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USS Cairo 1862 by MPB521 – Scale 1:48 - American Civil War Ironclad - First Scratch Build


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  • 3 weeks later...
1 hour ago, KeithAug said:

it is all rather beautifully done Brian. Obviously you like the pristine look, as do I. My guess is that the original was rather more rustic, even in its as new condition. What do you think?

Thank you Keith.

 

Funny that you mention that, over the past few days I have been building the pilot house (updates coming soon), and during that time have been thinking of ways to add some weathering to it so it wouldn't appear so "pristine". Once I have the upper deck completed, I think I will build a couple of mockups of the sides and play around with some colors to add a little age to it. Cairo wasn't in service very long very long (Jan - Dec, 1862), so she wouldn't have aged too much, but the battles she was in and the work she did would have given her paint a bit of character. My painting skills leave a little to be desired and I don't want to go in and make a mess of things, but I may do something. I still have a lot of time to think about it.

 

-Brian

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6 hours ago, wefalck said:

Pastels may be a route to go. If you don't like it, you can wipe or wash them off (not so from bare wood though). They can be applied with a bristle brush or cotton swabs and the effect can be build up gradually. Finally, they can be fixed with a light mist of matt varnish.

Wefalck,

 

Thanks for the tip. I have seen several builders use pastels as an alternative to painting, but had never thought of using them for the aging process. This is something that I will definitely give at try when I get to that point. 
 

-Brian

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I have never seen pastels be used for actual painting, in modelling that is, but only for 'weathering'. Modell building suppliers have created special sets for different areas of model building, but I happen to have a big set of artist's pastels. However, a few basic pigments should be sufficient, namely black, white, red and yellow ochre, and burnt umber for our needs. Pastel sticks can be bought separately. Rub off a small amount on a piece of sandpaper for application by brush

 

A good tool for applying pastels are also these little foam-brushes ladies use to apply make-up - after all powder-based make-up is nothing else but pastels.

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6 hours ago, wefalck said:

I have never seen pastels be used for actual painting, in modelling that is, but only for 'weathering'. Modell building suppliers have created special sets for different areas of model building, but I happen to have a big set of artist's pastels. However, a few basic pigments should be sufficient, namely black, white, red and yellow ochre, and burnt umber for our needs. Pastel sticks can be bought separately. Rub off a small amount on a piece of sandpaper for application by brush

 

A good tool for applying pastels are also these little foam-brushes ladies use to apply make-up - after all powder-based make-up is nothing else but pastels.

Wefalck,

 

Here is a great example of a build of the Packet Arabia that Eric "Cathead" did where he primarily uses pastels for his coloring. He also used them a lot on the sails and shields of his Viking Longship

 

-Brian

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Brian, I didn't look over the two logs in detail again, but from what I also remember, Eric used the pastels mainly for weathering or toning, not as body colours. Of course, if you add a binder, e.g. lineseed oil or shellac to pastels, you would use them just as pigment. 

 

Below is an example from my own production of weathering over acrylics - salt stains and general grime, done mainly with white pastel:

 

image.png.a00c995d209079683bf4c0165023b0b7.png

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7 minutes ago, wefalck said:

Below is an example from my own production of weathering over acrylics - salt stains and general grime, done mainly with white pastel:

Ok, now I am truly inspired! What a beautiful job of weathering.

 

Looks like I may be making a trip to the hobby store this weekend for some pastels.

 

-Brian

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You might want to looks at Pan Pastels here: https://panpastel.com/products.html

 

They have an extensive palette and are easy to apply. Work on some practice pieces before you do Cairo to get a feel for applying these pastels. I like them, because you can top coat and the colors and distribution won't change. Almost like there is a glue involved.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello again everyone,

 

Time again for another update. With the summer winding down and the weather cooling off, I have been busy with my "Honey Do" list but managed to find some time to put together a few more items on my build.

 

I finally finished getting all of the remaining cannons installed and rigged. The three forward cannons are complete with the exception of the rope coils. I managed to run out of rope with only a couple of feet needed to finish, but more is on the way.

 

Picture of one of the forward 42 pounders rigged and ready for install.

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One of the starboard side 8" Smoothbores in place.

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Here are a few pictures of the gundeck at eye-level showing powder barrels, munitions crates and the crews mess lockers.

