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Barges and Ship Types

See also Appendix One - Canals, rivers and coastal shipping for more information on coastal shipping, river and canal barges (includes a description of standard markings and flags used) and Appendix One - Fishing boats and ports for more on the fishing industry and port facilities.

Sea-going ships & barges

Sail remained the main form of propulsion for smaller craft into the early 20th century, there are a lot of complicated terms used regarding sails, the sketch below shows some of the more common layouts used on smaller craft. The spritsail allows a very large sail with the mast set well foreward, hence its use on the Thames sailing barges. The Lugsail is a variation on the square rig but runs fore and aft, this rig is fast and sails close to the wind. It is mainly associated with fishing boats as it has to be lowered to the deck and lifted round the mast when 'tacking' (changing course with respect to the wind), which requires a lot of crew. The gaff rig was probably the most common on small coastal vessels. The advantage of the gaff rig was that the gaff (the upper boom supporting the sail) could be lowered a bit, allowing the bottom part of the sail to be secure to the boom with the ties visible on the sketch, this was called reefing down (the square rig could also be reefed down but that could not be done from the deck). The sloop (smack if it is a fishing boat) shown bottom left is gaff rigged but with a foresail, these tended to be built for speed. A ketch tends to be slightly larger, as shown bottom right, quite capable of sailing across the North Sea to European ports, these ranged a long way from home.

Fig ___ Sails used on smaller craft
Sketch showing sails used on smaller craft

If you have more room you could opt for a Lugger, two masts both with lug sails, or a Brigantine, which has a two masts, the after one being gaff rigged with (usually two or three) square sails on the foremast. Three masted types would be the Barquentine which has a gaff sail on the after mast and two masts with square rigged sails, or the schooner which has gaff rigged sails on all three masts (sometimes with square sails at the top of the front and middle mast, hence called 'topsail schooners', these were removed when engines were fitted in the 1930s). The definition of a schooner is actually two or more masts all fore and aft rigged, but the term is normally associated with three masted ships.

Sailing barges were a mainstay of inland transport right into the mid nineteenth century. They could reach a long way inland following the rivers and 'broad canals', they are generally simple in form and hence not difficult to model. There were regional variations of course for example the Norfolk Wherry was exceptionally wide for its length. One problem is that most illustrations depict the vessels belting along with all sails set whereas we are much more likely to want the sails furled or removed completely during loading and unloading. The sails could be hauled in, rolled round the boom at the base of the sail or removed completely depending upon the circumstances. Sailing barges, with their small crew, were likely to simply furl the sail to save time and effort when getting under way.

Fig ___ Norfolk Wherry with Sails Furled.
Sketch showing Norfolk Wherry with Sails Furled

Small coastal sailing ships often had a larger carrying capacity and would therefore be more likely to remain in port longer. They usually had a bigger crew and it was not uncommon for the sails to be removed completely when working cargo.

This makes for an easier modelling project as it is quite difficult to simulate the folds of canvass in our scale. The sketch below shows a Tamar Barge coasting vessel with furled sails, sketched from a photograph showing her unloading coal at a jetty in the early 1930's. If the sails were removed the top and bottom poles on the after sail would be resting on the roof of the after cabin whilst the poles on the foremast would be hoisted pretty much as shown to keep them out of the way. The upper pole on the foremast was sometimes rigged with a block and tackle to lift cargo between the ship and the quay.

Fig ___ Tamar Barge with Furled Sails
Photo of model tamar barge with furled sails

Note the vessel has sails which lie fore and aft, this arrangement requires less man-handling than the older 'square rig' type sail.

The ketch Garlandstone, now preserved at Morwelliam Quay has this kind of sail but this was a nineteenth century innovation introduced by 'yachting types' who found the ketch a useful little vessel for their purposes. The rig was adopted by commercial ketches in the mid nineteenth century but prior to this date the ketch usually had square sails. A ketch is a two masted ship, typically able to carry a hundred tons or so and usually used for coastal or near-continental trades.

Ketches represent a useful size vessel for a model railway, visibly larger than a 'boat' but small enough to fit in any harbour or river berth. Prior to the introduction of iron hulled ships the average ratio of length to width (or 'beam') was three to one, resulting in generally 'tub' shaped hulls. The only problem with this is that commercially available model ships, even the sailing variety, tend to be longer and thinner in plan.

