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The Arabia as envisioned by artist Gary Lucy; used with permission of the Arabia Steamboat Museum As a resident of rural Missouri, not far from its eponymous river, I've long been fascinated by the less-well-known steamboats that worked the “Big Muddy” from the river’s mouth at St. Louis all the way to the head of navigation at Fort Benton, Montana, an astounding 2,300 river miles. Most modern impressions of interior American steamboats are of the large, highly-decorated “floating wedding cake” craft of the lower Mississippi River, which represent a small fraction of the full diversity of steamboat design and use. Those craft are, to my eye, too gaudy by far, the equivalent of overbuilt Disney cruise liners; I don’t care for them, and I really don't care for the highly inaccurate and toylike models that most kits claim represent American riverboats. I prefer the smaller, leaner steamboats of the upper rivers, those designed to risk the rocky ledges of the Ohio River (such as the Chaperon) or fight their way up the narrow, shallow, ever-changing treacherous channels of the Missouri River. By the 1850s, their design had been nearly perfectly adapted to the unique conditions they faced, changing little for decades to come, until railroads finally cut them off at the knees. Two of the most well-known and well-documented steamboat wrecks from this period are the Bertrand (a sternwheeler that sank in 1865 and was rediscovered in 1968) and the Arabia (a sidewheeler that sank in 1856 and was rediscovered in 1988). Both boats now have excellent museums displaying their highly diverse and extraordinarily well-preserved cargo; the Bertrand at a wildlife refuge north of Omaha, Nebraska, and the Arabia at a museum in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I began researching the Arabia in earnest in spring 2017, writing about and documenting my research and sources for information in a separate thread, but am now ready to begin building the actual model. The text above is copied and rearranged from that thread, but I felt it provided an important introduction to this project and so should be repeated for those who may not go back and read the research thread. Although I am far from a master modeler, this will be my third scratchbuilt Missouri River steamboat. I built a rudimentary version of the Far West when I first became interested in wooden ship modeling, and later tackled a fully-framed and interior-detailed version of the Bertrand. Both of those were built in 1:87, a comfortable scale for me as a former HO model railroader. However, for this project I wanted a new kind of challenge, so decided to build the Arabia in 1:64. The model will be around 32 inches (81 cm) long, allowing for more detail to be added overall. At the same time, though, I've decided not to recreate a fully-framed hull and interior as I did with Bertrand, for several reasons. First, that was a lot of work and material and would be even more expensive at 1:64, and I've already done that style now. Second, creating a framed model of Arabia would be both redundant and speculative; the museum preserves her stern intact for anyone to see, while the rest of the hull wasn't well-documented by the salvage team, so I'd be guessing more than I did with Bertrand (which was meticulously documented by an archeological team). Third, I just like the idea of a complete exterior model this time, trading a bit less interior detail for more focus on the overall appearance and higher detail allowed by the larger scale. Basically, this is just what I feel like doing this time, and doing a project the way you want to is part of what makes it engaging. Although my initial plan was to develop a full set of blueprints for this project, that effort has stalled. It just isn't working for me to spend that much time on a computer, which I already do professionally as a freelance science editor. I'd rather spend my downtime working with wood than with pixels. So I stopped after developing a basic outline of the project and will just dive in, holding the design in my head and in various rough sketches and notes. This is, in fact, an authentic way to proceed, as riverboats in this era weren't built from printed blueprints either (one reason few construction records exist) but were simply laid out and built by artisans on the frontier shores of the Upper Ohio River. So any mistakes or quirks I may build into my Arabia as I proceed from the seat of my pants will be, at worst, a tribute to the real vessel's construction. Above are my loose outlines of her design. The real Arabia was about 170' long and 30' wide (hull, not including the wheels) and drew about 5'. And the sketches from which I'm getting started. There is no definitive information on the shape of her hull, other than the stern-most portion, which I've based on photos and measurements I took at the museum. So for the rest I've adapted a representative hull profile for the era from Alan Bates' The Western River Steamboat Cyclopoedium. The wheel and its supporting cylinder timbers are drawn directly from measurements I took at the museum. Centered within these drawings is the central internal bulkhead/keel I've laid out. These riverboats didn't have external keels the way normal ships did; their bottoms were generally perfectly flat with a stronger internal keelson instead. In this case, I'll be laying out horizontal bulkheads against this longitudinal one, just like a regular plank-on-bulkhead build. Hopefully now that I've laid the keel, so to speak, I can keep progress coming steadily. Thanks for reading, and for offering any ideas, suggestions, and criticisms that come to mind. I'd sure appreciate it if anyone points out concerns or problems that I can either explain or correct as I go along, as again I'm not a master modeler, just an ambitious one. Table of Contents (to be updated as the build progresses)