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Next I worked on the hog chains. For these I used brass wire for the chains themselves, styrene for the turnbuckles and copper sheeting for the cast caps. 

 

Up close picture of the actual hog chains. These took a little bit to figure out exactly how they were built. I had a few personal pictures from my last visit in 2014, but none with any real detail. I did try looking up some others on the internet, but the hog chains don't really seem to be an area of focus for visitors so the pictures are limited to long distance shots that I had to zoom way in on. Nevertheless, I think my interpretation of them is fairly close.

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Here is the horizontal chain with the ends formed into the eyes.

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Then it was time to test my metal working skills to see if I could solder the eyes to close them up without making a mess of things. Well, almost. Nothing a little drilling and filing can't fix.

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There we go. They look a little better cleaned up.

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Now to get them bent into shape. The forward chains are significantly shorter than the aft ones, due to their placement, so the angle on them was a bit more. Also, where the hog chains rest on the posts the iron was pounded flat to give it a better mounting surface. The green area drawn on the wire is where I flattened the brass to rest on the caps.

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Both horizontal chains shaped and flattened.

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Next came the cast caps. These were made from thin copper sheeting that I cut to size and scored along the folding edges to get the correct shape.

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Then they were placed on the hog chain posts and glued to the horizontal chains.

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From the pictures that I was able to find and zoom in on, it is difficult to tell if there were bolts that were inserted through the chains and cast caps into the tops of the posts. It would make sense for them to put something there to avoid the chains from slipping off, but since I was not able to find any pictures of the tops of the posts, I took my builders liberties and drilled them out and will place bolts in them.

 

Next work was done on the turnbuckles. Or at least that is what I think these are called. They are not built like regular turnbuckles but they look to function as a way to tighten the tension on the hog chains. These were built with the same brass wire and styrene plastic.

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Partially assembled.

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and temporarily installed.

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Port side.

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Starboard side.

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Before I got too far ahead of myself, I remembered that I had not built the axle pillow block caps. So I figured that I had better get to these before they were buried and impossible to install. These I just carved out of a piece of square stock and sanded to shape.

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Cut out and just needing a little finish sanding.

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Sanded and painted. I use the gold beads to simulate the grease cups. With the small nail in the top, I think they look pretty convincing.

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And all mounted in place.

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Next came work on the pilot house. I was not actually ready for this part, but I was running some additional lights before I closed up the boiler for good (I ran all of my wiring to terminate under the boiler) and had the thought that it would be neat to put some LED's in the pilot house to give it a little additional detail. So, I decided to go ahead and get it built.

 

So to give a brief history on the pilot house. The original plans for these was a wooden octagonal substructure, 12" thick with 1.5" thick iron plates fastened to the frames for protection. After several men on the Louisville and St. Louis were injured or killed by flying shards of iron from direct hits on the pilot house during Battle of Fort Donelson, including Flag Officer Foote, Lieutenant Bryant (then commander of the Cairo) had some modifications done to the pilot house in order protect the crew from further injury. 

 

While Cairo was awaiting her next assignment, Lt. Bryant put her crew to work extending the front three panels of the pilot house. They added an additional 7.5" of timber to each panel and then reinforced the inside of the house with pine paneling. Additionally, 1/2" thick iron flaps were added to the ports as well to protect the pilots form enemy sniper fire. When these ports were closed, the pilots would have to navigate by squinting through a peephole drilled into the flaps that was about the diameter of a silver dollar. All in all, these modifications gave the pilot house its new unique shape.

 

So I started out by tracing the footprint of the pilot house from the HSR plans. I drew the footprint up on some card stock to use as a mounting and construction base. I over extended the lines to give me a cutting line for the toe boards, then glued the strips down for the toe boards.

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Once the boards were all in place I removed the excess card stock to start going vertical. Once I had this part cut out I realized that my octagon shape was not uniform and that the sides of the pilot house extension weren't even.

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So I went to the computer and dug out my trusty Visio program to get a perfect Octagon shape. Then with careful measurement, I added the extension to the octagon then sized everything to scale. This is the new result. Much more uniform.

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First course of toe boards in place.

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Then it was on to building the sides.

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Five sides up and rivets installed. I simulated the rivets the same way that I did for the casemate armor.