Ships of this type are not easy to scratch build, but you might be able to find a commercial model to provide the hull and some of the fittings. I found a small kiddie's wooden model on a market stall imported from Taiwan which had a beautifully carved hull to form the basis of a small sailing ship. You can use old paint brush handles for the masts with sanded-down cocktail sticks. Ships of this size had the difficult to model rope ladder arrangement for access to the upper parts of the mast, to model these is tedious but necessary if the kit provided nothing suitable.

Ocean going sailing ships were rare by the 1940's although a few remained in revenue earning service trading all round the UK coast and near continent into the early 1960's. The West Country 'Topsail Schooner' Kathleen & May is now part of the national Ship collection, she has been fully restored and can be seen at St Katherine's Dock in London.

Fig ___ Kathleen & May (West Country Schooner)
Sketch showing Kathleen & May (West Country Schooner)

Up to the 1970's even sea-going cargo ships were relatively small by modern standards. They were usually of a general purpose design intended to carry mixed cargo but capable of loading goods in bulk if required. This type of ship is usually called a 'break bulk' ship and they were always equipped with their own cranes or derricks to handle the cargo.

By the end of the 1980's they had largely been replaced by container ships and specialised vessels such as palletised fruit carriers, car-carriers, oil and gas tankers, bulk ore and mineral carriers and the roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) vehicle carriers. Smaller coastal vessels still operate today however, and not everything goes in containers, coils of steel sheet and wire are shipped 'loose' and bulk materials such as coal and ore are moved by sea.

A small steam or motor coaster of about 200 tons works out at about 12 to 18 inches in N, which is quite a reasonable size to play with. All-aft accommodation and engines was virtually the standard layout for small coastal steamers from the 1890's. Often the navigating bridge on these vessels was open, the helmsman and officer of the watch, if the vessel was large enough to boast one, having to make do with a thick coat for protection from the elements.

Fig ___ Small coastal steam vessel.
Photo of a model of a small coastal steam vessel

Hatches and Hatch Coamings

Cargo carrying vessels need to cover the hatch (the hole in the deck where the cargo is loaded), on a small boat such as a narrow canal barge a beam mounted above the hatch can be used to support a tarpaulin sheet, roped down to the sides. On larger boats, and anything likely to go to sea, something more substantial is required. The standard method used on ships of all sizes was from many years the hatch beam supporting hatch boards. This consists of a raised wall around the hatch called a coaming, at either end of which (one at the front one at the back) is a mounting that takes a heavy beam (originally wood, later of steel). Hatch boards are then laid between the edge of the coaming and the beam, forming a gently pitched 'roof' over the hatch. This is then covered with a tarpaulin which is secured around the sides using a metal bar held in place by wooden chocks driven into a metal frame, on smaller craft a rope was sometimes added across the tarpaulin as well.

Fig ___ Typical hatch, beam and boards
Sketch of a typical hatch as seen on sailing craft and steam or motor coasting vessels

Where the hold was long the beam would become unwieldy so a series of transverse (side to side) frames were used, each with a support for the beam at the apex. In this way a part of the hold could be exposed whilst leaving the remainder covered. Larger barges and lighters (barges used to unload ships at anchor) also used this system of hatch covering, the coaming would in all cases be no less than a foot high, on a small coaster it might be two feet high and on a 2000 ton coaster as high as three feet from the deck.

The example below left shows the end view of a large barge, note the clips for the end of the canvas cover. The examples below right is a lighter being prepared to take on a cargo, the canvas has been folded back, the hatch boards lifted out and the short beam removed (it is lying on the deck beside the hold).

Fig ___ Typical barge hatch, showing cross-support for beam and boards
Sketch of a Typical barge hatch, showing cross-support for beam and boards

For larger ships the size of the hatch boards would become a problem so a large transverse support might support additional beams, allowing shorter hatch boards to be used, however in the space available to the average railway modeller such ships would be impractical.

Fig ___ Typical 1960s coaster with conventional hatches
Sketch of a Typical 1960s coaster with conventional hatches

The colour of the tarpaulin sheets used to cover the hatches has proved an elusive topic, as far as I can tell prior to about 1930 they would have been a dark grey, cotton canvass waterproofed with tar. From about 1930 to about 1960 most would have been a light grey colour, with those used on smaller coasters sometimes being a reddish brown colour. From 1960 green seems to have become more common but light grey continued in use into the 1980s. If anyone has any more accurate information on canvas used for hatch covers I would be grateful if they could pass the details by e-mail.

