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Hillman Barge & Elmer Easter designed towboats

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    Hillman Barge & Elmer Easter designed towboats

    Hi all, I'm new to the forum, and just slightly sorry to start off with a non-steam/non-paddle wheel topic... but the subject boats are about 75 years old and imho, pretty enough to be celebrated!

    I'm seeking design info (engineering drawings to be precise) for any of the Hillman-built towboats designed by Elmer Easter in the late 40's. I know that at least a couple of these still operate-- the current M/V Charleston and M/V Drema G. Woods with Amherst-Madison.

    I've sent out a number of requests to possible sources, haven't heard anything back yet, but thought to try here as well.

    An interesting tidbit: The HAER project documented the Hillman yard:
    Hillman Barge & Construction Company, Paul Thomas Boulevard, Brownsville, Fayette County, PA
    In the PDF at that link, some words regarding the Easter designs:

    Towboats and Expanded Barge Facilities

    It was Hillman's desire to employ the industry's foremost
    architectural designer to construct a unique and distinctive
    design for his towboats that would set them apart from others
    already on the drawing board. By 1945, Hillman solicited Elmer L.
    Easter of the Dravo Corporation to become his engineer and
    architectural designer. Once in production, Easter's designs
    distinguished Hillman towboats from all others on the river. In
    the M.V. JAMES ZUBIC for instance, Easter designed uniquely detailed
    chamber decks, curved plating in housing, S-shaped
    contours to the roof and hull lines, and midship engines.

    Compared to traditional towboats, these elaborate features
    substantially added to the design, labor, and material cost of
    production. The ZUBIC took nearly a year to complete. Easter's
    test designs in unique curves and contours in the steel hull
    required cutting and fabrication techniques that only blacksmiths
    could supply. The high cost of the smiths, and the continual
    reworking of the cutters insured that the ZUBIC would be the
    first, and only boat which utilized blacksmiths. In his next
    vessel, Silliman replaced the smiths with acetylene torch cutters
    and welders. Silliman had the steel plates that Easter
    designed copied into wooden patterns. The patterns were
    constructed by carpenters and designed as templates for the
    acetylene torch cutters and welders of the second boat. Although
    this new method was laborious, it reduced construction time to
    slightly over six months per vessel.

    Because acetylene torch plate cutting was expensive and time
    consuming, Silliman quickly justified purchasing a semi-automated
    torch cutting table. Little information exists from either the
    company or the union regarding the workers attitudes toward this
    machine which required two to four operators. The number of
    burners necessary for towboat fabrication was reduced, and the
    classification of burner does not appear on any company records
    after 1955.

    Despite cost and production problems, new towboat design
    continued. Today, many of these boats are still operating on the
    Monongahela River. As evident in the M.V. SOLVAY (1947),
    Easter's engineering and architectural innovations in towboat
    design set Hillman's boats apart from traditional styles.
    Contemporary trade journals such as The Waterways Journal, noted
    that, "The Solvay was one of the standard towboats developed by
    her builders, and is a distinct departure from previous industry
    designs and methods. She is in the 1000-hp class and is 145 feet
    long with a propulsion power supplied by 2-cycle, 6-cylinder
    General Motors Model 6-278A Siedel engines with airflex clutchreverse-
    reduction-gear units." Hillman Barge marketed these
    towboats to local and national companies. (23)

    (23) Hillman Barge and Construction Company, "Twin Screw Diesel
    Boat," drawing number 4513-A. This drawing was used for the
    following towboats: M.V. SOLVAY, M.V. LABELLE. and the M.V.
    ONWARD. Richard Basci, Chief Engineer of HBC Barge, interview
    with author, June 30, 1992, and August 20, 1992.

    I know that Towboat Joe Brown (RIP) offered a drawing set of the Solvay... maybe someone out there has a copy they'd share?
    Last I heard (2nd hand info only, and I'd love to be corrected on this!), his relatives wanted nothing to do with his towboat work, and the work is essentially abandoned.
    There is a thread at RC Groups that is attempting to recapture his drawings from the wild; I've not felt bad about contributing what I could:
    TowBoat Joes and Old River Bills Plans post here. - RC Groups


      And for anyone not familiar, here's a pic of Drema Woods, from E. Neale Blackwood Jr.'s page at PhotoBook7 - Page 1
      Attached Files


        Towboat Design Info, and Welcoming

        Welcome to! I know nothing about any design info on those boats, but I will search for some. If my search turns out successful, I'll contact you, but I'm not very familiar with these towboats, and I don't have much resources, so I might not be the best person to carry out this search- but I'll try.


          Brownsville Marine (current owners of the Hillman site) have nothing. They suggested that I contact Trinity, who purchased Hillman in the 80's... no word back from them yet. I may also have a lead on Mr. Basci, who may be with Trinity now?
          Perhaps the Monongahela Transportation museum has something, no word back yet.
          I'm thinking the best bet will be to appeal to historically minded folk at a current boat owner, such as Amherst-Madison (who own Drema Woods and Charleston). I'm sure those drawings will exist on board or in the main offices... but I've no contacts there, can only cold-call their info line...

          Pat M.


            Since starting this thread, I've found gobs of info, and have gotten as far as creating a 3D CAD model, and 2D drawings which will eventually be offered at Paddlewheels & Props.

            Here's what the 115', 800HP boats looked like:
            Attached Files


              Had the pleasure this weekend of going aboard not one but TWO Hillman boats in the Amherst Madison fleet- the Charleston (ex-Onward, 1947, shown here), and the Dr Edwin Welch (ex- US Steel John H. Elliott, 1959)... all on the Kanawha.
              Attached Files


                One more.................................
                Attached Files



                  I'm glad you've found information, and I wish you luck with other river related searches.