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

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Hello again everyone,

 

I'm back from a much needed vacation. 

 

Not a whole lot was accomplished this time around, haven't had a lot of build time having to playing catch up at work but I did manage to get a few post-worthy things done.

 

So with my change of mind to go ahead and do some of the interior of the model, I got the bulkheads cleared out from the boiler hold. This was a task that I wish I had thought about prior to building the hull since it would have been much easier to do with all of the glued hull planks. However, I managed to get them removed without too much damage. 

 

Here the bulkheads are removed and I am going in with the sub framing for the boiler decking. I figured that since the next forward bulkhead was further forward then the boiler hold that I would also build out the forward coal bunkers as well.

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Floor planking going in.

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Floor planking completed and the curved hull planking going in.

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Curved hull planking completed.

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Forward coal bunkers trimmed out.

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And finally the deck sanded down and the boiler hold trimmed out. I am going to simulate the port and starboard coal bunker doors as closed since I don't want to cut into the false keel boards. I'm too afraid this will weaken the hull if I cut into them too much. Besides, they will be in a location where they are not easily seen.

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I had started cutting out the hatchways and realized that it is very difficult to keep the framing lines straight, so one of my next tasks is going to build a cradle for the hull to sit in so that I can keep everything lined up properly. I've seen this methods done on several builds and it seems to have helped those builds. We'll see how this goes.

 

Until next time. Thanks for looking and all of the likes.

 

-Brian

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4 hours ago, Keith Black said:

Looks very nice for having to work in such close quarters.

Thank you Keith. At 1:48 scale there is actually plenty of room to work in the hold. Although, once the boiler is installed it’ll be tight quarters though. 

 

-Brian

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Hello all,

 

I’d like to pose a question to some of the experts out there about boiler construction.

 

Since there isn’t a whole lot of documentation  on the construction of the City Class Iron Clads, a lot has been open to interpretation and research on the remains of the USS Cairo. Since these boats incorporated a lot of techniques from standard Steamboats I was wondering about how the hulls or decks were protected from the heat of the boilers and fire boxes. 

 

Going by the build of my Chaperon, the boiler was constructed with legs that supported the boiler tubes and there was an ash pit at the front of the fire boxes that I can only assume was brick lined to protect the wooden deck from hot embers that would escape while shoveling coal in. However, there were really no details on what was beneath the boiler tubes. 

 

In one build that I ran across there are pictures of what looks like a shallow pit with a some sort of substrate filled in to keep the heat from the wood planks below it. Was this a standard practice, or were other methods used like brick lining or something else?

 

One other thought was that the entire boiler assembly was wrapped in asbestos blankets, but again I am not sure of the methods used during this time period and my guess is that whatever materials were readily available at the time were used. And given the fact that the recovered boilers from Cairo didn’t show any evidence of blanketing, this may not have been the case. 

 

I’ve studied the pictures of the USS St. Louis build going on, but it’s hard to make a determination as to what they have come up with, since most of the pictures of the boilers show it off the boat or already installed. 

 

Any suggestions or information would be greatly appreciated. 

 

-Brian

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A must have book for modelers of riverboats is Allan Bates' The Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopedium and for details of boilers and engines his Western Rivers Engineroom Cyclopedium is good to have.  Both are inexpensive and available used many places or new from the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, IN  http://www.howardsteamboatmuseum.org/

 

Drawings 59 and 60 on pages 42 and 43 (respectively) show boilers from riverboats and the cross section - Drawing 60 shows the use of fire brick at the bottom of the boiler and the insulation on the top of the boiler.  Heat transmission through the fire brick would not endanger the wood hull.  Also, asbestos is noted as being used about 1900 on top of the boilers.  A mixture of cow manure, fire clay, flax or chopped hay and hair (probably horse) along with road scrapings free of stones.  Add water to the consistency of mortar and then applied to the top of the boilers. 

 

BTW I have permission from the author to use text and photos from his books.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Kurt

 

BATES 59.jpg

BATES 60.jpg

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Kurt,  

 

Thank you for the information. Out of curiosity, I went to the Howard Museum website looking for the books you referenced. Is there a specific link to them or do you have to email them for information? 

 

-Brian

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It looks like you have to email them or call them.  I thought they had a link to the books/store but either I am not remembering correctly or they changed the website since I last visited it.

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Hello again Everyone,

 

So I managed to get the build jig set up this past week, and in hindsight I realized that I should have done this from the beginning. It sure makes lining everything up so much easier.

 

I didn't take any pictures of its construction, I guess I was just excited to get to building it and completely forgot about taking them. Anyway, basic construction was two sheets of 1/4" MDF with 1"x4"s cut to length and sandwiched between them the height of the hull. I then tuned the hull over, traced out it's profile and cut that out. I then lined up the Bob Hill plans (yes, I used these, but first I made sure that the framing stations lined up with the HSR ones and they did perfectly) with the hull opening, taped it in place then marked all of the frames.

 

This is where I started taking the pictures. Oh, and I went into town and had the scaled plans printed so that I didn't run the risk of the ones I printed and taped together throwing my frame lines out of whack.