The illustration below shows a hatch being worked in the later 1930s, the ends of the hatch boards removed from the open area can be seen in the lower left, stacked on top of the boards for the adjoining section. It was common to only partly open the hatches when working cargo, for one thing this made it easier to deal with rain. Note that the top end of the sack was still tied off rather than sewn at this time.

Fig ___ Working a hatch in the 1930s
Photo of men working a ships hatch in the 1930s

In the 1940s a new type of hatch started to appear, called the sliding hatch cover, this consisted of a series of slabs running from side to side across the hatch which were pulled backwards to fold up concertina style at one or both ends of the hatch. This kind of hatch has several advantages, it is quick in operation and requires a smaller crew to handle it, but it cost more and so did not catch on for some time. These were never very common on coasters prior to the 1970s, when they started to gain favour. The plus side here is that they are easier to model than conventional hatches. One common type is the McGreggor single pull design sketched below.

Fig ___ Typical sliding hatches
Sketch of a Typical sliding hatche system

Fig ___ Appearance of sliding hatches in use on a coaster
Sketch showing Appearance of sliding hatches in use on a coaster

Train Ferries

Train ferries are ships equipped with rails to carry railway wagons, locomotives are not carried unless they are being exported. The usual arrangement is for the ship to tie up alongside a jetty with its stern against a floating ramp called a 'link span'. The railway lines from ashore run out onto this ramp and so onto the ship.

An American modeller has used a railway wagon transporter vessel as a fiddle yard on his freight only-line, the 'ship' is actually a small moveable table which can be turned end-for-end. The stock is taken on board and the ship 'departs', subsequently 'arriving' with what is presumed to be a fresh set of wagons for the system. Such transporter ships and barges are quite common in the USA, often simply used for crossing wide rivers where a bridge would be a difficult and expensive alternative.

In Britain train ferries have been confined to ships used for Continental traffic for many years, although the Forth Bridge was built to replace such a system, the loading ramp for which is still in place on the Burntisland side of the river.

Cross channel train ferries first appeared in 1917 (during World War One) to supply the front lines. Three ships were built for this traffic each with four tracks on deck accessed via the stern. They operated between Southampton and Dieppe and also between Richborough (in Kent) and Calais, where a special military railway line was laid to the port. Later a service between Richborough and Dunkirk was established. The link spans (which carry the railway tracks from the shore to the ship) were identical at all five ports.

With the end of the war all three ships were laid up until 1923 when they were purchased by a joint British-Belgian operation. In 1924 they entered service running between Harwich and Zeebrugge using the old military link spans recovered from Richborough and Southampton. In the depression of 1929-1932 the British end of the organisation went bankrupt and the LNER took over. The sketch below is based on a poster produced by the LNER and the detail appears surprisingly accurate when compared to photographs of the prototype.

Fig ___ Original ex WD train ferry
Original ex WD train ferry

In 1936 a second service was set up by the Southern Railway between Dover and Dunkerque using three ships each of which had two tracks laid onto the stern with four tracks on deck. They could carry twelve international sleeping carriages or twenty four forty foot wagons and an enclosed upper deck had a garage for 25 motor cars. The illustration below is based on a poster produced by the SR advertising this service. Note the funnels are mounted fore and aft rather than at the sides as on the old WD ferries.

Fig ___ 1930s Southern Railway train ferry
Southern Railway train ferry

When war broke out again in 1939 the LNER and SR train ferries were requisitioned and used by the Royal Navy. Two of the former LNER ferries were sunk during the war, the lone survivor (HMS Princess Iris) was returned to civilian service after the war and renamed SS Essex Ferry. The ships had been extensively modified the war and when handed back to the LNER she had a single funnel on the centreline and the train deck was roofed over.

Fig ___ Post War former LNER train ferry
Post war LNER train ferry

The Essex Ferry re-entered service between Harwich and Zeebrugge in 1946 and was only broken up in 1957.

New ships were built in 1951 and in XXXX a former Roll-On Roll-Off ferry, converted for rail traffic, was chartered and renamed Sealink Vanguard. The Sealink Vanguard was fitted with a lift to allow additional tracks on a lower deck.

