Category Archives: Marine History

Monterey Clipper Reference Site

I’ve long had a thing for Monterey Clippers, those charismatic traditional fishing boats seen at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I’m still pondering the actual build of a model, slowed down somewhat by a lack of knowledge about their details. Their iconic fishing gear is all out in the open, and their traditional Hicks engines– complicated works with moving pushrods and gears and rocker arms– are also exposed, meaning you have to get them right!

So as I’ve started to accumulate details and lore about Monterey boats, I decided to organize it all in one place– a Monterey Clipper-pedia site. It’s just gone live recently, and will continue to grow over the next few months and more. See it at:
Monterey Clippers




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New Research Project: Towboats from Hillman Barge


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.

3-4a 12h167_1952_HLH2

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Pan American Seaplane Tender PANAIR XX-P


PANAIR XX-P, a 1940 build from Julius Petersen for Pan American Airways.

Just completed, another 3D Printing exercise. This is one of a fleet of 36 foot seaplane tenders ordered by Pan American Airways in 1939. The boats were sent to PAA stations around the world, and tended to the big Martin and Boeing seaplanes– the Pan American Clippers. The boats were equipped search lights, towing and rescue gear, but rarely left the harbor except to “sweep” the landing areas for any floating debris.

This boat though, PANAIR XX-P, was stationed at Honolulu, and became a war veteran on December 7, 1941. Her fire fighting gear was put into use in several locations around Pearl Harbor; the photo below shows her (along with the famous tug HOGA) assisting at the West Virginia.

The model is 27 inches long in 1:16 scale, and is almost entirely 3D printed. Even many metal fittings were investment cast from 3D printed wax patterns. Read all about my discovery of these boats, and the construction of the model, at my RC Groups build log:



Hull and cabin were each printed in two parts to fit in the printer.


Assisting at the West Virginia


PANAIR XX-P was stationed at Honolulu


Filed under Marine History, Uncategorized

Ships’ Plans from HAMMS, the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey

16-72 Crowley 21 2-4

An example HAMMS drawing

I’ve previously written about the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), which seeks to document all kinds of historic engineering objects– but especially structures and ships. A forerunner of HAER is HAMMS, theHistoric American Merchant Marine Survey. HAMMS was a New Deal project intended to employ marine architects and surveyors. Much has been written elsewhere of HAMMS, and one of its biggest champions, Howard I. Chapelle, so I’ll only mention that it lasted about 18 months, 1936-1937, and yielded drawing sets for over 400 vessels, large and small.

The HAMMS collection is a wonderful resource for historians and ship modelers, but there’s a problem. Unlike the HAER works, which are indexed online and are freely available for download from the Library of Congress, the HAMMS material is held tightly by the Smithsonian and is by no means free.

I’ve posted some examples of HAMMS plans to give you an idea of what’s available… follow the link to the article:





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DeAgostini’s “Sovereign of the Seas” Post #01

Detail- HMS Sovereign of the Seas

Makers of model ship kits face some existential challenges: Fewer young people have been raised with the model-building tradition (bodes ill for the future), and we baby boomers who do enjoy model building have many other distractions competing for our limited expendable income. Then there is the sticker-shock that comes with quality model kits, the time commitment for building models, and the doubts that many potential model builders have about their abilities to pull off a good build. But the UK firm DeAgostini may have the answer, and other kit producers may do well to observe and learn.

First, DeAgostini has chosen a limited (but growing) list of popular subjects, allowing them to focus the needed time on complete product development. By “complete”, I mean not just the box full of parts, but thorough documentation of the subject and the build process, and assuring that the kit design can actually be assembled without the builder needing to re-engineer the whole thing (Billing Boats, are you listening?).

Next, DeAgostini spreads the cost and the build itself over time, which makes the purchase a little easier to rationalize— they offer a subscription with 135 payments of £5.99 ($9.60) for the SotS spread over about 2 years. This seems easier than laying out $1300 in one chunk… it becomes almost invisible, like buying a Starbucks coffee every day!

The subscription itself is novel, consisting of a magazine/practicum installment, along with the next few bits of kit to assemble. These arrive at your doorstep at the rate of one per week, which should easily allow you to keep up with the build without overwhelming your available time.

I have signed up, and am looking forward to reporting more on the build itself in the near future.

Some more on the model:

  • Depicts the famous gilded ship, launched in 1637 .
  • With over 100 guns, the largest and heaviest armed ship of her day.
  • It’s a big model, at 1100 mm long in 1:84 scale.
  • Plank-on-bulkhead construction
  • Lots of labor saving parts: Laser-cut frames, presewn sails, machined metal castings, etc.
  • More info at DeAgostini’s site,

The DeAgostini web site includes other content too: Other products, modelers’ forum, tutorials, Encyclopedia of Ships, and more.


Filed under Marine History, Model Ship Building

New PT Boat Book: Fighting Boats for a Fighting Navy

I know what you’re thinking… PT boats have been incredibly popular since they first joined the US Navy in 1941, and it’s no surprise that about a zillion books have been published about them… so the last thing we need is another one. Well, that’s why I’m publishing two more books about PTs!

When I was researching PTs for my PT-41 build, I came across a wealth of contemporary ads featuring PTs. Many of these ads are colorful and action-packed, and so typical of the ads of the WW2 era. I started collecting them as a side hobby… and now have over 200! For a long time, I had them posted at “Pat’s PT Ads” on the now defunct Yahoo Geocities sites. Rather than trying to recreate that site, I decided to go commercial and try to recoup some of my investment… which is why I’m self-publishing Fighting Boats for a Fighting Navy in two volumes. So, while PT boat fans have long known about these ads, this is only the second time that so many PT ads have been published in one place… you’re welcome, you’re welcome very much!

Because of the economics of self-published “print on demand” books, a full length book with color interior is just unaffordable. So I have “The Black & White Collection”, with over 200 pages of ads, all in grey tones… and “The Supplemental Color Edition”, a much shorter collection of the most interesting color ads. The pair would make a great addition to a PT fan’s library, but I can also imagine being satisfied with either one by itself.

The books are published through, and are now available at that site for ordering:
Fighting Boats for a Fighting Navy at Lulu
This site allows for a brief preview; take a look at both volumes! Sometime in April, they should also be available through Amazon.

BTW: Printed in USA!


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HMCS Snowberry

Revell "Snowberry" with GLS brass upgrade kit

Here’s a non-R/C job– Revell’s “HMCS Snowberry” Flower-class corvette, being constructed for static display. The model is heavily upgraded with GLS’s brass photo-etch kit.

A work-in-process, follow along at my build thread on RC Groups.

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Tugboat “Shannon”

Shannon's pilothouse

I like old tugs- you didn’t notice?

I had a chance to go aboard Gaelic Tugboat Co.’s “Shannon” the other day. Shannon is a converted YTB from WW2, and has a long history of commercial service here on the Great Lakes.

A few pictures are posted at RC Groups, where there are plenty of other tug nuts.

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Filed under Marine History, Model Ship Building

Google, Scan Our Drawings!

I want Google to scan our country’s engineering drawings– not just books! Read about my quest (folly?) at Google, Scan the Drawings.

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Foundation Franklin


My next big project is underway– the famous salvage tug “Foundation Franklin”. And it is a big project- five feet long and about 70 pounds. FF was a WW1 “Dainty Class” tug in His Majesty’s service. Converted to commercial salvage work, she performed years of heroic North Atlantic work for Foundation Marine out of Halifax. You can read her story in Farley Mowat’s “Grey Seas Under”. And you can follow my build at RC Groups.

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Filed under Marine History, Model Ship Building