Jump to content

Chaperon by 60Buick - Model Shipways - radio - converted to J.C Kerr

Recommended Posts

Hello all, this is my first post here.  I build a little of everything. Helicopters, Airplanes, cars, trucks, subs, trains and boats. I will try to make it RC regardless of how impractical of a project it is. This is where I find myself today. Taking a kit that was designed for display with a shallow hull and trying to make it very scale, operable and not resort to function over form. The bug bit at the Civil War Naval museum. I was drooling over the artifacts and since I wasn't allowed to take any home I had to build something. I wanted a wood kit of a boat from the 1800's and river boats are a favorite of mine. After looking I settled on the Chaperon kit from Model Shipways. This is my first paddleboat. 


  All I knew about riverboats were the glorified Hollywood version. I ordered some books and the real history is far more fascinating. Especially the books written when my grandfather was in diapers. Those have a unique perspective that can't be projected from a modern writer. The hook is set now, my next boat will be a side wheeler. 


I would greatly appreciate any help and advice given. I'm not an expert and that's why I'm here. There are some very knowledgeable people on this forum.


Firstly an era of great interest to me is the 1880's. That was when the river was losing to rail, the wild west was in full swing and answering the question "North or South" incorrectly could be the difference between a hot meal or a scattergun in your face. The Chaperon was built in 1884 as the J.C. Kerr. She was rebuilt as the Chaperon in 1904 and renamed the Choctaw in 1917. She burned in 1922 on the Tallahatchie river. I will be backdating the  Chaperon kit to represent the J.C. Kerr in its first few years of life. 


My initial impression of the kit is high. The quality and fit is very good. The plans are excellent as well. I built the keel first as per the instructions. I then added the  ribs to complete her skeleton. The next step was to assymble the main deck on a nice hard level surface and let it dry.  I then deviated from the instructions and attached it to the skeleton before planking the hull.  It was just too delicate and easy to warp. After the deck was attached it was rock solid. Time for the first  weigh in, 489 grams. The J.C. Kerr was built for the shallow Ohio River and had a very shallow draft. She only drew 4 feet "loaded to the gaurds". I don't want to deepen the hull so every gram counts. I used my Dremel and hollowed out the ribs. I added some light weight foam and she was at 375 grams at this point. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

After adding some foam incase of a water breach, I planked the hull. I had to make a decision on the deck finish. Some people have painted the deck while others have stained it. I did some research. Looking at several period photos of steamboats and in the photos that show people on deck you can see the wood is unfinished in several of them. I reasoned that since this boat was not a luxurious craft and paint cost money, wet paint is slippery and it would need constant touch up, I went with an unfinished surface. I stained the deck with some GW brand washes. 


I know the early boats were all wood burners. Does anyone know if coal or wood was the fuel of choice in the mid 1880's on Steamboats? This will impact my weathering. Steamboats were a thing of pride and maintained to the highest levels or you would have little luck of attracting passengers for the next voyage with hundreds of steamboats on the water competing with each other and the railroad. But coal was dirty and wood produced lots of ash. Very different grime from each.20180719_143820-1-1555x1807.thumb.jpg.b9f309fd330746206d5b2937c6458ea3.jpg20180719_184132-1-3093x909.thumb.jpg.694de1c6c8ebd53a131e470f477cc3e2.jpg20180719_143940-1-1300x1812.thumb.jpg.53333bf33f0a7dba94e3ae7e39e5242f.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is where things get fun, converting the boat into the J.C. Kerr. The Chaperon kit had the name etched into the rear walls which makes painting the name as simple as filling in a coloring book.  Unfortunately that won't help me.  I flipped the rear walls over, shortened them and scribed in the individual  planks.  I then hand painted the name using the photos of the full sized boat as my guide. The colors are purely a guess. I went with a matt black and a railroad boxcar oxide color that was in use in the 1880's. 20180721_172654-1-1850x1263.thumb.jpg.5d0a38045218812c9ea91d4f8186977c.jpg20180721_172703-2124x1195.thumb.jpg.59ebcd15f4919b357dc2884f80cac2f7.jpg20180721_202501-2750x1546.thumb.jpg.f91628aa697384f4750c0148b5f6eee6.jpg20180721_202515-2656x1494.thumb.jpg.6e9fbef1b069bbcacffcc1da4b9e6a10.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At this point I still don't know how I plan to finish the hull.  Fiberglass hides all the planking detail and just using epoxy leaves the potential for a seam to open up as the wood expands and contracts. I skipped it for now, there is a lot of other stuff that I can do.  


I was considering steam as the powerplant. I built a twin boiler setup that has common water and a steamchest. It does make steam but it's not as efficient as I had hoped and ended up being to heavy to use.  Just the naked empty copper boiler comes in at 500grams. The boat will be electric. I ordered a smoke generator from Harbor models and a sound system from Model sounds inc. Both combined weigh half of what the empty boiler weighs.


