Jump to content

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

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

Hello again everyone.


Time for another quick update.


More progress was made this week on the some of the machinery and other deck features. I started this week off with the bilge pump. 


First I turned down the pump body.



Next I cut out the base and the brass features. These consisted of the pump tubes and flanges as well as the portion.



Piecing the lower portions together.



Next I cut out the center support and test fit it for alignment with the sucker rods.



The sucker rods were then installed, the pump body was shaped to receive the pump handle assembly.



Pump handle installed.



Then everything was put into place and glued together.



Finally a coat of black paint, some stain for the handle and the whole thing coated with satin varnish.




Next assembly was the capstan. Again, I turned the main body of the assembly down on the lathe.



Next I installed the drum "fins" of the capstan.





I placed the assembly back in the lathe to shape the drum.



Next I carved out the holes for the capstan bars, then assembled the bottom gear. This was done by using 1/16"x 1/16" styrene that I filed the grooves in. I then heated the gear then wrapped and glued it in place. The heating wasn't really necessary, I just didn't want to risk the plastic snapping and have to go back and refile all those teeth.



Then came the small drive gear. Same concept on the gear teeth, only I used a wooden bead for the base, filed the teeth then capped it off with a thin piece of scrap wood.





Then all the pieces painted black and varnished and temp installed in position.



Next on the assembly list were the interior walls that close off the engine room and provide a sound barrier. There is no documentation on this partition other than some of the lateral section drawings in the HSR. Most of this section was destroyed during the recovery when the cable slings cut through the hull and casemates. This is also the area where the "Doctor" pump was located. I'm guessing that when the lifting cable cut through, it ripped the "Doctor" from its mounts, it fell through the opening, then settled to the bottom of the river where it was buried in the mud and silt, never to be found. I figured that I would again take my builders liberties and add them since there seems to be some resemblance of them in the HSR.


The basic structures.





Door and lighting installed. I didn't take too many pictures of these since they were pretty much straight forward.



After creating a bunch of sawdust, I wanted to take a break from it and focus on more of the lighting and wiring. I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself and not have room enough to get my hands in the deck area to place the wiring and LED's.


Just a few quick shots of the wires being installed.



All of the LED's will be run with the red and white wiring and the supply wiring is the black and green.



At first I was going to keep all of the wiring confined to the boat, but I couldn't come up with a good way to store the battery and actuate the lighting like I did on my Chaperon. So instead I decided that I would have the switch and battery installed in the base. This way once I build the display case I would have to keep removing the glass to show the lighting. So I ran the wiring down to where one of the pedestal mounts will be. I will then hollow out the support and run the wires to a location yet to be determined on the base.



And here she is at night with a test of some of the lighting. There will be more lights installed, I just wanted to see what it looked like lit up at night.




And finally here is how she sits as of today, Still a long way to go, but she's coming along.




Now to a question for the experts. My next project is to work on getting some of the steam piping installed for the boilers, engines and "Doctor" pump. In the HSR there is a Propulsion System Schematic of how the steam lines are run, and I will do my best to somewhat replicate this (for what will be seen anyway). In the diagram it shows two pre-heaters in line with the "Doctor" pump and the engines. Since these were lost during the recovery as well, there is no documentation of these either, but I am going to represent them as best as I can. The crew building the St. Louis have a basic mock up of these in there build log photos and they show them mounted above the "Doctor" which is where I intend to place mine.



The questions that I have are this: Were these pre-heaters basically "mini boilers", whos primary use was to make sure that the main boilers didn't have to work as hard to create steam, but instead of a fire box to heat the cold river water they used steam from the engine exhaust? and were they pretty much built similar to the main boilers?


I have tried looking on the internet for info on them, but can't seem to find anything that helps. I have been diligently looking for a copy of Alan L. Bates: The Western Rivers Engineroom Cyclopedium, but so far no luck on that search either.


Anyhow, thank you all for stopping by and for the kind words and likes.




Edited by mbp521
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/24/2021 at 9:03 PM, gak1965 said:

And, if you look at Hard Luck Ironclad, the Ingalls Shipbuilding examination of the Cairo listed the exterior as 'black', interior as 'white washed', with colored identification bands on the stacks.



