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S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald by BenF89 - Iron Shipwrights - Plastic - 1:350 scale with Photo Etch Details

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SS Edmund Fitzgerald - profile of 3D computer model I made

 

I'm starting this build log as a motivator to start some work on this kit that has been sitting around for a year and a half. I apologize in advance for long periods with no updates; I'm going to be juggling this build with my scratch build Doll Boat, which has a target deadline of my daughter's third birthday in May, 2016.

 

That said, I've been itching to build this kit for a LONG time - years before I even bought it. It is a ship that is very familiar to me at this point. Allow me to explain:

 

When I was 4 years old, a babysitter brought over a video documentary about the Titanic shipwreck, called 'Secrets of the Titanic' from National Geographic. I fell in love with that documentary, and subsequently the ship, for reasons not entirely clear. But, my entire childhood (and, to be honest, life thus far) began to revolve around ships and shipwrecks.

 

When I was a bit older, probably between 8 and 10 years old, I was introduced to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (the event; I was introduced to the song shortly thereafter). The drama surrounding her final voyage, and the mystery of her sudden sinking, captured my attention just as much as the Titanic ever had. Those two ships soon became the two I knew most about.

 

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Edmund Fitzgerald - 3D Rendering I made

 

Flash forward several more years, and my interest in ships and shipwrecks lead me to pursuing a degree in Naval Architecture. I attended a school called Webb Institute; part of the graduation requirements is to perform a senior thesis related to maritime engineering or industry. My initial goal was to do something involving the Titanic; specifically to try to validate a claim regarding her breakup that I had read in a book that was (at the time) recent and popular. I approached a technical research committee affiliated with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) that focused on marine accident forensic investigations, because I knew of several people that had done some extensive work on the Titanic sinking. However, when I pitched my idea to the chairmen (who was one of the individuals that had done Titanic work) he basically shot it down with a well argued case that my idea wouldn't really reveal anything new.

 

But, he made me another offer: he had a couple people on his committee that were investigating the sinking of a great lakes bulk carrier, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. I nearly fainted! I immediately agreed to get in touch with the two guys working that project, and took some time to understand what they were doing and where they needed support. I agreed to assist with developing a longitudinal weight distribution for the ship, assist with some other weights-relate tasks (such as determining some seakeeping coefficients, to enable accurate prediction of vessel motions), develop a mathematical model of how the ship may have flooded, and look at overall longitudinal structural strength.

 

I worked on my thesis for just over a year, and in the process learned more about the Edmund Fitzgerald than I had ever known about the Titanic. Needless to say, as soon as I discovered there was a kit on the market for the Fitz, and in the same scale as my other two kits (Titanic  and DKM Bismarck), I started thinking about how I could get it and build it.

 

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SS Edmund Fitzgerald hull (front), DKM Bismarck (center), RMS Titanic (back) - all 1:350 scale

 

 

Which brings me to this log. I've been thinking about how to approach the build/build log, and I think, since this is a ship I am so familiar with, whose history is impressive, and whose sinking gained national, pop culture attention through Gordon Lightfoot's song, I want to mingle in with the progress of the build the background of the ship, the story of her sinking, and some of the interesting results I got from my forensics work, such that by the time the build is complete, the 'narrative' will be completed as well. I've seen several logs where the first several posts are just related to history, before any building begins. I like that idea too, and maybe it's better because it's all in one place.

 

But I'm a rambler, and I fear that I'd write far too much up front (I probably already have). Rather, I'd like the story to follow the build - for example, discussing the conception of the idea, the design, and the construction in conjunction with discussing the parts of the kit and prepping the hull; discussing her career as a laker in conjunction with building details of the hatch crane and accommodations structures fore and aft; and discussing the final voyage and the drama being played out by the captain and crew while building the pilot house, etc. I'm not sure these correlations are locked in stone, but that's kind of the idea I want to shoot for - vessel history intertwined with build progress.

 

So - what do you all think? Does the idea sound interesting? Or should I dump all the history-type narrative right up front? I'm open to suggestions.

 

Either way, sometime in the near future I'll post the pictures I took of the kit, and introduce the various challenges I see to this build.

