rods, cut and shaped using a wood lath to depict typical styles of US Coast Guard = Navigation "Can & Non- Buoys" on rivers.    Placed where-ever - you like, for example as markers for shallow spots = so the r/c sailboats - don't run aground..... LOL!    Held - in place, with lead sinkers or weight with the buoys painted proper CG - Navigational Buoy Colors.    Hey - they could also be used to chart a special navigation coarse for an event too!    Maybe one that challenges r/c workboat - pilots, to follow the marked channel and avoid obstructions that further test their skills.    And these are neat additions for any photographic event too, where realism in scale models is desired & needed!                

I'll Add More - Later, so check back Often!



Last Updated On 01/22/10 . With Fueled By ktisLopt.gif (9333 bytes)

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