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Extension sided in place. These were added when the front three panels were beefed up to compensate for the new thickness.

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All eight (actually ten) panels in place and the structure temp installed in it's home.

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Next it was time to install the view ports. To give them some depth, I built up some wooden tunnels to simulate the 19.5" walls.

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Next I started constructing the top. This was pretty much the only part of Cairo that was left exposed from the Yazoo River mud, so it had long rotted away by the time the pilot house was recovered in 1960. Without knowing exactly how this part was constructed, I used what information was available on the HSR and what Bob Hill had drafted up, and made my own version.

 

My thoughts were that for the most part, since the top of the pilot house was flat one can assume that the roof was as well. The drawings show the center of the octagon to be open with a wire mesh covering the opening. I can somewhat see where this could be the case in that since there was a entry hatch from the gun deck with a ladder to access the pilot house just forward of the boilers and the cook stove. Given the hatch placement, you would think that some of the heat from below would filter up to the pilot house. That as well as the entire structure being painted black would make for an almost unbearably hot place to be on sunny days, so they would have to have some sort of ventilation besides the portals. However, with an open top, that exposes the pilot and controls to rain and other elements, so there could have possibly been a cover that could be placed over the opening. This cover could have just fit down inside of the opening with a small lip around the edge to hold it in place. Handles could have been mounted to the cover to facilitate removal and installation. Somewhat like a manhole cover. So this is what I came up with.

 

The basic shape of the top.

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Cutting out the center opening. I'll use this part as the cover.

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Installing the wire mesh. I don't think that this served much of a purpose in the way of protection from arms, but it could prevent tree branches and the occasional bird from coming into the pilot house.

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Installation of the port flap hinges and flaps. These I just made with styrene rods and sheets. I used foil tape again for the rivets.

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I wanted to show some of the ports closed, for the details and to give somewhat of a peak at the small aperture the pilots had to peer through when they were closed. This is also the area where I placed the lanterns to light things up inside.

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For the pine paneling on the interior, I printed some lines on cardstock and glued this to the inside of the pilot house. 

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Lanterns installed. The extra cardstock under the lanterns is to cover the wiring. Very little of this will be seen, but I wanted to cover it up just in case the keen eye is able to spot it from the outside.

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The completed structure temp installed.

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Lastly was the construction of the access ladder.

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This was another feature that was never recovered from the wreck and there is no mention of it in the HSR so I just went with a simple build of a round rung ladder that would allow the pilot access to his house.

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Placed near it's location in relation to the hatch that will be built when the hurricane deck goes in.

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Finally, I started work on the lifeboats. The City Class Ironclads each carried four of these. Unfortunately none of the ones from the Cairo are around anymore and it is hard to say if any were deployed during her sinking since she went down in 12 minutes. From my reading on the sinking, Commander Selfridge ran her ashore as soon as she was hit, where most of the men jumped from the boat and swam or simply jumped to the ground before she slipped off the bank and went under. It is most likely that the lifeboats broke loose over time and drifted downriver in the swift Yazoo River current or they simply rotted away in the their davits.

 

So since there were no surviving lifeboats to model them after, I relied on pictures of the Cairo as well as the other boats for the details. From the available pictures they look to be pretty standard in shape with a flat transom and from the measurements on the plans they are about 6.25" which scaled out at 1:48 would be about 25' long. Rather than scratch build four of these and run the risk of them all not coming out shaped the same, I cheated a bit and bought some Model Shipways kits instead. There was only one problem with this, the biggest MS kit is only 5.25" long. So I kit bashed the lifeboats and extended them the extra inch. For the most part I got the desired shape and length I was looking for.

 

Stretching the keel.

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Keel stretched.

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Planking going on.

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And the finished result. 

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I then gave it a shot of black paint and started to other three. I'll get them all built and painted before I build the interiors of them. I still haven't decided if I am going to cover them with tarps or not. I am still researching the techniques on how to simulate them and need to practice up since I've never done that before. I'll at least leave one uncovered to see the benches, oars and other details, just don't know about the rest. Once I have all four completed, I'll post more pictures.

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Well, that is all for this update. Hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you all again for the likes, comments and just stopping by.

 

Until next time, take care and be safe.