I received my copy of Hardluck Ironclad the other day and finished it in two days. What a wonderful read!


There were a lot of great details in there that I had no idea had happened. It's a shame that the reconstruction process got mired down in political red tape for so long. After wasting away for nearly 13 years at Ingalls Shipyard it's amazing that there was enough of the wood fabric left to piece together for display. Who knows what it would have looked like had they started the restoration process right after her recovery. 



Link to post
Share on other sites


You are doing  a beautiful job here mbp521.


Those 'pre-heaters' and 'auxiliary engine'  (or one might say heat exchangers and pump) seem analogous to the later feed water heater systems found on locomotives.

This of course is to get the feed water temp as close as possible to the boiler temp using waste heat, minimizing steam pressure loss among other things.


Keep up the nice work! 





Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, mbp521 said:


There were a lot of great details in there that I had no idea had happened. It's a shame that the reconstruction process got mired down in political red tape for so long. After wasting away for nearly 13 years at Ingalls Shipyard it's amazing that there was enough of the wood fabric left to piece together for display. Who knows what it would have looked like had they started the restoration process right after her recovery. 



Yeah, it's an amazing story. The two halves getting smacked by a hurricane while it was at Ingalls was sort of the capstone. 'Hardluck Ironclad' indeed.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

For those who may be interested, I just ran across this fantastic video online. It was filmed back in 2019 and it is a presentation given by Edwin C. Bearss, author of Hardluck Ironclad, on his involvement of the USS Cairo recovery. He has a slide presentation to go along with his talk that has numerous pictures of the recovery that aren't widely published. The video is a little long, but very interesting.






Edited by mbp521
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Hello again everyone,


Time for another update. Things have slowed down a bit since the weather has turned nice. Lot's of projects around the the property that need tending to before the Texas summer heat sets in.


With this update I was able to finish work on the aft bulwarks. I fashioned these out of one piece of poplar and carved out the fairleads in pretty much the same way that I did the forward ones.


Roughed out shape and pinned to a board to make it easier to work with.



Fairleads starting to take shape.



Final shaping and sanding.



Bulwarks installed on the hull and rollers in place (I did go back and set that right pin flush. I just didn't notice it until after the picture was taken).



and the finished install.






Next it was on to the preheaters and some of the plumbing.


I built the preheaters the same way that I did the boilers. These were made from a 3/4" dowel that I wrapped with aluminum tape with imprinted rivets. These did not survive the salvage so it was pretty much guesswork as to how they actually looked. I used the example from Adam L. Kane's The Western River Steamboat book as my template for these features along with the plumbing diagram in the HSR.


The finished preheaters.



For the plumbing I used different size styrene rods. To shape them I held the rods over a soldering iron to soften them up. Then I just bent them to shape. I used small rings of heat shrink to simulate the fitting collars to give it a little extra detail.









Once these were all built up, they were installed. I temporarily installed a roof beam to line up the pipes where I will eventually place the pipe hangers.















Then it was on to the armor casemate plating on the port and starboard sides.


According to the HSR, the armor plating was not only on the side casemates, but also extended 55" down the hull to protect it below the waterline. I'm not sure why, but this lower armor did not make to the display in Vicksburg.


Marking the 55" line on the hull (this equated to 29mm)  below the knuckle.



Since the actual plates were shiplap, they did not butt up against each other and there was a slight gap in between each plate. I made up a little jig with a .5mm shim to give it the equal spacing.



Next it was on to the upper armor plates.



On the actual boat, the armor plates did not line up exactly with the gun ports so they placed a small filler piece on the sides of the gun port frame to give it full protection.





Once the plates were installed, I made up another jig to line up all of the bolt/rivet holes that held the plates in place.