Edited by BenF89

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I would say: write whatever you like, and when you like.

I already learned something from your picture: Fitz was way larger than I ever imagined.

These is a guy (andy) somewhere around on MSW (inless he is soemwhere sailing on the grate lakes) who alos did quite a lot of talking on these ships, doing at the moment a slightly larger scale model of a smaller laker.

I like these ships (don't ask me why) so I will follow this one.

 

Jan

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Ben, great log. I will keep tabs on this one.

 

I'm a Michigan NA&ME grad so the Fitz is near and dear to me.

 

Andy's (reference Jan's post above) screen name is realworkingsailor, though as of last I knew he crossed the brow and is working in the office.

 

A fellow alum of yours, Pete Jaquith, has several build log on here. His work is simply fantastic. Highly recommend doing a search for his work - he brings his real world shipbuilding experience to bear in miniature. Very cool stuff.

 

R/

Jerry

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Ben, I have a model railroader buddy back in Jersey who has an N Scale (1/160) resin version of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It's huge! Have fun with the build

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I was living up in Marquette when the "Fitz" went down, and I can tell you the whole UP area was in a grieving state for months after that. Superior's a cold and merciless lake all year 'round. +45 degrees is all it gets, even during the hottest part of the summer.

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Glakie I live in Duluth mm right on superior They still talk about her sinking superior is the strangest lake I've ever seen she reminds me of the piglet sound in Washington currents and weather resemble the ocean

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Hi Ben

 

I must've missed the start of your log because this is the first I've seen of it, but, by all accounts I'll definitely be following along and enjoying the voyage.

 

All the best

 

Patrick

Edited by Omega1234

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A kit on the market?!! I want one too! Spent abit of time reading about this ship and the fateful events that happened in that storm. Will most defiantly be checking in soon for more updates.

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Hi everyone! Well, you 'newcomers' haven't really missed anything. With recent home events (new baby boy) I haven't really done much, at least in the 'real world.' But, I have been re-reading (on and off) some of my books on the subject, refreshing my memory of the constructions and working years of the ship. I can tell you the final voyage by heart, but it has been some time since really digging into the early life. So, I have been doing that, and starting to plan the first log entry. I have all the photographs of the kit, and a mental list of the challenges I expect to face. I am trying to decide on the extent of the history narrative that will accompany the first posting, to ensure there is enough material to cover the build. I don't know how many log entries there will be, but I am trying to establish topical 'groupings' that will be opened with the next bit of narrative. 

 

Sometime in the near future, I'll start with the first bit of history, and the kit review. But I expect this log to be slow-steaming for a bit, between having the new baby, and trying to make progress on my other project, the Doll Boat, since that one has a deadline on it.

 

Excited to have you all along for the ride!

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Hi Ben,

I'll follow along as well. Very interesting project. I grew up in NW Wisconsin, not far from Superior( the city and the lake). My home is now in Florida.

John

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Ben:

Just came across this build today.  Glad to see you are taking this on. 

 

The Lakes are one of my main areas of interest and the Fitz has a special place there.  I have tons of video of dives on the wreck (submersibles - as well as the Newt Suit dive to replace the bell).  Saw prototype kit pieces for a HO scale model that I don't believe ever made it into production - BIG!  I bet the completed resin kit would have weighed a lot more than I would ever want to move around.

 

If you ever get a chance to see the model of the Fitz shipwreck at the WI Maritime Museum you will stand there for a long time looking at all the details.  The model is made of heavy watercolor paper and it was made by the artist that was commissioned by the USCG during the initial investigation of the wreck.  He was hired to make large drawings/paintings of the images from the initial ROV photographs for the inquiry board.  He later made the model and supplemented the initial data he had with the stuff done by Cousteau so the model isn't as accurate as today's data shows but it is a great model showing the positions of the bow and stern sections, the piles of hatches and taconite.  It is currently under a rotating ceiling light with blue gels that gives the appearance of light on water hitting the wreck though the facts are that at 630 feet there is zero light.

