SS Master


This steam tug is a familiar site in Vancouver Harbour and the surrounding waterways as she is still seaworthy, but her towing days are long behind her. This wooden hulled vessel was built as a tug during 1922 at the Vancouver False Creek Shipyard and was tasked with towing barges loaded with gravel, building stone and limestone from Vancouver Island to the Port of Vancouver, but she could also be seen from time to time towing log booms. SS Master was one of a trio of tugs, the others being five feet longer, but this vessel is the only one of them to survive without modifications and still be presented in her original paint scheme. The heart of the ship is a triple expansion steam engine built in 1916 that was a Royal Navy W.W.I surplus power unit. Two burners provide heat to generate steam, but they now use diesel fuel or bunker oil.


Operational until 1959, Master was laid up for a time before being rescued and restored by the World Ship Society in 1962, raising steam again in 1963. Since then she has been a familiar sight at maritime festivals around British Columbia and Vancouver. Her colour scheme remains true to the original with a distinctive black diamond on a white band on her funnel. Since 1984 she has been owned by the SS Master Society who maintain the tug with loving care, taking every opportunity to display and operate her at numerous maritime celebrations including the annual Wooden Boat Festival. This vessel’s history adds up to 37 years of working life and a subsequent 50 years representing the heritage of the British Columbia tugboats, the history of Canada’s West Coast maritime and seaport development and the proud history of shipbuilding in the area.

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Bryon Calverley

Prior to retirement, Bryon was an executive with the West Coast Forestry Company on Vancouver Island. He built model airplanes for most of his adult life, turning to r/c model boats ten years ago. The SS Master was his first large R/C model indeed he is attracted to older designs, particularly workboats with character and stories to tell.

Features of this outstanding model include an Animations Sound System, which produces steam engine and harbour sounds, a smoke generator, full lighting and an operational stern towing winch. The hull is of Citrus Spruce plank on frame, its frames being of Baltic Birch. The deck and trim is of Walnut while Gorilla waterproof glue was used for the most part on the model. Notable points include the exposed and beautifully detailed ship’s boat, the on / off switches concealed beneath an opening skylight, the main towing winch and its drive unit, and the lovely workmanship that’s evident in every detail.

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Full-size spec (data

  • Length overall: 85ft
  • Beam :19.5ft
  • Tonnage: 225
  • Power: Steam engine
  • Propeller: 8ft dia.
  • Horsepower: 330
  • Speed: 7 knots
  • Cost (1922): $34000 (Canadian)

Model spec

  • Scale: 1:18
  • Length: 62 inches
  • Weight: 100lbs (45kg)
  • Motor: 800-size brushed
  • Propeller: Brass, 3-blade, 5 inch dia.
  • Batteries: 12V deep cycle (as 24V in series)
  • Sound System: 24 volt
  • Radio: Futaba 6-channel T6EX
  • Build time: 2 years


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