November 27, 2010

Ship Kits for O Scale Civil War Layouts

This is a list of ship kits I found appropriate for an O scale civil war Potomac River scene.

Dumas - Mt Washington - paddle side wheel steamer 1/48
Bluejacket - Smuggler  -schooner 1/48
Bluejacket - Seguin - tow boat 1/48
Bluejacket - America - schooner 1/48
Bluejacket - Jefferson Davis - Baltimore clipper revenue cutter 1/54h scale
Corel - Shenandoah - Sloop 1/50
Corel - Flying Fish - Schooner 1/50
Corel - Ranger - Revenue Cutter 1/50
Artesenia Lania- Scottish Maid - schooner 1/50 (can be hard to find now)
Model Expo - Benjamin Lantham - schooner 1/48

Model Expo - Chaperon Rear paddle wheel steamer 1/48 (not appropriate for use on the Potomac or James River, but ideal for western river scenes).

The Benjamim Lantham is probably too modern for an ACW era scene. The Smuggler would be a better fit. According to Jeff Marger at BlueJacket Ship Crafters,
"SMUGGLER was built in 1877, and designed before then. Her hull form is entirely consistent with an 1863 time period. After all, the extreme clippers were built in the early 1850’s! You may not wish to use this type of hull, but the time frame is consistent with your layout. "

Bluejacket Smuggler solid hull model cut at water line
None of these kits are water line models. They all include full hulls. Converting a full hull kit to waterline can be tricky. The techniques used depends on the kit construction. The most common kit types are solid hull, plank on frame and plank on bulkhead. There are also styrene and fiberglass hulls from the radio controlled ship hobby that might be usable (such as the Dumas Mt Washington).

Solid wood hulls can be cut with a power saw if appropriately supported. My brother converted my Smuggler to water line by cutting the hull on a band saw. He screwed the hull to a plank, making sure it was square and ran it through the band saw. Then he used a block plane to flatten and true up the bottom surface as the saw cut was a bit rough.


Plank on Frame and Plank on Bulkhead model types compared

Admiralty Style Model
If you are new to ship models you should be aware that there is a difference between "plank on frame" and "plank on bulkhead" models. Plank on frame models have each frame from the prototype accurately modeled. While this creates an impressive model it is much more difficult and time consuming to build. Frequently modelers that build plank on frame models leave some of  the planking off to make the frames visible.   No sense hiding all that work! The Royal Navy Admiralty Models are great examples of this type of model building.  Plank and frame models are really not well suited for conversion to water line models.  These kits are usually more expensive than other types because they include a full representation of the actual wood frames used in a ship. It would be a shame to cut away these frames to make a water line model.

Plank on bulkhead models use fewer transverse bulkheads secured to a longitudinal board (like a super keel) to simulate the hull. The bulkheads are usually solid die cut or laser cut parts. The hull must be fully planked to hide these non prototypical parts. From outward appearances, the hull is indistinguishable from a plank on frame hull.  Note how it would be hard to show the interior of a plank on bulkhead model, say through a hatch or open top, as the non-prototypical bulkheads might be visible.

To convert a plank and bulkhead model to water line, you have to cut each bulkhead at the water line. That is easy enough. But then adding the planks will be tricky as some planks will lack support. You will also probably lose most of the keel. So to keep the planks properly spaced, you may have to build a new waterline "keel."

For some model ships, it might actually be easier to scratch build the water line hull from wood, styrene or even a slab of extruded styrene foam, and then use the kit parts for the superstructure. This is especially true of riverine steamships as their hulls have little free board and resemble floating planks. The Monitors ironclads being the most extreme examples of this phenomena.

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