I added the front staircase and the boilerdeck. I removed the floor from the boiler deck to give me access to the engine room and boiler areas. I plan to do an interior on a removable floor. 





Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stained the boiler deck and added the outer supports. I finished triming up the floor and painted the interior walls. Most vessels of the day had white walls and ceilings with natural wood floors. I don't know what was in the J.C. Kerr but this is most likely correct.


I then reworked the hog gates. They were further forward on the Kerr and the "v" was reversed. Easy enough. I relocated the feet to the top of the gates then hung them upside-down. I also finished up the rear walls and bracing.


I did a little water testing. Since she is not water proof I wrapped her in foil. I then loaded her down. She will float at 3400 grams but the water is licking the gaurds. Obviously that is no good for an RC boat. I like where she rides at 2100 grams. 2500 is my max. The picture shows her right at 2500. The copper boiler is in there as well for ballast, 70% of the boat weight needs to be where the boiler is. I will have to keep testing every step of the way so she sits in the water correctly.  So many model sternwheelers ride nose high because the builder didn't plan ahead and shift the weight forward to compensate for the heavy wheel in the rear. 


And finally. My furnature arrived! 20180803_195514-2390x1344.thumb.jpg.f5fc5cbf7d69a6d11faa52308b994083.jpg20180803_195547-2549x1434.thumb.jpg.99db17a24927db84183a5d7d06f902e0.jpg20180804_175515-2284x1285.thumb.jpg.fcf57cb97f8e34971d7ddcf93cc60069.jpg20180804_175547-1-2754x1161.thumb.jpg.6d19a4f45cf14ec4fe0dd1aa7fe3ae0f.jpgIMG_20180807_082855-2390x1344.thumb.jpg.9aac4df77b1f75ddc044ce72d7c97a1b.jpg20180806_175546-1105x1964.thumb.jpg.a9deb1f199874e144188f79865b8c344.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

It's been a little bit but I have made some progress. I had put it off as long as I could but it was time to address making the hull waterproof. I fiberglassed it with 30 minute epoxy and 1/2 oz cloth to keep the weight down. I used flat black for the hull.


  The next area I tackled was the kitchen. I could not find any photos of steamboat kitchens. I think the mundane details like that may be lost to time. I used period kitchen photos as a general guide and built it around the stove. The stove pipe is visible in photos of the Kerr, the rest is a guess. I didn't go nuts with detail either since it's pretty hard to see.


The next area I went after was the main deck bathroom. Again no pictures surfaced. I was able to find pictures of period railroad equipment bathrooms. In fact there are entire websites devoted to train toilets. I also learned a lot more than I wanted to know about 19th century hygiene. I still need to finish the wall and door up.


I had too make all the rods shafts and cylinders from solid brass since my boat will operate. Unfortunately nothing in the kit is designed to be functional. The paddle wheel came together and I powered it with a lightweight gearbox. Well not exactly,  I tied the wheel into the cylinders as they should be then I tied the gearbox to the cylinders. It works well and doesn't bind. The color is a period correct railroad red brown. 


I added what is likely the heaviest single item in the boat, the 4" speaker for the sound system. The sound system has a triple expansion  steam engine effect, paddle back wash, and several 3 chime whistles and bells. It can be loaded with any sounds I wish so it will be trial and error as to what sounds stay and go. I hollowed out the hull to lower the cg and let the hull act as a speaker box to give the sound more depth. The boat is coming together slowly.











Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day mate, I really like what you are doing to this model. I intend it to be my next build, but I will be doing the Chaperon version. May I ask where you got the period figurines? The humans I mean. 







Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you both for the kind words. 


19th century figures are hard to locate.  That period is vicious for modelers. Nobody models that period because there is no manufacturer support, the manufacturer's don't support that period because nobody models it.... It reminds me of a quote from Yogi Berra "No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it's too crowded".


The 2 figures on the boat are O scale train figures. I have seen O scale argued as both 1/48th and 1/43rd scale, either way it works. Search MTH outdoor people set that's where they came from, I grabbed them at a train show. Unfortunately there is little support for model railroaders unless you want to modify modern figures but for freight and animals O scale is the way to go. 


There is another option if you don't mind painting. 28mm wargaming has a good bit of support for the wild west. 28mm is arguably 1/48th scale from most manufacturers. Some can run a little smaller. 28mm is a height, not a scale. Some manufacturers measure the height from the eyes, head or shoulder so figures can vary in size a little from different manufacturers. Some can look cartoony but others look great. 


