Melbridge Dock
Clyde Puffers

The Clyde "Puffer" is a traditional coastal trading boat that was once found on the sea around the west coast of Scotland.Vital Spark Model

When we were looking for a boat for the layout, a "Puffer" seemed like the perfect prototype. An introduction to the Para Handy stories and the corresponding BBC TV series settled the matter. 

The Puffer is a special type of boat in many ways. It has a flat bottom to allow it to be beached on islands without a quay. The boat would then be unloaded at low tide - the whole island turning out for this - and then re-floated at high tide to head off to the next port of call. Canny captains would also beach on sand or gravel banks and fill empty holds with aggregate to avoid coming home empty. This load would then be sold when back in port.

A crew of four would live on board. Early (18th Century) boats had open wheel houses which must have been particularly hard on the skipper as the West Coast of Scotland is not know for the best weather !

Puffer operations became uneconomic in the 1960's although the last boat operated commercially into the Vital Spark Model1980's.

For more information, visit our Puffer Pages.

The Models.

The first model is based on the famous "Vital Spark" complete with the crew from the BBC series broadcast on the 1970's and now available on DVD.

Our models are scratch built by Brian Parker. They have a balsa wood hulls with a thin ply wrapper. The rest is a mixture of wood, plastic and metal. Fittings are gathered from various model boat suppliers. At the time of building no 4mm scale kits for Puffers were available, things have changed, so I've put a list together for you on this page.Easdale Model

Model Easdale

The second boat resembles the "Eileen Easdale" (now named "The Vital Spark") that has been restored and now lives in Inverary.

Since it's not an exact model our's is simply called the "Easdale". The biggest difference the Vital Spark is the position of the funnel. The model has a full hull so we were forced to cut a boat shaped hole in the layout. This was a bit fiddly but effective. Waterline models are easier to accommodate but it's harder to achieve the lines of the hull around the stern.

Prototype photographs

"Auld Reekie" at Ardrishag

The last steam powered "Puffer" seen at one end of the Crinan Canal. This boat wTwo Puffersas later re-painted and used as the "Vital Spark" in the 1990's BBC TV series. The hold has been converted to provide sleeping accommodation.

A Pair of Puffers at Crinan

The renamed & repainted "Vital Spark" (left) and VIC 32. The VIC class were built during World War 2 to serve the traditional Puffer area. VIC stands for Victuling Inshore Craft.