After 1967 additional sailings from Harwich also ran down to Dunkerque but in 1982 this service was abandoned, mainly due to the lack of suitable ships, investment for which had been prevented by the abortive channel tunnel project of the 1960's and 70's. The service between Harwich and Zeebrugge was also reduced at this time. The Germans were annoyed by this and re-routed their traffic to Cuxhaven in Holland, where it was transferred to road vehicles and brought across on roll on-roll off vehicle ferries. The small port of Felixstowe handles a lot of roll-on-roll-off lorry traffic as well as LPG and chemical tanker ships, although small in size it is today one of the largest British ports in terms of volume of traffic.

The Harwich Zeebrugge service ended in January 1987, the remaining trade being concentrated at Dover to maintain international links ready for the channel tunnel. The Dover-Dunkerque link was finally shut down in 1995.

Typical train ferries would be about thirty inches long by seven inches wide in 1:148. The ferries built by BR in 1951 were about four hundred feet long by nearly a hundred feet wide, they had four tracks on deck with two points at the after end so only two tracks passed over the stern onto the quay. They typically carried about thirty wagons on each trip.

Train ferry ships do not have the high sided accommodation of most sea going ferries, railway rolling stock cannot climb stairs and experiments with lifts and the like have generally proved unsuccessful. They usually have an open central deck with two funnels arranged one on each side of the ship, older vessels had these half way along the ship but the Sealink Vanguard was a more modern slab-sided ship and had them at the stern.

There will be two masts on such as ship, one above the main navigating bridge toward the front of the ship and one near the stern. The former is the 'signal mast' and would have a cross-tree to support the signal flag halyards near the top, the after mast would also have a cross tree but only a single halyard from each end.

The national flag (the Red Duster for British ships) would be hoisted to the top of the after mast and when berthing a two foot diameter black sphere would be hoisted on each of the two halyard on the after mast as shown in the sketch. The fore mast is usually called the signal mast, it would have the H flag flying, indicating that a pilot was on board and possibly the B flag to indicate that dangerous cargo such as chemicals or oil was being handled. These flags are described above. The masts can be made from small diameter paint brush handles which have a taper to them.

At the stern there would be an open raised walk-way equipped with speaking tubes and possibly a telegraph for controlling the engines, this was so the officer of the watch could see clearly as the stern approached the link-span. The Sealink Vanguard did not have the after mast or the after bridge, she used closed circuit TV for docking. Train ferries only have a small number of lifeboats as they carry few if any passengers, the ships built in 1936 had four on each side, those built in 1951 had only two boats, one on each side.

The associated port facilities varied depending on the tidal conditions at the port, the Harwich-Zeebrugge service had a long pier to line the ship up with the link span at the landward end. The illustration below is based on an advert for the Zeebrugge end, but the arrangements were similar.

Fig ___ Ex WD link span and train ferry
Original ex WD train ferry

In Dover the tidal range was greater and they used a fully enclosed dock, just large enough for a single ship to enter (stern first), so the water level could be controlled and the link span maintained near enough dead level.

The former arrangement is probably preferable for a model railway. By building the ferry as a removable tray, or even a wheeled table, you could use it as an additional fiddle yard, which would allow you to run quite a lot of continental stock. There is a flat deck over the railed deck, with the remaining superstructure sitting on it. By making the superstructure removable you could have access to the rail deck if anything goes awry.

Fig ___ Train ferry and berth
Sketch showing suggested Train ferry and berth

Container ships

Most ISO or European container ships are rather large, and the ports that handle them are also rather large, however there are smaller types, known as 'feeder' ships and these serve often quite small terminals on the larger rivers. The Shell Welder tanker kit from Eastern models would serve as the basis for such a ship in British N, although really a bit small it would pass muster for a home layout. The look would be considerably improved by lengthening the hull, widening the hull (requires making a new deck) would produce something quite close to acceptable. Add the container support framework to the main deck and replace the front part of the accommodation block with a taller rectangular type as shown in the illustration, this can be made using 30 thou plastic card. The rear of the kit accommodation block can be retained but you need to add a taller funnel (this can be rectangular rather than curved in shape) and you would need to add some more radar and communications gear on top of the bridge.

Fig ___ Small container ships
Sketch showing typical small 'feeder' container ships


There were many designs of tug, by the mid 19th century the paddle tug was commonplace, by the beginning of the 20th century the screw propeller dominated and these are much easier to model (unless you can find the old Airfix 1:600 scale kit of the Great Eastern, a good starting point for a paddle tug although better for a paddle ferry). The last steam engined paddle tugs to be used in Britain were used to berth colliers at the staiths at Seaham harbour. One of these paddle tugs, the Reliant, is preserved in the National Collection. The tow hook on a tug is always somewhere close to the centre of the hull and mounted on a swinging arm so the pull on the hook is always straight to allow the quick-release to operate. The steering position moved from the rear of the tug to in front of the funnel toward the end of the nineteenth century.

