R/C tug Kilkenny 
Updated January, 2006
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Building of a Radio Controlled tug from the Lindberg Kit
and a scratch built barge for it to push
As my first R/C boat it was a fun experience

Pond Trials in  2002
Another view

Over all I am very happy with the way the tug turned out.  I built the model with a powerful motor with the thought of building a good size barge for it to push.

As a beginner to R/C modeling I choose the assembled motor and shaft for ease of building (see parts list for more information).  This motor produces a lot of power and the tug really moves. For most users power by a modified servo should be fine and would make building much simpler. (If I was to build it again I would use the servo method of powering the tug.)

Using the Speed 400 motor with a 6 volt battery pack the bow gets up on a plane at full speed and over distance the rear deck becomes awash.

The power works out nicely when I push the barge which carries about 25 pounds of ballast. (see bottom of page for barge pictures and video)

Close up of decals.
See below for details
Working with the Great Laker
Video clip of the tug in action
(5 meg)

Rebuilding 2006

New & old

Liquid Electrical tape melted the raised sections of the old hull.

If anyone tells you 5 min. epoxy wont last look at this shot. 5 years later I had to cut up the plastic because the epoxy was so tough.

The Kilkenny has been in dry dock in my basement for 2 years or so. The rudder linkage ended up stripping the small servo's gears and it need to be repaired. With my work and school schedule the first chance I had to get back to work was over Christmas 2005.

I had used liquid electrical tape to seal the hull and over time this stuff set up like glue and really messed up the plastic used in the hull when I took it apart. I decided to use the running gear from the original hull in a new Micro Glass fiberglass hull. One of the recurring issues was the way the rudder's tiller arm and servo were set up. I changed the design and used a Robbe rudder sanded and shaped to fit the tug and replaced the servo/tiller arrangement with a servo and a set of pulleys connected with an o ring. The micro servo I am using didn't seem to give much throw to the rudder so I used two different size pulleys to increase the travel of the rudder.

Wiring on old was much neater before I started to rip it apart

Increasing the lip on the new main deck

New and old

New speed control, small & waterproof but a little noisy

Mounted below stuffing box

Pulleys for rudder installed. The stock throw was minimal using the micro server.

Test tank

Side view

Rudder throw with pulley is 80 degrees or so

Increased throw was intentional. Servo pulley 25mm rudder post 11 mm

Original hull Modifications 2001

Hull deepened
Work on deepening the hull
Close up
I wanted the ability to remove the hull but beefed up the way the deck is attached.

With all the gear (motor, shaft, speed control and batteries) it has the draft of a real tug but not accurate at the bow. I decided to make the hull 1/4" deeper with styrene, this step was easy even for a beginner like me. One option would be to buy a hull that is all ready 1/4" deeper - Modified fiberglass hull for the kit

It is safe to say that my hull modifications were over built. With the powerful motor and thought of pushing a good sized barge I thought it would be best to over build than run into problems in the future. I even reinforced the deck gear with pieces of stiff wire.

The decks were sealed with Liquid Electrical Tape. Over time it hardens up and can be as tough as glue to remove.

I'm rebuilding the tug and will experiment with other sealents.

Bottom view
of main deck
Connections in
the hull
Decks were sealed with Liquid electrical tape
My cat helps
with stability test
This pieces was added to keep water out
Hole filled
I thought the bow was too low and decided to deepen the hull
Before deepening
Tub Trials before deepening
Micromart Inkjet Decals. The graphics were made in Photoshop.


Lay out
Close up
Another view

As my first project I search the web and came up with the components with out knowing what I really needed.

I like the ease in building and power of the preassembled motor, gearing and shaft.

The speed control works well but when I switched to a 6 volt rechargeable battery pack I could not get it to run at a dead slow speed. It will run at a safe slower speed.

Motor and water tight compartments
Close up of motor
Door in compartment to allow the shaft to be greased
Motor and shaft
Servo and tiller
Rudder servo
and linkage
Balsa wood holder
for rudder micro servo

  Rudder Modifications

Stock rudder
Modified for looks
Deeper hull required modification of rudder post
Modification complete

When I deepened the hull I had to modify the rudder post and hole where it entered into the hull. With out this modification the top of the hole was below the water line. I used plastic tubing reinforced by stiff wire and drilled out the old hole.


In June the plastic tiller arm in that came with kit broke. I replaced it with one I made from brass. I also replaced all the plastic used in the rudder modification with aluminum and brass. In the future I will start will all brass and aluminum parts including the skeg and rudder.