I bought a set from Bluemoon manufacturing called tombstone civilians. I like it very much. The first picture is the set I bought. They are pewter, need the bases ground off and have to be painted. The size looks good to me. Knuckleduster also produces a line of 19th century people, I have not ordered from them yet. The second picture is an example of some figures they offer. There is also Artizan. The figures are more dramatic but should work as well. The 3rd picture is some of their figures. Most of the figures have guns and civilian's are a little harder to locate but this should give you some options. Searching O scale and 1/48th scale figures may not bring you much luck but searching 28mm wild west, Edwardian, victorian and steampunk figures should bring you many results. 


  I'll post a picture of some of the figures I bought standing next to doorways on the boat tonight to give you an idea of sizing. 




Edited by 60Buick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey thanks for that info. If you look at my build log for the Mississippi Riverboat 1:50 Sergal model, you will see some of the figures I managed to find and am using on mine. They are steam era people. I think I mention in the log somewhere what brand and where I got them from.






Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just want to say that this is looking very cool.  Thanks for sharing, hope you don’t mind me following along.



Current Wooden builds:  Amati/Victory Pegasus  MS Charles W. Morgan  Euromodel La Renommèe  


Plastic builds:    SB2U-1 Vindicator 1/48  Five Star Yaeyama 1/700  Pit Road Asashio and Akashi 1/700 diorama  Walrus 1/48 and Albatross 1/700  Special Hobby Buffalo 1/32  Eduard Sikorsky JRS-1 1/72  IJN Notoro 1/700  Akitsu Maru 1/700


Completed builds :  Caldercraft Brig Badger   Amati Hannah - Ship in Bottle  Pit Road Hatsuzakura 1/700   Hasegawa Shimakaze 1:350

F4B-4 and P-6E 1/72  Accurate Miniatures F3F-1/F3F-2 1/48  Tamiya F4F-4 Wildcat built as FM-1 1/48  Special Hobby Buffalo 1/48

Citroen 2CV 1/24 - Airfix and Tamiya  Entex Morgan 3-wheeler 1/16


Terminated build:  HMS Lyme (based on Corel Unicorn)  


On the shelf:  Euromodel Friedrich Wilhelm zu Pferde; Caldercraft Victory; too many plastic ship, plane and car kits


Future potential scratch builds:  HMS Lyme (from NMM plans); Le Gros Ventre (from Ancre monographs), Dutch ship from Ab Hoving book, HMS Sussex from McCardle book, Philadelphia gunboat (Smithsonian plans)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you guys for the compliments!


So much has progressed over the last few days on the Kerr. I built the boiler deck interior. Since I did not deepen the hull weight has been a major consideration with every step.  I used the lightest balsa I could find for the interior. Not all balsa is created equal so I ran to several places and got some funny looks weighing sheets of wood. But the net result of cutting out the boiler deck floor and skylight ceiling then replacing them with a painted interior with furniture is -2 grams. The boat is actually lighter than if I had left it alone. I still need to add doors, pot belly stoves, bunks and a lot of other details but the weight is negligible. I used other steam boats as a reference and built the large central room even with the skylight. The door locations determined the state rooms. They are tiny, the accommodation's would not fly for todays passengers. I also added an area for unescorted women, 2 bathrooms and a room with an ice box and cabinets for dinning items. I went by the basic layout in the Steamboat cyclopedeum.


Then yesterday came the first real water test. She floats on her own with no leaks but is very tail heavy. I added weight to see how much I can add and where it needs to be so she sits level. I need a lot of forward weight. All the batteries and electronics are in the boat and she is carrying 922 grams of soap up front. The water line is only halfway up her hull.  I ran the paddle off a battery and at slow rpm she pushes a lot of water.  I didn't expect it to be efficient. Why did they go from paddles to screws?


I cut out the floor under the boiler for batteries and the smoke generator. They are lower than the floor so they will be hiden by a false floor panel. The receiver and sound unit mount inside the boiler. I am going to run a second battery since I need the forward weight and I have room for it. More to come. 










Link to comment
Share on other sites

    Funny you ask that,  unless you are a woman, don't try it! I read an account of a young man in the 1860's that did just that and it didn't end up going well for him. He entered the woman's area to get a female to join him on deck. Apparently that's a scandal and her father who was her escort on that particular voyage would have none of that. He ended up getting a broom handle broken over his back, the men roughed him up a bit then he was dropped on shore in the middle of nowhere. Short of dropping off your wife and daughter's I would steer clear of that room.


Funny thing was my wife came over and was looking at the interior and was asking what the rooms were. The small  rear room with the woman in it is for women only and that's what I told her "that was for women only". She asked me,  "Well, where is the men's room?" And I pointed at a bathroom. She said "that's not what I meant. Where is the men's only room?" So I pointed and the main hallway with all the tables, the dirty look I got was priceless.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cool project; nice work so far. In figuring out your balance, have you considered/tested how top-heavy she's going to be when fully finished? Getting the fore-aft balance right is certainly important, but there's a real danger of any wake or ripple tipping her laterally, just like the real thing.