The sketch below was made in the mid 1970s, when I built my first layout, and shows the salient features of a paddle tug (intended for a pre-grouping era layout). Note that the steering position is in the open and the chap steering stands in front of the wheel. Note the tow hook just behind the mast and the bar running across the after deck to prevent the tow rope from catching. Access to the bridge (steering position) is via a stair at the front.

Sketch showing main details for a paddle tug
Sketch showing main details for a paddle tug

The photo below shows a model paddle tug, points to note are the two lights, one above the other on the foremast and the arched metal bars running across the after deck so that if the tow line went slack it would not catch on any deck fittings.

Typical paddle tug
Photo of a model paddle tug

Steam tugs, paddle or screw, offered many advantages over using horses and rowing boats to maneuver ships in port. There is a preserved example, the Mayflower built in 1861, at the Bristol Industrial Museum & Maritime Heritage Centre, the example shown below is a typical British screw driven type and might have operated in any British port.

Typical British steam tug
Sketch of a Typical British steam tug

The Noch tugs are 18cm long, corresponding to almost ninety feet (26m) in British N scale, which is very big. The fully enclosed wheelhouse as on the Noch model dates from about the late 1920's. There is a preserved steam tug called the Mayflower at Bristol Docks museum, she is 65 feet (19.8m) long by 12 feet (3.6m) beam at her widest point. The Noch models have the tall cylindrical smoke stack of a steam vessel and would serve for a larger dock scene up to the 1950's at a pinch. Replacing the funnel with a more modern shape would allow them to be used for periods between 1940 and the present day.

The example shown below was photographed in Bombay (since renamed Mumbai) harbour in about 1980, note the way the hook is attached and the bars across the after deck. Tugs of this type operated from the late 1930s to about 2000.

Typical motor tug
Photo of a typical motor tug

Tugs come in a range of sizes, the two examples shown below (again in India in about 1980) show typical small and medium sized vessels. Both are post war types, suitable for layouts set from the later 1950s (when they would have been new).

Small and medium sized motor tugs
Photo of a typical motor tug

I have recently heard of a range of card models from a company called 'Paper Shipwright' (website at ) which includes a British steam tug from 1915, also supplied is a rather good kit of a typical barge. The tug has an open wheelhouse, suitable for layouts from about 1910 to 1940. The photo below is courtesy and copyright David Hathaway, the proprietor of Paper Shipwright models.

Paper Shipwright Tug and Barge
Photo of a Paper Shipwright Tug and Barge

Ship, Barge & Boat Models for docks

Note - The markings used on ships and some useful detail on flags and ensigns can be found in Appendix One under 'Canals, rivers and coastal shipping'

The two Langley narrow boats (motor A18a and butty A18b) and the Fleetline narrowboat 'coal barge' (BN-1) would serve for layouts set between the First World War and the early 1970's. These narrow barges were not confined to the narrow canals of the Midlands but wandered throughout the canal network and even into some ports, however they were not sea-going and so are more suggestive of the inland waterways.

Probably the simplest option suggesting a larger port is to provide some 'lighters', barges which were loaded by ships at anchor and carried the goods to the quay (or vise versa). Lighters were quite large, often larger than the smaller coastal craft, but they had no engines and no accommodation. They were moved about by tugs and up to the 1960's most tugs were rather small vessels which do not take up too much room. Most river ports would have a few of these on hand, larger ports such as Liverpool and London would have a great many. Lighters were large, usually larger than most barges, some had vertical bows and stern with the rudder sticking out at the back (like a large barge) but a lot had a distinct cut-away at the bow and stern. Although large these could be moved about by a man (or two) working a long oar called a 'sweep'. This was even seen on rivers where one would assume the current would be too strong.