Then it was time to experiment. I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to simulate the bolts/rivets until I got to playing around with the styrene on the plumbing. Before I used the soldering gun to soften the plastic I tried my heat gun. This spread the heat over too big of an area, but on my attempt I noticed that the heat gun made a nice mushroomed head on the end of the styrene rod. The light then came on and I though, hey what a perfect way to make rivet heads. So I proceeded to experiment with some smaller styrene rod. The bolts/rivets holding the plates in place were approximately 3/4" which translated to .040". So I drilled a piece of scrap wood with a .040" bit, placed a piece of styrene rod in the hole and heated the end of it. I experimented with several lengths extending out of the wood in order to get the right size head on the bolt/rivet and finally settled on the 1mm length. I think this worked perfectly.





Once I had found the length that I liked, it was on to filling all the holes.



Once the holes were all filled, I went back a trimmed them all to equal lengths. I glued a 1mm strip of scrap to each jaw of my flush cut pliers and trimmed the excess off of each rod.






Once they were all trimmed, next came the heat.



And viola, 540 bolts/rivets installed.



Once the starboard side was complete, it was on to the port side. This side was a little more challenging, since I had to cut out around the viewport.



Still no big deal, just a little extra patience and that side was done to.



Now all I have left is to mark and drill all the holes and finish this side.




Well, that is all for now. I'm going to finish up on the armor plating on the port side and start on the forward plates. 


Until next time, thank you all for looking, the kind comments and likes.


Stay safe and well.



Edited by mbp521
Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

That's a very clever way of making the rivet heads in situ ! Did they just form by themselves by the heat, or did you use some sort of punch in addtion ?

This rivet-making started my thinking, that one could make a head-former (die) as in real rivetting by shaping the hollow with a round burr in some brass rod. Using a piece of brass with appropriate holes as heat sink, one could mass-produce little styrene rivets in that way. Smaller rivets could be also made from stretched sprue or stretched styrene rods. Have to keep this idea in mind ...

Edited by wefalck
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, wefalck said:

Did just form by themselves by the heat, or did you use some sort of punch in addtion ?



The plastic just naturally formed the domed head when the heat was applied. I was trying to shape my plumbing pieces when I discovered this and figured it would work perfectly for my rivet heads. It was really pretty easy. The best part about this is that none of the rods are glued into place, but with the expansion from the heat they formed into the holes and stuck pretty good. The zero tolerance holes made them pretty snug to begin with. I wish I would have discovered this earlier, I would have used this method on the construction of my paddle wheel frames.



Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Keith Black said:

Brian, very believable modeling, well done! The propulsion system is spot on and the armor platting came out great, love the bolt/rivet head look.

Thanks Keith. I still have a little more plumbing to go, but I am not able to install it until I get the boilers in place, which require me to finish the wiring, and so on. It's almost a shame that very little of this will be seen, but it sure is fun building it.



Link to post
Share on other sites

That is some fantastic work. That riveting method is brilliant and almost (but not quite) convinces me to revisit that on my current project. Will certainly try it next time I need some rivets. Just excellent stuff all around and great photos explaining your work.


I know what you mean about spring weather and outdoor work before the heat sets in, I'm in the same situation.

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, Moab said:

Brian; forgive me for repeating myself several times. Your build is very inspiring. The photos and the text are very helpful...Moab

Thank you Moab. No worries, feel free to repeat away, it never gets old. Definitely makes me feel better knowing that my work is helpful and inspiring to others.



Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, vaddoc said:

Brian, wonderful work! Certainly inspiring and is great fun following your log. I ve never used or even touched styrene but seems a very versatile material. Really, your boat looks seriously good.

Vaddoc, thank you for the kind words. This is the first build that I have used styrene on extensively and it is a great product for those hard to bend pieces that will be painted. I did use is a little bit on my last build, but nothing significant (only made a few downspouts with it). I definitely foresee me using a lot more of it on this build though. 


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, BANYAN said:

A very nice build you have going here Brian, especially noting this is your first scratch build.  The level of detail and clean work are admirabl.

Thanks Pat. I was a little nervous at first about tackling a scratch build, but the more I get into it, the more I’m settling into it. 


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/4/2021 at 12:38 AM, gak1965 said:

Really looking amazing. When you are done, is it for your home, or are you thinking of offering it to Vicksburg NMP?