 

The Fitz is a popular subject and about every 5 years or so we get a Fitz model entered in the model competition at the WI Maritime Museum and I always take a special interest in these.  Other years I have to be content with models of other lakers that are entered and most are very excellent models - one of our regular contributors recently retired as first mate on the St. Mary's Challenger - a 109 year old steam bulk carrier that was converted to a barge coupled to a tug as an ATB - Articulated Tug Barge.  His models are always dead on with the details.

 

I am looking forward to your build.

 

Kurt

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Glad to have you all on board! I hope I can live up to the expectation.

 

As I mentioned, the Fitz is near and dear to me, even without growing up around the lakes. That said, it's easy to lose touch with the personal impact when (1) I didn't grow up in the region (though, my mother and her family did), (2) I am too young to have been around at the time, and (3) I have spent most of my time with the ship examining it from a technical point of view (which can admittedly make one detached from the humanity of the event). 

 

So, I can imagine how much more personal and impactful it must be to you folks, and I really do hope I can do it justice (not just constructing the model, but telling her story in the process.)

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I was watching a program on the History channel the other day called "Rogue Waves", and was kind of amazed to find out that according to recent satellite observations, that rogue waves happen quite frequently on Superior, and that's what they now thing broke her in half. Same goes for Lake Huron which has hundreds of wrecks at the bottom.

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1957

The United States is an industrial nation, with manufacturing factories still booming after the immense growth in capabilities and newfound prosperity following the Second World War. Every part of the country plays a role, from iron mines in the North Mid West, to the steel mills of Pittsburgh and the automotive plants in Michigan; from the forests of the Northwest to the ever expanding suburbs across the country; from the agricultural 'breadbasket' of the midwest to new, all encompassing 'Super Markets' in every town. And in the heart of the country, facilitating much of the movement of the raw materials that keep the country running and working, are the shipping lanes of the Great Lakes. 

 

Maritime culture is deeply rooted in the towns around the Lakes and the families that live in them. Many families are made up of generations of lake sailors. The Fitzgerald family is one of them, with a rich history of Lake mariners, including several Skippers, at least one of whom has had a lake boat named for him. While Edmund isn't a mariner (instead being president of Northwest Mutual Life insurance company), he is proud of his family's maritime heritage, and so Northwest Mutual Life decides to make an investment - the funding of a Lake freighter, larger than any that has been built up to that time. At 729 feet (222 meters) long and 75 feet (22.9 meters) wide, it will fit juuuuuuust inside the restrictions of the newest lock in the Sault Ste Marie (aka Soo) Locks connecting Lake Superior with Lake Huron (and thereby connecting the iron mines in the north with the industrial powerhouses of Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh in the south).

 

Northwest Mutual signs a contract with Great Lakes Engineering works in Detroit, Michigan to build the freighter, which will be hull no. 301. As the soon-to-be largest boat on the Lakes, however, much of the local public learns of her by a different name. She will be called the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, honoring the president of Northwest Mutual Life, and the maritime heritage of his family.

 

Build Log - Part 1

Kit Review

As the first 'official' post in this log, I want to do a summary of the contents of the kit, as well as some of the immediate challenges I see. 

 

First, an overview shot:

 

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The parts are pretty straight forward. There is a solid chunk of resin that is the main hull, a couple smaller deckhouses that make up the forward superstructure, a deckhouse that is the aft superstructure, and the funnel.

 

There is a bag of small fiddly bits for bollards, winches, boats, vents, etc., some brass rod to make the masts, and an extensive set of photoetch pieces for things like railings, the hatch removal and replacement crane, and the radars. There is also a decal set.

 

There are some VERY basic instructions, mostly hand written.

 

The kit manufacturer is a small outfit, it seems. There are some significant quality issues with the major pieces, so it seems most of the time on this kit will be fixing and prepping the pieces. 

 

Starting with the hull:

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Looks OK in profile, but....

 

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One, the hull has a little bit of a banana shape. Not super noticable, so I don't think I'll bother trying to correct it. The larger issue is all the little holes. A close up shot it below:

 

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These will all need to be filled and the whole bottom smoothed out. Additionally, there is a ridge where the mold seems to have come out of alignment:

 

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Not sure what I'm going to do about that.