Port or harbour lighters
Port or harbour lighters

Barges were also used in the same way, and they are easier to model (at least I find them so). Noch offer a model suitable for OO layouts in their range. For N Gauge layouts the Airfix military 'Pontoon Bridge' set includes five barges which can serve for a 'barge' type lighter, although they are rather deep for use 'as-is' and benefit greatly from being reduced in height by cutting them in half. The centre of the lighter has a low raised coaming on which ship-type curved supports were mounted to carry 'hatch boards', these then being sheeted over with canvass secured by wedges in the coaming. At each end there is usually a rectangular hatch about three feet square, for which a square of 30 thou card will serve in N. The photo shows an Airfix barge being modified in the way described.

Modelling lighters
Airfix barges being modified

There are European barges available from some continental firms which might serve on a more modern layout but these are rather big for a British setting although they might serve in a deep-sea docks. Noch offer a dumb barge (35720) in their OO range, this is acceptable for a British harbour lighter in OO but this scales out very large indeed in British N. For a British harbour lighter (see also Appendix One - Canals, rivers and coastal shipping) it is probably better to go for a scratch-build using 1" x 2" planed timber (scaling out at about 12" x 24", cut this in half to reduce the height to about half an inch or a quarter inch when loaded) and sand to shape. For a loaded harbour barge or lighter life is easy, just add the top of the hatch, for an open barge you can get away with modelling the hatch coaming and adding a 'piled load'.

The Noch 1:160 Continental N scale range also offers a pilot boat (35750) and tug boat (35710) both on the same hull, a modern European powered barge (35730) and a modern powered barge tanker (35740). The powered barge is again rather large for N, and requires rather a lot of modifications, the tanker barge, although requiring modification, can at a pinch be pressed into service for N Gauge, but the Eastern Models (formerly Novo and before that Frog) 'Shell Welder is an altogether better option.

Ship Models and modelling ships

Modelling ships is not actually difficult, although the complex shape of the hull is difficult to get right. One option is to take a piece of planed softwood and plane and sand this to shape, tricky to get it symmetrical but if you make a set of curved templates in post card and use these to mark the sides you can get quite a reasonable finish. For flat sided boats and barges this approach has a lot to commend it.

An alternative is to use the hull from a commercial model ship, although these usually require cutting down to the waterline. I did try using expanded polystyrene ceiling tiles with a hole cut in which the ship sat, the texture on the top served well as 'water' but I found that when I left the model in place the polystyrene attacked the plastic and softened it. To produce a waterline model I now sit the hull on the supplied base on a flat surface then use a piece of scrap wood about the right height with a broken hacksaw blade resting on it to scratch round the hull. This line can then be cut with a razor saw.

War ships are the wrong shape, usually much too long and thin for our purposes, however there are a few models available that can be cut down in this way. One example is the Revel 'Light ship', the prototype was anchored over a patch of shallow water, serving as a floating lighthouse. The hull shape is fine although the decks and superstructure need replacing but many of the supplied parts can be pressed into service.

The sketch below (made many years ago and unfortunately long since separated from the associated notes) is based on a photograph of a small coastal steamer at about the time of the First World War (note the open bridge), the Light Ship hull could serve well for such a model. This vessel is slightly unusual in that it has a crane instead of a derrick over the after hold and two lifeboats (on raised davits with wooden platforms beneath them), rather than the single boat more usual on a ship of this size.

Fig ___ Sketch of a small steam coaster
Sketch of a small steam coaster

The Revel modern trawler Kandahar has lovely lines to the hull, as a trawler it serves from the 1930s to the end of the railways involvement in fish traffic in the later 1960s. It can be used as the basis for a number of ship types but the work involved generally requires a complete replacement of the main deck. There was an article by Derek Church in the July 1984 Scale Trains magazine on converting this kit to represent an OO scale steam drifter (a type of fishing boat, see also Appendix One - General Information - Fishing boats and ports) and an OO scale small steam coaster. This article would be worth perusing if you model in OO.

I have recently heard of a range of card models from a company called 'Paper Shipwright' (website at )which includes a small coastal tanker to 1:160 scale, kit number PS27 the SS Ben Read, a coastal steam tanker dating from 1923. The photo below is courtesy and copyright David Hathaway, the proprietor of Paper Shipwright models.

Paper Shipwright Ben Read coastal tanker model
Photo of a Paper Shipwright Ben Read coastal tanker model

This range also includes a combined kit of a small British outline tug with a suitable barge as mentioned above.