Thank you for the kind words George, this one will be for my own personal viewing. Not quite sure it would be up to museum standards. Not to mention the Cairo museum already has a couple of scale models on display.

One is a model of how she sits in her permanent full size display and the other is a cutaway version. Both beautiful models. 







Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Hello again Everyone,


Once again slow going, but I figured I'd go ahead and throw out there what I completed this time around.


Forward armor plating of the casemates and hawse pipes were completed.







The armor plating similar to the port and starboard sides. This side was a little trickier as the rivets weren't all in line so it made it a little more complex to get them all placed correctly.




Next up were the junior officer quarters. Again more research was done to determine how these rooms were constructed, and again my research turned up nothing. I consulted with the group building the St. Louis and their research was inconclusive as well. They did say that the area was possibly set up as a soft walled, "tent like" construction that could be easily taken down and stowed when needed, but there was still no hard evidence that this was the case. So once again I took my builders liberties and used the HSR drawings as my basis for their construction. The HSR show the outline of toe boards where the walls were made with wood construction.




I did however deviate from the plans a bit. The drawings show four rooms on the starboard side and five on the port side. Since I didn't thoroughly think this out before putting the cutaway on the port side the extra room on the port side would block the view of the paddlewheel from the inside. So I decided to leave that room out to give a somewhat clearer view of the wheel. Very little of these rooms will be seen, but I wanted to add them just for the added detail.


Here is the construction of the rooms before being installed.



And here they are painted and installed.



Next were some more of the interior walls. This particular one was for the port side of the paddlewheel house. I left it open, exposing the timbers so that it will be possible to see the paddlewheel through the viewport. 







Wall temp installed.



Wall with the paddlewheel in place. The way these are constructed there is no way to put the wheel axle in from the sides, so I am going to have to build all four walls and install them and the paddlewheel in one assembly. Another part I didn't quite think through. It's all good though, I think I can manage.



Up next was the construction of the cannon implements. This was just a standard set of Naval cannon tools used on most Navy vessels during the 19th century. So I built up 13 sets of ramrods, bore worms, barrel swabs and powder cups. 


For all of these, I made the handles from decorative toothpicks.



The worms were made from brass wire coiled and cut. A small hole was drilled into the end of the toothpick and the wire inserted and glued into place.



The ramrods were created using a filed down Xacto blade and turned on my lathe. These pieces were then glued to the toothpick.





The barrel swabs were made from a brown pipe cleaner. Part of the fuzzy material was removed to expose the center wire. Again a small hole was drilled in then end of the toothpick and the pipe cleaner glued and inserted.









Finally up were the powder cups. These were made from heat shrink material cut and shaped to form the cup.



The complete set of implements.



Next I stained all of the handles then painted each of the ends.



All done.



A while back I had started work on the rudders, but never finished them. So it was time to get them completed. I am glad that I waited for this step, since making my discovery on how to simulate the rivets. I used this method to simulate the rivets on the pintles or the gudgeons (I always get confused as to which one is which).


Gudgeons/Pintles drilled.



I drilled the holes completely through the rudders so that I could use the styrene rod to hold the brass straps in place.







All rivets completed on both rudders.



Finally a little red oxide paint and we are done.



That is all for this update. Hopefully next time I will have more. I did get an email yesterday that my cannons should be ready sometime next week, so hopefully I can get those in and start rigging them to the carriages. Once those are done and the captains quarters and heads are built I will be getting pretty close to closing things up on the gun deck. Not trying to rush things, just getting excited about moving on to the next deck.


Until then, thank you all very much for the kind words and likes as well as stopping by to visit my build.





Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice update Brian.  Extremely clean and well executed work as we have all come to expect.


10 hours ago, mbp521 said:

 Another part I didn't quite think through. It's all good though, I think I can manage.

 It is reassuring to know that I am not alone in this.  I have modeled myself into a corner more than once.


And aren't 1-2-3 blocks the handiest things?



Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Keith Black said:

 All lovely little bits, Brian. Impressive work as always. 

Thank you Keith. All the little bits add up after a while. It’s going to be nice when they are all in place and not scattered about my work bench. 


Edited by mbp521
Link to post
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...