Heresy! Dickie tug boat conversion!

14th May 2007, 17:47
Can some of you more expert modellers assist a raw beginner?

I have just purchased a Simba-Dickie / Hen Long model tugnoat that I was inspired to have a crack at after reading the conversions on Model Boat Mayhem. As an absolute beginner, I was impressed by the basic kit and its capacity to be converted into something that would fill the gap between expert and raw beginner.

However, I am aware that she needs a complete new prop / propshaft / coupling, speed controller, servo and possibly TX/RX set. The site gives great info but is still a bit tech for me. For eg, I want to cut the waterpump right out of her and save the juice for towing! Eek, how do I do that?

More details on here:

If you look at the title 'Best Conversion Ever' - you will see what loosely have in mind.

My question is: Are there 50mm 4 bladed props and shafts available that will slot straight in via the stuffing tube and allow hook up to the dog bone connector using the standard motor (which is aparently quite good)

I plan to use 1/48th fittings to enhance the boat, repaint her in Smit colours, re-name her etc - and while I am on additions, anyone know where I can get hold of a Hiab type hydraulic crane in this scale to replace the monster on the afterdeck?

I know you purists will say it is heresy but as an absolute beginner I want the confidence to start somewhere and I have looked and looked but nothing appeared to grab me until I saw this.

Help appreciated!


14th May 2007, 21:03
Hi jonty, just looked at the model you are talking about.
just my opinion but I tried to convert a similar dickie coast guard boat that I bought for my kids a couple of weeks ago.I sail on salt water so I thought a new shaft like you.being a very experienced modeller I thought it would be a piece of p***. It was a nightmare to even consider so I left the motor ,coupling and shaft in place. all I changed was the esc,the battery and the servo and linkage for the rudder. my kids little boat works well and gives a longer sail time than with the little nicads,but I wouldn't bother with any other internal mods if I were you. as for the hiab on the stern, Model Slipway do a hiab kit which I think sell seperately and I think its at 1:50 scale so would fit.If you feel happy with it, don't give a fig as to what others think of you or your modelling skills. if it makes you happy that's the main aim in life. life is too short to worry about what others think. enjoy the hobby and progress at your rate.neil

14th May 2007, 22:13

Many thanks! I'll be sailing on fresh - this is the place in the sailor's tale where he came into the village with an oar on his shoulder and they said 'Wat's that, then?' - and he settled down as far from the sea as his dreams told him to go!

I think I am going to agree with you on the mods. What I'd like is longer sailing time, a slower speed, no water jet and better steering. I like the mods on the throw of the Kort which gives better control, and the esc might well 'dumb' the speed down enough to keep me happy. I might just fit a 50mm 4 bladed prop though - apparently theb plastic job is not as coarse for towing!

I have always wanted to get into the hobby so this appears a great way to do it. Who knows where it will lead?

Many thanks!


14th May 2007, 23:35
the good thing about these Dickie boats for sailing pleasure is that no matter how many times my kids hit the concrete bank with it, it never ever needs mending or repaintig.a real godsend.cheers,neil.

Jim MacIntyre
15th May 2007, 17:03
Good on you Jonty - you old 'heretic'..
Welcome to the wonderful world of 'wee boats' I sometimes wonder if it's a 'regression' thing - back to the good old days for many old salts.
You'll be sailing while the rest of us are still working in the shop... so enjoy it.
A couple of suggestion - is there a Model Club anywhere in your area ?
If so join up - model builders are almost as helpful to their colleagues as the folks here on SN - you'll get advice and help with just about anything.
Also if you have a good hobby shop nearby that can be either a godsend or a nightmare depending on how far you intend to go with the hobby.
BTW have a look at - that seems to be the US equivalent of the Dickie.
Jim MacIntyre

15th May 2007, 17:43

Thank you! I have Howes Models around the corner and I have yet to set foot in it - but will do this weekend!

The Dickie is almost ready when bought and by what I have seen on Model Boat Mayhem, basic enough to allowm for owner addition to the 'nth' degree. It may not win prizes in scale, but I am certain it would - with the right attention - perform well in towing!