The well known Eastern Models (formerly Novo and before that Frog) kit of the coastal tanker Shell Welder scales out close enough to British N to be usable (it is actually about 1:200 but looks acceptable on a layout). This needs to be cut down to the waterline as this kind of vessel would not normally be 'beached' other than by accident, but otherwise it can be used unaltered for any post war layout (you can get away with it as a later 1930s vessel, but only just). My own model is currently in storage, the photo below was taken at a stand run by the Manchester Model Boat Club at a steam rally in about 2002, it shows a larger scale model of the same ship, with the old Frog model beside it. The level of detail is similar on both. Unfortunately I cannot credit the builder as their name was not displayed on the stand.

Fig ___ Model of the Shell Welder coastal tanker
Photo of a larger scale model of the Shell Welder

This is a very nice kit, originally tooled by the British firm Frog, although the design of the ship is suitable for post war layouts it can be 'back dated' with a little care. Unfortunately this kit is difficult to find these days.

The prototype Shell Welder was subsequently converted into a bulk carrier, transporting coal, broken stone and the like, and the model is not difficult to modify to represent such a vessel. The deck is retained but the foremast is relocated forward and a raised 'coaming' is added carrying a set of 'folding hatch covers'. If the hatch covers are closed no additional work is required, if they are part or fully open you have to cut away the deck inside and add a little detail to the insides and tops of the coamings. See Appendix One - Canals, rivers and coastal shipping for information on the design of hatches used on coastal craft. No cranes or derricks are required as these ships rely on shore equipment. The two variations on the Novo kit would occupy a quay some 2 feet 6 inches long and justify block trains of both coal (or other minerals) and oil.

Fig ___ Converting the Shell Welder coastal tanker to a bulk carrier
Converting the Shell Welder coastal tanker to a bulk carrier

The example shown below is typical of the breed, the ship has sliding hatch covers and is roughly the same size as the Shell Welder.

Fig ___ Typical coastal bulk carrier
Sketch of a typical coastal bulk carrier

If your port is too small to provide the required equipment to unload a bulk carrier (which could be as simple as a crawler crane with a grab) you can make a 'self discharging bulk carrier' by adding a couple of electric cranes, either one at each end of the hold (offset one to either side of the ship) or two side by side in the centre (each with their jib laid diagonally across the hatches, one forward and one aft, when under way).

For more general cargo you can again modify the Shell Welder kit, the photo below was taken in Istanbul in the early 1980s but vessels of this type would have been seen in British ports from the 1940s on. She has two hatches, each with a derrick, and the older style of hatch boards with canvas covers, making her visually rather different to the tanker model.

Fig ___ Two hatch coaster
Photo showing a two hatch coaster

Some of the general cargo coasters had multiple derricks, the example shown below has two for each hatch and looks substantially different from the tanker model. Having two derricks per hold allowed the ship to use 'union purchase', one jib is fixed in position over the hold, the other over the quay and the load suspended from both. This arrangement is quicker than a crane as the jibs do not have to move and the load is lifted and lowered with very little swing (see also 'Wagon Loads & Materials Handling - Materials Handling - Hoists and Cranes'). The example shown has the more modern sliding hatch covers discussed above. The photograph was taken when the ship was changing from one berth to another, it would not put to sea with open hatches and derricks not secured.

Fig ___ Two hatch coaster with sliding hatch covers
Photo showing a two hatch coaster

If you fancy trying to 'kit bash' or scratch build small ships C. V. Waine's 'Coastal Steamers and Short Sea Traders' is a book worth finding at the library. The all welded ship only appeared in the 1930's, and the Board of Trade required that riveting be used on high stress areas of the ship right up into the 1970's (you will often find a line of double rivets along the top edge of a ships hull, there is a model in the Science Museum, London, of a P&O LPG tanker, the Gazana, which has this detail). There are some preserved vessels you can see to obtain detail, the Robin, a small coastal steamer, is (or was) on display at St Katherine dock, next to the Tower of London.

The main British coastal tanker company has been Rowbottoms, but I cannot find my notes on their livery (they were taken over by P & O in the later 1980s).

The main British company dealing with dry cargo coastal traffic (certainly since the 1960s) has been F T Everard & Sons Ltd, based in London. Their ships have a 'light stone' hull, the funnel is a slightly richer version of the same colour, the accommodation block is white or stone, the decks are usually a mid green or dark grey. In the sketch below note that the lower part of the signal mast (on which the various lights are mounted and up which signal flags are hoisted) is discoloured with the funnel exhaust.

Fig ___ F T Everard company colours
Sketch showing F T Everard company colours

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