  Water Warning Light

Warning light flashes when water is detected in the hull.
Water detected.
Sensor in hull for warning light.
Flashing LED mounted in cabins. With other models I have started to use a small buzzer in place of the LED. It is easier to hear the buzzer than see the LED on a bright day.

Concerned about water entering the hull with so little freeboard, I built this warning light system. It costs about $5 with parts from Radio Shack. The simple circuit could also be used to activate a pump.

  Detail shots of the kit

Main parts in kit
Main deck on
Main deck off
Upper decks

The nicely detailed kit is a fun project.
The real Kilkenny

Gaelic Tugboat Co.

Modified mast
Deck gear

Video of "Bath Tub Trials" 11/24/01
The blue tape on the model was to keep
water out. (not sealed at the time of recording)
The tug handles very well at slow and high speeds.  It is very maneuverable and can almost make a 360 degree turn in the tub.  Most of the video is the tug at full speed. Keep in mind I plan to push a good size model barge with it. Since this time I have changed the power from 4 AA's to a rechargeable 6 volt pack.


Normal speed at 6v

Opened up over distance

Stern is pulled down

Another view

With 4 AA batteries (4.8 volts) the tug moves along nicely as shown in the pictures at the top of the page.

I changed the power  to a rechargeable 6 volt pack. The tug runs fine a slower speeds but pulls the stern under when opened all the way up.

As soon as the power is reduced the the stern pops right back to the planned draft.

All part of the learning process. I would recommend a 4.8 rechargeable pack rate 1100 mAh or higher.

Power is dropped and the stern pops back up

Another run


Good thing I sealed the decks
Power is dropped and up the stern comes. Notice the water coming out of the scuppers. Video clip of a power run
(3.2 meg)

The Barge

Design before dimensions were changed.

5/32 Aircraft Plywood cut to size

Close up of the main deck at the bow

Bow is made from 1/2" balsa wood and sanded to give it some shape.

Now onto the barge. This will be my first scratch built project based loosely on the Kellstone 1. The inside of the barge will be water tight and the center section will lift out and allow different types of decks to be placed on a 1/2" lip.

I increased the depth by 1-inch from my original plans and made it 2-inches wider.  The depth was to better hold a video camera and the width was for easy of building as the aircraft plywood came in 12-inch sheets.

To scale this works out to roughly 196-feet long x 87-feet wide x 36-feet deep.

In the future I plan to make a working crane section that fits in the center section.

I quickly prepared the barge for use in late June at the Soo Gathering. A rough deck was made for the barge to hold the wireless camera. It transmits real time to a video camera on shore. There is no real purpose for running the camera other than the video looks cool from this perspective. I will add video clips later in the summer.

The barge will be fiber glassed when completed.

Skegs in place and notch cut.

Weight to bring the barge to its proper draft, about 1" from the main deck.

Fiber glassing.

From the hobby shop.

Sea trials in primer.

Still to come: paint job, hatch covers and deck details.


The notch will be fitted with rubber fenders.

Bricks for temporary ballast.

I will cast lead bars in the future.

Compartments in stern are for electronics and recovery float.

Handles well with about 25 pounds of weight in barge.

Detail work still to be completed including painting to match the tug.

Here a quick deck was fitted to hold the wireless video camera

Back on land the camera transmits real time to another video camera

Close up of the camera

Model 1000-footer Great Laker towing.

In action at Mission Point

Passing the Tomlison

    Video clip of sea trials
(3.7 meg)
The Crane Barge

Center section lifts out. geared motor to rotate crane and R/C gear below deck

Aluminum project box I had in the basement

Geared motor acts as winch to lift & lower boom. Look closely at my soldering work. This is when I realized you can't solder aluminum like brass.

Hook for buoy's.
I built the barge with the idea that the center section could house different types of hoppers or implements (cranes, BB guns, fireworks etc.) and one Saturday I decided to make a crane and buoy.

The problem with a working crane is trying to maneuver the tug while working the crane. I had a spare 2 channel radio and used it strictly for the crane. This way you have a tug operator and a crane operator.

The crane platform was made from scratch using 2 geared motors and simple switches from radio shack that the servo activates to rotate the crane and lift/lower the boom.

I did this in about a day, my wiring job was kind of messy so no interior pictures.

Detail built up with styrene

Buoy is a fishing bobber cut open, weight added and then glued back together.


Radio and crane.

Testing before trimming the  ballast.

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