I plan to use the basic hull and superstructure to make something that looks good on the water, shows it has been 'modified' and also shows that you can take a dog to water and it will most definitely swim! I plan on working on using 1/48th sxcale fittings as she is at that scale and add on enough to make her 'workmanlike' and whilst not at regatta or show standards, in there with the others.

There are rivers and a couple of lakes near here so I have plenty of opportunity to get her ion the water. First thougfh, the basic mods will be done, she will be repainted and have fittings aded based on my real life experience on tugs while I was a seaman and then - hey ho - weekends can be spent testing her out towing and fine tuning before I go near a club!

Hopefully I will not run into any adverse snobby comments when I do that - but if I do, I can always take her home when I visit my fatrher in North Wales and give his brother a run for his money at the local boat park when he sails his Graupner 'Bugsier' at the club freestyle tug / towing events!

It all sounds like fun - but I am looking forward to re-painting and modifying the basic boat.

Thanks for the comments!


17th May 2007, 22:35
One more question for the modellers........

I have stripped the boat down and taken out the water pump and cut through the electrics for a complete re-wire. I intend to leave the stock motor in. I will modify the throw on the Kort nozzle to get better steering and also plan to add two smaller 'fin' rudders to the Kort, rather like the real 'TugMaster' nozzles I have seen - basically a Kort but with both central and additional rudder plates that give greater steering. Not a big job, but would give her more impetus in the turn and greater straight line for'ad and astern steering.

Now, power questions! Would a HiTec HS 311 basic servo do for steering? What ESC would you recommend? I am going to go with the 6v 4AH Gel Cell as the power source........and once that is in, what TX/RX would you recommend? It has to be 'reasonable' in terms of cost, but I'll take guidance from the experts on this one!

Thanks guys!


18th May 2007, 00:19
you can get very cheep 40 meg tx/rx plus single servos on ebay brand new, but my personal choice is hitec and futaba systems as the plugs, leads and crystals are interchangable, unlike sanwa which won't interchange with any other system other than another sanwa, plus they are cheeper than sanwa. just my personal choice though, and I know it's not to others liking.any normal type servo will do the job as ther is no resistance to talk of on the small boat you have. I honestly can't tell you about micro servos though as I've never used one.cheers, neil. ps. I'd pay no more than about 40 notes for a tx/rx though as you can go to any model fair and get that equipment from a trade stand for similar money. it's dirt cheep for a simple 2/4 channel radio set these days.

18th May 2007, 17:52
Thanks for the advice! Now she is stripped right down I can see many mods I'd like to make before I install a radio - the 'monkey island' is coming off, to be replaced by a table between the funnels supporting a single mast. That's one. The other is to take the for'ad steps out - done - and plasticard the gap, adding a door there plus a couple of deck lockers.

THis weekend will be spent in painting the hull low shine black, adding the Smit yellow/blue band, painting the funnels and deck equipment and starting on the mast. I've decided not to have the running ligfhts in yer either - use the juice for towing!

It just gets bigger and bigger this plan of mine........!


18th May 2007, 18:05
ddraigmor, a word of advice before you paint, and I don't know what paints you'll be using, but the hull, if anything like the dickie hull I have on the coastguard boat, is a high impact polystyrene, and not the usual abs plastic. I would suggest a very good keying in stage with increasingly finer wet and dry carburundum papers used wet, with a little liquid soap detergent in the warm water. this will help break down the grease in the plastic, and allow the paint to adhere without peeling off in great amounts. start off with a 320/400 grade wet and dry working up to an 800 then a 1000 grade to give a nice finish. hope this helps, but beware, if you don't, with that plastic, almost any paint will probably peel off very quickly.cheers,neil.

18th May 2007, 22:30

Yeow........The conversions I have seen on Model Boat Mayhem make no mention of any of that! They simply say 'did this, then painted the hull etc'. They all used flat on the accom block and a matt finish on the hull, which is what I was aiming to do when I went to Howes tomorrow......

I'll have to look at the site again and see what they are saying - but no-one mentioned bloomin' rubbin' down......



