Motor Tug Lowgarth

DAVE ABBOTT reviews the Mountfleet Models kit

This is the latest addition to the range of model boat kits from Mountfleet Models.


The full size vessel was originally built by Richards Shipbuilders of Lowestoft and launched in 1965 as a further development of the Plumgarth and Avongarth Class. The great success of the vessel’s design led to a further four ships of the same design. She was powered by a seven cylinder oil engine produced by Ruston and Hornsby driving a single fixed propeller operating within a steerable Kort nozzle. Following her sale by Cory Tug Company and then a number of years moored on the River Weaver, she was then sold to Rigg Shipping and converted for coastal towing. Latterly she was sold again to Fendercare and now operates in Nigeria under the name of Charles Plane.

The kit

The model is to a scale of 1:32 with an overall length of 950mm and beam of 270mm. The hull comes as a one piece GRP moulding with the lower superstructure, wheelhouse and Kort nozzle also as GRP mouldings. The fittings, boxed separately, include a large number of white metal items such as the anchor windlass, towing hook, stern capstan, bridge details and bollards etc. The kit also contains all the printed plywood and plastic parts required, rigging cord and a moulding for the ship’s boat. A 70mm four bladed propeller and propshaft is included, as is a full size plan, plus an excellent step by step instruction manual, Photo 1.


The first job was to clean the hull although it required little attention, but it is always a good idea to rub down a GRP moulding with fine wet or dry sandpaper and then wash with soapy water to remove any traces of release agent and moulding burrs. Fitting of the two bilge keels was the first task and slots were cut in the hull and the bilge keels passed through to the inside of the hull and fixed with fibreglass mat and resin, then made smooth and tidied up on the outside, Photo 2.
Various openings will needed to be cut into the hull for the anchor apertures, wash ports, mooring ports etc., and Photo 3 shows the wash ports being cut out to size. For this, a Dremel battery powered drill/tool is ideal. First, mark the openings on the hull and then drill a series of small holes around the marked area (chain drilling) and to complete the job, use a slitting disc in the Dremel tool and carefully cut between the drilled holes before finishing with a sharp file. This method was also used on the anchor recesses in which plywood boxes are fitted inside of the hull surface to accommodate the anchors. Photo 4 shows the opening drilled out ready to be cut. Using the plywood box anchor recess box as a template is handy as guide. Photo 5 shows the use of a slitting disc to cut away the GRP between the drilled holes and Photo 6 has the plywood boxes with anchor stock tubes glued inside the bow section. BEWARE! Cutting openings in GRP creates a lot of very fine fibreglass dust, so do it in a well ventilated area and ONLY when wearing a suitable mask. There are other holes to be drilled in the bulwarks, Photo 7. Those shown in the picture need to have a white metal lip inserted. Perhaps, the most important hole is that for the propshaft tube and this is best done in stages with ever larger sized drills until ending with a round file to finish to size. Ideally the tube should be a loose(ish) fit to enable adjustment with the Kort nozzle before final gluing.
Deck supports come next, but before leaping into action with the plastic deck edge stringers and adhesive, sand, fill and smooth the insides of the bulwarks as this is easier before the deck is fitted. The deck supports can now be fitted, just below where the deck will sit, Photo 8, using two part epoxy adhesive. Once set, the wooden deck cross beams may be fitted, Photos 9 and 10. The deck is flat transversely which makes life easier.
Fitting of the steerable Kort nozzle looks complicated, but if the instructions are carefully followed then there should be no problems. The aim is to have the propeller turning freely inside it, even when the Kort nozzle is turned to either side and its maximum movement. Once everything is lined up correctly, glue all the parts together and the completed item can be seen in Photos 11 and 12.
The main deck can now be fitted and this is cut from the printed 1.5mm plywood supplied, making sure the openings in the deck line up with the hull cross beams already fitted. Once happy with the fit, glue the main deck onto the deck supports and cross beams. Slow setting epoxy adhesive is probably best for this. A coaming will need to be fitted around the deck access opening and material for this is provided in the kit.

The superstructure lower body which is a GRP moulding, requires little attention, other than drilling holes for the portholes and other minor surface fittings to be added later. The wheelhouse, also a GRP moulding, is the next item to be worked on. This does need some careful planning as there are a large number of windows and openings to be cut out. The same method of chain drilling, joining up the holes and then careful filing as for the hull wash ports will be necessary, Photos 13 and 14.


All these are white metal and require a very small amount of cleaning up with files and wire brushes. I will not go into detail about all of these as it is straightforward assembly job. I did however leave the wheelhouse GRP moulding removable so that the bridge interior detail could be clearly viewed. Photos 15, 16 and 17 show the detail of the superstructure.


All the main colour coat paints were Humbrol satin enamels from their huge range. 85% of the model was spray painted with the small items being brush painted. All the painted surfaces were finally given two protective coats of Humbrol satin varnish. I have had no problem with Humbrol paints, provided they have been properly stirred and the surface underneath is clean and dust free.

Motor and r/c installation

The choice of motor is entirely in the hands of the builder, however Mountfleet Models can supply a suitable motor at extra cost which is a large 12v d.c. brushed can type with very low current drain and low rpm, but high torque. This drives the large four bladed propeller very well. Also, a heavy duty motor mount can be supplied by Mountfleet Models together with a suitable heavy duty flexible coupling to match.

The steering servo was a Hitec type (as good as any) and this was mounted on a plywood platform, along with motor and coupling, Photo 18, and Photo 19 shows the tiller arm and linkage under the stern platform. The 12v 10 Amp SLA battery is under the r/c panel. Radio is 2.4GHz Hitec system using two channels, one for speed control and one for steering. The electronic speed controller (esc) is an Mtroniks 25 amp unit, more than enough for this installation. Mounted at the front end of the r/c panel is a fuse carrier with a 20 amp fuse to protect the system in the event of the motor stalling.

Ballast and on the water?

Some ballast will be needed as it is after all a tug! Ideally, the ballast should be in the form of extra battery packs since the more of these the better, since your running time will be extended if you like those long lazy afternoon sailing sessions.

This is a very manoeuvrable model benefiting from the steerable Kort nozzle and the torque and power of the large relatively slow turning propeller. At low speed, the model is perfect for really tight turns and when sailing normally, the model has an authentic ‘tug look’. The size and weight of the model is also very acceptable, as Lowgarth will fit into the boot of an average sized hatchback with no problem and the weight of the model is not back-breaking!

Price at the time of writing in mid-July 2011 was £340 inc. UK p&p. Available direct from: Mountfleet Models, Laurel Mount, 79 Holmfirth Road, Meltham, Holmfirth, HD9 4DA, UK.