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Next I installed the pedestal mounts in the hull so that I could secure it to the jig. I for the mounts I used these 1/4" threaded inserts that you drill the pilot hole and insert with an Allen wrench. These things were pretty cool. I like them better than using T-nuts because if they strip out, you can replace them without tearing apart the model.

 

Drilling the pilot hole.

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Installing the insert.

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Testing the fit with the temp screws that I am going to use to hold the boat in place while it is in the jig.

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And the whole setup in place. The red lines are every fifth frame, as called out on the plans. I then went in and marked all the rest of the frame lines in black so  I have a perfect reference for all of the frames. Also, as you can see by my simulated nail lines, The stations gradually migrated out of line with the frame stations. This was where I was having trouble keeping things lined up and prompted me to build the jig. Lesson learned. Luckily most of these won't be seen since they will be hidden by cannons or the Officers Quarters.

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Now that this part is done, it's time to move on to finishing the gun deck framing and planking. First frame in place. And now they can be lined up where they are supposed to be. First frame going in.

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A few more frames in place.

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All frames in place. The wider frames have knee braces mounted to their undersides. These will be installed once the boat is removed from the building jig.

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Aft planking going in.

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And finally, the engine holds cut out, the deck all sanded and four coats of wipe-on poly applied. 

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Things ought to start moving along a little better now that I have the build jig as a guide to work off of. I am going to start work this week on the boilers and getting the brickwork laid down in the boiler hold. Haven't quite figured out how I am going to do the bricks yet. I've seen several methods in different builds from powdered mixes to cutting small pieces of wood and painting them up. Not real sure yet, but I am open to any suggestions to other methods used that  might be easier.

 

Anyway, that's all for now. Thanks for looking.

 

-Brian

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Brian,  very nice, careful work!  I always look forward to your posts.  I just finished reading a great book about the Vicksburg Campaign by an author whose last name is Arnold.  It appears that these boats were almost impossible to navigate in the Mississippi’s swift currents.  One of the Navy’s objections to running the batteries both at Vicksburg and Island No. 10 was a concern about getting back upstream to their base for coaling, supply and maintenance and repair.

 

Roger

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On the brickwork, I think I used printed brick paper (from model railroading) on the Bertrand and made my own wooden bricks for Arabia. I don't think the former would hold up at your scale. There are a lot of model railroad molds out there intended for casting various building parts in plaster, I wonder if a brick pattern mold could be found that would look right? That would give you a nice 3D effect without having to cut out and shape lots of bricks.

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Thank you Roger.
 

During my research on these boats I’ve read that they were notoriously hard to control. One reason being the small rudder size and the other being the placement of the paddle wheel in relation to the rudders. These factored in with swift river currents probably made it a task that only seasoned pilots could manage. 
 

By the way, I’m curious as to the name of the book you are referring to. I’m always up for reading up more on Vicksburg and the campaigns of these boats. 
 

-Brian

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Eric, 

 

Thinking about it, the printed paper method might just be the right idea. Most of it will be hidden under the boilers anyway. With the exception of the ash pit, I may just do that then shape and paint the ones that will be seen. No sense in going through a big expense for something that won’t really be seen. 
 

-Brian

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I've been following along on your build Brian, and for a first-time scratch builder you're remarkably attentive to accuracy and the workmanship is clean and careful.  And you've picked a great subject.  I've always been somewhat of a "Western Theater" Civil War buff and I find this period of U.S. history endlessly interesting.  A great start on an interesting and unique model.

 

I realize that you have decided to go with printed paper for the brick work, but for future reference, there is a company called New England Brownstone that manufactures Hydrocal brick wall slabs in 1:48 and 1:87.  They are made in the American bond pattern with tie header courses.  You have to color the slabs yourself (they tell you how) and it is not a cheap product, but with careful execution they produce the most realistic brick work in those scales that I have seen. 

 

Looking forward to future updates.

 

Gary

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Gary,

 

Thank you for the kind comments, glad to have you following along. USS Cairo has long been a fascination of mine and I always wanted to build her. It’s just taken a long time to gain the skills to take on a scratch build like this. Thanks to this forum and all of the helpful members on it, I finally decided to jump on in. I figured that what’s the worse that could happen, someone points out something I did wrong and I have to redo it? Oh well, just hones my skills. 
 

I appreciate the useful info on modeling supplies, I’ll definitely add New England Brownstone to my favorites folder. I’m always on the lookout for good sites to shop from. I have the feeling that if all goes well with this build, it may not be the last one. 
 

-Brian

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59 minutes ago, mbp521 said:

it may not be the last one

I would hope not. 

Far North Texas........Denison, Sherman, Gainesville? My son was born in Sherman, at the time we were living in Tioga. 

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1 hour ago, Keith Black said:

Far North Texas........Denison, Sherman, Gainesville? My son was born in Sherman, at the time we were living in Tioga .

Keith, 

 

Small world. Actually right between Sherman and Gainesville. Small town of Gordonville. 
 