To answer an earlier question you asked, by Chaperon's era most steamboats had converted to coal. Wood was the fuel of choice when it was abundant along the riverbanks, but after the Civil War wood became increasingly hard to come by, improving transportation meant coal was more widely available, and it was a more efficient fuel. Same reasons railroads switched over.


As for stateroom size, that depends on your point of view. Steamboat staterooms were tiny, but not any smaller (and in some cases bigger) than those offered on modern overnight trains both in Europe and the US. Of course, in those cases it's one or two nights, not one or two weeks (or more) for riverboats depending on the length of journey. Plus, people back then were quite a bit shorter and generally thinner.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you look around you my find reference to a smoking room. In most cases this was a "Men's only" area where men were able to go and have a cigar or two and possibly a drink while lounging after dinner or whatever.


Great looking work on your model. 



Build logs: Colonial sloop Providence 1/48th scale kit bashed from AL Independence

Currant builds:

Constructo Brigantine Sentinel (Union) (On hold)

Minicraft 1/350 Titanic (For the Admiral)

1/350 Heavy Cruiser USS Houston (Resin)

Currant research/scratchbuild:

Schooner USS Lanikai/Hermes

Non ship build log:

1/35th UH-1H Huey


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looks great!  It looks like you have the figures well sorted, but a good potential source for 19th century crew in 1/48 could be Pegasus hobbies' "California Gold Miners":  http://pegasushobbies.net/catalog/p113/%237007-1/48-Calif.-Gold-Miners-/-Gold-Rush/product_info.html


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for the compliments and the information!


So far the boat is extremely stable and even bottom heavy. Even with the soap on the upper decks the boat shows good tendencies.  I'm not worried at this point, but that can change as more stuff is added to the upper decks. I kept everything as low as possible and sunk as much equipment as I could into the hull. 


Where did they keep the coal? I have seen pictures of wood piles but coal is not visible in the pictures I have found.  Could they have run both?  


I thought about a men's smoking area as well.  I wouldn't know where to put it.  I have read that some boats would section off a portion of the main cabin area for privacy. Being a less fancy boat I'm wondering what the actual floor layout was. 


I did order the miners. They are excellent,  thank you for the tip. The 28mm stuff is a little smaller so they will be in different areas on the boat. I did get some of the Knuckle duster figures and they are also good plus some are seated.  I have about a dozen 1/48 figures and close to 50 28mm. 


As far as progress I have begun building the Texas and the pilot house. I can't seem to find much on what the inside of the Texas deck was like.  Any ideas? It was strickly crew correct?


I actually had a stroke of luck. My wife had not been a fan of this project ......at all. She said we didn't have room for it even though I disagree. Well a local antique store was going out of business and was selling everything.  I bought a huge lighted display case for only $100.00. It was a surprise, forgiveness is easier than permission. Now the boat has a dust free home and she wants me to finish the boat so the case looks better. The best part is I see room for 4 more paddle boats. I think the Dumas Mt Washington will be next! 




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Lots of people are downsizing or liquidating grandma’s furniture, there are lots of Knick-knack/collectibles display cabinets on the used furniture market these days! 

It is a great way to keep our builds dust free.  

I got a nice case similar to yours, but only 4 feet tall, at a consignment store for a similar cost. My Dumas USCG Lifeboat has a nice home now.


I am enjoying following this build- thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

In progress:  

BlueJacket Lobster Smack 1/8 scale (RC)

1/96 Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane RC scratchbuild



1/144 scale USS Guadalcanal CVE-60 RC scratchbuild

Revell 1/305 USCG 327’ Secretary class cutter

Dumas 1/16 scale USCG Motor Lifeboat 36500 (RC)

Lindberg 1/95 USCG Lightship LV-112 “Nantucket” RC conversion



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

I just started the Chaperon kit (same as yours) and going in I decided to make up my own back story.  It has a high-rolling Kentuckian buying the boat and reconfiguring it to take advantage of the rather lawless attitudes of folks during Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties.  In my story the boat becomes a floating saloon, casino and, er, brothel.  It will not be a "floater" or an RC boat.  I don't plan to populate the Jezebel (my new name for the Chaperon) with little people, but the furniture you found is fantastic.  I didn't have much problem building a craps table, a blackjack table, a poker table or a well-stocked bar.  But toilets, wash basins and chairs are really hard to find.  You answered the questions earlier about the little people, but the source of your terrific furniture is still a mystery.  Can you please re-address that question?


Actually, your rendition of this model is beautiful and I find myself so intimidated that maybe I should just scrap what I've done so far.  I won't do that, but please know that you've raised the bar for me by a ton.   


Thanks,  Tom in NC

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...