I admit that my attention is easily diverted, when it comes to marine modeling. I’ll dive into whatever subject grabs me, whether it’s a battleship, a PT boat, a tug, a schooner, or even a DUKW. For a long time, I’ve been vaguely interested in the diesel towboats of our inland waterways, but I’ve never had a particular attachment to any one of them… just not enough for me to take on a research and modeling endeavor. Until now.
Recently, the early towboats of Hillman Barge and Construction have come to my attention. Hillman Barge was mainly …(you guessed it)… a barge builder, near Brownsville PA, on the Monongahela. But in 1945, Hillman hired on a promising marine engineer, Elmer W. Easter, to design for them a unique line of diesel towboats. Ten of these boats, in two sizes, would be built from 1947 to 1959. Variously described as” the most modern”, “yacht like”, “true streamline”, and “like a luxury liner”, they were also capable and efficient work horses on the rivers of the Upper Ohio region.
Three of these boats still operate today on the Kanawha in West Virginia. One is nearly original in appearance, while two have had their pilot houses raised… but in way that complements their original streamlined design.
So I’m well into my research of both the Hillman boats and their designer, Elmer Easter. I have hundreds of news clippings, a score or more of great photos, and the lines for one of the original 115 foot boats. From this, I’ve created a 3D CAD model… hopefully, I’ll get enough information to do the same for the larger 145 foot boats as well.