 

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Looking at the bow, there is some minor cleanup here, but the details of the anchor and portholes seems pretty good.

 

Unfortunately, the port side bulwark is damaged. It should look like this:

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But, it looks like this:

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Haven't figured out how to fix that one yet, either.

 

Moving on to the forward deck house:

 

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The top side has a recess to accept the Pilot House above it. There is a recess in the hull to accept this deck, and one aft to accept the aft deck house. So, all these parts eventually have to nest together to form one cohesive unit.

 

The underside is.... interesting. Not sure if/how much of this will need to get cleaned up.

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The Pilot House is a real mess. I've entertained notions of rebuilding it from scratch using polystyrene, such that the windows are 'see through' and I can create the essence of the interior of the pilot house. Maybe.....

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The aft deckhouse is pretty messy too, and has some shape to it. Not sure yet if this follows the hull, or if it's just bent out of whack. If it's the latter, another issue I don't even know how to begin to correct.

 

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The funnel is pretty clean

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Finally, the bag of 'loose parts'...

 

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... and the photo etch sheet.

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As I mentioned, the instructions are lacking in detail. Fortunately, I happened to have needed a lot of information on the Fitz when doing my thesis work, so I was able to procure (from the library at Bowling Green State University in Ohio) copies of some of the original builder's drawings of the boat, as well as a 1 sheet drawing that someone made to aid with constructing a scratch built model, showing the details important for a replica, but not as many details as on the construction drawings I have available to me. 

 

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So, I have a LOT of information to fill in the gaps in the instructions. The only downside to the construction drawings is they are just that - drawings showing the boat at her delivery in 1958. There weren't a lot of changes between then and 1975, but there were some.

 

Well, that's the kit. Not sure when I'll do anything other than stare at it and scratch my head, but once I do you'll hear about it!

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Hi Ben,

 

 This looks like it will be a great build.

 

Do you happen to know if the E.F. was built on traditional ways or in dry dock and then floated out? I'm curious because she seems pretty big to handle the dynamic stresses of launching on ways. Just wondering.

 

As far as the resin flaws go I have done a few small kits and have found that resin is much like wood in that you can glue a piece of poly into the gap and then carve and sand it to shape. Looks like scratching a new pilot house is doable. If you find the hull is warped I recommend you check out some of the plastic ship modeling sites like Steelnavy and ModelWarships, folks on their forums can give you some great tips on how to straighten it out (it's a  fairly common problem)

 

Good luck with the build!

 

Tim

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If it's easy to correct, I would correct the banana-shape: you will notice the banana  every time you look along the hull.....

There is some serious misallignement on the bottom. Is the upperside OK?

 

 

Jan

Edited by amateur

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Hi Ben

 

I can't believe that the manufacturer could allow such poor quality to be sold. But, on the other hand, with a bit of work on your part, it'll scrub up into a really nice model.

 

I'm looking forward to following along!

 

Cheers

 

Patrick

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 It's a shame you found all those flaws in the kit Ben, but maybe if you send pictures of them to the company that made it along with a note telling them you're a member here at MSW, they could be inclined to send some replacement parts, rather than deal with all the "bad press" they could get over it.  :)

 

Cheers

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 It's a shame you found all those flaws in the kit Ben, but maybe if you send pictures of them to the company that made it along with a note telling them you're a member here at MSW, they could be inclined to send some replacement parts, rather than deal with all the "bad press" they could get over it.  :)

 

Cheers

 

 

Or, better still...a full refund, or replacement of the whole kit?

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Ben, you might try to contact the Iron Shipwrights folks for replacement deck and pilot houses. I understand they're pretty responsive to such requests. B) 

 

As far as the holes in the hull, fill them with baking soda and put a drop of CA on each spot. Sets up hard in time, so you should smooth  them a few minutes after you apply the CA. Carefully check the box; the broken bulwark may be laying in the debris. If so, just CA it in place and sand smooth. :)

 

Good luck with your build! Now I have Gordon Lightfoot's haunting tune running around in my brain. :huh:

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