-Brian

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Mounted where they are the rudders would have been ineffective.  A better choice would have been to move them inboard where they would have benefited from the fast moving water from the paddle wheel, but that would have posed a structural problem- how to support them.

 

The inboard, center location of the paddle wheel was likely an attempt to shield it from gunfire.

 

Roger

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11 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

Mounted where they are the rudders would have been ineffective.  A better choice would have been to move them inboard where they would have benefited from the fast moving water from the paddle wheel, but that would have posed a structural problem- how to support them.

 

The inboard, center location of the paddle wheel was likely an attempt to shield it from gunfire.

 

Roger

Roger,

 

I definitely agree with you on this one.

 

My though was that if they moved the paddle wheel aft a few feet and mounted the rudders in front of it, it would probably be more easy to control. This would be in line with the design of the stern wheel packet boats and would also hide the rudders preventing them from being an easy target.

 

-Brian

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14 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

Brian,  

 

The book is Grant Wins the War: Decision at Vicksburg  by  James R. Arnold.

 

Straight military history, well told, adequate maps.  After reading I feel that I understand this complex campaign.

 

Roger

Thanks Roger,

 

I managed to find a copy of this book on Amazon for $6. It should be here some time next week along with my copy of Alan Bates’ The Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopedium.  

 

-Brian

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Grant Wins the War is a great, and underrated, book about the Vicksburg campaign.  It's one of my favorites ... and I've read a lot of them.  Another one that I highly recommend is Occupied Vicksburg by Bradley R. Clampitt.  I could not put this book down.  I'd often wondered what it was like for the civilians of Vicksburg.  Before the war, Warren County, MS, was the wealthiest county in the country.  Think of that!  The country was, if not unionist, anti-secession.  They knew which side their bread was buttered on.

 

By the end of the war, the slave economy was gone.  Their town was destroyed.  The cotton economy had collapsed.  The railroads had taken a huge bite out of the steamboat trade.  The river would change course soon, leaving them landlocked.  A quarter of their male, military age population was dead and they got what for their efforts?  Nothing.  And they were petitioning the Grant administration to get the Army Corps of Engineers to reroute the Yazoo River to give them a riverfront again.

 

If I'd been a citizen of Vicksburg back then, I would have been furious at the people who brought all this about, the firebrands that got everybody worked up about secession!  But that's not what happened.  The people of Vicksburg were staunchly Confederate and worked for the Confederate cause during the war.  During the occupation, they worked against the Union troops constantly, even though it was in their best interest not to.  After the war, they still clung to their pro-Confederate positions.  This book details all of that, along with the impact on former slaves and how they reacted to the defeat of Pemberton's army, the occupation of Vicksburg and their new-found freedom.  It's absolutely fascinating.

 

 

 

Dan

 

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Dan,

 

Thank you for the information on more reading material, I’ll definitely look that one up once I finish Grant Wins the War
 

-Brian

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My pleasure.  The Vicksburg Campaign is endlessly fascinating. I also recommend Vicksburg is the Key by Terry Winchell.  It’s a good read by a terrific historian.  I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and, before reading this book, thought his Triumph and Defeat was one of the best overviews of the campaign.

 

I’m also a fan of the U.S Army War College Guide to the Vicksburg campaign, but you’ve really got to be interested in this stuff to get through that one!

 

Dan

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12 hours ago, dcicero said:

My pleasure.  The Vicksburg Campaign is endlessly fascinating. I also recommend Vicksburg is the Key by Terry Winchell.  It’s a good read by a terrific historian.  I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and, before reading this book, thought his Triumph and Defeat was one of the best overviews of the campaign.

 

I’m also a fan of the U.S Army War College Guide to the Vicksburg campaign, but you’ve really got to be interested in this stuff to get through that one!

 

Dan

Dan,

 

The Vicksburg Campaign is a fascinating subject as is the American Civil War in general.

 

Hailing from the Baton Rouge area there was plenty of Civil War history around to study. I remember one of my middle school field trips for Louisiana History was to Port Hudson, site of the last Mississippi River stronghold captured during the Union campaign to control the Mississippi River. Up to this point, this siege was the longest in US Military history (one day longer than the siege on Vicksburg). I do believe this trip was what fostered my interest in the ACW. A couple of years later I went to Vicksburg NMP and that was when I first laid eyes on the USS Cairo. After this trip, my interest in boats and building models of historic ones began and have building them every since. It wasn't until about seven years ago that I caught the wooden model building bug. I started with a couple of cross-sections to get used to the techniques, then on to full rigged ships.

 

In 2006, on our return trip from my daughter graduation from boot camp at Parris Island we stopped of in Vicksburg to tour the NMP once again. This time I was lot more appreciative of what actually took place there and what the people of Vicksburg must have gone through during this time. Then touring the USS Cairo and it's museum prompted my drive to build a model of her. I believe I mentioned earlier in this build that unfortunately there are no large scale models available of her (that I was able to find), so scratch building her was my only option.

 

My apologies for the personal history lesson, but you struck on a topic that I have a lot of interest in. 

 

-Brian

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