Peter Dryden
27th May 2007, 11:20

Once again an interesting thread started. How about posting some photo's giving us a blow by blow account of your progress.
I have two tugs that I am trying to find the time to start, I bought the semi-kit of the Tyne tug "Northsider" from Tyne Models and am collecting the bits and bobs to start a scratch build of "Cragsider".
I thought that once I had gained my degree that would be it, "nothing to do and all day to do it in", how wrong was that old adage, as not only do I now have to have a Fento 3 qual. in imbedding numeracy and literacy but am acting as an consultant, employed by the British Council in the reform of Vocational Education in China.
One of these days,(Sigh)


27th May 2007, 12:08

I have justb posted a cople more photos in the gallery model boats. I scratch built the basic mast this morning but still need to outfit it with lights, aft supports and a table for the radar plus NUC lights etc. Also looking at the model, it seems that I could site the funnels further aft but that might mean major surgery to the wheelhouse and oo'er, have I got the skill?

Otherwise, I'm dabbling - got some excellent mouldings from Mac's Models - gemini, single upright bitts, 'staple', crucifom bollards, deck lockers and next month will order some more from Sirmar. Meanwhile, major conversion work continues! I want to detail the after and for'ad winches and that huge crane that came with it - which is also starting to look far better!

Good luck with 'Cragsider'!

Ah, degrees. Hmm, yes. I thought it would also be over once I got mine but have since done my 'PQ1' and will possibly go ahead to do the full PQ6 (Post Qualifying Level 6) which is specific to Mental health and is just like doing a degree again...... it never stops!

Will you be based in China? Should be modellers paradise out there as I hear you can get one of these 'Hen Long' workboats (like mine) for about £2......

Cheers Peter!


28th June 2007, 19:39
I made a conversion of this tug last year. Living in CHINA, I paid about 180 RMB =18 Euros to purchase it new.

When I first tried it on the water straight from the box, I discovered how unseaworthy it was. Much too high gravity center. Too small engine without gearing for such a big propeller.. The pump was very poor and it looked really like it was going to sink on the water.

I made the following modifications :

1) remove old R/C system and replace by a 3 channel radio.
2) exchanged of ungeared 380 class motor by a 3:1 380 Engine.
3) Cutting unnecessary weight in the superstructure
4) lowering the mast by 0,5 CM and trim down top weight.
5) install a LED in the projector (toatl 2 position lights LED + Projector LED)
6) take out Water pump antique mechanism and replacement by a real fuel pump.
7) filled the bottom of hull, took out unnecessary bits of plastic, installed a water take in with filter.
8) used some lead particules and spread resin in the bottom of the hull to make it more stable.
9) redesigned battery tray to lower Gravity center. the battery is now 3 CM lower than before (!)
10) changed niCd pack into a niMH pack.
11) installed a diesel noise making device with a car speaker.
12) installed an Electronic Speed controller for the main motor
13) installed an ESC for the pump instead of simple On/Off switch
14) subsequently changed all internal wirings.
15) total investment : about 150 USD. (3ch radio, 2 ESC, one pump, one speaker, one Diesel noise generator, one geared engine)

After those changed, the boat looked completely different on the water and the play time increased.

Due to the younger boy playing with it, the hull is broken, and I need to take some time repairing it with double component glue.

28th June 2007, 21:15

Currently I am working on re-designing most of the boat - when I get a battery for my digital camera I will take some more photos!

I have taken out the RC gear and will replace later - same goes for Tx/RX stuff. Currently I have redesigned the deck and there is no crane, mounted an inflatable boat behind the starboard funnel, replaced funnels to rear of wheelhouse, cut away top weight on monkey island......and so on.

I intend to build her up but as this is my first 'go' at a model boat, it might be a bit rough!

When I have got my camera battery I will post photos - painted in Snmit colours and re-named 'Smit Cybi' she does look a lot better than when I got her!


29th June 2007, 14:38
I bought one of these ready to sail tugs grat on her own sh*t in company it self ballasted with water, I ripped the lectrics out of her and sealed the water tank up then fitted it with R/C gear, the first public outing it turned over, beware anyone else doing this , get the ballast right.