 

-Brian

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Well done on the pilot house and the boats.    I was surprised reading what  you said about putting more armor on the top due to the plunging fire at Fort Donelson.  If I remember right, there were other forts along rivers on cliffs but not as high or close to the water as at Fort Donelson.  The Union ships did get hit pretty hard by the batteries and the river boats didn't have enough elevation to fire back.    

 

If you ever get up that way, try to visit Fort Donelson.  It's an interesting place to see.  When i lived in the midwest it was always a nice day trip with their museum and re-enactments.  

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Your reconstruction makes sense. My only observation is that any cover that would block a plunging shot would probably be mighty heavy, especially if it's armored. Removing it could be an interesting evolution and putting it back even more so in the absence of a crane. A thin cover might we'll be worse than none because a glancing hit could generate the high speed splinters that did terrible injury on wooden ships.

 

But that's trivia. What an amazing build! You should really see if Vicksburg would display the model, it is that awesome!

 

George K

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Brian,

 

Wonderful work!

 

They’re not (wince) lifeboats!  They are ships boats.  The idea of “help, we’re sinking, man the lifeboats” is a merchant marine rather than a navy idea.  Warships boats were specialized working craft, from heavily built launches to fancy fine lines officer’s gigs and barges.  Photos of these Civil War gunboats show these boats, some clearly.  There is an especially well known Brady photograph of soldiers in a ship’s boat in the James River.  While I have never seen a boat establishment for these gunboats, I believe that they were equipped with cutters with perhaps a small launch.  See Chapelle’s American Sailing Navy for drawings.

 

If the gunboat was sinking and if there was time to launch one of these heavy craft or if in sinking one floated free, self preservation would cause these boats to be used to save lives but that was not their principal reason for being carried.

 

Roger

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Many coastal fortresses were armed with mortars in order to fire plunging shots/shells at approaching ships. While originally the idea was that the shot would penetrate to the ship's bottom and create a leak that would virtually impossible to stop, when armoured ships appeared the idea to be able to penetrate the unarmoured or only lightly armoured decks with shells to cause damage within the ship became more important.

 

To this end in peace-time the waters around the forts would be carefully surveyed and maps drawn. With the aid of two or three observation posts the position of the ship relative to the mortar implacement would be determined by cross-sighting and the gun layed appropriately. The necessary settings would have been determined experimentally in advance.

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16 hours ago, mtaylor said:

Well done on the pilot house and the boats.    I was surprised reading what  you said about putting more armor on the top due to the plunging fire at Fort Donelson.  If I remember right, there were other forts along rivers on cliffs but not as high or close to the water as at Fort Donelson.  The Union ships did get hit pretty hard by the batteries and the river boats didn't have enough elevation to fire back.    

 

If you ever get up that way, try to visit Fort Donelson.  It's an interesting place to see.  When i lived in the midwest it was always a nice day trip with their museum and re-enactments.  

Thank you Mark for the kind words.

 

As for the armor plating on top, there was none. These boats were pretty much unprotected from plunging fire, at least during Cairo's time. There may have been modification later on, but I have not researched that since my focus has been on Cairo. I was mostly referring to the additional course of timbers that were installed on the forward, vertical sections of the pilot house. The original plating was reused when the extra timbers were added and four additional plates were added in the gaps left exposed by the expansion of the new timbers. Flag Officer Foote was injured when the pilot house armor plating of the St. Louis took a direct hit from a Confederate cannon ball from Fort Donelson. The impact shattered the iron plates and sent shrapnel into his ankle. Same thing for the crew on the Louisville, shrapnel killed the pilot and other men that happened to be in the pilot house at the time. Lt. Bryant was determined not to have the same thing happen to Cairo so he had the modifications done a few weeks after the battle. Several other City Class boats followed suit shortly after. 

 

Fort Donelson is on my list of places to see, along with Fort Defiance. Even though nothing remains of the old shipyards, it would be neat to see the place were they came from.

 

-Brian

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15 hours ago, gak1965 said:

Your reconstruction makes sense. My only observation is that any cover that would block a plunging shot would probably be mighty heavy, especially if it's armored. Removing it could be an interesting evolution and putting it back even more so in the absence of a crane. A thin cover might we'll be worse than none because a glancing hit could generate the high speed splinters that did terrible injury on wooden ships.

 

But that's trivia. What an amazing build! You should really see if Vicksburg would display the model, it is that awesome!

 

George K

Thank you so much George. While I definitely agree that an armored cover may have been way to heavy to move on and off, my thoughts were that the cover was simply made of wood  to keep out the elements. Of course like you said, one made of wood would not provide much protection from enemy fire. Then again, there wasn't any protection from plunging fire at all on these boats. Most of the armor plating was to protect the pilots, frontal assaults and the machinery within. There were even accounts of snipers shooting the tiller ropes to disable the boats mid stream. With no control, they made for easy targets for the enemy.

 

As for displaying at Vicksburg, that would be awesome. Not sure they would take mine though since they already have a 1:48 scale model there. But it would be a treat to show it off.

 

-Brian

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14 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

Brian,

 

Wonderful work!

 

They’re not (wince) lifeboats!  They are ships boats.  The idea of “help, we’re sinking, man the lifeboats” is a merchant marine rather than a navy idea.  Warships boats were specialized working craft, from heavily built launches to fancy fine lines officer’s gigs and barges.  Photos of these Civil War gunboats show these boats, some clearly.  There is an especially well known Brady photograph of soldiers in a ship’s boat in the James River.  While I have never seen a boat establishment for these gunboats, I believe that they were equipped with cutters with perhaps a small launch.  See Chapelle’s American Sailing Navy for drawings.

 

If the gunboat was sinking and if there was time to launch one of these heavy craft or if in sinking one floated free, self preservation would cause these boats to be used to save lives but that was not their principal reason for being carried.

 

Roger

 Roger, thank you for the kind words and info.

 

I guess I need to apologize for using the term "lifeboat", I seem to recall a similar conversation with you about the workboats on my Chaperon build. It's a bad habit I need to break. 🥴

 

From some of the pictures that I have studied, the ships boats all looked pretty similar. Flat transom, roughly 25' in length with about 6 or seven benches. Nothing too fancy. If there is a difference in them, it is minimal, or at least difficult to tell from zooming in on the old photos.

 

This one if from the Pittsburgh.

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Cairo

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Cincinnati.

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I did go back and do a little re-reading on the sinking of Cairo however, and found that I had misspoke about her boats not being launched. Here is an excerpt from “Hardluck Ironclad: The Sinking and Salvage of the Cairo” by Edwin C. Bearss.

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“As the bow of the Cairo touched the bank, blue-jackets leaped ashore and secured a hawser to a cottonwood, hoping to keep the vessel from slipping off into deep water. Hand and steam pumps were manned in the struggle to keep the ironclad afloat. Selfridge soon realized that his boat was doomed and sadly ordered preparations to abandon her.

By the time the Queen of the West came alongside, “the water was waist deep on the forward part of the gundeck.” The Queen removed part of the crew, while the rest took to the ironclad’s three remaining boats. The Cairo began to slip backward; the hawser securing her to the cottonwood tautened, held for a moment, and then parted. Slowly and majestically, the Cairo slid back into deep water.

               Yost recorded the scene as follows:

We were ordered to leave our quarters at the guns and take all the small arms we could and go on board the Ram, which was done quickly but without confusion. I secured two revolvers and a few of my personal belongings, including my private journal… Almost everyone saved something; but unfortunately, the “Logbook,” the Signal book (which however was bound with leaden covers) and the ship’s official papers were all lost. Executive Officer Hiram K. Hazlett, and the writer were the last two persons to leave the sinking vessel which they did by jumping into the “Dingey” which was manned by two sailors, and awaiting us at the stern; we moved off just in time to escape being swallowed up in the seething caldron of foaming water.

               Within twelve minutes after the explosion, the Cairo had vanished, except for the tops of her chimneys and jackstaffs, from one of which the Stars and Stripes still floated.”

 

 

So it does seem that the crew was able to get at least three boats launched before she sunk, but as to what became of them afterwards, there is no telling. Most likely became the property of other boats in the flotilla.

 

I will also give Chapelle’s American Sailing Navy a look before outfitting my boats to make sure that I get them right.

 

Thanks again!

 

-Brian

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7 hours ago, wefalck said:

Many coastal fortresses were armed with mortars in order to fire plunging shots/shells at approaching ships. While originally the idea was that the shot would penetrate to the ship's bottom and create a leak that would virtually impossible to stop, when armoured ships appeared the idea to be able to penetrate the unarmoured or only lightly armoured decks with shells to cause damage within the ship became more important.

 

To this end in peace-time the waters around the forts would be carefully surveyed and maps drawn. With the aid of two or three observation posts the position of the ship relative to the mortar implacement would be determined by cross-sighting and the gun layed appropriately. The necessary settings would have been determined experimentally in advance.

 

Wefalck, There is an art to firing the big guns, especially at moving targets. These gunners were definitely quite good at their jobs, and I'm sure there were many hours of practice under their belts to get that good.

 

Although it is not American Civil War related, but a good example of an experienced mortarman is Master Gunnery Sergeant Leland Diamond, he has a pretty interesting history over his career. Part of his story is during WWII he single handedly drove off a Japanese cruiser at Guadalcanal with his mortar. 

 

-Brian

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Just catching up, beautiful as always. To clarify an earlier discussion, I've used pastels for both weathering and primary color on various ship builds as well as model railroad projects. On Arabia, the deck planks were colored by pastel while the main white color was paint. On the Viking ship, the shields were primarily colored pencil while the sails were layered pastel and colored pencil. 

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On 10/15/2021 at 4:26 PM, Cathead said:

Just catching up, beautiful as always. To clarify an earlier discussion, I've used pastels for both weathering and primary color on various ship builds as well as model railroad projects. On Arabia, the deck planks were colored by pastel while the main white color was paint. On the Viking ship, the shields were primarily colored pencil while the sails were layered pastel and colored pencil. 

Thank you Eric.  I reused my mockup for rigging my cannons as a test bed for weathering using pastels. I added planking and armor to it and just got it painted this past weekend. I will wait on the clearcoat to cure for a few days before testing it out. I am anxious to see if I can add a little "age" to my build, and tone down the "pristine" look a bit.

 

171658059_MU1.JPG.40a210c0971fc57b1f238ba854046d47.JPG

 

1761531056_MU2.JPG.996e41979d2df483405a301705313663.JPG

 

We'll see how it goes. More to come....

 

-Brian

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Be aware that pastels probably will need to be 'fixed' with a very light coat of clear varnish. However, this can change the appearance of the pastels somewhat, they will look less 'dusty' but more solid - after all you just add a binder in situ to pigment that is now already there. The advantage of the pastels is that the effect can be build up gradually.

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47 minutes ago, wefalck said:

Be aware that pastels probably will need to be 'fixed' with a very light coat of clear varnish. However, this can change the appearance of the pastels somewhat, they will look less 'dusty' but more solid - after all you just add a binder in situ to pigment that is now already there. The advantage of the pastels is that the effect can be build up gradually.

Wefalck,

 

I have been studying up on how to do this, and there are numerous helpful videos on YouTube with all sorts of methods. I see where a lot of people use weathering powders while others save (lots of) money and pulverize pastels to achieve the same effect. The one thing that surprised me most was that several of the videos suggest that you use ordinary hair spray to "fix" the weathering to your model. It has the same affect as varnish but it doesn't change the appearance of the coloring as much as varnish does.

 

I just purchased a cheap set of pastels and will give that a try first. Fingers crossed that it works out.

 

-Brian

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Brian,

 

Civil War Navy Ships Boats usually had a “wash strake” fitted above the regular planking.  The wash strakes were pierced with openings that served as rowlocks for the oars.  This construction is shown on two of the pictures that you have posted.  To be exact, the rowlocks were often “composition” metal; the term then used for brass or bronze, castings.  These castings were grooved and segments of the wash strake fitted into the grooves.  

 

Roger

 

 

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There are 'fixatives' for pastels, sold by art-supply houses. I am not sure what they consist of, but may the same thing as hairspray minus the perfume. For me the main point is the resulting sheen, that depends on what kind of varnish or 'fixatif' you use - some people want to have their models flat all over, while I personally prefer to more realistically respresent the the different sheen of different materials or surface treatments. The point is not to douse the pastels in varnish, but just to spray it lightly, so they are bound without the varnish necessarily forming a continuous layer. You will have to experiment.

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